Chapter Six


Boomer awoke, momentarily disoriented. Then, as he slowly made his way to the window and stared out at the wide, too-familiar avenue, he recognized a monument, then another. A moment later, it burst on him. This was Caprica City, alive and all-pervasive as it had been in its glory days, just before the Destruction. It was a city that could not be. The night came back to him, the long centars spent combing the newscrystals and recent history archives, finding out....

That I'm dead. I'm dead, here, killed in a stupid equipment malfunction. He took a deep breath of the fresh, live air from outside. Well, that means nobody'll be looking for me - but my fingerprints or image show up anywhere, and somebody's going to start asking questions. And I'll be hard to explain.

But at least Apollo and Starbuck are here, if they're the same ones I'm looking for.... I wish I knew what to do next. I suppose, contact them somehow, see how they react. But if they aren't the ones I'm looking for, they'll probably die of shock. And I can't afford to show up where I might be recognized. Out on the street is one thing. I can deal with that; it's what I grew up with. But I can't show up at the Incarceration Center and ask to see the man who let me die - hard to believe Starbuck had any part of that. They'd probably think it was all a plot, like this trumped-up treason charge they got him on....

But this isn't home. What if there's some truth to it...? He headed for the turboshower, troubled, considering what he should do.

* * * * *

Apollo woke with a serious hangover and a feeling of total self-disgust. Several gulped pain pills and a long turboshower helped both problems. Toweling off later, he heard light steps in the other room, and decided Ostara was up and about as well. As he hastily finished donning his uniform, she reappeared in the bedchamber.

"Good morning!" she called brightly. "Like some breakfast? I'm a great cook, as you'll soon find out."

"Uh, I don't think I could keep anything down just yet. Later, maybe." He tried to ignore her fresh face and combed hair - she was obviously in better shape than he.

"All right." She sank down on the edge of the unmade bed. "Got plans for today? Your family's back on duty, of course, and mine went home, but I suspect we could find something to occupy ourselves with - maybe a skycar trip over the islands?"

"I've got something I have to do first," he interrupted. "Probably be gone all morning. Oops, maybe 'til mid-afternoon." He caught his first glimpse of the chronometer, and realized most of the morning was already gone."

"Won't people think it strange to abandon your bride the day after the sealing?"

Apollo didn't need to be teased, especially not by a wife he hadn't wanted. But when he turned to tell her so, he got his first good look at her.

"What...?" Heat suffused his cheeks as she saw the slight swelling of her lips; purplish finger-shaped marks showed distinctly on her bared wrist; the high neckline and loose sleeves might cover other bruises as well. "Good lord! Did I...? Starrie, I'm sorry about last night. I had too much to drink, I guess..."

Her smile faltered a bit, and she seemed to withdraw. "What you said last night was that you didn't like being used, and something about turnabout."

"I'm sorry...." Memories came back quickly. He didn't like the sour taste that rose in his throat with those memories. He'd been rough, even brutal. Why had she been so insistent on having this immediately become a real marriage? But that was no justification for his response; there was no excuse. "It's not.... I'm not...."

She forced a smile. "I guess I deserved it if you were a bit ... demanding. I kept pushing the issue. It wasn't all bad, so let's both forget it happened, all right? But don't ever think you'll get away with it again. You won't like what I might do, and your friend won't either. Next time, it won't be me."

His mouth tightened. "I can imagine," he stated flatly. "I assure you, however, that wasn't my usual behavior."

"I expect not. Now, shall we forget it, and go on to more usual pursuits and topics for newly-weds?"

"Like I said, I really don't have the time. I've got a pass to the Incarceration Center for today, and I intend to use it."

"Visiting Starbuck again?" she persisted.

"Yes. Watch the house 'til I get back." Apollo hesitated, then decided he would do his best to play the role she'd arranged for him. He owed her that, at least, he decided guiltily. Leaning over, he kissed her perfunctorily on the cheek. "Good bye, wife."

"Husband." Her smile was pleased. She waited until he was gone, then, with a contented sigh, she reached into the closed portion of her thoughts.

(Where have the last four days gone?)

(I didn't realize you marked the passage of time.)

(I do. What have you done?) Demanding.

(I got married. To Apollo. It's the morning after.)

(!!!) Shock. Desperation. (You can't...!)

(Already done. I think he'll make a good husband and father.)

(!!! No! Erase me. You said you could. I don't want to live in a corner of your mind while you "allow" it, while you use us both. You know what we're up against. Lords, how can I face him?)

(You have no choice. I need your memories. Believe it or not, I am concerned about what happens to my Colonies. And what you know can help me make him happy.) Sincerity?

(I'm supposed to believe you care about making him happy?) Skepticism.

(I do care. Try sharing my day. You might like it.)

(I'm not interested in your day. I'm not interested in seeing what kind of "wife and mother" you ... we make to his "husband and father." What happened last night?) Aura of humiliation, threaded with fearful fascination, unconcealable need to know.

(None of your business.) Bravado. Shame?

An insistent chime interrupted the quarrel between the occupants of Ostara's body. Permitting Starbuck to remain aware, she made her way to the front door, checking to see who it was. Perhaps Apollo had forgotten something.

No. That dark-skinned, black-haired man in civilian clothing was not her husband, but he was familiar to her - to both parts of her. Ostara nearly fainted when she saw him; Starbuck took advantage of her lapse to yelp for joy, realizing instantly what the newcomer's presence must mean.

She slid open the door, smiling widely at the visitor. He returned a polite but uncomprehending nod, not recognizing her. Of course!

"Excuse me, I'm looking for Captain Apollo. I'm an old friend...."

She grabbed his arm and pulled him in. "I know who you are. C'mon in, Boomer! I am so glad to see you...."

* * * * *

Apollo was admitted to the Incarceration Center without question, and was shown at once to the visitation chambers. After a few centons, Starbuck was ushered into his presence. The guards cast dark looks when he motioned them to leave, but they obeyed.

"So you're back." The prisoner still had a chip on his shoulder, along with the manacles at his wrists and ankles, but he seemed a little more interested, or maybe more desperate for any help available.

"I don't give up easily."

"So I see." The smile was unwilling and slow, but it came.

"Care to talk?"

"Like I said last time, I don't know anything." The man's expression hardened fatalistically. "If it depends on me...."

"What happened?" Attuned to his old friend's mood shifts, Apollo realized something must have happened in the intervening days.

Starbuck was obstinate for a moment; then he sighed heavily, and his chin dropped to his chest. He studied the manacled hands clasped motionlessly before him. "Somehow, I guess I expected Count Baltar to intervene. Not only hasn't he, but it sounds like he's completely disowned me." The hurt and despair couldn't be missed. "Guess he doesn't want to risk the glorious future he's got now, admitting to harboring a vicious traitor. He'd rather cut me loose to sink on my own."

Grimly, Apollo thought that was exactly how the count would react. He wouldn't risk his plot now, not for anyone. Certainly not for a client warrior who would be dead soon in any case, for treason or by Cylon fire. Especially if he had set up that warrior to take precisely this fall.

Carefully, he asked, "Have you considered the possibility that the treason may rest ... somewhere among Baltar's people? That one of his own is letting you take the blame for his actions?" Or set you up deliberately for it. But Akilles was right about not focusing on him yet, not 'til I know which way you'll lean.

"I've had to think about it. It's all I've been able to think about. I don't know why anyone would want to go to the trouble of setting up this kind of scheme...." He gestured helplessly; the clanking chain was a cruel reminder. "Why?" he repeated. "I'm just a warrior, working my way up, not even one of your elite. I'm not important enough to set up for anything."

"Your very unimportance may be why it's so easy to abandon you."

He could see that the unpalatable idea had already occurred to the lieutenant. "Yeah."

Apollo turned back to business, deliberately giving Starbuck a moment to recover his composure. "Well, some tech first reported his suspicions about a computer search, and some erased files, and Charon confirmed the veracity of the evidence."

"Charon? Oh, yeah, the guy we called Proteus, Baltar's aid. But what could he- Captain?"

The warrior had suddenly gone pale. Charon! Another name for Proteus. We called him Karibdis. He's the one who sabotaged the defense computers on Caprica the night of the attack. He's an expert. He could make up the necessary evidence without any difficulty, if Baltar wanted it. And he's got plenty of reason for making someone else look like the villain. So he's here, too....

But now that I know, I can do something. Caprica, at least, won't be left unguarded when the Cylons attack.

"Captain?" The other man looked concerned. "Are you all right?"

He collected himself. "Yes, of course. Uh ... the evidence suggested you were communicating with both recognized Cylon agents and a group of suspected saboteurs who may be working against the treaty."

Starbuck stared in disbelief. "Impossible!"

Apollo's mind was far away. I have to contact Akilles. We must have men guarding each of the installations, men we can trust.

"Lieutenant," he said abruptly, "give me a list of Baltar's chief operatives, every man and woman you know who looks after his interests in the Colonies."

The change of topics was perplexing. "What?

"Especially anyone he saw ... surreptitiously, people who might have come to his home instead of his public offices, worked on special projects, been evasive about their duties."

Now the man looked downright bewildered. "Captain, I was on the Pegasus, not working for him. I'm a warrior...."

"Do you remember anyone?" he pressed.

"Besides Charon? Uh.... I can't think of anyone, not recently. But Charon is the man you'd want to talk to. I think he coordinates everything for Count Baltar."

"That's what I needed to know. Thank you."

"But I haven't told you anything."

"You've told me enough." Knowing who Charon was, Apollo could take action.

The young prisoner looked unconvinced. He had a few questions of his own, but seemed not to expect much in the way of answers. There was one thing, however, that he had to ask.

"Captain Apollo," he demanded, impulsively catching the other man's arm before he could rise to leave. "One thing. Why? Why are you bothering to try to help me? You and your brother? There's nothing I can give you..."

The securing chain rested across his wrist. Apollo flinched, staring at it, for a panicked moment feeling as shackled as his friend. He considered the question. Starbuck still seemed unsure whether this was an honest offer of help or yet another kind of betrayal or joke he didn't understand.

"Don't sell yourself short, Lieutenant," he stated evenly. You're worth a little effort. And why from me?" He studied Starbuck more closely. "I believe you're innocent. I can't not do something. It's my duty to someone who served under me. Someone who could've been my friend, under a little different circumstances. You still might be, when this is over."

"I think you really mean that." Starbuck seemed dumbfounded.

"I do. Take it easy. I expect we'll have you out of here in a few days."

"I don't have many days. My protector hasn't been able to come up with any kind of defense for me, and it comes before the tribunal in two more days. They want it settled before the Armistice...."

"None of that surprises me," Apollo replied briskly. Thank the Lords the justice system works a little slower here where treason trials are concerned! "In two days, you'll be a free man, and vindicated."

"Yes, sir. If you say so." He sounded doubtful.

"I do." Apollo left him with a lot to think about.

* * * * *

"Anybody home?" The unseen man belonging to the voice paused momentarily in the kitchen before proceeding through the house. The two in the commander's office waited patiently for him to find them. It didn't take long. Boomer painted an odd grin on his face as the captain came breezing into the room, munching on a sandwich.

"We have company," the woman said politely, a hint of laughter in her voice. "Most unkind, wouldn't you say, to interrupt a couple during their wedding seclusion?"

"Boomer!" Apollo yelped, throwing himself at the man with a whoop of joy. The food dropped to the floor, forgotten.

"Hey, Captain, easy! Don't wrinkle the merchandise. And try not to talk with your mouth full." It was good to see Apollo intact and apparently undamaged, eerie as it also was to remember his other self, lying silently in a life pod, sustained only by its mechanical hum.

The dark-haired man laughed, then glanced quickly at the quiet woman stooping to gather up the scattered bits of bread and meat.

"Don't worry, Apollo. I'm here too," she commented meaningfully.

Boomer chose to ignore the strained silence that followed. There was nothing he could do about the situation as it had been explained to him. Starbuck would soon be back in his own body, anyway, leaving this woman to her own mind. He skipped over the consequences for the Apollo of this universe, who had been legally and physically dead when his body was essentially reanimated by the captain's mind.

"Right." The captain seemed to ignore the woman after that, as though it was easier to deal with her that way. It was an uncomfortable feeling all the way around. "Boomer, with what I've learned today, you are just the person we need right now. Starbuck...."

"Ours or this world's?" he had to ask, laughing again.

"This world's. It seems Baltar's his patron, and he knows a little about the man - very little, unfortunately, but enough. Remember the man who sabotaged Caprica's main defense computers? Karibdis?"

"That adaka? I've seen him. He looked surprised to see me. How much do we know about him?"

"His name here is Charon, and his code name is still Proteus. But this time, we've got hm. You're an expert at electronics and other small bits of equipment, right? Well, guess what we're going to do now, with all the clearances I can muster and the fact that you no longer exist here...."

* * * * *

"What are you doing here?"

The slim brunette whirled. She colored slightly, smiling uncertainly. "I, uh, seem to be lost."

"You must be. This area's restricted." His eyes kept traveling over her body, clad in something clinging and black. "Maybe I can direct you to where you're going? After all, I'd hate to see you get in trouble for a little thing like this...."

She cocked her head as he stepped closer, a certain eagerness showing through his quick moves. He thought he had her cold, and obviously expected easy answers from her, and perhaps a bit of special "compensation" in exchange for some "consideration." The woman's expression remained inviting for a moment more, then she moved.

Matched blows to the sides of his close-cropped head dropped the simian where he stood. Her eyes gleamed as she gestured her two friends from the shadows.

"Good move, Starrie," Apollo whispered.

"Yeah. The men of this universe seem to need a little taking down," she quipped lightly. "I'm not quite used to this frame, though, the way I've been fading in and out. My hands are tingling."

Apollo and Boomer smothered guffaws. Then the dark-clothed men dragged the big security guard back into the shadows. Ostara took the opportunity to pull off the wig, spilling her blonde hair about her shoulders.

"Keep it handy," Apollo admonished. "And keep the contacts in. You may have to entice another guard before this night's over."

"I think I may have missed my calling," she whispered loudly. "Should've been a socialator and a burglar."

"Nice combo," Apollo retorted. "So what do you call yourself now?"

"You're taking this too lightly, Starbuck," Boomer grunted. "We could all go to jail for this, and join you up on that floating grid barge."

"Don't confuse me!" the woman flared. "I got enough problems keeping Ostara straight from Starbuck. So try 'Starrie' while we're here, okay? Or they'll put us away for lunatics, while they try to figure out what you're doing still alive."

Her old friend merely grinned, shaking his head. He still hadn't completely adjusted to Starbuck's present condition. And it was obviously Starbuck and Ostara didn't mesh well as one person, and resented the current situation. Boomer wondered how it was affecting them both emotionally.

"Here!" they heard Apollo call. It was only the auxiliary computer access chamber of the private security company they'd broken into, but this particular company had connections with the military and did business for certain members of the Quorum of Twelve, as well as other established powers in the Colonies.

"How do we get in, Captain? Since you've become the computer expert."

Apollo ignored Boomer's mild jibe and accessed the main computer library with the codes he'd appropriated from his mother's files. The President had never expected to have to safeguard the information from her own son -- that, or the previous Apollo had helped himself to information that remained available to the current one.

Boomer leaned over the screen as data flickered across it, and silenced the computer voice before it could ask for identification. "What files are we looking for?"

"Anything pertaining to Baltar...."

Half a centar of intent study told them a lot about the count's business and security dealing, but nothing helpful to Starbuck's case, or explaining why evidence against him had been manufactured. Also, they were getting nervous. Another guard could be along at any time.

"Well? What do we try now? We've looked at everything they have on him."

Apollo's mind raced as he looked over the list. It suddenly struck him. "Try his master file again."

"We've already looked at that half a dozen times! There's nothing there!"

"A scrambler code. It has to be. We've got his files - ask for Carillon."

For a moment, the computer whirred in near-silence. Then an entirely new series of file names appeared. Apollo and Boomer began running unscrambler codes on them. The three warriors watched as routine dealings with the Cylons concerning the tylium mines on that planet were displayed.

"Who could have known there was so much tylium there?" Ostara breathed in awe. Both parts of her were surprised at what they were discovering, and both minds crawled with disgust that Baltar had gotten away with it for so long.

Boomer grunted. "Baltar obviously did. But them, he's the one who located and surveyed Carillon, and everybody accepted his reports about it."

"After we find the evidence, copy that file," Apollo ordered. "We don't want to trigger anything too soon, and there're bound to be alarms, maybe even an automatic erase...."

A few more centons of searching brought up the data. Starbuck was accused of betraying ship movements to the Cylons, from both the Galactus and the Pegaus, and of trading information on ground base artillery. Correlation checks showed the timing and movements were impossible; the pilot simply couldn't have had access to the listed information, at any time - and he hadn't always been where and when the transmissions originated. Nor was there any corroborating evidence, aside from the one file the technician had found, and Charon's supporting statement. The charges of collaboration with a terrorist group out to disrupt the Armistice talks proved to be based on equally flimsy fabrications.

"Why didn't the military check this?" Ostara asked, perplexed.

"This isn't the same information they have," Apollo told her grimly. "I saw it; this may be the original tape, but whoever made it wasn't Starbuck. The one they've got was doctored to point to him. And with his past history of demerits and discipline from the Academy through all posts, no one looked for any discrepancies."

"So we take this?"

"And the Carillon file. Boomer, you're the ace for this one."

"How?"

"You're going to blackmail Proteus - after we send anonymous tips to the protector and opposer. Baltar's already with the peace envoy, so we can't reach the Quorum now, but we can stop the plot here in the Colonies - and get him later. We've also got to pass on word about Carillon to the military, and stop the casino, if it's operational here as a food supply for Ovion miners. For now, let's get out of here.... What are you doing, Starrie?" he interrupted himself.

The woman continued her tapping on the keyboard. "Sending the first message to Charon, of course. Supposedly from Boomer. To appear only once, no copy permitted."

"You can do that?" Apollo was impressed.

She smirked. "Remember the Academy war games? I know what I'm doing, Apollo. I've used a computer before. At home. Just never owned up to how good I am on it. Keeps me out of trouble."

It took only a few moments. Then they copied the required files - which did indeed promptly erase, and flagged to the home computer - and prepared to leave.

The sound of someone moving around outside sent them scurrying to the safety of the shadows, but the guard passed by without stopping.

They quickly exited the building. Boomer reactivated the temporarily quiet scan monitors; Apollo supplied the proper pass-codes for the day to again prevent their tripping any alarms. Then they were out. The unconscious guard down in the underground establishment might report a lethal brown-eyed brunette, who would remain unexplained. Their presence would go unexplained.

* * * * *

Apollo waited impatiently. Cmdr. Adama and Capt. Artemis had accompanied him to the preliminary tribunal proceedings, acting out of "concern for a previous crew member who might have betrayed them," and the commander, at least, expecting to be called as a character witness against Starbuck. The captain knew better; after the events of the preceding day, they would never be called.

The military commanders hearing the case took only a few moments to listen to the lame evidence. They were prepared to pass down a verdict that day, if necessary, and had expected a longer presentation with little real question of guilt. With what Apollo, Boomer, and Ostara had quietly uncovered and anonymously provided, both protector and opposer agreed there was insufficient evidence to proceed, and strong indications of a deliberate attempt to frame the accused. The case was dismissed without comment.

Charon stalked out, grim and more than a little worried; his jaw was set, and his eyes were stormy with suspicion. Apollo concealed a smile. Charon had no choice but to let the matter slide. He had reacted badly to Boomer's unexpected appearance two days before, and the computer message further unnerved him, accompanied as it was by the flagged files. Being "haunted" by a dead man was doing the traitor and murderer no good.

Starbuck followed shortly, dumbfounded by his luck. The protector shook his hand and hurried off, leaving him standing uncertainly. He hesitantly joined Apollo.

Before he could say anything, the captain gestured to his kinsman. "We knew you were innocent, Lieutenant. Try to stay out of trouble in the future?"

The reluctant smile and nod said he understood, and was grateful.

"Stop by the house later, will you, Starbuck? Somebody I'd like you to meet."

"I'm sure he's encountered your wife, Apollo," Adama cut in, unaware of what was really going on, and becoming concerned about his son's recent activities and unusual choice of acquaintances.

"Not recently. And I think we should talk a little...." Apollo's grin was a little wicked. Maybe he shouldn't see Boomer, but even here, they were friends. I think he ought to know what's going on. Baltar won't expect to find him in our camp, and right about now, I think Starbuck is just annoyed enough at his patron to listen to us, and maybe believe what we have to say.

A few moments later, when they were alone, Starbuck spoke. "I don't know you pulled it off, but I'm grateful. Like I told your brother, my ass is yours. How'd you do it?"

Thinking of the nocturnal expedition, he replied, "It wasn't easy. But the results are worth it. And it only gets better from here." And more dangerous! "Care to be dealt in?"

He returned a calculating gaze. "As soon as I know what's going on. I like to know the odds of the games I play."

"You'll know the odds this evening, if you show up. Of course, it might be a little risky...." He knew quite well he was throwing a challenge the wagerer couldn't resist. "Be there."


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