Adama stared into the blackness. He had been doing a lot of thinking these past few sectons since Apollo and Starbuck's deaths. Alone in the darkness of his quarters, those thoughts always turned equally dark and despairing. They ate away at his spirt, leaving him the black emptiness of an eclipsed moon, with only the faintest nimbus of light around the outside to show its existence.
"I'm tired," he whispered into the dimness. "I'm so tired...."
Athena was still a listless shadow. The young woman was quieter than she had ever been, and spent most of her time alone. Adama couldn't find the words, anymore, to ease her grief and loss, or to explain why. All he could do was watch her silence, instinctively knowing her emotions were beyond sorrow, and wonder how deeply the wound had cut.
Boxey was bouncing back, for which he was grateful. The child couldn't help but feel the loss, as he'd felt the loss of his mother, but life was still an adventure for him. The youngster could still laugh and play. Adama could find hope and happiness in his grandson's presence.
Blue Squadron seemed lost without Apollo's leadership. The others had accepted Nestor's command, and were settled back into their routines and usual efficiency. Somehow, however, Blue Squadron couldn't resign itself to the loss. Adama loved those young men and women with as much of his heart as he could spare; seeing their spirits die and being unable to help them was an anguish to him. They were tearing him apart.
"I can't do it anymore."
Maybe it would be better if he left the service, resigned the military. He could promote Tigh to commander of the Galactica, then step down from the Council of Twelve. With the pension from his yahrens of service, and the numerous awards and various baits the Council had dangled before him over the yahrens, he could live quite comfortably. Maybe he should just resign, take Boxey to another ship, raise the boy himself, let someone else shoulder the burdens here.
It might be easier for the men. Without me, they won't be reminded of Apollo. Without them, maybe I won't be so reminded of him either, and how he was lost. And we could have a good life, Boxey and me. On a ship with other children, he could have friends his own age. Lords, I might find hope again, in the eyes and laughter of children. I might find peace....
Longing brought tears to his eyes.
It's past time Tigh had a command of his own. I should have said something more the other time; the Solaria might still be here is he had been her commander. And he's had time to adjust to our life in the fleet, the same as the rest of us. He can handle it....
The fleet is in good hands; I needn't fear on their account. Tinia learned a great deal during Baltar's escape attempt, enough to consider the military angle, and to ask questions when she needs to know something. The people respect her, and she's still on the Council. They listen to her words, most of the time.
They don't really need me, not here, not now.
And I so desperately need to get away from the memories.
My wife, my children, my people.... What do I have left?
Coming as it did with the headaches and the creeping fears in her nightmares, Sif accepted it fatalistically when the other symptoms began. Her short temper could be from the stress of the situation, but the nausea and frequent exhaustion could only mean she was truly ill. Her body was betraying her; perhaps she was dying?
She went to Dr. Beej. He'd been there for her and Heimdal before. She trusted his discretion and friendship.
Frowning at the description of her symptoms, he called in Helena. The medical staff prepared to run the full battery of tests. However, Helena aborted the examinations midway through the series, and called in Sif's husband. Startled by the unexpected request, Heimdal reported for an examination too.
Beej insisted they both stay in life center, so the woman sat in her examination cubicle and waited, suddenly very afraid. She was a warrior, ready to face her choosing in any alert, but what if she was dying and it was contagious? Would Heimdal die too? Is that why the doctors had to see him?
Capt. Heimdal joined her shortly, confused but looking very healthy.
It was only a few centons later that Beej entered. He pulled the chair free from behind the medical console and sat down. Tapping his small computron, the doctor delivered the news.
"Sif, you're pregnant."
The two warriors stared at him. A slight grin played under his mustache for just a micron but then vanished. He crossed his arms and continued to wait for their reaction.
"And...?" Sif prompted.
"Well, surely there is more than that, since you demanded Heimdal come. What is wrong?"
"Oh, there's nothing wrong, in that sense of the word, but there is something rather peculiar and unexpected–"
"Tell us!" she burst out, anger flashing in her eyes.
Heimdal rested a hand on her shoulder, and she shut up to let him speak.
"She should not be, I know that," the man began quietly. "We're both on the schedule, and even if one of us missed an implant or something went wrong, she should not be pregnant. But you said there is something else. Tell us."
"Like you said, she shouldn't be pregnant. I double checked your contraception schedule, and everything's been done as it should. However, the difference is in the two of you...."
Both shifted restively, and the doctor hurried to finish.
"Your implants are gone, both of them. Somebody removed your contraceptive implants – and very skillfully. There are no marks on either of you. Sif, your body went back to its own schedule, and the two of you got together at the right time – or the wrong time, depending on how you look at it."
They looked at each other.
"The aliens," Heimdal stated flatly.
"That's our assumption as well. Whatever medical technology was used, it's more advanced than ours."
Sif found Heimdal holding her hand, staring at her thoughtfully.
"Everything looks fine for the pregnancy – absolutely normal, that is, no evidence of ... tampering with your physiologies, either chemical or mechanical, that we can detect, beyond the removal of the implants. If that makes a difference to you. The question is, what do you want to do about it? I know this isn't planned. The timing may not be the best. We don't want to push you into any decisions, but...."
"Give us a few days to think about it," Heimdal told him.
Beej nodded and left them to their privacy. They didn't say anything. They didn't have to. It had been in the back of both their minds for a long time. Their lost daughter Bryna was never far from their memories. Sif began to smile, slowly and tentatively. Heimdal met it with a widening grin.
They were going to have a baby.
The three Cylon Centurions left their Raider nestled in the landing bay. A fourth Cylon, gold-plated to show its superior rank, waited at the main entrance to the rest of the listening post. The command Cylon from the patrol team stepped forward to speak to their superior.
"You-are-late-returning-to-base-Centurion," the gold Cylon informed it.
The Cylon Centurion, pilots in tow, turned and moved off through the asteroid landing bay. With unusually quick and graceful motions, the trio boarded the lift that would take them to Baltar's command bunker.
"He can't do that, he simply cannot do that!" Siress Tinia's agitation was obvious. She hurried uncharacteristically along the corridor, fingers lacing together in a constant weaving motion. Halting abruptly, she turned on her companion. "You've got to stop him, Tigh! You've got to tell him he can't do that!"
"Siress, I've been trying for the past secton! He won't even admit that's what he's planning!" the colonel shot back in frustration. He'd been following her so closely he nearly tangled his legs in the swirl of her purple gown.
"Maybe you're wrong...."
"I doubt it. I'd bet my life on it. Commander Adama is planning on stepping down as president of the Council and as commander of the Galactica! And I have no idea how to talk him out of it. I was hoping you could. You seem to have spent a ... an amount of time together, recently."
She glared at him, dark eyes far too bright. "You know your commander better than that. What could I ... what could any civilian talk him out of? What could we tell him when he's made what he believes to be a militarily mandated decision?" She paced away from him again.
"Siress, this is hardly a military–"
"Isn't it, Tigh? He's convinced himself of it. Telling himself the Cylons are behind us, and he can afford to be a man again, to grieve and feel as the rest of us do. Lords of Kobol protect us!" The dignified Tinia was as close to distraught as Tigh had ever seen her, but the offhand comment raised his hackles; for all her intelligence and courage, how could she say such a thing?
"You're doing it! The very thing he's been afraid of, putting him on some kind of pedestal, naming him as almost some kind of deity, the only one who can lead us to Earth, who can save us," Tigh fumed. "He's been hit hard...."
"We've all been hit hard!" The Councilor stopped long enough to send another glare his way. "Don't you think we know how valuable a warrior Captain Apollo was? And Lieutenant Starbuck? Don't you think we know what they meant to Adama? What they ultimately meant to all of us? We may not all have liked those two, or appreciated everything they did, but.... Do you know what it'll mean if Adama steps down and leaves us? Do you know what'll likely happen?" She shook her head in disgust as she marched away from the colonel.
"The military will still be intact; we'll still stand...."
"Oh, Tigh, I have no complaints about your ability to carry on, but without Adama at least on the Council.... Is the military, or is it not, bound to obey Council mandate?"
Tigh could only look away. Civilian commands of the Council of Twelve were binding on the military, and would be even more so if the Council chose to end the state of military emergency again, as they had several times in the past for short periods. That was one reason Adama's presence on the Council was so vital. Without him, or someone like him, to represent military interests and keep the civilians informed about the difficulties they faced, without alarming the fleet, there was no telling what some of the hedonistic, power-seeking mongrels would do. Some of them were good, wise individuals, true, but others.... They acted as if they were still in the Colonies, able to play their political games with no real personal risk....
"Well?" Tinia challenged.
"We're bound by our oaths!" he snapped back.
"He has to stay on...."
"I know that!" Exasperation closed in. He was the one who'd told her. And it had not been easy, applying to her to do something when he couldn't.
"We've got to think of something...."
Adama faced the Council of Twelve with an absolute lack of visible agitation. His apparent calm was unnerving. He glanced around at the men and women he had worked with, argued with, almost fought with at times, for the protection and survival of the pitifully few survivors of their holocaust. Tinia, far too tense. Geller, the same as ever, almost supercilious in those raised eyebrows. Domra, so self-satisfied. Neptune, Akbar, Amaterasu, and the others, plus the honor guard of his own warrior security and the black-garbed collection of Council security. At times he agreed with Tigh that they couldn't prevent an escape from the orphan ship. At other times, seeing men like the dedicated if intrusive Reese, he knew they underestimated the job those men and women did in the civilian ships of the fleet.
And Colonel Tigh was here as well. He knew his old friend had guessed his purpose. Adama suspected that Tigh hoped his being at the meeting would prevent the commander from carrying it out.
He scanned the Councilors again. They were discussing among themselves or watching him, wondering what had brought about this meeting. He had no reputation for summoning Council meetings at odd centars – more for expressing annoyance at their calling such meetings without prior mention to him; they were naturally curious. But now that he had made his decision, better to announce it and be done with it.
At least he didn't have to fear leaving the fleet in the hands of the likes of Sire Uri. He felt a pang at memories of his old friend. In the Caprican Renaissance, Uri had been such a great man, a hero, someone the entire Colonies could look to for leadership and empathy.... Then, somewhere over the yahrens, he'd changed, become a pleasure-minded power-seeker, believing his world owed him something, generally unconcerned for the people. But his plan to settle on Carillon had come true, for him. He'd been killed somewhere in that final rush, whether by Cylon laser or simply failing to reach an escape vessel before the planet exploded and died.
He set the memory aside. It might make him question his decision. And he was certainly entitled, if any man was, to fade away at this period of life, and find an existence in peace. Let it be quick.
"Sires, Siresses," he began quietly. "I have called this meeting for two purposes. The first is to resign from your number."
Several of the men and women sat bolt upright, staring in varying degrees of shock.
"The second is to allow you to elect from amongst you a successor as president of this body. It is my hope that you will do so at once, to leave no vacuum in the governing of this fleet.
"I thank you for your time and attention."
With that he rose and walked out of the Council chamber, scarcely hearing the raised voices behind him as various members of the Council entreated him to come back or called to each other. Others had jumped to their feet and were milling about the room. Someone managed to call them to order, but he paid it no attention.
Tigh was with him like a laser bolt. "Adama, please! Don't...."
"It is done, Tigh." He found a smile. "Finally, it is done."
"So now?" Tigh asked bleakly.
"You deserve a ship of your own, Tigh, and a proper promotion. In a few days, when they're settled in...." A head nod indicated the room they'd left. "...you'll be officially promoted to commander, and I'll hand over the Galactica to you."
"The Council might not...."
"This is a strictly military matter. They have no say in it." His voice was steel. He would leave the fleet to someone he trusted, not a Council lackey. "The Galactica will be yours."
Tigh's mouth set grimly. He had one card left. "I'll refuse it."
"I mean it, Adama. I'll refuse."
"If this were for the right reasons, I would accept, but you're running because of Apollo's death, and that's wrong! We need you here. We ... need ... you!"
"Then the Council will have to name someone else," Adama countered. "There are other commanders in the fleet. One of them–"
"To take your place? To take the Galactica?" Tigh cried. "Never!"
The commander almost smiled. "Then it seems you must, Tigh."
His hands clenched in fury. It hadn't worked. Adama knew he would never give the warriors and complete command of the military to anyone who wasn't ready for it, or who might be only a political appointee. What could he do? He would have to accept the promotion and the command....
"Perhaps it would be best if we informed the Council of this at once," Adama mused. "After all, the new president will undoubtedly have to deal with the new commander. It may make a difference in their selection."
He reversed his steps and returned somewhat leisurely to the Council chamber. Tigh followed, still searching for a way to prevent the now-inevitable.
The Councilors were silent and had returned to their seats – all but one. Siress Tinia was slowly walking around the huge table. Adama and Tigh watched as she reached the head chair, the president's chair.
And sank into it.
The other Councilors somberly applauded the new Council president.
She glanced at the two of them – and Adama realized it would not be so easy to step down after all.
Enter Sheba's Galaxy