The lone Mark VII viper swung away from its wingman and headed directly for the Pegasus, while the other viper continued on towards the Galactica. “Pegasus control, this is Galactica Viper Charlie Seven, requesting landing clearance.
A crisp voice promptly responded: “Viper Charlie Seven, only ships on official business are authorized for landing. What is your mission?”
There was a noticeable pause. Then, “Pegasus, this is Galactica’s CAG, here to meet with your CAG to arrange CAP schedules. Request landing clearance.”
“Roger that, Charlie Seven. You are cleared for approach to starboard landing bay, behind Raptor Two-Five. Change to course 47, cut speed to 20 knots and standby for auto-lander.”
“Pegasus, say last part again.”
“Stand by for auto-lander.”
“…Roger, standing by for auto-lander override.”
The viper altered course and speed, and was approaching the landing pod, when a new voice came over the wireless: “Viper Charlie Seven, this is Pegasus control. Belay auto-lander over-ride. You are cleared for hands on approach. Call the ball.”
“Roger, Pegasus control. Hands on approach, I have the ball.”
“Our CAG is waiting for you on the flight deck. Welcome aboard, Apollo.”
Captain Kara Thrace was, indeed, standing at attention on the flight deck in a crisp blue uniform as the deck crew brought it in. Lee uncoupled the neck seal and removed his helmet and then opened his cockpit. Kara was still at attention, resolutely staring ahead and not meeting his gaze. He decided to follow her lead.
“Permission to come aboard, captain,” he said, saluting.
She looked up at him at last, returned the salute and said, “Permission granted, captain.”
Lee climbed down from his plane, his briefcase under his arm. Without saying any more, Kara turned and led him off the flight deck and into a briefing room. When they were alone, Lee exploded: “Kara, what the frak was that shit with the auto-lander?”
She remained at attention, and replied stiffly, “Captain Adama, I am under strict orders to limit our discussions to the official purpose of your visit.”
Lee goggled for a moment.
“Under strict… and you’re going to follow those orders? Why couldn’t you be that attentive to my orders? What happened to the Kara Thrace who disregarded the orders of a superior asshole?”
Starbuck opened her mouth, and then closed it hard, with an audible click. After a moment, Lee said: “Fine. Official business only?”
Lee stepped in front of her, saluted, and then said: “Captain
“For your information, Captain,” Starbuck hissed, “manual landings are SOP on Pegasus, and have been since I became CAG.”
“So the flight controller calling for me to auto-land was nothing more than an insult.”
It wasn’t a question, and Kara didn’t answer it. After a moment, Lee asked: “Did Admiral Cain order it?”
Starbuck ducked her head slightly, but remained at attention. “No,” she said. “She actually relieved the controller of duty and reprimanded him for violating safety protocols.”
“Good,” Lee said. “That kind of crap has no place aboard any battlestar, much less the flagship, and I’m glad the admiral has dealt with the matter.”
Starbuck relaxed. “Flagship? An officer of Galactica is willing to acknowledge Pegasus as the flagship?”
“Certainly. Until my father’s promotion is formally ratified, Admiral Cain remains the highest ranking officer in the fleet, and her ship is therefore the flagship.”
“I agree,” said Kara.
“Though how you can serve under someone like Cain…”
“…who not only abandons civilians to die…” Lee continued, his voice rising.
“…but orders the massacre of their children….”
“At least she hasn’t staged a coup or ordered the assassination of a superior officer!”
Both of them fell silent.
A short while earlier, Raptor Two-Five wheeled to a stop inside the starboard landing pod of the Pegasus, where two uniformed figures waited. The crew compartment opened. Six men in civilian clothing stepped off, and a blue uniformed woman with strikingly red hair stepped forward and greeted them.
“On behalf of Admiral Cain and the crew of the Battlestar Pegasus, welcome aboard. I’m Captain Mara Quisling, and you men are here from the Astral Queen for the new training program. Chief Stark here will be your instructor. Please direct all questions to him, and follow all of his instructions while you are aboard, both for your safety and for the security of the ship. You must wear these visitor’s badges at all times, and do not leave the training area unescorted. Thank you all for coming. Chief Stark? “
Chief Stark, drab green uniform and very dark skin, stepped forward and handed out five badges, then said: “All right, people, come with me.” After the trainees followed him away, Captain Quisling turned to the remaining man: “Mr. Zarek, if you’ll come this way, the admiral is waiting.”
“Of course,” he said. “Is that Kara Thrace standing over there?”
“Yes, Mr. Zarek, she’s our CAG, and she’s waiting to meet Lee Adama on official business, and we’d rather he didn’t see you here, so please step quickly.”
He followed her off the deck, and down a hallway, and through a door into what turned out to be an empty storage locker. Captain Quisling closed and dogged the hatch behind them. “We only have a couple of minutes before Cain will notice the delay.” She turned to see Zarek regarding her with a grin.
“Mara Quisling?” he said. “I can’t believe they didn’t see through that.”
“It’s the Colonial Fleet, Tom. They don’t get any jokes unless ordered to do so.”
“I can’t believe it’s you. I thought the whole network had been wiped out in the attack.”
“The gods work in mysterious ways,” she said, shaking her head.
“I guess they do. So, do you know why Cain called this meeting?”
“She hasn’t told me specifically, but I think it must be something to do with life after Roslin.”
Zarek nodded. “I want you to start recording everything the admiral does, especially secret meetings like this one. If you haven’t already, bug her office, her quarters, CIC, anywhere she’s likely to do something revealing.”
“Already set up, Tom. I’ll pass the tapes back to you through your maintenance trainees.”
“Good. Also, we’ll need security a walk-through in case we need to eliminate Cain.”
“You’ll have it within the week.”
Tom embraced her, and they hugged tightly for a long moment. When they broke off, Mara said: “Freedom or Death,” as she wiped her eyes.
“Freedom or Death,” agreed Zarek.
“Kara, do you honestly believe that Admiral Cain deserves your loyalty?”
“Yes, Lee, I do. You can say a lot against her, but do you think she plotted to assassinate your father?”
“How do you know she didn’t?”
“Because, Lee. She said to me that the key to making her career was never backing down from the tough choice, never shying away from doing what must be done. And do you think, given what you know about her, that she’d shy away from killing your dad if she’d decided to do it? Succeed or fail, if she had decided to do it, she’d have done it already.”
“So you don’t think that she’s just biding her time, waiting for the President to die, to make her move when she only has my father and Baltar to deal with?”
“I don’t think she’s much of a waiter, Lee. And besides, Roslin promoted your dad, so the longer she waits, the more time he has to make that stick.”
“That’s true, but it doesn’t convince me that she isn’t planning something.”
“C’mon, Lee, I think your dad can take care of himself,” Kara chuckled
“It’s not my father that I’m worried about,” Lee said gravely
Kara scowled and smiled. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“It means that we have already been through one attempted coup. You and I have already mutinied once in our careers. Consider where you are now, Kara. If Cain decides to overthrow the government and take down my father, are you, as her CAG, going to support her? And if you don’t, do you really think she won’t shoot you like she did her first XO, like she plans to do with Helo and
Lee took her by the shoulders. “Are you ready for what’s coming? Are you ready to lead your pilots against Duck, Race Track, Skulls, Hot Dog, and Kat?” As doubt flitted across her features, he added, “Do you have what it takes to shoot me out of the sky?”
“Lee,” she laughed, “do you honestly think you can out-fly me?”
“No. But unless you can pull the trigger, I don’t have to.”
For several moments, Kara stood there, trying to swallow. Then, softly, she said, “I have to fly a training mission in an hour. Let’s work up the CAP schedule.”
Slowly, Lee lowered his arms and then nodded. “All right. But think about this Kara. You can’t handle this problem by waiting it out.”
When Captain Quisling led Tom Zarek into the Helena Cain’s ready room, the admiral was waiting at her desk with Jack Fisk and two other officers standing behind her. Zarek stopped in front of Cain’s desk, while Quisling went and stood behind the admiral.
“Mr. Zarek,” said Cain after a long pause. “Welcome. Please have a seat.”
“It’s “Representative” Zarek, Admiral. And I’ll stand.”
“Suit yourself,” she replied, continuing to stare expressionlessly at Zarek in his black leather jacket.
Zarek stared back.
The silence stretched.
One of the officers behind Cain started to fidget, and then stopped at a glance from Fisk.
Finally, after nearly two minutes, Cain smiled.
“You are a patient man. It’s not often I meet someone who knows how to wait.”
“I have had a lot of practice. The course justice is seldom swift.”
“How much longer are you going to wait for it?”
Zarek shook his head. “That’s not the question you need to ask me.”
“Oh, no? Then tell me what is.”
“The question you need to ask me is: would I like to stop waiting?”
“Do you really need to ask?”
Despite herself, Cain grinned in genuine amusement.
“Touché, Mr. Zarek.”
He gave her a tight smile. “Call me Tom,” he said in a genial tone.
Cain’s face became stern. “Tom, right now, humanity is losing badly in a war for survival. We can’t afford to fight amongst ourselves, or take side trips for divine oracles, or go hunting for some fabled lost colony: we need to unite behind effective leadership, drive the Cylons from our homes, and build a new human society. Roslin and Adama can’t be trusted to do that.”
“Do you really believe that you can, Admiral?”
“Yes, I do. I can lead this fleet, and in time, I can lead us to victory over the Cylons.”
“You haven’t answered the most important part of my question: can you build a new human society, where we will have liberty, where there will be no slaves?”
Cain nodded thoughtfully for a moment, and then answered: “No, Tom. I can’t. Can you?”
“I have spent my whole life doing so. If I were president, I could do a lot more than I could from inside a prison.”
Cain arched an eyebrow. “Then it sounds like we should elect you president when Roslin’s, or Baltar’s, term expires in 82 days.”
“You don’t think Baltar will oppose me?”
“Baltar won’t be a problem,” smirked Cain.
“Even so, getting elected president takes the support of important voting blocks.” Zarek begin to count off on the fingers of his right hand. “I have the prisoner vote, the Sagittaron vote, and several of the manufacturing ships.” Zarek held up his thumb. “If I could lock up the military vote, I’d be over the top.”
“As undisputed commander of the fleet, I could deliver that vote,” Cain allowed.
“What can I do to put you in that position?”
“Make Bill Adama wait for his promotion.”
“For how long?”
“As long as it takes.”
Zarek smiled for a moment, not long enough for it to move up to his eyes, and then he said: “Done.”
“Good,” said Cain, springing to her feet, coming around her desk, and holding out her hand to Zarek. He took it and shook hands with her while they both met each other’s gaze with a half smile.
“Good,” said Zarek.
“Good,” repeated Cain. Then: “Captain Collins, escort Mr. Zarek back to his ship. Make sure that no one from Galactica sees him.”
“Yes, Admiral. Mr. Zarek, if you’ll come this way?”
“Until we meet again,
In the silence that followed, Captain Quisling asked: “Do you really think we can trust Tom Zarek, sir? The Sagittaron Freedom Movement was the biggest terrorist organization of the post-war period, with an extensive network of sympathizers and sleeper agents.”
“I have to agree, Admiral,” opined Fisk. “Freedom or Death was their motto, and I don’t think Zarek’s softened his position in prison.”
“Neither do I,” Cain replied. “I don’t trust him much, and I don’t think we can expect him to work with us for long, but we’re offering him an opportunity to drive a wedge into the Adama/Roslin axis that has frozen him out of the political legitimacy that he’s craved his whole life. He’ll work with us while he thinks it gets him closer to power.”
“And then?” asked Quisling.
“And then… well, if Zarek still stands by his old motto, I think we should give him what he wants. One way or another.”
Ten minutes later, Admiral Cain was looking over the new CAP schedule, while Kara Thrace stood at ease on the other side of her desk. Without looking up, Cain asked Starbuck: “Did you get Apollo to agree to our stationing a Tactical Control raptor amid the fleet?
“Yes, Admiral. May I ask why it was so important that he think the TacCon was my idea?”
“Because any idea of mine, no matter how good, will be suspect in their eyes until we can resolve the tensions between Commander Adama and myself. I believe in picking my battles, Captain, and this wasn’t worth a fight.”
“I see, sir.”
Cain at last looked up from the papers in front of her. “Is there something else, Captain?”
“Sir, may I speak freely?”
“I would appreciate it if you did.”
“Captain Adama asked me what your plans are. I told him that I didn’t know, and he discussed some concerns he had with me.”
“I’m sure he did, given who his father is.”
“No, sir, that’s not it. Lee is worried about his father getting killed in a showdown with you, but you know he mutinied when his father sent him to arrest the President. Lee’s more concerned for our democracy. He’s concerned that you’re going to destroy it.”
“There’s irony in an officer willing to mutiny to preserve the rule of law, don’t you think?” said the admiral, with her head cocked and an amused expression.
Starbuck ignored the attempt at levity. “Sir, what are you going to do?”
Cain regarded Starbuck with a severe expression for a moment. Then: “Captain, I’m going to do what’s necessary to preserve the human race. If I have to trample the civilian government under foot to do it, I will. That said, I don’t want to do that, and I don’t think I’ll have to. Tensions are high, and President Roslin’s illness only makes things worse, but I have a good relationship with Vice President Baltar. I think he and I can work together at least as well as Roslin and Adama ever did, and certainly better than he has with Adama. So from where I stand, all I have to do is wait. Does that address the concerns of Starbuck and Apollo?”