Chapter II


The watch was pleasant and uneventful, and Col. Tigh didn't mind the extra duty. After all, Adama took little enough time off, and this was a special occasion. Unless his guess was totally wrong, Apollo and Sheba had a joyous announcement to make to the commander's family.

For the same reason, Athena has asked for – and received, of course – a shortened duty period. Her replacement was a competent youth who was kind enough to add a few extra centars to his own shift.

Glancing around the bridge of the mighty warship, he felt a flush of pleasure. Everything seems to be going well, he thought. The commander's son and Cain's daughter seemed to be building a life together, which made Adama quite happy. They'd encountered neither Cylons nor other known hostile life forms in sectars, which made for a much more relaxed atmosphere in the fleet.

On a more cautious note, the mysterious lights or ships or whatever it was that had been tagging them, hadn't been detected by either scanner or patrol in over a secton; perhaps they'd been left behind or eluded at last.

And his own private life was proceeding quite satisfactorily – almost entirely due to one Maruwe, a civilian comm tech from the freighter Tukulor, a ship newly commissioned in the merchant fleet at the time of the Destruction, and therefore in better shape and technologically more up-to-date than most of their vessels.

He'd met her one night aboard the Rising Star, watching an exciting triad match. Tigh smiled at the memory. Sitting next to an attractive and vivacious woman, cheering for opposing teams, first arguing, then talking amiably about the merits of the players. The victory drink afterward – which he'd paid for. She'd paid for the consolation round. Cmdr. Adama and the victorious players, Apollo and Starbuck, had retired after that, but he and Maruwe had talked for centars.

She'd convinced him to go dancing the next time they met. He'd felt a little foolish at first, among the young warriors who watched their superior officer with barely veiled amusement. It had been yahrens since he'd had interest in or taken the time to learn the complicated steps. But Maruwe was light on her feet, and he quickly rediscovered his own ability.

By the time they'd left the gathering, he'd seen astonished respect in the eyes of the younger people, and he'd felt quite pleased with himself.

And afterward.... He smiled at more memories. Life in the fleet these days was almost pleasant.

"Colonel...." Omega interrupted his thoughts.

He stirred from his reverie. "What is it?" He dismissed those portions of the last sectar that had nothing to do with duty.

"We're scanning a ship out there.... Like a battlestar, but that can't be, unless...." The young officer stared at him.

Tigh knew exactly what he was thinking. Lords, could it be Cain again? He leaned over the younger man's shoulder, staring intently at the screen. It wasn't their own image reflected back to them. And it wasn't alone.

"Identify that ship – and the other ships with it!" he snapped.

"We're trying, sir," Omega informed him tensely.

"Comm line Alpha!" the comm tech suddenly yelled.

It had to be a battlestar. It had to be Cain. With some dread, the Galactica's executive officer ordered, "Put it on."

"This is the battlestar Pegasus, calling the Galactica." A woman's face appeared on the screen. Tigh reflexively drew back at the sight of that too-familiar image.

On the other end, Kleopatra also drew back, with an audible intake of breath. Her surprise was gone in a micron, controlled as she managed to control most outbursts of public emotion.

Tigh stared at her. Kleopatra. His ex-wife. The Pegasus.

And, undoubtedly, Commander Cain.

* * * * *

Sheba and Apollo were in a world of their own. Adama had already given up trying to draw them into the after-dinner conversation. He expected they would soon make the anticipated announcement of their engagement. Until then, let them be, and try to summon an appropriate look of surprise for the moment....

My pleasure is real. Sheba's so quickly become a daughter to me. Lords know Apollo deserves some happiness in his life. Boxey accepts her, too, although no one will ever take Serina's place in his young memories. I'm thrilled to welcome Sheba as Apollo's wife.

The sheen in their eyes brought a lump to his throat. He knew what it felt like to be young and in love. Ila....

When Apollo and Serina had been sealed, there had been so much desperation in their emotions, as if one moment had to do for ten; they reached for each other as if to shut out pain past enduring. Maybe that was the truth – their few moments had to do for a lifetime, the brief lifetime until the woman's death. He wondered how deeply the scars ran in his son and grandson.

But tonight, it was a pleasure to see the man smile, and the boy laugh. And Sheba's flushed face.... All of them looked happier than they had in a long time. They would make a handsome family, and hopefully, the future would be kind to them.

Adama let his attention be drawn to Boxey, the young scamp, who was making a bright-eyed comment about something Starbuck had done recently. He laughed, along with Boomer, at the warrior's obvious discomfort that the boy knew about the incident. Also obvious was the blond lieutenant's care in what he said to Athena and Cassiopeia, seated on either side of him, each watching the love-birds and glancing significantly at Starbuck.

The woman he'd professed to love, before the Destruction, and might have married for inability to escape, Athena still had ambitions where the slippery warrior was concerned, although she had learned to be more circumspect and had settled in for a possibly long wait. The socialator he'd met in their flight was a poised, confident woman who'd left the past behind her, but Cassiopeia was not above using her skills in her own campaign for Starbuck's affections. He had to walk a thin line between them, sometimes leaning more toward one, sometimes more toward the other.

I wonder if he'll excuse himself from this party as rapidly as he did the first time Apollo announced his engagement. Then, he had a send-off to plan, and Athena's suggestive eyes to escape. Now, he has two women stalking him, with neither willing to step aside or give the other any advantage – or to let him slip away between them. Such pressure....

"Ahem."

Apollo had finally chosen to speak. Adama hid a smile at Starbuck's obvious relief that attention was being drawn from him; then he, too, turned his gaze to Apollo.

"Ah, yes, Apollo? You have something to contribute to this scintillating conversation?"

Apollo looked momentarily confused, but a touch from Sheba's hand reassured him. She stood at his side, and they smiled at one another before he spoke. "Father, Boxey, Sheba and I have decided, if it meets with your approval, that we would like to be sealed to each other."

Neither noticed the amused note in the congratulations that poured from the dinner party. Boxey cheered; Athena hugged her future sister-in-law; Starbuck shook his head as if dumbfounded that his friend could take such a step again; Cassie kissed Apollo's cheek; and Adama managed to look as proud as he felt.

"Commander Adama? If I may intrude?"

The older man was distracted by the comm tech's quiet summons. He stepped away from the table without fuss, letting the young people continue to babble.

"What is it, Ensign?"

"A message from Colonel Tigh. He requests that you return to the Galactica as soon as you can."

What emergency this time? "Any indication as to the problem?"

The others noticed the intrusion, and fell into tense silence.

The tech shook his head. "Not a problem, sir. Apparently, we've made contact with another battlestar–"

"Father? The Pegasus?" Sheba interrupted shrilly, wild hope flaring in her eyes.

"I don't know, Lieutenant."

Sheba ran from the room, brushing off Apollo's hand as if she didn't feel it, and shoving the comm tech out of her way as she moved. Adama, Apollo, and the others were only microns behind.

* * * * *

The shuttle from the Rising Star arrived only centons before the one from the Pegasus requested permission to land. Tense passengers took position in the landing bay, along with the appropriate honor guard Col. Tigh had sent. Adama and Apollo were still in dress blues; Starbuck and Boomer were in formal tan; Athena, Cassiopeia, and Sheba wore celebration gowns, a rainbow of shimmering color as they stood together, all rivalry forgotten as they held hands in hope and excitement.

Tigh joined them from the bridge as the shuttle coasted to a smooth landing. "I've informed Dr. Salik and medical to stand by to receive the ill," he muttered under his breath to Adama. "They're preparing a quarantine ward."

"The ill?" Sheba caught the words. "Quarantine? What's wrong?"

Adama also looked questioningly at his executive officer.

Tigh sighed and grimaced. "I didn't want to announce it to anybody over regular fleet channels, for fear the IFB people would pick it up and blow it out of proportion. The Pegasus is under the command of Colonel Kleopatra. They're in a state of medical emergency, as we were at Kobol. They're bringing the sick people here under strict quarantine. Commander Cain is one of them."

"No! He can't be!" Sheba cried. "How...?"

"Please, Sheba!" Adama interrupted. "Continue, Tigh."

"We didn't talk long, Commander. I don't have any other details at this time. You may have to talk to their chief medic. The other ships with them, however–"

"Other ships?" This time it was Apollo who interrupted.

"Yes. Scanners indicate almost a dozen assorted vehicles. Most are of Delphian design, presumably from the Empire."

"Survivors from Gamoray?" Athena murmured.

Tigh nodded at the young woman who so often served as his aide. "Along with a Colonial freighter and even a refurbished Cylon ship or two. Cain's been busy. Hopefully, we can get more information when we meet with his officers...."

"Pegasus shuttle has landed," boomed an audio-enhanced voice.

Sheba couldn't wait any longer. She ran to the ship, standing at the foot of the ramp. Her hands clenched the metal railing, grip tightening painfully until her fingernails drew blood. She didn't see Apollo, his worried eyes on her.

The hatchway opened, and a slim, jet-skinned woman stepped out. She blinked in surprise at seeing Sheba there.

"How's my father, Colonel?" The young pilot entreated.

Kleopatra was joined by two other Pegasus warriors. Both stared open-mouthed at Sheba, unable to conceal their shock.

Cain's daughter barely glanced at her former shipmates before turning her anguished gaze back to Kleopatra; she feared the worst. "What is it? What's wrong with my father?"

No one from the Galactica crew, surprised as they were by the other ship's unexpected arrival, seemed to follow protocol. Everyone waited mutely for an answer to Sheba's question.

An answer was not immediately forthcoming. The personnel from the other battlestar were too intent on Sheba. Finally, one of the them, the flight commander, stuttered a few words. "But ... Sheba...." Electra whispered. "You're ... dead!"

* * * * *

Kenji stood impassively at the helm of the Pegasus. With Cain ill and Kleopatra aboard the Galactica, he had the rather rare opportunity of being in complete command of the ship. His emotionless visage and calmly-given orders concealed his own unease, and soothed the excitement obvious in the bridge personnel.

They were so eager and happy about rejoining the fleet, their emotions barely tempered by lingering fear for and stiff-necked pride in their commander. The Delphian understood both the concern and the loyalty. His apprehensions were for the effect of this decision on his own people.

Through the unshielded ports, he caught flashing glimpses of the Colonial vessels that were so sharply delineated on their scanners. He watched as they flew past each of the hulks, moving to take up a position on the other battlestar's flank.

Two hundred and twenty some ships, all that's left of their society. But daunting numbers, when there are less than a dozen of us. But at least we are warriors. These ships are full of bleating civilians, as capable of defending themselves as yahren-old-children!

How does Adama do it, care for all these? How did Cain endure their foolishness, in the days of their glory? Why does either one burden himself with them now?

The thoughts were unworthy of a leader. He set his attention solely on the screens reporting scan turret and patrol information. It was Mriko's task to coordinate all that varied information man and machine could supply.

Kenji met her wise, dark eyes. She smiled faintly, and nodded slightly in response to his look. He knew his wife had read his expression and posture correctly, as she always did – only the Colonials seemed incapable of understanding Delphian body language. Her encouragement eased his tension as the warship threaded its way past the helpless foreign fleet.

How long will we remain in this presence? It is not for me to determine. We live from sun to sun, while the Empress is enamored of the Commander. I favored this reunion. I pray it was no error.

* * * * *

The four cryo-tubes were whisked quickly through decontamination, and into a quarantine as strict as the one on their home ship. There was time to talk during those two centars; no one was willing to leave, although some had to go, to take care of other responsibilities.

"Ever feel like the third man on a triad team?" Starbuck whispered. Boomer had headed back to the ready room. Athena had taken Boxey off to bed, and Cassie had joined the medical staff. Starbuck was left feeling a little alone and uncomfortable. While he knew and respected the commander of the Pegasus, he didn't feel like he belonged with Cain's fellow officers and family. He had really only stayed because ... well, because.

Apollo grimaced in response. He too felt out of place. He could have joined the command officers, but he was more worried about Sheba's reaction to everything. His bride-to-be had joined the flight commander of the Pegasus; Electra was an old friend, and the two women had quite effectively cut him out of their conversation. The things Electra had been saying made no sense to him.

"How long d'ya think it'll be before we hear anything?"

He shrugged at Starbuck. "Could be centars before they tell us anything. You heard what their doctor said. They haven't any idea what the problem even is, much less how to treat it. They're hoping we can do something."

"What if we can't?"

He didn't have an answer. The two men waited silently.

It wasn't long before the officers adjourned their conference. Kleopatra returned to the Pegasus, and Tigh was still officially on duty. Adama retired to his quarters, where he could examine the other battlestar's logs at more leisure – and would probably spend the night doing so.

Electra chose to return to her ship as well. With a brief hug for Sheba and a worried glance toward the quarantined section of life center – her brother, after all, was one of the patients – she too disappeared.

Sheba wore a tremulous, far-away smile as she rejoined Apollo and Starbuck.

"Are you all right?" Apollo asked apprehensively.

She gazed steadily at him. "I'm fine, Apollo. Electra was just ... explaining something, and it all makes sense."

"What makes sense?" Starbuck interrupted tactlessly when she didn't go on immediately.

"Well, don't you remember?" she laughed.

"Remember what, Sheba?" Apollo was puzzled at her sudden change of attitude, and worried that concern for her father was affecting her emotionally.

"The time I was so sick, and Salik couldn't figure out what it was," she replied impatiently. The men's expressions showed they remembered the incident, but couldn't connect it with Electra's shock at seeing her still alive.

"I was unconscious for over a day, in some kind of coma, and you all thought I might be dying. Then I recovered suddenly, as if nothing had been wrong with me. Salik never did find anything, and I never had any further symptoms or trouble. It was the same time that the Pegasus picked up a strange man in a damaged shuttle. The man identified himself as Sire Baal, but he was really Count Iblis."

Their involuntary shudders betrayed their memory of that creature.

"Electra said I was there," she said. "I warned Father when Iblis tried to take the Pegasus. I spoke through her, to tell them what Iblis was, what he was trying to do. Maybe it was a chance for me to make up for what happened before...."

Apollo felt an eerie shiver run down his spine. He didn't need to be reminded of the being who called himself Count Iblis. But what in Hades had happened, that Sheba could be connected again with him? What was she trying to tell them? If this was some sort of dealing with the supernatural, with something beyond human comprehension, it disturbed him.

"Don't you see, Apollo?" she demanded, laughing, her intense mood shifting as suddenly as it had come on. "I was there when my father needed me! I knew nothing could happen to him that I wouldn't feel in some way. Now, I know for sure. Somehow, I was able to go to my father. It's going to be all right...."

She threw her arms around him, giving him a resounding and very public kiss. "And it's going to make our sealing mean so much more, now that he's here to share our lives."

Starbuck shifted his feet uncomfortably, feeling more unnecessary all the time. He was beginning to wonder if it was worthwhile waiting for Cassie after all.

Apollo's reaction to Sheba's embrace was a flush of embarrassment. He was obviously relieved at her happiness, but was uncertain how to deal with her calm assurance that everything was all right.

She saw the men exchange glances, and giggled. "All right, Captain, I understand. Would you walk me to my quarters? I'm going to wait here for news, but I think I should change first. Father will want to see his daughter as a warrior first, or he'll think I've become a socialator! He might blame somebody for being a bad influence on me," she finished provocatively.

Apollo managed a chuckle as she drew him to the door, still clinging to his arm. For some reason, Starbuck thought it might be a while before they returned – not that he expected either of them to be interested in ... personal pursuits at the moment, but he was sure Apollo wanted to talk a little more, in private, about Electra and Sheba's conclusions.

A moment later, as he lounged quietly in the corner, staying out of everyone's way, he heard Salik and Cassiopeia talking as they strode from the quarantine chamber. The doctor's concern was obvious from the way he rubbed at his forehead. The slim, fair woman looked very out of place, the quarantine tunic covering but not obscuring her brilliantly-colored party dress. Her piled curls were crushed under a clear cap, and her delicate high-heeled sandals, laced to the knee, gave her unusual height.

"...Assist Helena in every way possible, and pull the roster. I want somebody monitoring each patient individually at all times," the doctor ordered. His thinning hair seemed to recede even as he spoke, and his frown etched the lines more deeply around his mouth and eyes. "We may have to assign some double shifts, pull staff from other life stations in the fleet."

Her response was quiet, determined, and professional. "I'll stay with Cain myself," she volunteered. "And I believe several of the Pegasus staff are already arranging lodging for the duration of the emergency...."

Starbuck blinked in shock. Before he could step forward or say anything to alert them to his presence, both were gone, one returning to the quarantine ward, the other hurrying to review rosters and check their own medical status.

Cassie didn't even notice me! But she sure noticed Cain.... A hurt, unhappy feeling, colored by unexpected jealousy, rose in his throat. Feeling abandoned and out of place, Starbuck quietly fled.

* * * * *

News of the arrival of the Pegasus spread quickly through the fleet. Citizens of all ages clamored for information; upon learning that the legendary Cain was ill, they demanded to know with what, and what was being done to treat him.

Intra-Fleet Broadcasting immediately began requesting interviews, and Kleopatra placed the Pegasus off-limits until Cain's condition could be diagnosed, referring all demands and requests to Adama as Council President and fleet military commander.

The Delphians simply ignored all requests for information, even from the Council of Twelve, and kept their small group of vessels noticeably aloof from the rest of the fleet. Since there were no scheduled shuttle routes, and since inquiries as to how soon such routes could be established were quietly tabled, there was no way for anyone else to get aboard. The curiosity of the fleet and the Quorum went unsatisfied.

But speculation and rumors couldn't be met with silence for long. Those with relatives or acquaintances aboard the Pegasus were soon pleading for at least an acknowledgment that family or friends were still alive, with hope for confirmation that this time, the battlestar was here to stay. Within two days, personnel records from the Pegasus and the two Colonial vessels accompanying her were fed into the Galactica's computer banks, and made available to an eagerly-waiting fleet.

* * * * *

Chameleon knew his way around the Galactica; he'd been there often enough since the incident with the Borellian Nomen, which had resulted in the discovery, for him, that Lt. Starbuck of Blue Squadron was the son he'd lost so many yahrens before. It had been his own decision to keep that knowledge from the young man, with Cassiopeia's help, in the hopes that they could develop a friendship, rather than forcing kinship ties they might both regret as they got to know each other.

There had been no regrets; they had become friends. The older man occasionally had second thoughts about not telling the entire truth about the results of the genetic scan, but he consoled himself with the notion that the knowledge would one day make a worthy sealing gift for his son.

Today, however, he wasn't there to visit Starbuck. A glance at the Pegasus personnel roster had told him of the survival of two other warriors he was very concerned with. He wanted to see them.

The only shuttles to the Pegasus left from the Galactica, and only official business was permitted – no personal visits until the situation was much more settled and the quarantine lifted. That didn't concern him overly much; the old con man knew a number of shuttle pilots, and several of them owed him markers. Besides, there were always ways to get where one wanted to go, if one was willing to be audacious and take a few risks.

Chameleon was willing to take risks. In fact, he was good at taking them.

But Pegasus pilots were flying shuttles too, and several patrols had been exchanged. That meant one of the warriors he wanted to see might be aboard the Galactica already, or be scheduled to come aboard very soon.

So what he really needed was access to the flight rosters, to determine the whereabouts of Maj. Electra. He knew Capt. Orestes was one of the sick men, and no one was getting past the medical staff to see them.

As he considered how best to learn Electra's location, he heard the tromp of boots passing near, and voices. He wasn't sure he was in a restricted area, but he ducked back out of sight, just to be sure. Better that than having to answer questions he wasn't sure he wanted to answer.

* * * * *

"A pity we weren't able to work together before, Captain!" Electra laughed. Concern for her brother had momentarily taken a back seat to the situation.

"I seem to recall that Gamoray was pretty much one emergency after another," Apollo replied. "You were on a foraging mission to top off your fuel supplies when Starbuck and I first came aboard; you didn't participate in the raid on those tylium tankers; you were guarding our ... back when we took the city's fuel depot; and in the battle, you led the Pegasus spearhead while I directed our warriors, until I broke away to lead Sheba back...."

"At which point, I took over, under Cain's orders. Later, you led your flight wings back here while we went to Baltar's surprise party."

"Too bad we missed it."

"You didn't miss a thing. Every now and then, Baltar actually does something clever. He must have figured out we were just waiting for him to get beyond his own fighter range. So, he stopped pursuing us. And now, of course, we have reason to believe he may be back in the Cylon Alliance, working more of his deceptions."

The tour of the Galactica was giving the two flight commanders an opportunity to talk and get to know each other better. Electra stole a sideways glance at her opposite number for the Galactica. Adama's son was certainly handsome, as well as outstandingly competent – dark hair framing a perfect face, with high cheekbones setting off jade eyes. His tall, slim body and athletic build gave her un-warriorlike ideas, while his reputation and record earned her warrior's admiration.

And he was pleasant to be with, had a well-refined sense of humor. He could be very serious and even a bit ... stodgy at times, she thought, but that was no doubt due to his militarily correct and proper upbringing and important family connections – and his own somewhat old-fashioned ideas of honor and pride. He certainly wasn't the type to go out of his way for trouble.

But then, she – whose aristocratic mother had raised her to wealth, but to very little in the line of discipline – could do enough of that for two!

Of course, the problem with contemplating that line of thought any further was Sheba, a very close friend, who happened to have claimed this man as a future husband.

Ah, well. Better luck with the next one, Electra!

Apollo heard the soft sigh and glanced quizzically at his companion, but she seemed preoccupied. He caught a glimpse of a regal profile framed in gold as she lifted her chin to study something across the bay.

She's beautiful. But I'm not Starbuck, and I'm engaged to be sealed – and to a friend of hers. Not that he disliked her company. Her gay laugh and coy comments lifted him from the brief depression he'd been in since the return of the Pegasus. He understood that Sheba wanted to be near her father at a time like this, but he would've liked a little of her attention as well – at least enough to feel like he was consoling her and supporting her. But she didn't even seek him out for that. He was spending more time with Electra than with his wife-to-be or other friends.

It was undoubtedly the feeling of being neglected and not needed by the woman he loved that let him find Electra so very attractive. Of course that's all it is!

But then, if they'd be working together any amount in the future, it was in his best interests, and those of his squadrons, and ultimately the fleet's, to be on good terms with her, and able to cooperate. After all, look what had happened at the tanker incident – Cain had laid all the blame on the fact that the two squads had never worked together before. He wasn't going to let even the possibility of that insinuation stand again – there would be no question of them working together.

A new thought suddenly unsettled him. Since she did outrank him, if Cain were to remain with the fleet, and the two battlestars' flight contingents were to be working together, he could well end up in a subordinate position.

He stole another glance at her. She was still wrapped in thought. Those disturbingly violet eyes were far away. He considered her flaxen gold-bright hair, the small nose above a wide mouth that often smiled and teased. Add her trim, lithe figure.... He'd seen her combat records. Her siren's appearance and voice concealed a strong, stubborn will and surprising proficiency at what she did. She was a first-class warrior, as well as a stunning woman with an alluring personality, a woman he would want to know better under almost any circumstances.

But he wasn't used to answering to another officer for his decisions as flight commander, other than Adama and Tigh, since assuming that position. He wondered, with no little trepidation, if he could be gracious about it, should the situation arise. His father was fleet commander and president of the Quorum – for the time being – but that couldn't justify choosing his own son above a warrior similarly if not better qualified. The commander would have to make a practical, logical choice, considering all factors.

"Cubit for your thoughts, Captain?" she teased lightly. "You look like someone just poured raw ambrosa down your throat!"

He grimaced, shaking his head. "Only to me, Major. And not really a concern for now."

She followed his trail of thought – Damn, she's perceptive! – and arched an eyebrow at him. "I assure you, Apollo, I'm not looking for your job. I've got enough troubles trying to keep my present squadrons in line, what with the Delphians and all. I know Commander Adama wants to integrate our strike forces as soon as possible, so we don't have a recurrence of the near-mutiny you had to deal with during the fuel crisis." Can she read minds too? "But I doubt very much he'll try to place the squadrons from both battlestars – not to mention the Empire's forces! – under one command. I'm not sure it could be done."

Apollo felt relieved, and uncomfortable with himself for feeling that way.

"Besides," she added thoughtfully, "he'd probably pick one of those boring old men over both of us – you know, some crusty veteran codger who hasn't flown a Viper in yahrens, who'd make life miserable for every pilot who couldn't spout rule-and-reg at the drop of an Academy training manual!"

He laughed at her pout. She was probably right, too. He had to admit, thinking of it, that mutual respect and a sense of humor and perspective would make Electra easy to work with, whatever the circumstances.

"But for now, Captain, I hope you'll excuse me?"

"Tired of my company already?" he mourned with feigned grief. "I'll have to take charm lessons from Starbuck. Can't seem to keep any woman around!" he finished wryly.

She laughed outright. "Give Sheba a little time. Her attention's divided, you know that – it's her father! It's Cain! But for me, it's been a long day, and I'd like to spend a few centons in life center before turning in. Maybe there's some word...."

His voice was low and contrite. "I'd forgotten your brother was one of the patients. I hope things turn out well for him, and for the others as well. If you see Sheba, tell her I miss her. Right now, I've got some interminable paperwork to tend to."

"I know the feeling. I'll see you later, Apollo."

"Sleep well, Electra."

She watched him stride away, feeling suddenly restless and alone in the huge, almost empty bay. Well, visit Orestes, then get a good night's rest. Things'll look more cheerful in the morning. They were still officially under quarantine procedures, so there could be no mixing with civilians. Otherwise, Electra would have been tempted to visit the Rising Star. Several of the Galactica pilots had good things to say about that ship's entertainment lounges....

Preoccupied, she turned toward one of the corridors leading to the turbolift banks that serviced the interior sections of the ship. The corridor was dimly-lit, under night simulation. If an emergency should arise, the rest of the ship's lights would dim to red anyway, so the pilots' eyes could adjust to the darkness of space as they ran for their fighters.

A man in civilian clothing stepped from behind one of the girders; she paid him scant attention.

"Electra!" he called in a whisper.

She gasped. "Chameleon! What are you...?"

They studied each other for a moment.

"I'm not sure you're allowed here, not at this time of day, anyway," she told him.

"There were some people I wanted to see," he replied placatingly. "And you're one of them. How are you? I didn't know if I would find you here or not."

She smiled warmly. A glance around showed they were alone, except for the distant retreating figure of Apollo. "I'm fine. Just finished touring the ship, and.... Oh, I don't want to babble at you. I'm fine, Father. I've survived this long; I can survive anything."

"And your brother?" She could see tension and strain on his wrinkled face, mixed with pleasure at seeing her again, alive, after so long.

She shrugged and looked down for a moment. "Who know? Dr. Helena couldn't do anything for them; we're hoping Dr. Salik can. I'm optimistic. I have to be, I guess. But haven't you been to see him?"

"They're not letting civilians near life center until you've already got one foot in the interment tube. Besides, they know my reputation on this ship. They won't let me near until I've got both feet in! But I thought if I could see you, it would be a comfort, and you could tell me...."

"Chameleon, they'll let you in! Relatives are allowed! Just explain...." She took his arm, starting to steer him toward the elevator banks.

"I don't know.... There's a complication...."

"Tell the doctor you're our uncle, if you want! Dr. Helena will accept that, whatever you may have done that these people know about. And I'll bet it was something crazy, and probably illegal!" She wore her usual dazzling smile, and her gleaming eyes invited a confidence, as they had done on the rare occasions he'd seen this young woman while she was growing up.

"Electra, one of the med techs here, she knows who I am."

"So?"

"We discovered, at one time, that Starbuck is my other son. You know him, from Blue Squadron. You always knew I had another child; he's the son I lost so long ago, when my wife died. And Cassie loves Starbuck. How do I go and tell a woman who knows I'm Starbuck's father that I'm also the father of you two? One secret, she keeps. The other, I couldn't ask her...." He raised a hand pleadingly, refusing to go on. "Starbuck doesn't know – and I wouldn't know how to tell him."

She faced the entreaty in his aged blue eyes. He had loved them both – Electra and Orestes – although circumstances and emotions had made it impossible for them to live together as a family, and they had seen him so seldom while growing up. Now, he had discovered Starbuck – and perhaps the angry secret that their mother had kept from him for so many yahrens.

And Electra suddenly wondered if either man would forgive them for what their mother had done, so very long ago....

* * * * *

"Hey, Jolly, haven't we been out here long enough?" his wingman complained. Greenbean's patience could be very limited when he had a waiting engagement back on the Galactica, and long patrols wore on everyone.

"I suppose we could head in any time, buddy," Jolly replied easily. He knew his young teammate was an affable, easy-going guy – when he wasn't teasing the other man about his weight.

A quip was forthcoming. "If we hurry, we should be able to catch mess before they close up. I understand they're serving one of your favorites tonight, too – with mushes for dessert, to celebrate the return of the Pegasus."

"Good for them!" Jolly replied belligerently. "For your information, they don't need to hold mess for me. You're not the only one who's got plans for tonight. And ... I'm getting a real, free, home-cooked meal out of it!"

"Ah, the ultimate test! She may be beautiful; she may be bright; she may have more brass and cubits than any woman's entitled to. But the big question is, can she cook?" Greenbean declaimed dramatically.

"Believe me, Greenbean," Jolly confided with a leer in his voice, "when this woman cooks, look out! And I don't mean beans!"

"Ooh, boy! Sure you can handle her?"

"I'll wear myself out trying!"

"Hey, Jolly, you getting anything on your screen?" the other man asked in sudden concern.

"Like what?"

"Like anything that might be a ship – or something sane and identifiable?"

"Not again...." Jolly studied the empty scanner for a long moment, then turned his attention back to the distant flash of light that just paced the patrol's flight, matching maneuvers and speed with amazing accuracy.

"They're back...."

They were being followed. They thought they'd lost the odd ships or lights or whatever they were – but now, they were back.

* * * * *

The troubling news went back to Cmdr. Adama, on the bridge of the Galactica. He listened in silence, his brow furrowed in what looked like anger, but was really worried frustration. What is it now? We thought we'd eluded them, left them behind us over a secton ago. Why have they returned? What are they after?

"Call Colonel Kleopatra on the Pegasus," he ordered. "Conference as soon as he can get here. Wake Tigh as well."

"Right away, sir!" Omega answered promptly.

She had to know, so her pilots could be informed what to watch for, what presence to be alert for and wary of. The flight patrols would have to be rescheduled, perhaps increased, with shorter patrol radii so they'd be in constant contact with one of the battlestars. Perhaps the Pegasus would have to take up a position further back in the fleet – it would make several of the civilian captains happier, at least.

And just maybe there was a chance Kleopatra knew something about their odd pursuers, had dealt with them previously. The alien vessels, if that's what they were, might even have followed the other battlestar to the fleet....

But they still didn't know why they were being watched, and that was the most agonizing, most frustrating thing, to him as commander. He simply couldn't prepare any plan of action until he had some further notion of what these strangers wanted.

At any rate, with the Galactica and the Pegasus together – plus the smaller forces of the Delphians – perhaps the humans were now capable of dealing with their mysterious trackers on a more equal footing. At least he had a formidable enough defense cadre to protect the unarmed ships in the fleet.

Or so he hoped.


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Enter Sheba's Galaxy