The Delphian refugees from the Dragonsbreath did their best to settle into the Pegasus routine. Many of their male crew learned quickly how to operate Colonial equipment and stations. With an absolute minimum of modifications, their fighters took over a section of Alpha Bay, so they could now launch and land without blowing up either themselves or the battlestar. With the Delphian sun as their symbol, they were quickly named Golden Sun Squadron, which fit well with Silver Spar, Copper Keel, and Bronze Wing, and was very acceptable to the Delphians. Captain Tokyo was squadron commander. The Delphian warriors mixed well with male Pegasus personnel, but seemed uneasy in the presence of female warriors.
The injured, for the most part, recovered and were added to the crew roster and given assignments. However, some of the others, those who'd escaped without injury, or who had been only scratched or bruised, never checked in, receiving medical checks from their own doctors. Col. Kleopatra had the thankless job of trying to bring the Pegasus roster up to date.
"Umm," she said, double-checking her computron roster. "That takes care of the warrior contingent, but what about the women and children?"
Col. Kenji looked slightly uneasy, and very stubborn. "They're noncombatants, not warriors. Why do you need their names?"
"Well, any skills they have would be much appreciated."
He shrugged. "Some are planters. They create and manage homes. They bear children and teach them as they grow. Some having nursing skills. What more do women need?"
Kleopatra looked up sharply. The Delphian was no taller than she was. "You mean you keep your women cloistered? I knew you wanted to live apart, but–"
"Among our own people, there is no need to keep women and children hidden."
"And we're not your people? Is that why you put up such a fuss when our repair crew tried to enter your quarters to make those repairs?"
"They were invading without permission! Our women were understandably upset!"
"They were not invading on our own ship!"
Kenji's only answer was a deepening of the stubborn expression he often wore when dealing with Kleopatra.
"What's the problem?" Cain had heard the last exchange, and quickly stepped in.
"He won't let me near the rest–"
"She insists on interfering in–"
"One at a time, please."
Kenji's mouth set. After a moment, Kleopatra spoke.
"The basic problem, sir, is that we have no idea how many women are in the Delphian 'harem,' or what their names and skill levels are. Also, we need to know about the children, and what kind of teaching program to set up for them, like the Galactica did."
"We teach our own children!"
"To run a Colonial battlestar?" Kleopatra shot back.
"We will learn, and we will teach them!"
Their attention turned back to Cain.
"Kenji, we have a bit of a problem. We need all our people trained as thoroughly as possible, including the women. You know how understaffed we are. We want your women trained as well. What happens if they can't handle themselves in an emergency? Why can't they help with the ordinary tasks of running a ship? I know your wife is a damned fine scan officer. I could use her on my bridge."
"My wife has decided to stay with our children."
"And what if the loss of a skilled officer costs lives at some future time?"
Kenji remembered how he had missed Mriko in the last battle of the Dragonsbreath. He didn't like it, but he could see Cain's point.
"Why don't you take Kleopatra through your quarters? That way, your women won't be surprised, and you can help her more accurately assess the skills and training they have. Also, Dr. Helena would like to take a further look at the children."
Kenji nodded, still unhappy. He was a good officer; he understood what had to be done, and why. If only it didn't conflict so with their usual customs! Well, as Cain had said before, problems could be expected, but the Cylons were enemy enough. They would have to work together.
At that moment, another problem manifested itself.
Capt. Tokyo strode up to Kenji, planted himself directly in front of him, and began to complain in a loud voice. "I will not be held answerable to that yellow-haired hussy! She does not command my squadron! My warriors will never listen to her!"
Kenji was obviously taken aback. Cain intervened again.
"Yellow-haired hussy? You mean Major Electra, my flight commander? Mister, she's one of the best warriors on this ship, maybe even in the whole fleet. She knows what's going on. And just because she looks you square in the face when she's talking to you does not make her a hussy."
Kenji recovered quickly. "Tokyo, she is your flight leader. You owe her obedience. We had women in high positions in the Empire."
"It is one thing for women to have positions in parts of the government, or in schools, or on the bridge. But they do not belong in fighters! They do not belong in the front line of wars!"
"Might I, uh, ask what brought this on?" Cain inquired.
"She insists on inspecting my people and their fighters."
So it was as much a matter of pride as anything else. Electra could be very forthright, and had probably offended the quiet Tokyo without realizing it. The Delphian warriors took great pride in maintaining constant battle readiness. Cain considered that some of his own warriors could learn from them.
"That's her job."
Tokyo was fuming. "We are quite capable of maintaining our own ships. We do not need her breathing down our necks."
"I'll talk to her, and we'll try to work something out."
"Captain," said Kenji, "remember that she is your superior officer, at least for the present. Do not provoke anything or forget your honor."
Delphians had great respect for authority. The gentle reminder might be sufficient.
Tokyo finally nodded and returned to his abandoned duty.
As Kenji and Kleopatra left, Cain wondered what he was really doing, trying to make Delphians and Colonials work as one on a battlestar. Their cultures were so very different – or had been, until the Cylons wiped out both their peoples. But them, there were many disparate groups within the Colonies, and they'd managed to work together. It would just take time.
Cain sighed, shaking his head. He was beginning to understand what Adama had to endure. He decided to return to the bridge. At least there, he could deal with anything.
With Kenji's assistance, it didn't take long to make a census of the Delphians. As he said, all the women were familiar with basic nursing, teaching, and agriculture, for what that was worth on a battlestar. But Kleopatra was secretly pleased with Kenji's surprise at the wide range of other skills and knowledge that showed up. Most of the women had excellent educations – being members of what had formerly been a sort of aristocratic warrior caste in their world, they had been taught to move, if not function, in their men's worlds, and to completely maintain their estates and homes in their men's absences. With little or nothing to do for the better part of the past yahren beyond caring for their children and basic housekeeping, they'd had lots of free time. They'd spent that time studying everything in the Dragonsbreath tape library. Many women admitted "some" knowledge of engineering, electronics, physics – wide ranges of just about everything. What they'd learned as a hobby or out of boredom, was information that was necessary to run a ship. It wouldn't be difficult at all to find compatible duties for them.
For those uninterested in ship duty, there were still the traditional Delphian female activities, most of which centered around the children and the home. There was a large number of children, ranging in age from infancy to eleven yahrens old, to be cared for and taught. Delphian children learned at home until the age of ten, when they were sent to school – different schools for boys and girls, of course. These children had been at home when the final attacks came. They, too, had been reading a wide range of topics. Delphian curiosity seemed to extend to just about everything short of actual contact with the Colonials.
It would be easier than expected to assimilate the Delphian women and children into the society of the battlestar – if the men allowed it.
Colonel Kenji tried to relax, considering how best to solve the slight problem Kleopatra had brought up. Mriko rubbed his shoulders, trying to work out the tension. He took a sip from the glass of Delphian brandy before him.
"Mriko," he said unexpectedly.
"Do you wish to join the crew of this battlestar, as I have?"
She was silent for a moment. "Do you wish me to?" she asked at last, with a question of her own.
"It is your choice, completely free. Would you choose to be a scan officer on this ship?"
She was silent again, still kneading his shoulders. "Cain seems a good commander. I think I could work with him. Yes, I could serve better that way, I think," she finally responded.
"You wish to join the crew, then?"
"If it my choice, yes."
Kenji was silent, still thinking. It was essential, for survival, that their crews work together. He knew his people and the Colonials distrusted each other in some ways. Some of it stemmed from the difference in gender roles in their cultures. The Empire had never had the population that the Colonies had; they had to be more protective of their women. The women were needed in the home, raising children – and still able to defend those homes, when necessary.
Well, maybe for now, the women were needed elsewhere. The battlestar was short of personnel; Kenji had seen that during the inspection with Kleopatra. Yet it was well-run. Many served on maintenance crews and as fighter pilots, among other capacities. While he wasn't ready to see Mriko in a Sunrider, there were a good many other tasks to do on this ship. She could function well on the bridge.
As their leader, he had to set an example. Running against yahrens of tradition and training, he would let Mriko join the crew. Not tell her to join, but allow her to join if it was her wish.
"You'll have to see Kleopatra." Might as well start on a name-basis with his Colonial counterpart.
Mriko's perfectly sculpted eyebrows lifted.
"By your choice," he went on. "Let it be known that whatever decision you make is indeed your decision, not mine, and that I support you in it. Our people may have to change our ways somewhat to survive. We must be an example."
She smiled gently. "Yes, indeed, my husband."
Akimi was alone in the shrine, kneeling before the small brazier, sitting back on her heels to contemplate the intricate mandala that adorned the wall. She came often to the memorial chamber, both the formal shrine on the Dragonsbreath when it still existed, and now to the makeshift room aboard the Pegasus. She remembered, and contemplated an empty life.
There was a swish of ceremonial robes next to her. Another woman dropped beside her, offering her own small puff of incense to the fire.
For a moment they were silent, letting the aromatic smoke flare up and dissipate in the room, an offering to ancestors of long ago, and to the world they had lost. Then Mriko spoke.
"Akimi, my husband has spoken to me of a thing that may affect you."
"Since my husband's death, nothing affects me."
"It may be a chance for vengeance."
A round face lifted, and dark eyes burned.
Mriko chose to join the crew. She also chose the most dramatic moment possible to see Kleopatra – the middle of Cain's next briefing.
Captain Tokyo was making a complaint – again – about Electra's insistence on inspecting Golden Sun's launch area when Mriko and Akimi entered the briefing room. Silence greeted them, all eyes watching inquiringly.
Kenji had almost expected such an action, and had mentioned the possibility to Cain. His wife had a flair for the dramatic, and never did things by halves. But what was the other woman doing here? She was a widow, had no children, no other surviving family. She'd also never been part of the military. Did she want to join the crew as well?
"Colonel," Mriko said quietly into the silence, standing in front of Kleopatra. "I wish to be admitted to your crew to serve on your bridge. How shall I go about it?"
Kleopatra looked pleased. It was a breakthrough, even though it no doubt had Kenji's prior approval, or at least his grudging acceptance. She could live with that; it wasn't her intention to utterly disrupt Delphian society, no matter how illogically chauvinistic she saw it. "See me after the briefing, and we'll discuss it," she said with a friendly smile.
Even Cain couldn't complain about his meeting being broken up. Before the day was over, every Delphian on board would know that Mriko was formally joining the crew.
Then Akimi stepped forward, staring defiantly at Cain. Her usual deferring expression was gone, her attitude strained. She swallowed once before speaking. "Commander, to whom shall I speak about joining your crew?"
"Colonel Kleopatra," he said, gesturing toward his executive officer.
"Even if I wish to join your flight squadrons?"
The question brought total silence. Finally, Maj. Electra rose.
"I'm Flight Commander. You'd speak to me about joining, and on-ship training–"
"No!" Tokyo leaped to his feat. "Women do not belong in fighters!"
"I wish to join a fighter squadron," Akimi insisted, defiantly facing Tokyo for nearly a centon before turning back to Electra. There was supplication on her face.
"Have you have any training?" Electra asked a little lamely, distinctly uncomfortable.
"No, but I have read a great deal, and my reflexes have always tested well. I am prepared to study all I need, and begin as a cadet, for as long as it takes."
"You will never fly with Golden Sun! Women do not belong in Sunriders!" Tokyo thundered, in a voice so totally unlike his norm that even Kenji stared.
"I know that. I did not say I wished to fly a Sunrider."
Tokyo's voice stopped, his mouth still moving soundlessly. What else could she possibly want to fly? She was a Delphian–
"I want to fly a Viper."
Electra swallowed, glancing from Cain to Kenji to Tokyo, then to the rest of the officers present. Was she about to precipitate a war aboard the Pegasus?
"Uh...." she began when no one else had anything to say. "Is there any particular reason for your wanting to fly a Viper?"
"It is true, I would never be accepted in a Sunrider. Therefore, I must fly a Viper."
"It will never be allowed!" Tokyo appealed to Kenji, who was still staring at his secretively smiling wife. "You are her liege...."
"He was my husband's liege. My lord is long dead," the woman shot back. "So who will stop me?" Her voice turned gentler. "My husband has been dead for nearly a yahren. I have no children or other family. Do you expect me to sit quietly alone for the rest of my life? I would rather fight for the children of my friends, fight the ones who drove us from our homes. I saw the havoc and destruction. I ran through it and lived. But now I am alone. What would you have me do?"
"You've felt this way since Narone died?" Kenji finally recovered enough to ask.
"Yes," she nodded, her head low. "But what choice did I have before this?"
Kenji was taken aback. He wondered how many of the other women – some widowed, some bereft of children, all without homes, now existing on an alien ship – entertained thoughts of revenge? How many would be willing to fight as warriors, given the opportunity? They might have live missiles in the women's quarters, and he'd given permission to launch them.
And what about the children? Exposed to war as no child of their culture had been for over a thousand yahrens, how had they been affected? What might they be feeling, as refugees who had seen their world die? He'd seen fit to open the gates for their women to join this society, when Cain showed him the necessity of it. The children would be raised with that knowledge, seeing a different way to live and fight. The Empire would never be the same again–
But then, the Empire no longer existed.
"The choice is yours, Akimi," he said.
"Thank you, Colonel," she replied, then turned back to Electra. "Will I be acceptable?"
"You'll have to take the pilot qualifiers, but if you've been studying, and your reflexes are as good as you say, I don't foresee any difficulties."
There were several long centons of silence.
"Well," Cain said at last, "now that we've gotten that settled, maybe we can get back to the briefing. Mriko, Akimi, welcome to the crew. Kleopatra will handle the roster...."
The Delphian women, greatly relieved and quietly triumphant, settled to one side.
Cmdr. Cain pulled out the files Graham had prepared for him – already obsolete, and needing updating. "Now, to get back to business...."
Enter Sheba's Galaxy