Chapter VII


"Boxey, you're too good for me!" Athena protested laughingly. "Why should I keep playing with somebody who always beats me?"

The boy giggled with delight. Spending time in the rejuvenation center with his aunt and several other women from the bridge crew made him feel important. The adults could also be counted on to let him be the center of attention.

"He's too good for all of us," Rigel added. "Maybe he should turn professional and hustle the wagerers on the Rising Star!"

The youngster's eyes got wider, and he stared hopefully at Athena.

"No," she said firmly. "I'm not taking you to the Rising Star, and neither will any of the rest of us. A little table triad here is one thing–"

Another voice joined the general laughter, and Athena half-turned to find a blond pilot standing behind her, grinning. He leaned over her, draping an arm around her neck, and addressed his remarks to Boxey. "Kid, they'd think you had a system, and they'd kick you off the ship and never let you back. How much is this crew in to you for?"

"A dozen mushies from me," Athena admitted.

"Me, too," added Rigel. "I won't be able to have desert for two sectons!"

"I owe him three games here and a bedtime story tonight," cheerfully contributed Kore.

Starbuck shook his head sadly. "And all along, I been wastin' my time on triad and pyramid, when I coulda been getting bedtime tales and mushies from the loveliest women on the ship! Boxey, you've got to share your secret!" He reached over to tousle the boy's light brown hair; the child glowed.

"Starbuck, you're teaching him bad habits!" Athena scolded.

"But you'll forgive me, won't you?" he whispered in her ear. "I can make it up to you...."

She colored slightly. "I'm due on the bridge before very long," she told the others. "Since Boxey's going to be well-entertained for a few centons, at least, collecting his games and his mushies, I think I'll go run an errand or two, if you don't mind."

"I'll walk you there," Starbuck volunteered unexpectedly, still speaking into one of her ears.

Rigel giggled, while Kore politely looked away, trying to stifle her laughter. Boxey immediately began to set up another game, chattering to the women.

In the corridor, Athena felt surprisingly shy. "Haven't seen you in a few days, Starbuck. Been busy?"

"You know the situation – probably better than I do, since you're on the bridge, and the Commander.... Well, he's your father, I know you talk to him. But I shouldn't have neglected you for it. That's an omission I intend to correct."

She stared at him with puzzled pleasure. He looked a little awkward, too. "Cassie's busy with the sick pilots, I guess, and the medical emergency," she commented.

"Haven't talked to her in a couple of days, so I don't really know what she's doing," he answered too quickly, looking uncomfortable. "But what's that got to do with me spending time with you?"

Ah-hah! That's it. But if she's busy, maybe now.... "I guess we've all been pushing ourselves pretty hard, with all the possible danger out there," she replied introspectively. "The pressure starts to tell on people – you pilots especially, since you're the ones who have to go out and face it. And two of the Pegasus people disappearing like that...." Pegasus! Thjis...!

He shrugged easily. "We're used to it now. At least we don't have to just sit around and wait. But sometimes, you just need somebody around who understands, that you can talk to when things get rough. I think that's something I've always liked about you, Athena. I could always talk to you."

The puzzlement returned. Starbuck seemed by nature to be flirtatious, and he avoided serious discussions – especially of his own feelings – whenever he could. It had been a long time since they'd talked about feelings for each other on any kind of intimate level. Yet now, after his light remarks in the rejuvenation center, he gave the impression of maneuvering toward just such a discussion. Her innate sense of caution told her to be careful, while another instinct told her to take advantage of it while she could. If he was in truth seriously returning to her, it might imply his feelings and actions where Cassiopeia was concerned were only frivolous, not deep or long-lasting. On the other hand, if this was just a ploy to test her loyalty, she had no intention of being used to rouse the other woman's jealousy.

"You were always easy to talk to. My big brother's best friend, being nice to a little sister," she teased.

"It didn't take long to stop seeing you as just Apollo's little sister," he insisted frankly. "You grew up fast! And you grew up special...."

What does he want? "I thought you were special, too. But after the Destruction, things were so different...." she trailed off sadly. They'd even talked about a commitment, in a roundabout way, before that horror. But the aftershock had been too much for her, at first. Then, before she realized it, there was another woman in his life, serious competition, not just a pretty face he noticed for a few days and then was gone.

"Maybe we got lost. There was a while I thought I was cut off from everything. It was safer that way, hurt less...."

"For both of us? It wasn't easy seeing you slip away." She'd been the one who wasn't ready for a permanent relationship then – too much fear. Maybe she'd driven him away. And maybe now, he's coming back to reclaim something he's waited for? Her heart leapt. Has this all been a waiting game, a testing? No, it can't be – I know him too well. But why bring all that up again?

"I know it wasn't kind of me. I didn't mean to hurt you, but I didn't want to be hurt myself, I was in shock...."

Their slow steps halted. They stood alone in the empty passage, speaking in low tones so their words wouldn't echo off the cold metal. Athena felt that something momentous was about to happen, that he was about to say something–

"Hello, Athena!"

They both jumped at the sound of that booming voice. A tall, redheaded man strode toward them – Thjis, the captain from the Pegasus. She suddenly felt both frustrated and relieved. Still no commitment from Starbuck, still safe – although perilously close to something she might regret if they'd stayed there alone much longer.

"Hello, Thjis," she replied. She could see Starbuck's glare at the interruption replaced by uncertainty at her easy greeting. "Oh, Captain, do you know Lieutenant Starbuck, Blue Squadron? I'm not sure if you've worked together or not...."

"No, we haven't," the man answered casually. "But I'm sure that's not too uncommon a circumstance. Pleased to meet you, Lieutenant." His grip was strong, almost too tight.

Starbuck flexed his fingers after that handshake, wondering sourly if he'd have bruises from it, and thinking with equal annoyance that the captain made an unnecessary point of his rank.

"Starbuck, this is Captain Thjis – of the Pegasus, as I assume you can see."

"Of course. Sorry we haven't had the opportunity to work together, Captain, but I expect we will, sooner or later."

"Possibly. Athena, I know you're due on shift again soon, but I was hoping to claim a few centars of your time, later, if I may? I understand a trip to the gaming ship is not to be missed, nor a meal in their dining hall. As the quarantine restriction has been lifted, I was wondering if...."

"Um, well, I...." She honestly didn't know what to say. She wouldn't really mind spending the time with him, but to accept the offer in front of Starbuck, especially if he had been about to make a personal statement, or ask her something important....

She was saved from a spur of the micron decision she might have later regretted by Starbuck's proprietary arm around her waist and his strong, "I'm afraid the lady already has plans for her evening. We're having dinner."

The captain's thick red eyebrows lifted marginally. "I see. I hope, Athena, that I've not been out of line in taking up your time recently."

The implication was false, but Athena let it stand, unexpectedly delighted by the rigid tension in Starbuck's body as he took a deep breath. He's jealous! She crowed inside. Aloud, she said, "Not at all, it was nothing...."

"Well, then, I will leave you to your duty. Perhaps another time. Pleasure to meet you, Lieutenant." He nodded affably, then left them again, walking with long strides, seemingly not at all embarrassed at perhaps having intruded on a private moment or at being turned down for dinner.

Starbuck dropped his arm from her waist. "Maybe I've been outta line to talk to you this way. Should I have kept my mouth shut and stayed out of it?"

"All I did was give him a few directions around the ship!" she protested. "And we had a late night snack once – in the mess hall! Are those crimes? He's new on the ship, that's all."

"Oh?"

"He probably misread things, Starbuck. He's Raggane by birth, and just decided to leave the sect because there isn't any sect left to belong to, after the Destruction."

"Raggane?" He still sounded suspicious.

"Almost as bad as the Otori. Simply talking to him unaccompanied probably constitutes reason for marriage among his people."

Starbuck relented, smiling a little. "I see. Well, he doesn't take offense easily, does he? Probably just as well – if I ever do wind up working with him, I wouldn't want him thinking I'd stolen his woman!"

"He understands customs vary, and he admits he's having a tough time adjusting."

"After all that time on the Pegasus?"

"There are other Raggane there, and they stuck pretty close togther. The two missing pilots are of the sect, and maybe others too, I don't know. Why are you concerned that I talk to a lonely guy who's trying to adjust to a different life?"

He shrugged. "I guess I'm out of line. But you said you had an errand or two? If we don't hurry, you won't have time before you're due on duty."

The moment was gone. Just as well; Athena felt emotionally let down, and determined not to make a fool of herself over Starbuck again. But he was ready to say something....

Starbuck suddenly remembered having seen the captain before. Early that day, he'd noticed the man near the computer terminal room. Probably checking family or religious records, to see if there were survivors of his people. Wonder if he found any....

* * * * *

Life Center was quiet, and Cain was alone in the ward. The media people were still forbidden access, and Salik had suggested politely but sternly that Cain ought to be allowed to get some rest. So the only person still attending him was the medical technician who monitored his life signs.

"Cassie, do you have to sit way over there?" he asked tenderly. "I'd think you could tell my condition better from nearer to me."

"You're awake!"

"Yes. And I've been watching you."

She left the complicated machinery that hummed over the life pod to stand next to his bed. He looked up at her smile and gentle blue eyes that still blessed his sweeter dreams.

"You're as lovely as ever, Cassie. None of those warriors had sense enough to sweep you off your feet?"

She laughed a little. "No. They must be ... slow."

"Not even Starbuck?"

She was silent for a moment. "Not even Starbuck."

He reached for her hand. "Would I be out of line if I said I still think about you?"

"You didn't come back for me. You didn't take me along at Gamoray. I didn't know what you thought about me, any more."

"I didn't know if we'd make it," he said earnestly. "I left you and Sheba both here, because you are the two people I care most about in this entire universe. I wanted you both where you would survive."

"Without thinking what we would have wanted? Cain...." It's your ship you care more about, she's your legend and legacy. We'll always take second place, in your soul, to that "lady"....

"Don't scold a sick man, Cassie. I've never stopped thinking about you, wondering how you were doing, if you were happy."

"I've ... gotten by," she replied carefully. "And you were right – Sheba's one of the finest warriors in the fleet. I think she's happy, too. She and Apollo are to be sealed."

Cain nodded. "So Adama intimated. I'm happy for her. He's a good man, and a fine warrior."

"He's the kind of hero she can love."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"Would you be as pleased if Apollo were a maintenance technician, or a civilian merchant?" she countered.

"Whoever makes her happy. I'm just glad she's still alive."

"I think you mean that...."

"How can you doubt it, Cassie? But I asked you something before. Maybe I should be more plain. Did you think about me while I was gone?"

"I've thought about you a lot, Cain. You'd be a difficult man to forget, even if I wanted to."

"And you haven't wanted to?"

She shook her head. "Not really. But we had no clue that you might have survived, no way of knowing if you'd ever come back. I tried to make a life assuming you were ... gone." Just like before.

"And even so...." Cain found the strength to sit up in bed, putting his face almost level with hers, staring searchingly at her.

She stared back, meeting his blue-gray eyes with her quiet strength, studying the lines that only added to his character, although they would have made most men look old. And she remembered....

"Cassie, I know it's been a long time, and you may have felt abandoned...."

"Don't ask for what I can't give, Cain," she said tremulously, shaking her head. The memories were strong; if she stayed near him, her knees would weaken and she would sink into his spell again as she always had before. "It's been a yahren since I saw you, and it was two yahrens before that! I don't know...."

"I won't push for anything until you're ready. I just wanted you to know what I felt."

"Give me time...."

He leaned over and kissed her carefully. After a moment, she bent closer of her own will.

"I'll give you time, Cassie. When you're ready, we'll talk. But I don't think the magic's gone, not entirely."

She felt perilously close to tears, thinking of what she'd once felt for this man, what she might still feel, what she'd professed to feel for Starbuck, hating to think of having to choose between them, if she even could.

* * * * *

"Apollo? Do you have a centon free in your busy life?"

He looked up from his desk, smiling with delight at seeing Sheba standing there, then rose hastily, extending a hand to her. "Of course! Let's sit over here...." He pulled her toward the couch.

"It's business," she apologized immediately. "And I can't stay long. I've got a patrol."

"Oh." His face fell. "Well, be careful out there. And I'm glad if we've got even a few centons, the way things have been going. I'm still hoping things will settle down enough for life to stabilize again."

She smiled back, then let him pull her to the cushions.

"So, how's your father?" he asked.

"Oh, he's fine," she answered with spirit. "I knew he would be. I just let my fears get the better of me for a while. But he's recovering wonderfully. In fact, he's transferring back to the Pegasus tomorrow, with Cassiopeia to keep an eye on him." She paused just a micron. "That's what I needed to talk to you about. Apollo, you haven't included me in any of the pilot transfers."

He saw it coming, and felt uncomfortable. "I didn't think you'd want to leave the ship while your father was here – and I was hoping you wouldn't want to leave me."

"Apollo, you know better than that! I wouldn't leave you! But now that Father is going back to his ship.... It's been so long since I've seen him, so long since we've had time to talk and be together. Apollo, transfer me – just for a little while. I don't have to be there long. But I want to spend some time with my father, and get reacquainted with my friends on my own home base ship."

He'd drawn back; she could see the frown. "Your own ship? But what about us?"

"A few days? A secton? Apollo, don't be so selfish!"

He winced. "All right, Sheba. I should've expected this." He tried to smile for her, looking for words to ease what sounded stinging even to him. "But I'll miss you, you know."

She leaned on his shoulder, smiling at him. "You beast. But think how pleasant it'll be when we're together. It's not like we'll be light-yahrens apart. And Father will be grateful, I know. Besides, you'll be stuck with me for the rest of your life. What's a day or two less?"

"A day or two less in a brief life that I could've spent with you," he murmured into her hair, blowing a few wisps about. "And the way things are now...." He let his free hand slip across her thigh.

"Apollo!" She giggled. "I can't stay; I told you that." She pulled away from him. "But I'll make it up to you." She blew him a kiss as she almost danced out the door.

His own grin faded. He leaned forward to rest his chin on his palms. She's going after him. I shouldn't worry – but I do. Sheba, I love you.

* * * * *

"All patrols, checking in as ordered, Colonel," Omega reported. "No indication of any alien presence. Pegasus claims all patrols and scans are negative as well."

"Good for that, at least." Tigh braced himself against the command deck railing, staring moodily over the bridge. "If only they didn't seem capable of coming out of nowhere, we could take some comfort from that."

"What's the problem, Colonel?" a clear voice asked softly.

He glanced down at Athena, taking her seat at her scan console. She wasn't alone; Lt. Starbuck stood behind her with his arms crossed, interestedly watching the unusual flurry of activity across the huge control center.

His gaze fixed on the pilot. "Are you cleared to be here, Lieutenant?"

"Uh...." He looked taken aback.

Tigh relented. "Never mind." He strode down the steps, to stand beside the woman's post. "Besides our unknown traveling companions, which you were aware of, we found a gap in computer use time a few centars ago. A check indicated somebody's been tampering with our computer memory core."

Athena paled. "But that could affect every computer system on this ship!"

"Exactly."

She stared in horror at her own console.

"We've managed to ascertain that the illegal use was confined to certain knowledge banks – technical, personnel, and history being the more important of them."

"That's a broad area," Starbuck interjected slowly. "And whoever tapped it could find out just about anything they wanted to know about this ship!"

Tigh's murderous expression would have silenced any lesser man. "We know, Starbuck. What makes it worse is that the corporal on duty has no recollection of anybody being there – and the accessing has definitely been traced to that terminal some time this morning."

"Colonel!"

The executive officer looked up at Omega. "Yes?"

Omega quickly stepped down to his side. His voice was low. "Sir, Corporal Komma agreed to submit to security interrogation and medical exam. They have a preliminary report. He's telling the truth, as far as he knows it, that no one was in the terminal room. But there's a gap in his memory, just as there is on the computer log, and medical scan found minute traces of some chemical substance in his body that they're still trying to identify."

"He may have been using a narcotic?" Tigh barked.

"The doctor says it doesn't correspond to anything he knows. And security checked; the Corporal has never used such substances. They suspect he may have been drugged, perhaps programmed somehow."

Tigh looked grim.

"Uh, wait a centon," Starbuck interrupted. "Did they say no one was in the terminal room?"

"That's correct," Omega confirmed.

The pilot shook his head. "That's not true. I saw Captain Thjis enter the terminal chamber this morning."

"Who's Captain Thjis?" the colonel demanded.

"Uh, one of the Pegasus transfer pilots, I think," Starbuck told hm. "I didn't know him then, but Athena introduced us about a centar ago. Tall, husky, redheaded guy. You said he was Raggane?"

Athena nodded mutely.

"Check it," Tigh ordered Omega. "What was this Captain Thjis doing there?" he prodded.

Starbuck shrugged. "I've got no idea. Like I said, I only just met him. Athena knew him."

The colonel's expression demanded answers.

Athena racked her brains. "He said he's only been aboard a few days, sir. I've run into him two or three times, I don't really know much.... He's Raggane, but he cut his braids, said his people were gone, he wanted to live normally. He's quiet, curious, I got the impression he wasn't sure how to fit into life on this ship. He had lots of questions, always sort of ... formal. I don't know what he'd want with the computers, unless he was checking on family or–"

"Sir!"

"Yes, Omega?"

"No Captain Thjis on the current rotation roster. Pegasus reports no Captain Thjis on their personnel roster at all. And our fleet survey records say there's no such person anywhere in the fleet!"

They were silent for a centon.

"Then who is he?" Athena asked in a small, stunned voice.

"That's what we all want to know. Athena, Starbuck, you will give statements to security at once, and a thorough description of the man. Also a list of anyone else who might know him. We don't have enough to arrest him on this matter, but we certainly want to question him, and find out just who he is."

* * * * *

Mriko wore a traditional long, colorful wrap-gown as she served the hot, clear alcoholic drink. The children were in bed; both officers had completed their duties for the day; they could now relax together for a few centars.

Kenji took the cup from her, savoring the delicately-scented steam rising to his nostrils. It had been a pleasure and an unexpected surprise to find the trappings of the simple ceremony arranged on the floor of their cabin – mats and cushions on the floor, the brazier, the ceramics, the flask, the soft background lighting and music, the smoldering incense.... His wife took a place on the mat beside him, leaving a small porcelain container still warming over the tiny, ancient-looking burner.

They slowly sipped the first cupful, making their silent toasts as custom demanded. It was a ritual they had not indulged in since the disease had struck the four pilots, and both enjoyed the relic of home, the bond with their lost world and culture.

Mriko poured the second serving, again offering him the cup before serving herself. "So Cain returns to our ship tomorrow," she commented softly.

"Yes. I wonder how he reacts to our being with the fleet, seeing our squadrons integrated."

"I am sure he will let you know. Hasn't he already called a conference of senior officers, or is that bit of gossip untrue? I am surprised the doctors allowed him to return to active duty so soon."

Kenji chuckled. "He cannot return to duty – but even Dr. Helena is unable to deny him his right to be 'informed' of ship's status. So tomorrow, we meet."

"Will he choose to stay with the fleet, now that the Colonials are reunited? I think it will be difficult for him to leave again, with Commander Adama taking charge, and no emergency 'battle' to go astray, and even his own crew pleased to be here. For now, and here, he is a hero, the legend."

The dimmed light and the alcohol were already soothing his mind. The sight of his wife, so feminine and beautiful in her robe, and the sound of her voice, lyrical and low, was arousing another desire in the warrior. He touched her soft, black hair, stroking it smooth.

"I do not know what Cain's need will demand," he said distractedly, "but I do not think we need fear division of our people. I believe the Empress will remain with the Pegasus, now that Cain is recovering. The young one ... is fond of him, perhaps even dependent upon his skills and tactics."

"So it seems." A third cup was put into his hand. "And what of our own young one?"

"Hmm?" he asked through a mouthful of warm liquid.

"Inari. I do not think she will be content with the life of her foremothers. There is no inward-place for her, no sheltering walls to surround any life she chooses to make. She may not even be satisfied with a life like mine – a useful duty, with respect for tradition, and a family."

"Why not?"

Mriko was silent for a moment, considering if she should share her daughter's secret. "I found her in the launching bay, absorbed in one of their Viper craft. We are a minority on this ship, and the models she sees are different from what we were raised with. I think Inari may plan to be a warrior, like some of our women already have."

"She is only ten yahrens old!" the man exclaimed incredulously. "How can she plan her future already?"

"If she plans that way now, how will it be in another six yahrens, when she is old enough to begin choosing?" the woman returned logically. "I think, husband, that it is something we must consider now – and decide once and for all. We have two sons as well, and we must think of their lives, too."

He drew a deep breath, leaning back on his cushion. The light aroma of incense in the chamber lingered in his lungs. If Mriko had arranged the scene for seduction, she couldn't have done better; his interest in the topic of conversation was already waning, replaced by more ardent wishes.

"Must it be decided tonight?" he demanded, taking her hand.

She smiled and bent her head, a most enticing expression in her dark-rimmed eyes and soft mouth. "If my husband wishes otherwise...."

He turned off the fuel of the brazier; the fire sputtered and swiftly died away.

"I will prepare the bedchamber," his wife told him softly, rising elegantly to move away from him with a pronounced swish of her silky robe.

He gulped the last dregs of the cup, then stood to turn off the lights and join her in the other room. His uniform jacket lay over a low table, and he hesitated for a moment before picking it up. The small insignia at the throat, a four-toed dragon's claw of green enamel on a gold starburst, was still the emblem of the Dragonsbreath. His people still wore their own uniform and markings, after so long on this ship.

Fingering the small bit of metal, he walked slowly out of the room, leaving it in darkness.

* * * * *

Sheba could barely restrain her excitement. To the other pilots shuttling over to the Pegasus, it was a transfer of limited duration to a new and unfamiliar ship. For her, it was going home. The battlestar looming larger in the window port had been her base ship for yahrens. She had an instinctive feeling that was finally returning to her proper place. Tears of joy gleamed in her eyes.

I'm finally going home!

She'd been back aboard the warship twice in the past secton – short, impatient, dutiful visits. With her father still in life center aboard the Galactica, and with the knowledge that she had only centons aboard, she'd felt lost. Now, reassigned there, at least temporarily, and with her father due to return in a few centars, she felt at ease, at peace with the Pegasus again. It had become the center of her existence after her mother's death, and it seemed to welcome her back with open, loving arms.

Home. Oh, Father, I've wanted this for so long, to be back with you, on your ship. I wonder if you'll be busy tonight. We could have dinner, just us, like we used to.

Cassiopeia! She'll be there! Once, the thought would've ruined her day, filled her with hurt and anger. Now that she knew the woman, and they were close friends, it made her smile. She'd seen the former socialator's value, and respected her as well as liked her.

Cassie's taking care of Father. Maybe we can have dinner, the three of us. I wonder how much they still mean to each other. I was so blind before, about her. Why did it take me so long to understand? Love is so special.

I wonder how Starbuck's taking all this. But he's had so many women friends. Does Cassie really mean more than any of them? He's a friend of mine, and one of Apollo's best friends. He claims to feel something for her, but how much does it really mean to him? After all, he's never really broken it off with Athena. And then what happened with Aurora.... I wonder if he really knows what it means to be committed to somebody, truly committed....

Like Apollo and me– She felt a flurry of guilt. This past secton, she hadn't seen much of the man she intended to marry. She'd been with her father every spare moment. And now, she was on her way to Cain's ship, to be away from Apollo even more.

But then, he's been busy too, with duty, coordinating with Electra. She suppressed the guilt, reminding herself of Apollo's deep attachment to his own father. He understands, if anyone does, how close a family can be. Apollo's a sensitive man, though he tries so hard to live up to a strong command image. He knows what I need now.

She was comforted, and the exhilaration of landing banished all uncertainty. Apollo understood.

* * * * *

"I tell you, Adama, there is no Thjis in my command. The only one coming near that description is ... was Captain Heimdal, who you tell me is missing in a confrontation with your aliens." Cain continued to face the other man, who sat rigidly at his desk. The only others in the room were Col. Tigh, Ens. Athena, Lt. Starbuck, and Dr. Salik. An open channel on Adama's desk connected Col. Kleopatra with the proceedings. Cain's departure from the ship had been delayed so he could participate in the conference, although it looked as though there would be little he could contribute.

"So we have an imposter at the very least, who may be a saboteur as well," Adama said heavily.

"Evidence is, whoever used the computers simply wanted information. We haven't located any suggestion of tampering with anything other memory of use," Tigh supplied. "What would be helpful is some idea of motive."

Adama's gaze swept sideways over the two younger warriors, sitting uncomfortably in the middle of the room. "For some reason, this individual seemed to see fit to seek out and make Athena's acquaintance. Besides being my daughter, she is also your aide, Tigh, and has easy access to most of this ship. The perfect individual, if properly approached, to question on many details of ship's policy and operation."

"I didn't–"

"No one's accusing you of anything, Athena," her father interrupted. "Certainly no complicity in a conspiracy. But we must face the possibility that this man was using you."

She winced at the harsh statement, but drew herself together quickly and sat up straighter, nodding briefly. Starbuck touched her hand in sympathy the micron the commander's attention left them.

"But to what purpose? Dr. Salik, anything further on the drug traces in the Corporal's tissues?"

"We're still working on it. The chemical composition is completely unknown to us," the doctor replied. "But the boy didn't have anything to do with this either, in my estimation."

"So we keep looking for this Thjis, or whatever his real name is, and trying to figure out his motives," Tigh said.

"Is there anything a Raggane would have to gain from passing as one of us and gaining access to our computers?" Salik asked.

Kleopatra answered from the other end of the comm line. "That's a possibility. We know some of the religious sects have what seem to us to be unusual or vicious customs. The Otori are noted for their ethical strictness, and it wasn't very long ago that they still punished moral crimes, as they viewed them, with mutilation or physical scarring. The Deborin were reported to do the same, but their wealth has kept them many secrets. The Borellians have segregated themselves so long they're practically alien to us, and they still practice their blood-hunt – which may be worse, as they aren't afraid to terrorize or even murder non-members of the group they feel have insulted them. There are numerous others.

"But I don't believe the Raggane are by nature inclined to such violence. Of course, they are secretive about certain rituals and bits of their history, but I can't think why they'd want information from our computer banks. General data is available to anyone...."

"What if it was something about Heimdal and Sif?" Athena suddenly asked. "The Pegasus logbooks could have been accessed from our computers...."

"A co-religionist, looking for information?" mused Adama.

"Why not simply ask?" Tigh demanded.

"Unless he didn't think we'd supply the data," Athena ventured.

"That's possible. We haven't exactly been open about much more than personnel rosters during the quarantine," Salik agreed.

"Until we apprehend and question the man, this is all mere speculation," Cain cut in. "And we're all assuming the man Starbuck saw, and identified as this Thjis, is the man who did the tampering. We don't know that for a fact, just yet."

"His presence seems to fit the time frame, and his ... non-appearance in fleet personnel records is suspicious in itself. We don't know who we're dealing with," Tigh reminded them. "And there is another possibility we've not considered. The man may not be Raggane at all. He may simply have used the religious identity to make it easy to get around the ship, just as he seems to have used a Pegasus uniform."

"Everyone would assume they didn't know him, but that he belonged here," Cain ruminated.

"But he wore the braids!" Athena objected.

"Easily manufactured. The thing we can be sure of, is that he isn't one of our warriors."

"Can we?" Salik asked skeptically.

Tigh sighed. "So we still don't have any idea of motive, and finding the man...."

"We have a description. That's something. And two people, at least, who can identify him. I suggest, Colonel, that we get to work on it."

Tigh gritted his teeth – again – at Cain's casual "suggestion." Were they always going to be in conflict?

"Yes," Adama agreed. "We won't know what's going on until we have more information. Salik, I believe you're needed back in life center. Warriors, you are dismissed, for now – but continue to make yourselves available to security in this investigation. And thank you for your time and input, Kleopatra."

A few moments later, only Cain remained. He would be leaving for the Pegasus soon. Until then, the breach in internal security on this ship interested him. Since Helena was likely to keep him mostly confined to quarters for the next few days, and Cassie was sure to enforce the order, he threw himself into the investigation wholeheartedly. It might be the only excitement allowed him, and he was already becoming restless and bored with his confinement.

"Cain," Adama asked thoughtfully, "what was Heimdal like?"

"He was a damned good warrior," he replied without hesitation. "One of the best on the Pegasus. If not for Major Electra, I'd've given him the post of flight commander at Molecay."

Adama managed a smile. "I didn't think anybody was 'given' any position on your ship."

"Believe me, he'd've been worthy of it. If you have any suspicion concerning him, I'd like to hear it, although I don't see any way he could be involved in this, since he's gone."

The commander shrugged. "Athena said they look enough alike to be kinsmen. Maybe something from the past...."

"Like what?"

"I don't know. But I have a feeling this is related somehow to the disappearance of your people. A deep suspicion that Athena may be right – Heimdal and Sif are involved in this, somehow."

"From the grave?"

"Perhaps."

"I respect your intuition, Adama," the other man said slowly. "But my experience says to look elsewhere. There's an explanation, a rational one. We're dealing with a man here – devious, maybe, but still a human being. When we find him, we'll find the answer."

"I'm sure you're right."

* * * * *

Starbuck and Athena walked quietly for a few moments.

"Athena, have you got a centon?"

"Not really. I'm supposed to be on duty. What is it?"

The blond warrior looked away. "If you see this Thjis again, be careful, will ya? I mean, he could be dangerous."

"What makes you think I'll see him again?" she countered.

"If he doesn't know he's under suspicion, he may try to ... talk to you again; and if he does know, he may come looking for you anyway, blaming you, or something."

"I can take care of myself."

"I know that! I'm not implying.... Look, take care of yourself, because I care about you, and I worry about this guy." He's strong, and I think he's smart, too.

"Anything else?" She didn't mean to sound so stiffly formal, but she was still upset at the thought that Thjis might have been using her.

"Yeah. Sorry about dinner."

She stared for a moment at his awkwardly apologetic face, then began to smile. "I'm sure you'll make it up to me."


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Enter Sheba's Galaxy