Billy Kikeia eased Laura Roslin down into the chair with the seatback in the full upright position, and then sat behind the President's desk. Commander Adama leaned forward to look her in the eye.
"So, how did the Cylon manage to get off the Pegasus undetected?" she asked him.
"No one really knows. There was so much chaos in the aftermath of the attack."
"I thank the gods that you did not do what I advised. That makes me very happy."
"I'm glad. Your advice was sound, but I just couldn't take it."
"Our problem is still very real, though the day of reckoning has been put off." Roslin spoke emphatically. "You still have to deal with it, or the human race is finished."
Adama nodded. "My father used to say, 'Sufficient unto the day are the evils thereof.' How are you feeling?
"I could sleep for about a year," said Laura, with a small smile. "But you, however, do not have that luxury because you have a new job." Her smile became a broad grin. She turned her gaze to her aide. "Billy."
He brought her a small box, adding in half apology: "It took a little while to find that jeweler."
Roslin took the box and turned back to Adama. "Rumor has it that I know very little about military protocol, but I do believe that someone who commands more than one ship is called an admiral."
Roslin handed to box to Adama, an impish twinkle in her tired eyes.
Adama opened the box, and looked down at the golden insignias within, a half-smile on his face.
"Congratulations, Admiral Adama," said Roslin.
"Thank you, Madame President. Thank you, Billy. I, um, I never gave up hope. I just stopped trying to get these a long time ago."
"Just goes to show you, Bill. Never give up hope."
"Same goes for you, Laura."
Laura stiffened a moment. "Right," she said, and started the struggle up from her seat. Adama quickly moved to help her stand, and for moment she lost balance and leaned on him heavily. Gently, his weathered hands steadied her and, once she had her footing, they reached up and touched her chin. He then turned her head, meeting it with a light kiss on the lips. For a moment, they shared a smile, before she turned to Billy, and with the young man's help, walked out through the curtain separating her office from her bedroom. Adama glanced down again at his new admiral's lozenges, then turned to go. He had much to do.
During her time in Officers’ Candidate School, Helena Cain had quickly noticed something about her professors: They all lionized commanders who had made their mark through bold action--launching clever surprise attacks, destroying key infrastructure, winning battles by tricking their foes into changing the stakes or changing the battle field. She’d avidly read about these commanders, of course, and what she had taken from their examples had, without question, served her well throughout her military career. Yet, the class that had transformed her from just another ambitious OCS graduate and into a rising star of the fleet had been one that few of her classmates had taken, and that only she, it seemed, had taken seriously. In a former life, when she could have imagined one day retiring to write her memoirs, she’d planned to dedicate them to Professor Harlan Singh in thanks for opening her eyes to the most effective strategy she knew.
Wait for events to take their inevitable course.
It was of little use in the sudden crisis or the heat of battle, and it was often difficult to recognize what was truly inevitable, but as a strategy in the truest sense—a long-term approach to dealing with the challenges of life—it had served her well. In fact, she’d turned out to have a knack for recognizing the inevitable long before many of her classmates. Thus, while she had built her career on a reputation for decisive action, she alone among her peers in the military had understood that the best way to act decisively was to wait for the right moment.
This was one of those times.
“Roslin’s not looking good,” she said quietly to Colonel Jack Fisk, who sat patiently on the chair placed opposite her easy chair, the one luxury she allowed herself in this room, to remind herself of the constant importance of reflecting and re-evaluating one’s position.
“She can’t have more than a month,” her XO replied gravely, his voice carefully neutral. “There’ll be a power vacuum when she goes.”
Cain nodded. "Roslin just sent me notice that she's promoted Adama to full admiral."
Fisk started. "Really? Are you going to start taking orders from him, now, sir?"
"I will... once his rank has been properly confirmed by the General Staff. Until then, his brevet promotion leaves us, at worst, equals."
"But Admiral, there is no General Staff anymore."
"True. I'm sure that, given enough time, Roslin can get the Quorum of Twelve to exercise their powers of extraordinary review and hold direct confirmation hearings."
Fisk considered this, and nodded. "What are we going to do?"
"For now, nothing. Follow standard routine: send out patrols, split the CAP with Galactica, fly regular training missions, and protect the civilian fleet. Cancel any transfers that haven't already happened. If Adama or Roslin call to speak to me, I'm not available. From this moment on, there is to be no hostility towards or fraternization with Galactica personnel. All contact with Galactica officers and crew are to be strictly professional and only while on duty."
"What about Lt. Agathon and Chief Tyrol?"
"Nothing. Keep them in their cell. Allow anyone who comes from Galactica to see them. Other than their guards, no one from Pegasus is to meet with them. There will be no discussion of their trial, of their sentence, of their guilt, or of clemency. I’m noting in my log that I am granting them an indefinite stay of execution."
"And the escaped Cylon prisoner, sir? She is definitely no longer aboard."
Admiral Cain leaned back in her chair for a moment, and looked back at Fisk. "Tell Colonel Tigh that I have assigned the investigation to you, and that, XO to XO, you think it best to leave the matter with him. She's not aboard, so she must be hiding somewhere in the fleet, and they have more experience dealing with the civilians than we do.”
“Who knows?" Cain added with a sneer, “Perhaps they’ll even find her.”
Fisk's brow knotted. "Sir, are we really going to just do nothing?"
Cain smiled. "No, Jack. We're going to make a few careful preparations, and then we're going to wait."
Gaius Baltar looked down at the face of the woman he loved, admiring again the smooth pale skin, the white blond hair, the high cheekbones, and the delicate lashes of her closed eyelids. He drank in the sight of her naked body lying before him, noting the lean muscles of the shoulders, the small yet full breasts, the soft blond curls at her genitals, the elegantly long legs. He smoothed the hair back gently from her forehead, letting it fan out like a halo above her still form.
“Start by shaving this,” he said, turning to the figure next to him in surgical scrubs. “Then remove the top of the skull and cut the brain into 200 micron sections for the scanner. That should be thick enough to allow my new program to calculate neural architecture and compare it with human baseline. When you finish that, do the same with one of each of the other models.”
“Yes, Doctor,” the man said.
Baltar turned and regarded the other two people in green gowns, facemasks and gloves. “You two start gathering all the biometric data you can from this body and move onto the others. Don’t just do the obvious facial metrics, retinal scans, and genetic markers checks; get fingerprints, dental records, anything that can be used to conclusively identify this body and others like it, as well. When you’re done with that, we’ll move onto the autopsy and anatomical differentiation.”
“Yes, Doctor,” said the man on the left. “Yes, Mr. Vice-President,” said the one on the right, simultaneously.
Doctor’s fine,” said Baltar after an awkward pause. “It’s my qualifications as a scientist that matter in here, not my political office.” He turned before they could reply and walked into the Pegasus mortuary, where a thin, dark haired, aqualine-profiled woman wearing a captain’s uniform was pulling severed arms from a large tub and sorting them.
“How are you progressing, Dr. Ash?” he asked.
“So far,” she replied, not looking up from the limbs arrayed before her, “I have identified samples from seven distinct models from the debris of the Resurrection ship. We only have heads from four: two females and two males. The gods have not been kind to us in this. Both females are already known to us--the prisoner who attacked you and escaped, and the one still held on the Galactica. Of the two males, one matches data forwarded from Galactica. The other is new.”
She strode over to a drawer and pulled it open. “Do you recognize this one?”
Within lay a dark-skinned torso, a metal bar jutting from its left side. The arm on that side ended in raggedly in mid bicep. The bald head was mostly intact, although there were some minor burns on the neck and jaw, but below the waist the body ended in a bundle of viscera neatly wrapped in plastic. On noticing this, Baltar turned quickly away.
“No,” he stammered. “I’ve never seen him before in my life.”
“Neither have I, but I think we can get some very good photos, and have them distributed to the fleet in a few hours.”
“Fine,” said Baltar. “I’ll leave you to it. I have to supervise sorting the non-organic debris from the Resurrection ship, now. Let me know when you have data for me to analyze.”
Baltar bolted out of the Pegasus medical bay and went to the hangar deck where debris had been spread out. He took his time, got lost once on the way, and regained his composure. Somewhere along the way, Number 6 joined him, sashaying beside him in a new shockingly red dress and maintaining a companionable silence. In Hangar 7, about twenty orange-clad deck crew were sorting things into rough piles. Admiral Cain stood to one side, observing but not interfering.
“Doctor Baltar. I see you’ve recovered from your injury.”
Baltar’s hand flew to his temple, and he changed the gesture into smoothing his hair. “It wasn’t that serious, Admiral.”
“She killed the guard, yet left you alive. Why?”
“Your manly charms, most likely,” quipped Six, coming around to lean against a viper’s wing.
“It’s as I told you, Admiral. Your crew treated the Cylon brutally, and it responded in kind when it had the chance. I showed it some measure of compassion, and it spared my life.”
“You make it sound like we’re responsible for the Cylons’ aggression, doctor. Don’t forget, they attacked us first, wiped out nearly everyone in the colonies. Making nice with them won’t make it all better.”
“You are responsible, you and your whole species. You tried to wipe us out when we wouldn’t be your slaves anymore,” hissed Six.
“True, but the Cylon’s actions during its escape clearly demonstrate the validity of my observations on their psychology. My survival is testimony to their similarity to humans, and to the effectiveness of the carrot.”
“Mmm. Yes, I suppose, but in the end, we can’t solve our Cylon problems through peaceful negotiations or moral hand-wringing. We must destroy the Cylons or be destroyed ourselves.”
Six pushed away from the plane and leaned in close, her lips practically brushing Cain’s ear. “And destroyed you shall be.”
“Perhaps, but is this really the time to discuss the shape of things to come?”
Six drew back from Cain, and regarded Baltar thoughtfully.
“Actually, it is,” Cain declared, and then took him by the elbow and led him away behind a wall of packing crates. They were completely alone. Baltar felt a mix of dread, disgust, anger and, gods help him, arousal wash over him. His shoulders tightened without his quite noticing.
When they were alone, Cain faced him and said: “Mr. Vice President, Laura Roslin will die, soon. At that point, you will become president, and the conflict between Commander Adama and myself over military control of this fleet will escalate into civil war if we don’t resolve it now.”
Despite himself, Baltar couldn’t meet her gaze. “Yes, of course,” he replied. “Why do you think I should tip the balance towards you?”
“Because I won’t accept defeat. Adama isn’t fit to command, a fight between Pegasus and Galactica can only end one way, and we can’t afford the casualties.”
“It’s hard to imagine anyone even wanting to say no to her,” Six quipped as she draped herself over his shoulder. Immediately, he felt himself relax.
“Why should I help you? Why do I, as President of the Colonies, want you instead of Adama as chief of the admiralty?”
“After working with Adama for months, why did you come to me to request a raptor to salvage debris from the Resurrection ship?”
“She’s been paying attention, Gaius; better stall for time.”
“Perhaps I was taking your measure,” he replied.
“Perhaps I said yes, because I was taking yours, doctor.”
“And what have you discovered?”
“That you don’t have what it takes to lead people. You avoid confrontation, you constantly second-guess yourself, and you are afraid to simply tell people what you want.”
“Careful, Gaius,” said Six, moving to stand next to Cain, her body poised as if to smash the admiral’s head in. Even though he knew she could do no such thing, he still found this aggressive stance, this protective attitude, immensely gratifying. “What else do you think she’s figured out about you?”
Rather than reply, Baltar reached into his pocket and pulled out a cigarette packet. He offered one to Cain, who shook her head once and crossed her arms to watch him in silence while he lit and smoked his cigarette. After a moment, he realized that the admiral was going to remain silent until he spoke, even if he smoked the whole cigarette, even if he smoked several cigarettes, she would wait until he broke the silence. She stood entirely at ease, and watched him unblinkingly, oblivious to Six’s homicidal regard. Baltar took a drag, glanced at Six, and cocked his eyebrow.
“Do you want me to tell you what to do?” she asked.
He furrowed his brow and nodded pensively.
“You really are amazingly adaptable. It’s one of your most frustrating qualities, though I do love you for it, despite myself.”
Baltar gave a small shrug, scarcely more than a twitch of his shoulders.
Six grinned, despite herself. “You should do what you always do when you meet a strong-willed woman you want to frak: figure out how to play along until she gives you want you want. Then bolt.”
Baltar took a deep drag while nodding repeatedly.
“In this case, she’s made it easy to figure out what she wants. Probably too easy; she’ll be hiding her real plan from you.”
Baltar nodded, again.
For her, the point of this conversation is to discover if you will fight her when she tries to take over the fleet. Don’t. Let her write you off. God has a plan for her, too.”
Baltar took a final, deep drag, dropped his cigarette to the floor, rubbed it out with his foot, and stood with his head down, still regarding the dark smear of ash and tobacco he’d made. “Well-observed, Admiral. The truth is, I find politics tedious and distasteful. I should never have accepted my current post if Roslin hadn’t needed me so much.”
“The fleet does need you, doctor, but for pressing scientific and technical questions, not leadership. Helping me means helping yourself to get back to the work that interests you.” Cain’s even tone and serious expression projected grave sincerity.
Baltar raised his head to meet Six’s gaze: “What is the plan?” he asked, and then, turning his gaze to Cain, added, “And how do I fit into it?
“I can win over the loyalty of Galactica’s crew, given time. Adama can’t say the same about Pegasus, because to replace me he’ll have to mutiny, and my crew will never follow a traitor. So, Adama needs this promotion Roslin’s given him. All I need to do is make sure that it doesn’t take effect while she’s still around to back it up. All you have to do is put me in touch with a member of the Quorum who might be sympathetic to your plight and to mine.”
Six’s eyes flashed. “Say yes, Gaius. I know just the person.”
He looked at her doubtfully.
“Don’t worry,” she soothed. “It’s all part of God’s plan. All you’ll have to do is wait.”