Ajax smiled at his captain. "Small ship, Colonial freighter. Doesn't seem to have an escort, either."
"Wipe that smirk off, kid. This isn't a pirate anymore." Capt. Miller sighed. He was still trying to convince some of the more larcenous members of the crew that he had no intention of following in his predecessor's footsteps. The Nyx had ceased to be a privateer the day she'd been commandeered on Scorpio. She was an old ship, and battle-worn, although with a good many modifications from over the yahrens; there were times they had to make do for repairs with odd patch jobs and a lot of prayers, but she'd carried them safely from their devastated world, and done whatever they asked of her. Most of the pirates had died, making it more difficult to run the unfamiliar, out-of-date craft, but some had surrendered to become part of the new crew. They still tended to fall back into easier-going, less honest ways, unless regularly prompted otherwise.
Ajax tried to look penitent, but failed.
"If that ship's friendly, we may be teaming up. If we want to survive, we're going to have to join up with somebody. Our ship alone will never make it anywhere, not to make living worthwhile, anyway." Miller settled back, still watching his scanners. Ajax was a competent scan officer, but he had rather exaggerated ideas about their own strength and ability to survive in Cylon-infested space.
"Shall I scramble our squadron, Captain?" asked a crisp voice.
"Alert status should be good enough," he replied without looking at the woman. Lt. Castalia was one of only a handful of warriors among the survivors aboard the Nyx, and she was the only one with a communications background. She seemed to feel it was necessary to compensate for the non-military crewmen by being overly formal on duty and frequently off duty as well.
After a few centons, he turned to her again. "Any response?"
"Negative, sir. The freighter's not answering our salute."
"Maybe she can't. Let's go in closer...."
The Nyx approached the apparently drifting ship. Scanners showed there was still human life aboard her. The freighter's silence may have been deliberate, considering the area.
"Holy frak!" Ajax suddenly yelped. "She's hiding fighters!"
Miller's head jerked back to the scan console. Small blips appeared around the vessel, identified by the warbook as fighters, at least two squadrons' worth. There wasn't time to react, much less launch their own fighters or accelerate to escape.
"This is Major Electra, flight commander of the battlestar Pegasus, to commander of unidentified pirate craft. We have you surrounded. This is your only chance to surrender. Any hostile action will result in your immediate destruction. Is that clear?" The cool voice left little doubt that she would indeed order them destroyed if they disobeyed.
Miller's heart skipped a beat. Pegasus? "Major Electra, this is Captain Miller of the Nyx. We are not pirates. Repeat, we are not pirates. May we talk to you, please?"
"Do you surrender?"
He glared at the comm for a moment, then shrugged in resignation. "We surrender."
"What?" Ajax nearly screamed. Castalia, too, looked indignant, while the rest of the small bridge crew sat in shock. "Surrender? Are you out of your mind?"
"Might I remind you that we can't outfight or outrun a battlestar, we are not pirates, and the lady outranks us all. Is that sufficient?"
Ajax retired to his scanners, muttering.
"I may as well get to the landing bay. The lady'll probably want to see me. Maybe I can straighten her out." And maybe she could answer a question of his.
When Miller reached the landing bay, Colonial Vipers were already landing, and his astonished flight crew was confusedly standing back and permitting it. They had little choice, as armed warriors were already herding them into groups, weapons at the ready. Seeing a blond man directing things, the captain moved to join him. The stranger instantly shifted his laser to cover him.
"I'm Captain Miller, temporary commander of this ship, and I've already surrendered and I stand by my word," he repeated wearily, lifting his arms behind his head in a universal signal of surrender.
Blue eyes regarded him coolly. "Nice. Join your crew." He gestured at a group of men and women seated on the deck, their arms in the same position.
"Uh, yeah, in a micron. Mind if I ask who you are?"
"Captain Orestes, Silver Spar Squadron, battlestar Pegasus. Major, this man says he's in charge."
A tall golden woman strode across the deck, perfectly attired in a warrior's uniform and an aura of authority. "Well, well, so you're the one who's been tagging our freighter. How do you like Cain's welcoming committee?"
"Cain's still the commander? I shouldn't be surprised. He was the best commander the Colonies ever produced."
"He still is." She looked him over; he wondered if she liked what she saw tall, brown hair, warm brown eyes, square jaw and wide smile; attractive, most women told him. Something said, though, that all this woman saw was a pirate. He decided to try to straighten her out.
"He might remember me. I'm Captain Miller. The Pegasus was my first assignment, about fifteen yahrens ago; he was my first commander."
She did a double take with questioning eyes. Miller suddenly noted how deep and violet blue those eyes were.
"You were a Colonial warrior? How'd you hook up with pirates?"
"If you'll give me a moment, I'll explain."
She exchanged glances with the blond captain. He nodded and lowered his weapon.
He lowered his arms; they didn't protest. "I was ground-based on Scorpio when the trouble started that's my home world, I wanted to be with my family for the Armistice. You know about the Cylon attack?"
"We know," she replied flatly.
"Afterward, we tried to get together and find a ship to get off-world. It was suicide to stay in the Colonies. There wasn't much left, and we thought we were doomed until one day a pirate ship this one floated through the sky. Apparently her commander had heard what happened, and figured there were quick and easy pickings on our dying worlds, if they could slip in and out before the Cylons. While the majority of her people were out looting, we attacked. We won. We gathered everybody else we could fit, and launched again. We've been looking for anybody we could find, any warships or other survivors, but we've been alone. I'm afraid we've had to resort to a little piracy of our own to stay alive, but we figured it didn't matter if the Cylons thought we were privateers...."
Her lips twitched in a quick smile. "We do it all the time."
"That's our story, basically, not much to it but surviving. Mind explaining why you set a trap for us?"
"We noticed you trailing our freighter, acting a little suspicious. Figured you hadn't seen our base ship, so the rest of us pulled back. Cain had us settled aboard and ready to launch as soon as you came close. So you and your crew aren't really pirates?"
"Oh?" Her voice was sharper.
"There are a few of the original crew with us. We gave them a choice of joining us or staying behind on Scorpio. Most joined, and they've given us no trouble. In fact, they've been necessary to keep this crate flying. We've got a few Vipers, what we could salvage and what they had, but most of our fighters are modified old Kraits. I don't know about you, but I was absent the day they taught us how to fly those obsolete buckets of bolts at the Academy. Even the old Starhounds beat them all to Hades former commander must not have faced warriors very often, or he'd have been blown out of the stars a long time ago, but we didn't have any choice. So...."
Electra looked totally disgusted. "Great," she muttered. "Not only do I have to worry about Vipers, Starhounds, Raiders, and Sunriders, now I have to add real antiques to the list. Kraits, you say? Well, we can probably scavenge them, maybe convert and update a few, if Cicero's up to the job...."
"Do you think you could let my people get up and go back to their posts? Some of us are warriors, and this isn't exactly the way we'd hoped to hook up with friends...."
Electra seemed to read his mind. She nodded at Orestes. "Call off the guards, but stay alert. Contact Commander Cain, ask about a Captain Miller or whatever rank you were then."
"Sergeant Miller," she repeated.
The officer grinned and slipped away, calling orders.
"Major, I have a question you may be able to answer...."
She studied him questioningly.
"The rest of the Fifth Fleet? We thought it was gone at Molecay...."
"Most of it was," she replied softly. "Just Cain survived, with all the survivors he could gather. My brother and I were from the Britannica. I'll tell you the story some other time.... Now, of course, we're pulling guard duty for the Galactica's fleet."
"There were some real survivors? A fleet?"
"A group of civilian vessels, around two hundred of the oddest collection of ships you could imagine," she amended. "Mining ships, sanitation ships, old skybuses, movers, converted starliners, freighters.... No warships, though, except the Galactica, and precious few fighters and warriors. Not much of a fleet, but it's all that survived, except, probably, for a few scattered vessels like yours, that we'll never hear from again."
"Major, you survived at Molecay. My ... brother was with the Olympus, a pilot, his name was Falstaff, I don't suppose"
"Silver Spar Squadron. Some missions, he's Orestes' wingman."
Miller whooped with joy, then grabbed the woman before she could react, spinning her in a wide circle.
"Captain!" she stuttered breathlessly.
"Sorry, Major, but my other brother's with me here, and we were all the family that survived, but knowing Falstaff's alive too.... Well, you don't know what it means to me, what it'll mean to both of us...."
"I think I do, Miller, I think I do. But if you don't mind, there'll be a shuttle here very shortly. If you've been telling the truth, you'll have no problem facing Commander Cain."
Cain demanded a full report, complete personnel records, and an extended briefing, before releasing Miller and his crew. Amnesty would be offered to all members of the crew who had previously been pirates; Miller had no doubt they would accept the conditions of that offer. The destiny of the Nyx remained uncertain. Cain might offer him her command, with appropriate honorary or temporary promotion. From the raised eyebrows about her history as a privateer, Miller doubted anyone would contest him for it.
After the grilling, he wanted nothing more than to get out and get drunk he'd learned a few things during the meeting. Little of it was shattering to a man who'd lived through the Destruction and escaped it, but there was a deep, unsettled mingling of emotions in his soul of devastation at having to relive it all verbally for the commander; of regret at handing his responsibilities over to the other man; of relief at knowing they weren't the last, they weren't alone; of gratitude that another of his family had survived; and an eerie feeling of d้jเ vu at walking the corridors of his first assignment. Everything said home and tried to convince him the intervening yahrens hadn't occurred.
He knew better. But after a few ambrosas, he'd forget he'd ever been gone. In the morning, a hangover would remind him forcibly, and he'd be able to think again. He wasn't sure where either of his brothers were at the moment, and he wasn't about to search for them he just wanted to forget for a few centars.
Miller had no problem finding his way to the officers' club. The barkeep scarcely glanced at him, just sent a mug of something flying down the bar his way. He took it and retired to a less well-lit corner. The first swallow hit hard; it had the right kick, but it definitely wasn't ambrosa. He glanced around, feeling furtive. Others seemed to be drinking the same stuff, and none of them seemed too upset with the odd color or wickedly powerful flavor. He kept drinking and watching the others. The faces of the handful of occupants were strange to him, but as the mug emptied and was refilled, he was able to see them merge into unidentifiable blurs that might have been any of dozens of pilots from his memories.
Dozens of pilots. Dozens of dead pilots.
Not much really left from those days. The Colonies were gone. The men and women who'd peopled the Colonies and her ships were mostly gone. Those ships were mostly gone.
"They'll probably take the crew on board the Pegasus, then blow it. She's just an antiquated piece of pirate junk."
The words seared into his brain. Blow up the pirate junk? Blow up the Nyx?
He tried to stand up and protest to whomever had been talking, but his feet gave out under him. He'd been too successful in his search for a good drunk.
"Wha' in Hades are ya doin' ta my ship?"
Cain and Kleopatra stared at the outraged, staggering pilot. Miller hadn't even bothered to announce his arrival, simply stalked in and planted himself in the middle of the chamber.
"Captain Miller, you're drunk," the colonel observed.
"Damn righ'! Wha'erya doin' to the Nyx?" he demanded aggressively.
"Contact Sergeant Falstaff," Cain muttered to Kleopatra. "Miller, the Nyx is old and ready to fall apart. Everything from her comm system to her scanners to those wrecks you call fighters were antique at the turn of the last century. We'll scavenge what's useful out of her, and abandon the rest. What's your concern for that pirate barge?"
"Buh, sir...." Miller felt tears well in his eyes, astounding himself and Cain. "Sir ... the Nyx ... shese my firs' comman'! My firs' real comman.... She saved us all.... How can ya leave her behin'? The Cylons migh' fin' her...."
The commander and his exec glanced at each other.
"What if they do?" Cain asked, puzzled.
"They can't ha' my ship!" he bellowed.
"Would you prefer we blew her up? Destroyed her so no one can find her?" the older veteran asked with a patient sigh.
"No! I can' let ya destroy her. Shese a goo' ship...."
"With a bloody history," Kleopatra added sotto voce.
"So wha'?" He was getting belligerent.
The annunciator chimed, letting them know Falstaff had arrived. The warrior barreled in, almost breathless. "Sir...?" His eyes located Miller. He'd already learned his brothers were aboard, but they hadn't yet had an opportunity to meet.
"Sergeant, escort your brother to pilots' quarters and see that he sleeps off whatever he happens to have been drinking too much of."
Miller woke with decidedly fuzzy memories. He stared up for several long moments, afraid to move for fear of losing control of the roiling mass that was his stomach. His brain was barely able to make the connection between last night's binge and his current condition. Dreadful noises pounded at his ears, making it harder to think. He stared at the bunk above him and felt awful. The sounds of a pilots' ready room began gradually to make the proper connections.
He smiled at feeling at home, then rolled to make a suggestion that the men keep it down a bit. He kept rolling. He hit something solid, knocking the breath out of him, and discovered himself, very astonished, sprawled flat on the floor.
He heard amusement in reaction not mockery, but gentle, understanding laughter, as if from men who'd been there themselves. Somebody took his arm.
"C'mon, Mill, sit up. Need something for an Edric-class hangover?"
He blinked and shook his head as Falstaff helped him up, then changed his mind at the waves of pain the movement caused. "I think I do. Thanks, little brother...."
"Anytime." The mixture of emotions in his brother's eyes mirrored his own except for one.
"Where's Galen?" he asked, not seeing their sibling anywhere among the group of warriors.
"He and Castalia are checking in with the Colonel and getting their physicals in life center. The rest of your people are lining up, being scheduled for check-ups, billets, duty assignments, the rest of the necessary paperwork. The doctor said you should stop by later, when you were feeling better or feeling worse, whichever hit you first."
Falstaff went for some headache tablets, leaving Miller sitting on the edge of the bunk, thinking about the Nyx. Depression set in heavily as he considered her fate. His precious first command, soon to be so much space debris, or an empty hulk for Cylon laser practice.
No. Maybe it didn't have to be that way.
When Falstaff returned, he downed the tablets, grimacing and coughing at their dryness against his cottony thick throat. Then he invented an errand and left the ready room as fast as he could shake his tag-along younger brother.
"Are you with me?" Miller glared at the dark young pirate he could almost call friend. Ajax was the one he trusted most among the Nyx's crew to be in on this the man had almost grown up on the ship. Castalia, the one he would most liked to have at his side if there were trouble, was too military, too likely to give him away. She had never considered the Nyx as anything but a necessary, temporary berth. And of the other assorted civilians, warriors, and pirates who had the necessary background to be helpful in the escape attempt, he either didn't know them well enough to ask, or knew them well enough to know their answer if he did.
Besides, it would only take two men for what he planned.
Ajax seemed skeptical. "Steal the Nyx before they finish stripping it, and if Commander Cain won't promise to keep her whole, find a landing spot on some planet where she can rust in peace, and fly back and spend the rest of our lives in security cells? You've cracked worse than that ship's outer turbodine!"
"You're the one who surrendered, now you want to mutiny?"
"I'm not mutinying, I'm saving my ship. That's a commander's duty."
"Delusions of grandeur...."
"Are you with me, Ajax?"
"What if they won't take us back?"
"Are we any worse off than we were before?"
"Yes! We'll be stuck with each other for the rest of our lives!"
"They'll take us back if only for the pleasure of putting us in a cell." "We'll still be stuck with each other!"
"We owe the Nyx that much."
"Sure she wouldn't rather meet her glory in space?"
"If she had a chance to fight, yes, but not gutted and blown to pieces by her own people."
"Hey," Ajax laughed, "she used to raid 'her own people,' remember? Probably just poetic justice to go out the same way she took out others."
"Are you with me?" Miller demanded impatiently.
Ajax grimaced, chewing on his full lower lip. "Hades, why not? She is a good lady, 'spite of all her flaws."
"Team prepared as ordered, sir," Major Sherlock reported to his commander. "Captain Rurik is in charge of the survey team. I expect we'll be receiving his recommendations within a centar or so, and be able to commence stripping components and supplies by next duty shift."
"Rurik's a good man for these details," Cain commented distractedly.
"He has an eye for what can be saved," Sherlock agreed levelly. "Also, the Nyx's fighter craft and shuttle are in Beta bay. Cicero has already begun work on them."
Cain nodded briefly.
"It is obvious something disturbs you, Cain. If I may ask?"
"Just thinking, Sherlock. Remembering a few things about the leader of our new arrivals."
"I recall a few things myself. Miller was a good pilot, but if he fixed on a cause or belief, he tended to ... overdo it. Tenaciously."
"That's a very good way to put it."
"Is there something specific which has brought this to mind?"
"He was here last evening, had a few too many of whatever that tech's creating these days. Spouted off about 'his' ship, and how the Nyx ought not to be destroyed."
The chief engineer nodded slowly. "I'm not sure we could trust the other brother, but perhaps we ought to speak with Falstaff about his behavior and plans. He's a good man, dedicated, he might tell us. Or at least keep an eye on Miller."
"Somehow, I don't think Miller would talk to Falstaff about anything he had in mind, for just that reason. But you're right about having somebody watch him. I think I'll talk to Daniel. He'd understand what the boy's got in mind...."
Miller glanced over at the leader of the ship survey team. The engineer's full head of deep gray hair was bent over the bridge's main computer terminal, bobbing occasionally as something caught his eyes. Another man made notes at Rurik's nods and gestures. There had been no questions when he and Ajax had hopped aboard the shuttle at the last centon; the other captain had in fact seemed pleased to have members of the Nyx's crew with the party. It would increase their speed and efficiency, make things easier to locate and operate in the close confines and cluttered holds of the old privateer.
Miller caught Ajax's questioning expression, and nodded easily.
The two men made their way out of the bridge, and into one of the narrow corridors of the ship.
"Now what, boss man?" Ajax inquired. "There's a few more people on this lady than I'd counted on."
Miller shrugged slightly. "Easiest thing to do is to hit engineering, play around with some of the consoles. When the Pegasus asks what's going on, we tell her something went wrong, we'll fix it as fast as we can, but the landing bay's open to space so they can't send anybody else."
"You think they won't follow us?"
Miller shrugged again. "We'll deal with that if we have to. According to the navicomp, there's a dense star system in Sigma quadrant, only a centar's cruising away. That's where we'll head...."
"Okay, assume your plan works that far. We make it to that system without being followed and without this bunch regaining control. We land. We leave her there and bring back the shuttle since they've offloaded all our fighters, we don't have much choice in that. What then? We'll have all these other people who'll know where she is. Who's to say Cain won't send somebody down after her anyway?"
"When we're back in lock-on range for the Pegasus, we dump our navicomp. They can't go back to her if they don't know where she is. And Cain won't waste days scanning fifteen planets for a ship that he might not find anyway."
"Why not just dump her in the nearest star? Be easier."
"I can't see her destroyed, Ajax, that's all there is to it."
"So close your eyes and don't look."
Miller gave him a dirty look.
"You're a lunatic, Captain."
"Might I ask why you're following a lunatic? You keep coming up with objections to everything I say. But you keep going along with it." There was an edge to Miller's voice.
"I've been a rebel, Miller, you know that by now. Maybe I'm crazy too. Maybe I can't see my old home base blown up. And maybe I'm just performing one last criminal act to prove to myself that you haven't completely corrupted me into an upright, law-abiding, order-obeying warrior type. Like you used to be."
"Let's get to engineering...."
"Second thoughts, eh?"
"Move." Miller was having a few second thoughts, but he wasn't about to be stopped by them. The Nyx deserved better, and he was going to give it to her. It would undoubtedly mean his career, but what did that matter? There were no Colonies left to defend, so what was the point of being a warrior any more? There were brothers, Galen and Falstaff, both warriors, who were not likely to understand why he was doing this at least, not for a number of yahrens. If they had a number of yahrens.
That's what it came down to, he figured. There wasn't much left of his people, and he really didn't expect they would last long. So he had to hang on to what little was left. And part of that, for him, was the Nyx. For a while, anyway.
Engineering was quiet and empty; Rurik had already cataloged everything potentially useful from the compartment. In a few centars, her fuel tanks would be emptied, computer hook-ups and telecomps would be removed from the walls, scan and laser parts taken from every station of the ship, the nearby storage chambers rifled. Then the bridge would suffer the same treatment, followed by other ship's operating sections, one by one, until finally only the personal billets would remain for their occupants to sort. Then
Miller avoided that thought by checking the fuel levels and armament loads. "We'll have no trouble getting out of here, even if we have to fire a few warning shots," he concluded.
"Unless the Pegasus blasts us out of the stars."
He gritted his teeth. "Ajax, you keep this up, and I'll blast you out of the stars."
The dark man just grinned. "Right. Out the airlock without a suit. Take a long walk off a short landing bay. Fifty laps around the outside of the pods. How many times have you threatened to do that to me before?"
"This time it's a promise."
"Right." The mouth settled into grave propriety, but the sparkle in his eyes remained. "So what are your orders, boss man?"
"Check the laser sequencer. We may be able to blame this all on that cracked turbodine...."
"Captain," intruded a quiet voice.
Both men whirled. Miller automatically reached for a laser, forgetting he wasn't wearing it for the survey check, and they hadn't stopped at the armament chamber first. Ajax quickly scanned the room, then shrugged and raised his hands; surrendering had become all too easy recently.
Capt. Rurik stood in the open hatchway, looking vaguely disappointed. There were two security officers with him, their hands resting on weapons, ready to draw.
"Uh, what is it, Captain?" Miller asked after a silent centon.
Rurik spoke quietly, almost regretfully. "Commander Cain was concerned about you, so he put security on you. We heard your plans. I'm afraid we'll have to arrest both of you for mutiny. Foster...."
Miller felt the fight drain out of him; the despair caught up again, and it suddenly seemed useless to put up any resistance or struggle for any cause. He meekly obeyed Foster's instructions on the way back to the shuttle. If a Cylon had attacked at that moment, he would merely have shrugged and died.
Cain waited somberly as one of Daniel's security officers ushered the two mutineers into his office. Miller took formal attention position, while Ajax shaped his body into a sloppy imitation thereof. Cain shook his head, controlling a burst of anger, and gestured with his swagger stick; the two took seats. Sgt. Foster respectfully stepped back, taking a stand at the door. The commander exchanged glances with Col. Kleopatra, then leaned against his deck and studied the men from the Nyx.
Miller seemed to be in a trance. He head drooped as though his neck didn't care to support the weight. Brown eyes stared into some distance through the decking; his mind was obviously far away. There was something haggard and beaten about the captain, in the stony set of his square jaw, in the tiny lines around his eyes, in the slope of his shoulders, in the bloodless fingers lying listlessly in his lap. Cain recognized the look. He didn't like it. It was a man too close to some kind of abyss.
The rankless pirate Ajax seemed indifferent to his fate, but not in the way Miller was. Ajax seemed to be taking this as a simple setback in his life, to be livened up with gallows humor if necessary and the resulting destiny to be endured until it could be changed. The live-wire sparks in his kohl-dark eyes told Cain he'd have plenty to say about his own destiny. Ajax slouched a little, as if challenging the commander. Cain noted, however, the way the young man's fingers combed through his tight black curls; he read men too well not to know nervousness when he detected it.
He glanced at Foster, still holding the door. "They gave you no trouble, Sergeant?"
"None, sir. They were quite cooperative."
"Then I doubt they'll start causing trouble now. You can wait outside."
The door opened and swished shut, leaving the senior officers and the prisoners alone. Cain moved around his desk and sat down, playing with his swagger stick, that small anachronistic mark of command, while he considered what to say.
"Gentlemen," he began he'd considered addressing them as warriors, but balked when he saw Ajax obviously staring at the ceiling in another deliberate challenge. "You have been captured in an act of disobedience and mutiny. Not a good way to impress your new commander. Do you have anything to say about your actions?"
Miller stirred long enough to stare at Cain. "I'll offer no defense at the tribunal, sir," he stated flatly. "I know what I did; I accept punishment for it, whatever you require."
Cain frowned, shifting his gaze to Ajax.
The young man shrugged. "Sounds good to me."
"You play a deadly game, pirate."
"It may be your ship, Commander Cain, and I know how to take orders from a superior officer, but I don't bow and scrape and lick boots to avoid responsibility for my own actions. I did it. I got caught. I'll pay the price." And then, amazingly, the youth smiled.
Cain almost laughed. The boy had read him far too clearly. But how to let Ajax know that he knew, and appreciated his ability, without permitting the pirate to escape punishment, or presume unwarranted familiarity?
A glance at Miller wiped the mirth away. The captain was staring into oblivion again.
"Gentlemen," he began again, "I can't have mutineers running loose on my ship, disputing the legitimate orders and actions of my crew. I'm therefore ordering you both confined to security cells until the affair of the Nyx has been settled to my satisfaction. We will consider your release at that point. I don't believe a tribunal will be called for. You, Ajax, may attain warrior status"
"You're gonna make me a warrior?" the youth yelled in astonishment. "But what if I don't want to?"
"Technically, you're a civilian, and currently beyond my authority," Cain replied drily. "I'd rather have you a warrior, where I can whip you into shape as necessary, and not worry about you complaining to the Council at some future point."
Ajax grumbled, but his eyes were brighter as he subsided into his seat.
"You, Captain Miller...."
The man barely glanced at him.
"You will be stripped of rank for the duration of your time in security. Later reinstatement will be to the rank of lieutenant and will occur at your release from detention."
Miller cocked his head. At least Cain had his attention now.
"You were always a good warrior, Miller. I expect you will be again."
"Aren't you taking a chance, freeing mutineers?"
"I weigh the circumstances. I make the decisions. I take the chances."
"Because I'm the Commander."
"No. I mean, why free us?"
"You sound like you don't want to be freed when this is over."
Miller sat back, blinking, mouth slightly agape, considering.
Cain chose to speak with the warrior. First he paged Foster, who promptly re-entered the chamber. "Take Ajax to detention. Then return. I'll be speaking with Miller for a few centons first."
"Yes, sir." The other two departed quickly, leaving Cain and Miller. Kleopatra remained, unobtrusive. Cain stared at Miller; Miller stared at the floor.
"You wanted to save your ship," the commander finally stated.
"I can understand that. I did the same thing at Gamoray, risked my career for my ship and people. The circumstances were a little different, but all things considered...."
Miller glanced up at his reminiscing tones.
"I understand why Adama had to relieve me of command. Nothing else he could do, really. Did you know, Miller, our presence here is practically an act of mutiny? I had to threaten mutiny to get Adama's blessings for this mission. He didn't want me leaving the fleet."
The warrior was shocked. "He didn't? Then why did you leave?"
"I chose this mission for us, this outer guard. I thought it was the way I could best serve our people, what few of them are left. This is where I belong, able to move fast, strike where I'm not expected. I lead my people the way I've always led them best. And Adama does the same, with the fleet. He keeps them safe from within; I keep them safe from without."
The no-longer captain studied him.
"Shall I tell you what I think happened here, Miller?"
"As you wish, sir...."
"I think it's been hard on you, being in command of a pirate ship, responsible for civilians and warriors and criminals aboard her, in the middle of a Cylon war zone. The Colonies were all but destroyed. You thought you were alone, all that was left. But you persevered, even when you couldn't find any other reason, because your people needed you. And the Nyx became the symbol of that, of everything you were becoming to your people and yourself."
Miller licked his lips, looking suddenly very close to tears.
"And then you found us, and you learned that something still exists of our people not much, true, but more than you knew. And you no longer had to worry about command, or preserving that little handful of humanity aboard her. But all those things you hadn't let yourself feel before came crashing in. You couldn't let them come through before, because if you'd fallen apart, if you'd failed that ship, those people, they would have died. Now your subconscious is telling you it's all right to fall apart. And your conscious is fighting it, trying to stay in control of the rest of you."
Miller jerkily shook his head in denial.
"To do that, it needs to hold the Nyx. So you tried to protect her from destruction, as you've been protecting your crew up to now. And you're tenacious enough to risk even mutiny to do your job, what your conscious and subconscious are fighting over."
"One commander to another, Miller. You've done your job. Let go. For the duration of the salvage mission, you'll be in detention, for your own sake as well as the rest of the crew's. You'll be able to rest and do some thinking, see your brothers, realize we haven't failed completely, and we've still got jobs to do, as warriors when you're ready. Dr. Helena will see you whenever you need or wish it. She may not be a specialist, but she'll pull you back together again. And you'll be the warrior you were."
Miller was suddenly still. "I've gone crazy?"
"Just a little, I think. And that can be good. In time. In the right amounts. Now isn't the right time, and we don't want you going too far. I think we caught it; you'll get your good sense back."
The young man took a deep, shuddery breath. "Nyx was my first command."
"She'll always be that. And you served her well. Remember at the Academy, they teach that the time comes when we'll lose a wingman, when we have to grieve and go on living. That happens to ships, too."
"I'll call Helena." Kleopatra rose and stepped quietly out of the room.
Cain watched the young man. He saw a few bits of himself in the too-tightly-coiled emotions of the other warrior. In his youth, Cain would have been cocky enough to take on such a mission, and good enough to have carried it out. But these were different circumstances; there was no back-up of any kind, nobody to turn to or ask for help or protection if it was too much, and precious few left to appreciate what the warrior had accomplished.
Miller wasn't the only warrior to have been pushed too close to the edge by the Destruction. But he'd been lucky enough to find something to hang on to, in the Nyx and her survivors. Cain wasn't about to let all that effort and talent go to waste now.
He moved to rest a hand on the man's shoulder. "You didn't fail, Miller. You succeeded. And you don't need that ship to prove it. You've got your people. You've got yourself. Well done."
"Thank you, sir," he whispered huskily.
Cain nodded, then quietly left his own chambers, giving the warrior some privacy to begin his grieving.
His exec was waiting.
"That Ajax is exasperating. Not long for the universe, I'm afraid. He'll be in and out of detention for as long as he's on this ship," she remarked.
Cain had to chuckle at her wry estimation. "And Miller?"
"I think he just needs some rest, to be without responsibility for a little while, but we'll let Helena judge that."
The commander nodded, then stood there, thinking.
"You said some good things in there. How much of it did you mean?"
"Would you see the Pegasus die, if it came down to saving her people?"
Cain felt ice lance his heart. "Call Sherlock, tell him to hurry with dismantling the Nyx. And see if Graham needs metal sheets and girders, if they can be melted down or something. Isn't often we have an intact ship to salvage. We'd better take all we can."
She understood that she had touched a taboo subject. "Yes, sir," she responded, and turned away.
See the Pegasus die? Without him? Without trying to save her? He might be relieved of command. He might be replaced at her helm. He might be too old and weak and senile to command her. But leave his ship to her fate alone? Maybe some warriors, but not him. Never.
He had lied.
Enter Sheba's Galaxy