Author’s Note: The story is meant to address how the battle of New Caprica might have gone had Helena Cain still been alive. It’s a sequel to an earlier fic, Hubris, an AU in which the budding civil war in mid Season Two between Galactica and Pegasus was averted, and Cain was imprisoned aboard the Galactica, where she has remained for a year, waiting for her war to come back to her.
Characters: Helena Cain, Bill Adama, Lee Adama, Dee, Cat, Peter Laird, Racetrack
Rating: PG? Some violence, no sex
Spoilers: through early Season 3.
Word Count: 3450
SAFER WITH HER
The room was spacious and well lit. The bed was spartan, but adequate, with a shelf of books standing next to it. Papers littered the table. The treadmill sat in the corner. Only two elements suggested the room's true function as a prison: steel meshwork barred the windows and doors and, at the request of the occupant, there were no chairs.
When Admiral Adama stepped in, the prisoner was walking on the treadmill in sweats, her orange prison jumpsuit crumpled on the bed. Adama walked to the table, noticed the disorganization of the papers, and then addressed the prisoner. “Helena.”
She did not break stride. “Bill.”
“You know why I’m here,” he said.
“Yes,” she replied.
She kept walking. He stood, waiting while she walked. After ten minutes, a timer chimed, and the treadmill slowed to a stop.
She stepped down, picked up a towel, and mopped her brow.
He continued to stand between the door of her cell and the table, hands at his side, glasses perched on his nose, his face revealing nothing beyond mild boredom.
She poured two glasses of water, and offered him one. He shook his head. She poured it back into the pitcher.
The phone by the door buzzed. They both turned and regarded it, neither moving to answer it. It buzzed again.
“It’s your phone,” he pointed out.
With a small smile, Helena crossed her cell and picked it up and answered, “Yes?” After a moment she nodded, said “All right,” and hung up.
Turning to Bill, she said, “You’re needed in CIC.”
“Thanks for your time,” he replied, and motioned to the guards to open the hatch. As it swung open, Helena gave a single bark of laughter, and gave in.
“What are you offering?” she asked.
He turned back towards her. “An opportunity to serve. A chance to be a soldier again.”
“That’s all?” she challenged.
“I want the Pegasus back,” she demanded.
“No,” he answered.
“Bill,” she chided, “I don’t know what you are thinking, giving my ship to your son, but I know that he’s just gotten soft over the past year. He can’t cut it as commander of the most powerful ship in your fleet.”
“Whatever Lee’s shortcomings as a commander, I don’t want you back in command of one of my ships. I don’t trust you that much.”
“But you do trust me enough to come and ask for my help,” she asserted.
“We’re in a tough tactical situation,” he admitted. “You always were the best planner in the Fleet, even before the Attacks. We need you.”
She took a half step towards him, and smirked. “And what if I don’t need you?”
“You do need us, Helena,” he declared. “You need us because you need to be a soldier, and for the past year, you haven’t been. You need us because you’ve been sitting in this room, clinging to a war we lost two years ago. But most of all, you need us because, until you come out and help us, you’re just a traitor and war criminal, sitting in a cell.”
Helena’s jaw clenched. After a moment she got back on her treadmill, and switched it on, and started to run.
Adama watched her for a moment, and then turned and signaled for the guard to open the door. “Call me when you change your mind,” he added as he left.
The following day, Helena had another visitor. Dressed now in her prison clothes, she looked up from the tactical reports from New Caprica scouting missions that were spread across her worktable and regarded him as he entered her cell. He wore a commander’s uniform, stretched tight across his fattened stomach. He carried a large, flat box under one arm.
“I didn’t want to come here and speak to you,” said Lee, as the guards dogged the hatch behind him.
“And yet, here you are.” Her words were neutral, but her tone stained them with contempt.
“Here I am,” he agreed, and looked all around at the barred windows of her prison. “And here you are, too.”
Her nostrils flared. “Make your pitch, Mr. Adama.”
“My father intends to rescue everyone from off of New Caprica. He has a plan, but it won’t work. Not that it’s a bad plan, but we don’t have the forces to do it. We’re short on pilots and we can barely crew the Galactica. The Cylons can overwhelm us, and when they do,” he spread out his hands, mimicking an explosion, “that’s it–the end of the human race.”
She crossed her orange-clad arms and sneered across her table: “You lock me up for a year and now you come crawling back to me because you have finally realized that your father cannot win this war, and you know that I can.”
“No,” he corrected her. “If it were my call, we wouldn’t be going back to New Caprica at all. We’d take the twenty-five hundred people we have left, and we’d head off for Earth again.”
“So you’d abandon the war altogether?” she grated. “Just run out and leave everyone else to die while you snuck off to save yourself?”
Lee snorted. “The war is over. We lost. You’re the only person in the universe who doesn’t get that.”
She frowned. He shook his head in disbelief. “We have, collectively, two options now, Ms. Cain: accept that the war is over, and preserve the human race; or decide that the human race is over, and dedicate our dwindling numbers to fighting the war. The road to survival, or the road to ruin. When your time comes, do you want to be buried on Earth, or cast adrift into empty space?”
“There is no Earth,” she scoffed, “so you can’t bury me there, whatever we do. It’s a road to nowhere, Mr. Adama. So why not go down fighting?”
“Because even if we’re wrong, even if the map we found on Kobol doesn’t lead to Earth, it still leads us toward a future, and a hope for tomorrow.” Lee leaned over the table towards her. “What does your war offer, except revenge?”
She considered this. “If you want to win this battle, I need command of the fleet.”
“No,” he shook his head. “Even if it were my call.”
“You’ve just admitted that only I can save the human race from your father’s mistake,” she observed. “You don’t have the luxury of being choosy.”
“Neither do you,” Lee retorted. “Right now, you’re a fine officer who went too far trying to win a war already lost. You see yourself as the only soldier who’s remained true to her oath of service. You want everyone else to see you that way, too? Then help us deliver what’s left of our civilization from the Cylon tyranny.“
He met her icy stare with a shrug.
“Who knows?” he added. “Maybe you’ll even be able to persuade the Fleet to give up the journey to Earth, and follow you to war. So long as you’re stuck in here, you’ll never know.”
He set the box he’d been holding down on her table and opened it up to reveal the blue uniform within.
“So, what’s it going to be?” he challenged.
The Admiral and his staff sat in his quarters, reviewing the plan to decoy the Cylon fleet and rescue the colonists on New Caprica. The meeting wasn’t going well.
“Their numbers are a little thin,” Helo observed. “It says here Tigh commands one thousand one hundred and fifty armed effectives. That's a lot less than he should have if you count all former fleet officers and enlisted down there.”
“We'll be taking heavy losses,” Dee added. “They mentioned a Cylon crackdown.”
“We should get a break down of available pilots in the insurgent group,” Kat suggested. “Somebody's gotta fly those ships off the ground if we're gonna pull this off.”
“Those ships aren't going anywhere yet,” Adama demurred. “The Cylons have removed launch keys from grounded Colonial ships, location unknown.” He waved a wireless dispatch. “Came from Tyrol.”
“Can we manufacture new launch keys?” Kat wondered.
“Forget it,” Lee rebuffed her. “The specs on launch keys are incredibly sophisticated. It'll take weeks just to do the R and D.”
“Best option is for Saul and the people on the ground to find the original launch keys,” Adama agreed.
“Assuming they weren't destroyed,” Dee observed.
“No, no way,” Kat asserted. “Cylons would want to keep them safe just in case they needed to use one of those ships someday.”
“She's right,” Helo allowed. “Keys gotta still be there somewhere.”
“We can make a weapons drop to the insurgents,” Kat urged. “They know the lay of the land, they've been hitting the Cylons in the teeth for months. Give ‘em the tools, they can find the keys themselves.”
“No, no way,” Lee retorted. “The only thing you've got going for you so far is that the Cylons have reduced their defensive perimeter to just five base ships. You put heavy weaponry down there they're gonna know for sure we're in contact with the population. They call in ten more base ships and then your whole plan's frakked.”
“Funny, I thought this was our plan, sir,” Kat challenged.
Lee glared at her. “No, it’s your plan. And it’s not good enough.” He tossed his briefing book onto the table. “And all of you know it,” he added, looking around the room, before at last addressing his father. “Especially you, sir.”
His father’s gaze carved the space between them like a glacier. “You have a better alternative?”
“No, sir. I don’t.” Lee caught Dee’s eye and nodded. “But I found someone who does.”
Dee went to the door and brought in Helena Cain, dressed once again in her Colonial uniform. Without waiting for anyone else to speak, Helena announced: “Your decoy plan is a good beginning. If it works, it will pull at least some of the basestars out of position. However, even if it works, the Cylons aren’t stupid. They will react quickly, and they’ll have reinforcements ready to jump in on short notice.“
She walked to the planning table and placed four more base ship models around New Caprica. “Overwhelming reinforcements. Even committing both the Galactica and the Pegasus won’t be enough to guarantee victory. In fact, the Cylons can overwhelm both ships if they commit sufficient forces–and they will.”
Cain waited a moment while the faces of everyone else in the room tightened as they absorbed this. Then she moved for the kill.
“Fortunately, while the Cylons aren’t stupid, they have most likely made the same mistake in their assessment of the situation that you have.”
“Mistake?” Kat pounced. “What mistake?”
Cain favored her with a stare. Kat stared back. Cain waited, completely relaxed, until Kat became nervous and looked away. It took perhaps twenty seconds. Then Cain continued. “In the most basic terms, there are two roles in every battle: the attacker and the defender. The attacker chooses when the battle happens, the defender chooses where. The greatest mistake that any commander can make is to allow the enemy to make both of these choices for you.”
Again she paused a moment, waiting for them all to catch up and hang on her next words. Then she smiled. “Yet this is precisely what the Cylons have done.”
Everyone else in the room sat up straighter, and exchanged glances.
“Bill, given the detail I have seen on these charts, I presume that you conducted standard recon and ranging sweeps around New Caprica over the past year?”
“Yes, we did,” he replied.
She turned to the charts on the table. “The drones you are practicing to deploy will draw the Cylons to this area before they can recognize the deception. By the time they do, the Galactica will be in position to block any Cylon attacks on escaping civilians. The Cylons will approach along this general flight path, and then spread out to encircle the Galactica.” She marked out a section of the nebula with grease pencil. “We’ll designate this area,” she drew a series of crosses over an area near the Galactica’s planned position, “as the kill zone. Make sure all of your ships are clear, so they aren’t caught in the blasts.”
“How is this going to work?” Kat demanded. “If we try to lay mines out there, the Cylons will spot them!”
“They can’t spot what isn’t there, Lieutenant,” Cain smirked.
Adama rose to his feet, his mind evidently made up. “I’m restricting further tactical details to command officers,” he declared. “Thank you all for coming. Submit your final status reports and requisitions by 0900 tomorrow. And I remind you, the military plans you have in your hands are to be with you at all times. Dismissed.”
Everyone got up to leave. “Lee, Dee, Helo, please stay,” he added.
“Dee,” Lee requested. “Could you send for Mr. Laird?”
She nodded, and stepped out.
“I don’t know how he did it,” Adama admitted, looking over the tactical summary his son handed to him, “but just so we’re clear: any promises Lee made weren’t cleared with me. I’m not offering you anything beyond the opportunity for patriotism.”
“I know, Bill, and that’s all your son promised, too,” she acknowledged. “Apollo just explained better than you did why I should accept.”
Before Bill could retort, the hatch opened, and Dee escorted Chief Laird into the room, dogging the hatch behind them both. Laird nodded to Adama, and, after a moment, remembered to salute. His hand was halfway up when he spotted Cain, and he froze.
Lee broke the ice. “Mr. Laird, have you had a chance to review the technical specifications I gave you?”
“Yes, sir,” he said, snapping his gaze back to the Adamas. “It’s some delicate work, but fairly straightforward. I’d say that, in four days, my team could have ten mines done.”
The two admirals regarded one another. First Cain, then Adama, nodded. Lee sighed, Dee beamed and Helo clapped him on the shoulder. “That will be fine,” Admiral Adama announced. “Dismissed.”
Laird nodded and, with a reflexive glance at Helena, turned to leave. She stopped him.
“Mr. Laird,” she said. “I’m sure you recall that, when the Pegasus encountered your group of ships, I had my crew remove several essential components.”
He nodded, not turning to face her.
“This is why,” she said, pointing to the models arranged on the table. “I did not foresee this exact situation, but a version of this plan is what I had in mind when I gave those orders. The mines you are going to build, using equipment from those ships, will be our means to crush the Cylon fleet. This will be the second engagement of this war between capital ships–it should finally teach the Cylons to fear us.”
“And we’ll be able to rescue the people off of New Caprica?” Laird asked, turning to look at her.
“Yes,” Cain shrugged. “We should have plenty of time for that, too.”
“Then, as I said, I can have the mines ready in four days,” he said.
“Good,” she said.
“But understand something,” he added. “That woman who led your boarding party shot my wife in the head on your orders.” His eyes burned. “My family had survived the Attack, and we’d escaped the destruction of the Colonies. We had still had hope. Then you came.”
“The Cylons aren’t my enemy. You are.”
Now it was Cain’s turn to nod with a face that betrayed no emotion. With a trembling hand, he opened the hatch and left.
During the Storming of New Caprica, Helena Cain sat in a raptor at the edge of dradis range, powered down and hidden within the nebula, watching her plan unfold with glorious perfection. Ten capsules trailed from the little ship on tow cables. Peter Laird sat next to her, his arms tightly wrapped about himself, waiting for his moment. At the controls, Racetrack hadn’t been pleased when the Old Man had assigned her to fly Cain around, but when he’d told her that he needed a pilot whose skills and loyalty were both beyond question, she’d been secretly so pleased she’d nearly kissed him.
First, the Cylons chased the drones launched by Galactica’s raptor detail. Then Galactica jumped into the upper atmosphere, launched its vipers, and jumped out again, taking up station to cover the civilian ships as they lifted off and jumped to safety. This had been Adama’s original plan, and was quite solid, so far as it went.
The five basestars decoyed by the drones moved to engage Galactica. Unable to shift position, the old ship took a heavy pounding, until the Pegasus jumped in and caught the Cylons in crossfire. The tide of the battle started to shift towards the humans. Then the Cylons jumped in four more base ships, which moved to catch the Colonial ships in a counter-crossfire. With only half the people on New Caprica successfully evacuated, the two Colonial vessels dared not retreat from now overwhelming odds.
Helena, watching on her tactical display, turned to the other person in the raptor’s cabin. “Now, Mr. Laird,” she said. With a convulsive nod, Laird began flipping switches on an impromptu control panel he’d wired into the console. Inside their towed payload, ten FTL drives, scavenged from the Scylla and other civilian ships, began to spin up.
The newly arrived basestars quickly surrounded Galactica and Pegasus. Just as their missiles started to penetrate the flak screens of the two human ships, the last Cylon vessel entered Cain’s carefully selected kill zone.
“Are the mines ready, Mr. Laird?”
“Go,” he declared.
She pressed a button. Each of the mines, which were essentially FTL drives with high-yield nuclear warheads bolted to their housings, jumped to their programmed points in the kill zone. As soon as they reappeared at their target points, simple proximity fuses set them off. Four of the attacking basestars were instantly obliterated, and two of the others were so badly damaged that they spun out of control. The other three were sufficiently damaged that the Galactica and the Pegasus were able to make short work of them. None of the Cylon ships were able to escape and, within five minutes of Helena’s masterstroke, all but a handful of fleeing raiders had been destroyed.
“That should teach the Cylons some manners,” she smirked.
“Is it over? Did we win?” Laird asked.
Helena broke comms silence: “Galactica, this is Relentless. What’s the status of the evacuation?”
“Relentless,” Mr. Hoshi’s voice replied, “the last transport is preparing to lift off now.”
Cain turned to him. “It’s over,” she said, and held out a hand to him.
“Good,” he said, sighing deeply. “Good.” He pulled a detonator from the pocket of his coveralls. “Then I don’t need to wait any longer to use this.”
“Don’t be a fool,” Cain snapped, as she noted the suddenly suspicious bulge in his utility pouch. “This isn’t the time for that; we’ve won!”
He shook his head. “There’s nothing left for me to win. You saw to that.”
Before she could react, he let go the trigger, and a flash filled the cabin.
When Laird’s bomb had gone off, the bird’s power supply had simply cut out, and the cockpit had been punctured, but Racetrack had been unharmed, apart from the shock of it. A stream of air, smoke, and blood poured out of the 2 cm hole in the canopy. Acting quickly, she checked that her suit was intact before she sealed the gaps in the ship through which her main air supply was escaping. Then she turned and went into the cabin. It was dark, fortunately, but she could still tell that it was covered in blood. She did not look closely at Laird’s remains–what she could see was enough. Instead, she went to Helena Cain, who was lying on the deck, blood seeping from puncture wounds through the rents in her flight suit.
Racetrack grabbed the first aid kit, but Cain rasped, “Don’t bother,” so she didn’t.
“Is there anything I can do for you?”
Cain tried to focus on the pilot, but failed. She held out a hand. Racetrack took it.
“Tell Apollo…” Cain gasped. Her grip weakened.
“Tell Apollo what?”
“Tell him I want to be buried on Earth. Not on New Caprica. Not in space. On Earth.”
“I’ll make sure, Admiral. I’ll do it myself, if I have to.”
“Thank you.” Cain smiled. “It’s over. It’s funny. I never thought I’d live to see…”
Racetrack sat in the dark, holding Helena’s limp hand, until the rescue Raptor came.