Chapter II

The battlestar Galactica had returned from a long patrol of the Colonial defense perimeter only a secton before. When High Command advised them of the problem aboard the Pegasus, Adama - her commander, and a member of the Council of Twelve - was quite willing to lend a hand. It had been a long tour, his ship needed general maintenance, and his crew was tired; but he promised to ask for a few volunteers to fill the vacant fighter pilot posts. Cain could have waited another secton and had his pick of the graduates from the Caprican Military Academy - or from any other academy in the Colonies, for that matter - but High Command wanted the Fifth Fleet underway immediately. Once he learned what the mission was, Adama understood why Cain wanted only experienced personnel for something so potentially explosive, both diplomatically and militarily. The opportunity to serve under Cain, the "living legend," was certain to convince at least a few of his crew that they weren't too exhausted for another brief tour of duty.

Only centars later, Adama studied the list of volunteers Colonel Tigh had brought to his quarters. There were approximately two dozen names on it, drawn from all squadrons. If half the crew hadn't already left on furlon, the list would have been longer. The commander wasn't sure whether to be pleased by how readily the Galactica's personnel responded to need, or offended that so many were eager to leave his command. But Cain had a reputation and a flair that many found hard to resist. Adama remembered how it had been when they were both young pilots together, many yahrens before.

He examined the list again.

Something surprised him. After all the hero worship lavished on Cain, after the collected holos and newscrystals, after the yahrens of asking over and over again for the same stories of when Adama and Cain had flown together as a team, his son's name wasn't on the list. He'd almost expected to see Apollo's name heading the roster.

The idealistic, wide-eyed cadet had become a fine warrior, with a growing reputation of his own that might one day overshadow his father's. In fact, after this last tour, Adama had put in for a commendation for his son. Apollo deserved a promotion, and some official notice for his performance. The commander sometimes had the uneasy feeling that he went too far in trying to be impartial toward his warriors, and failed to give his son the recognition he deserved. But there would always be jealous eyes watching, envious men prepared to point an accusing finger and scream "Nepotism!" the micron a commander so much as smiled at his or her own offspring on the same vessel. It wasn't proper to give a son preferential treatment, but it wasn't fair to ignore him either, especially when the offspring was a warrior such as Apollo had become.

A chime at the door announced the arrival of that same Lt. Apollo, who smiled when he saw what his father was doing. "I wondered how long it would take to get your list," he laughed.

Adama smiled back. "And I'm wondering why your name isn't on it. Loyalty to your old commander, or what? After yahrens of hearing how great Cain is, I can't believe you wouldn't jump at a chance to serve under him."

Apollo sobered quickly, and seemed just a bit uncomfortable. He shrugged half-heartedly.

Adama's bushy, silver-streaked eyebrows lifted in query. "You really do want to go with him, don't you?"

"I don't know," his son replied slowly. "I always thought I wanted to serve with him, and be like him, when I was young...."

Adama smiled, wondering what Apollo would say when he truly was no longer young.

"But I feel ... reluctant ... about going with him now, as if it's not the right time, as if there's something ... wrong ... about this mission.... That doesn't make sense, does it?"

"Maybe I should send you with him. The experience might be good for you, serving under another commander."

"I got enough of other commanders at the Academy!" Apollo retorted. "I've done well here, with you, haven't I, Father?"

"It wouldn't necessarily be a permanent transfer - just for this one mission," Adama reminded him.

"Whatever this mission is. You haven't even said how long it'll be, or where the Fifth Fleet is going."

"And I still can't tell you. But if you want to go, you know you have my blessings. I won't consider it a betrayal if you want to join Cain's command for a time." Adama saw Apollo's eyes light up briefly, and despite what he'd just said, he felt a little hurt.

Then Apollo took a deep breath and shook his head in determination. "No, I think I'll stay. I can't fly without Starbuck or Boomer, and they've already left on furlough. What would they think if I left without them? Besides, we promised Mother and Zac we'd all be home for his natal day. Can't let my little brother down, can I? He's only got another yahren at the Academy. After that, you never know...."

Adama understood. It wasn't just a question of where Zac, his younger son, might be assigned; it was the risks a warrior had to take in the course of his duty. A close friend of Apollo's, a girl he'd liked a lot - although it hadn't been love, not yet - hadn't come back from this last mission. For now, the family was whole. But in another yahren, who knew? Even this mission with the Pegasus held so much potential for trouble, although it was touted as a goodwill mission by High Command. Who knew how long Apollo might be gone if he left with Cain - or even if he'd ever return? Adama was glad to keep his son at his side.

"All right," he said briskly. "To be honest, I don't mind keeping you aboard." He touched a switch to open a comm line to the bridge. "Tigh, I've made my choices."

"Well, Commander, which unfortunates have just lost their furloughs?" The bridge must be nearly empty for Colonel Tigh to speak so flippantly.

Adama picked up the volunteer roster. "Lieutenants Bojay, Paris, and Celeste - I think she has a sister on the Pegasus. I understand Cain pulled his replacement Viper techs from Number Two Dry Dock on Rhada."

"Yes, he has," Tigh responded. "With his reputation, he can pull people from just about anywhere. Shall I inform him of the personnel we're sending?"

Apollo looked surprised at the disgruntlement he heard in Tigh's voice; Adama waved him to silence before answering. "Let him know, Colonel. And tell the pilots to start gathering their gear immediately."

"Right away, sir."

Apollo's gaze betrayed his curiosity, but Adama forestalled any inquiry. "It's a personal matter between them, and I'd respect the private nature of it, if you want to keep Tigh's friendship."

Apollo had known Col. Tigh from his childhood, liked the man, and valued his friendship. He asked no questions.

* * * * *

As was expected of a commander, Cain stood by, watching as personnel from the base's medical center finished loading an emergency shuttle for the brief trip to Caprica City. The remains of the dead crew members were encased in opaque crystal tubes, ready to be shipped back to their home planets, to their families, for interment. Garnyd, Sheba, and several techs who'd been injured in the explosion were also going to the surface. While the Pegasus was quite capable and indeed, extremely competent at tending her own wounded, Cain saw no reason to take already wounded personnel into a possible combat situation. What he hated most was having to leave Sheba behind. He was going to miss having his daughter with him.

The life center team approached. Garnyd and the others were on gurneys; Sheba was walking, her sprained wrist in a simple sling, a bandage on her injured shoulder. Only one fragment of metal had penetrated Garnyd's living shield, but the woman had fallen badly, unexpectedly, hitting her head and injuring her arm.

Garnyd was still unconscious, although in Dr. Helena's opinion, he would recover with no lasting physical impairments. The commander's daughter held his hand as she walked beside him.

Sheba stopped at the hatchway; med techs pushed one gurney up the ramp. "Take care, Garnyd," she whispered, leaning close to his ear and squeezing his hand tightly as the men returned for him. She couldn't be sure, but she thought she felt an instinctive answering pressure from his fingers. She was going to miss him; he was one of the few people she could be truly open with. He was her friend - with no eye to her father's reputation.

"Sheba?" Cain asked quizzically when she moved back and rejoined him.

She glanced at her father, then back at the shuttle, already beginning preflight checks.

"She's not badly hurt, Commander - a little scraped, a sprained arm, a few cuts and bruises, but that's about all. In my medical opinion, she'll be all right in a few days, combat-ready a day or two after that, so I'm permitting her to stay aboard." The chief medical officer's porcelain doll expression rarely changed, whatever the situation, and this was no exception. With only a faint professional smile and a nod at the two of them, Helena turned back to her duties.

There was no one else present for the moment; Cain put his arms around Sheba and hugged her. "I'm glad, baby. I want you here," he said quietly, then released her and hurried off to greet an arriving shuttle, one bringing pilots from the Galactica.

Sheba perked up in pleased surprise, her eyes bright, her mouth smiling, her heart singing again. He wanted her with him! He was glad she was staying! It was a good sign, and it made her very happy. She straightened her shoulders and tagged close behind her father, controlling a grimace of pain as her injured arm protested the movement.

The Galactica shuttle, marked with its device of interlocking triangles, had been cleared to land before the ground-based medical shuttle could take off. It settled to a complete stop, and Cain hastened to meet his new pilots as the med ship blasted out of the bay. The technicians from Rhada Dry Dock and the other replacement pilot were already on board.

He saw several people in pilots' uniforms disembark, duffles in hand or slung over shoulders. The last person, however, didn't leave the darkness of the shuttle's hatchway. Cain caught a glimpse of a dark-skinned man in blue, then the figure retreated from his sight. He frowned as he continued walking, but made no effort to call back the officer from the Galactica. He knew who it must be.

Three young people stood to attention at Cain's approach, their gear at their feet. He studied each pilot thoroughly - no reason to let Adama's people off easily, even if the man was an old and trusted friend and a highly reputed commander. These warriors had to live up to his standards now.

"You are...?" he asked the first man.

"Lieutenant Bojay, sir."

A rather average-looking youth. Light brown hair, blue eyes, medium height and build. Nothing very spectacular, except for the defiant pride in his gaze and stance. It boded well for him; before this mission was over, that pride would be from belonging to Cain's crew, from flying with the Pegasus. The boy would do, and do well.

The commander moved on, then started in amazement as he took a good look at the young woman standing before him.

"I'm Lieutenant Celeste, sir. Celene is my sister."

She must be used to being confused with the other girl. Little wonder, when they both shared light golden skin, dark brown eyes, jet black hair cut in a close cap around the head. She was as short as her sister, too, and must have barely qualified for pilot training. Cain cast a surreptitious glance at her hands. The minor genetic fluke had given this sister an extra finger as well, but on the left hand, not the right. She must have noticed, for she flushed slightly, and moved her hand from sight. Well, if she was as good as her sister, she was welcome here.

"And you?" he asked the last man in the short line.

"Lieutenant Paris, sir."

He recognized the name. Paris was a maverick, like himself. He had worked his way up through the ranks, rather than going to an academy and obtaining a commission. He was approximately Cain's height, with dark hair and eyes, a thin face, and a sallow complexion. Cain felt uneasy about him. The man was competent, he knew, but there was an impression of hidden, banked fires under that expressionless visage - something that lured, yet warned of danger at the same time. He would never completely trust the man, but from the reputation he'd built up, Cain would expect a great deal from him.

Cain glanced around. Devon, his flight commander, was nowhere in sight, but Sheba was hovering nearby. "Lieutenant!" he called.


"Show these warriors to their new quarters. Bojay and Celeste will fly with Silver Spar; Paris will join Bronze Wing. Bojay, Lieutenant Sheba will be your wingmate for the present. Welcome aboard, all of you. Dismissed."

The commander glanced once more at the shuttle, but then a call from Maj. Daniel distracted him, and he hurried away, leaving his daughter standing with the newcomers.

Sheba and Bojay studied each other frankly and openly, knowing each would need to learn about the other. They knew how much they would come to depend on one another during this mission - if they intended to survive. Sheba thought with a pang that this man was about as different from Garnyd as any man could be, but maybe that was good. She couldn't make comparisons between the old and the new. Bojay, for his part, privately concluded that the lady was a lot better looking than Starbuck or Boomer, his previous wingmates, but reminded himself that the true test would be under fire. A commander's daughter could be riding on her father's reputation, although he'd never even suggest such a thing where another shipmate - Apollo, Commander Adama's son - was concerned. Each wondered if the other would live up to expectations, if the new wingmate would be as dependable as the old, as close a friend as the previous partner had been.

"Well, if you'll follow me...." Sheba finally said, and gestured with her uninjured arm toward the turbolift. The new crew members grabbed their flight bags and fell into line behind her.

Colonel Tigh, executive officer of the Galactica, watched the departing pilots with no change in his carefully set expression. He still stood in the arch of the shuttle's hatchway, where he'd observed Cain's inspection and acceptance of Paris, Celeste, and Bojay, and heard their assignments given to Lt. Sheba. By not leaving the shuttle, he'd spared himself the necessity of exchanging polite formalities with the commander of the Pegasus, while fulfilling his duty to see the warriors officially transferred to another command.

Now, however, he was uncertain whether to simply leave the Pegasus without speaking to anyone, his duty complete, or to seek out the person he'd really come here hoping to see.

The choice was removed from his hands when a female warrior in blue stepped from one of the turbolifts. His eyes met hers in sheer astonishment for a centon; then they both looked away.

"I'll be back in a centon," Tigh called to the shuttle's pilot.

The young warrior nodded wordlessly, but his curiosity was aroused. Lt. Apollo could read the tension in his senior officer's stance, and wisely asked no questions. Whatever the feud between Tigh and the famous Commander Cain, he instinctively sensed there would be Hades to pay if he got involved. He also suspected the colonel would rebuff any questions on his part, as he ignored any references to the woman named Kleopatra.

Tigh strode across the deck, making for the motionless woman who awaited him, studying her as he walked. The stresses of the past sectars had been kind to her. She was as beautiful as always, with her clear ebony skin, her swept-back dark hair, and her perfectly-fashioned eyebrows, now arched in surprise over wide brown eyes.

Colonel Kleopatra, recently appointed executive officer of the Pegasus, stood in frozen silence, watching as he closed on her like a Cylon Raider streaking in for a kill. Her heart in her throat, her duty momentarily forgotten, she tried to calm her breathing. She knew Tigh was too controlled an individual to argue with her in public, or to provoke any kind of scene - he saved that for private moments - but the feelings they'd once had for each other were still strong in her, still evoked a thousand memories and emotions, and she had to be as controlled as he in order to remain true to herself.

The two warriors faced each other across a few feet of deck. Tigh unconsciously raised a hand, as if to stroke her cheek, then dropped it stiffly to his side, with a somber grimace. Kleopatra knew the gesture from any number of private greetings and centars spent together, and she inwardly mourned the loss of intimacy, but refused to let it show.

"Hello, Tigh," she said after a moment, her musical voice low, still hoping the strong, wounded man before her would relent for just a micron, would unwind long enough to gain something of value from this discussion.

"Hello, Kleopatra." He didn't call her Klea anymore, either. "You got what you wanted, I see."

She smiled at him, no anger in her expression. She saw the silver beginning to touch his tight black curls, knew there was similar coloring in her own dark hair. They'd always been a handsome pair, and they'd once been happy, too. But there was no easing of the frozen set to his shoulders.

"Not everything I wanted," she sighed. "Tigh, why did it have to be this way. Why couldn't we...?"

"You know how I feel about Cain," he interrupted harshly. "There could be no compromise on that."

"I know, you think he cost you a command of your own - and he offered me the post of the man who got the ship you wanted. For that, you hate him. For that, you can't stand the thought of me serving on the Pegasus. This is a good ship, Tigh, and Cain is a good commander. It's an excellent opportunity. Why did we have to let it come between us?"

"This was just the last straw. If it had been any other ship.... I wouldn't have minded another ship, but you couldn't wait, not even a little while. Klea...." He still knew her name! "Do you realize we may never see each other again?"

"We never saw each other before!" she shot back in protest. "You were always gone!" Her voice grew calmer, although her emotions did not. "I was always planet-bound, serving at ground bases, waiting for an opportunity like this. You knew I wanted to return to space. I'm a warrior; I couldn't wait forever. Respect that, please, even if you don't approve of my decision, even if you can't live with me for it."

Did she imagine that his expression softened a little?

He sighed in acceptance. "I wish there had been another way, another ship. Maybe I shouldn't have.... I don't know if things could've been any different.... Well, it's done," he finished abruptly, not knowing what else to say, and therefore choosing to say nothing. "You'll be underway in a few centars. I wish you luck ... in everything. I think you'll need it."

"Cain's not the monster you think he is. I hope some day you can accept that."

"Monster? No - just too close to being declared a Colonial deity for my liking. Good bye, Kleopatra."

"For what it's worth, I'll miss you, you stubborn man." She leaned across the small space between them, and briefly touched his unyielding lips with her own, then stepped back again. "Good bye."

There seemed nothing left to say. Talking hadn't ever changed anything; this last centon made no difference in their lives. Tigh took a deep breath, forced a smile for her, and turned back to his waiting shuttle. Kleopatra knew pain at his every step, and knew he felt it, too, saying good bye to a part of their lives. He would be a very difficult, silent man during the next few days; she briefly pitied the pilot of his shuttle.

Her fixed smile remained; he made no backward glance or gesture. She finally dropped her eyes as the shuttle hatch closed, and stared at the tape in her hand for a long moment before seeing it. As the small craft launched - rather hastily - Kleopatra turned away. They'd made their choices. Now, they had to live with them.

* * * * *

Maj. Daniel and Capt. Veleda had requested a personal conference in the commander's quarters; Cain had agreed, certain the matter to be discussed was the Viper explosion of their ship-time morning.

The three gathered, each with reports and statistics. The commander's issues concerned rescheduled departure times, which needed certain variables to be supplied by the other two. Daniel's report would presumably be the cause of the explosion. Veleda's statistics would concern how long it would take her damage control personnel to repair the mess. Once he had their reports, Cain could report back to High Command just how long a delay could be anticipated before they proceeded to Molecay.

He took his customary place at his desk, still wearing the pilot's garb in which he was so at home. One of his favorite riding crops lay across the desktop before him, an anachronism symbolic to the commander of the oldest days and reputations of warriors.

Daniel and Veleda sat beside each other on the opposite side of the desk. Each officer had access to the computer terminal and the main communications console on the bridge, should it prove necessary to call up additional data.

"What have you got, Major?" Cain asked briskly. Several centars of worry had left no mark on his face or in his voice. Cain was Cain, the consummate warrior, in whatever he did.

Major Daniel leaned on the arm of his chair, lips tight, rubbing at his temple. "Something exploded on that Viper. The tylium fuel tanks and laser weapons also exploded, igniting the Vipers alongside. Four Vipers are completely destroyed, five others damaged but repairable. Four people are dead, three others have what Helena classifies as serious injuries, and a handful of others have assorted minor scrapes and burns." He dropped his computer link and looked directly at the commander.

"I understand Lieutenant Garnyd mentioned something about sabotage," he said slowly. "If so, the incendiary device must've been of a completely new type, some kind of tylium derivative, not solenite, because it didn't show up in any of my tests. Whatever caused the explosion was completely destroyed in the fire. Medical can't get anything more from the bodies; they're too badly burnt.

"We searched every Viper and shuttle aboard the Pegasus, but found nothing else out of the ordinary - at least, nothing potentially explosive or which could have been tampered with by saboteurs.

"In short, I can't tell you how the explosion occurred - yet. But I'm still working on it. I hope that is sufficient, Commander, because it's all I can give you at this time."

Cain's eyes narrowed. It wasn't often something eluded Daniel's searching gaze, and he knew the man wouldn't rest until the cause of the explosion had been determined. The next matter was how long it would take to repair the damage, now that all available information had been gathered from the scene. He turned to Veleda. "Captain?"

The classic-featured brunette shifted in her seat and crossed her long legs, then glanced at the print-out she held. "The Vipers have already been replaced. We haven't been able to work on that area of the bay, since Daniel's been going over every smoke stain with a molecular scanner, but I anticipate no more than a few centars to repair the tubes and tracks. If there's any structural support work that needs to be done, which is possible, it may be another day or two. We can of course concentrate fully on that, since it's very localized, with no battle damage to divide our attention." She glanced at Cain. "Will that do, Commander?"

Knowing Veleda, she'd push her people to the limits. Cain had a crack crew, and he knew it. The work would be completed within a day, possibly overnight. He leaned back, considered momentarily, then glanced abruptly at Veleda. "Can you guarantee a day?"

"I think so. I know my crew."

He nodded. "So do I." Her confirmation was all he needed. The bridge was on stand-by; without hesitation he punched a button. "Commander Hera, on the Britannica."

"I'm here, Cain," his fellow commander replied only a micron later. She'd been expecting his call. "What's the word? My people are eager to go."

"No more than mine. The word's good. Damage control assures me we can be ready within the day, and security is working on the cause of the explosion. Considering the importance and delicacy of our mission, I think we should get underway as soon as possible. Lead out with the Britannica; we'll pull rear guard with the Pegasus until repairs are completed."

"The flagship at the rear?" the woman inquired with a smile in her voice. "Cain, that's not like you."

"We'll be right behind you, and we'll catch up as soon as we can. High Command's nervous about this one. I assume you're ready to leave?"

"The entire fleet's been ready for centars," she confirmed. "That's why Count Baltar was making his surprise inspection rounds this morning. With your permission, we'll break orbit in a few centons."

"All right. We'll see you as soon as we catch up. Lords of Kobol go with you."

"And with you, Cain. We'll be looking for you."

Col. Kleopatra was on watch. She reported the Britannica leaving orbit moments later, with the rest of the Fifth Fleet trailing behind. She sounded distracted. Cain dismissed his two officers before watching the departure of the fleet.

All the ships were identified on his screen, and were in perfect flight formation. The battlestar Britannica took the lead, a position the Pegasus would've had, Cain thought with some regret, if not for the explosion. A pair of cruisers flanked the larger ship, with nearly a dozen assorted craft behind them. Behind that motley group were two more cruisers, with the battlestar Olympus in the rear. A few Vipers showed up on the scanner, taking patrol positions.

Cain turned off his small screen and sat down heavily, staring through his port window at the rounded green-and-white curve of the planet Caprica. Another day. Until then, he had very little to do.

The riding crop slapped gently against the desk, a repeated rhythm that did little to alleviate the commander's impatience.

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Enter Sheba's Galaxy