Characters: Peter Laird, Lee Adama, Racetrack.
Summary: Morale is low on the Battlestar Pegasus.
- - -
Productivity is down.
Lee frowns at the reports in front of him. The repair schedules are behind – just from ordinary wear-and-tear. There aren’t enough crewmembers to effect maintenance properly, according to these figures, but that can’t be true. Sure, the Pegasus is working at below ordinary crew complement, but this had to be something else.
The phone buzzes, next to Lee’s ear. “Major Adama,” he says, lifting it to his ear.
“Sir, there’s a call from the Battlestar Galactica, from Captain Karl Agathon.”
“Put it through,” says Lee, absently, still examining the figures. If a full crew could repair the ship after a battle, this percentage should be able to keep the ship working. This is so frustrating – he’s sure his father would have been able to figure it out.
“Hey, Helo.” Lee shifts the phone to his shoulder, so that both his hands are free.
“Listen, Lee.” Helo’s voice sounds too careful, and Lee shifts so he’s sitting upright.
This can’t be good.
“You really need to talk to Tom Zarek,” says Helo.
“What?” asks Lee, in surprise. That might have been the last thing he was expecting, especially from Helo. “What’s he done now?”
“It’s not what he’s done.” Helo’s voice is still careful. “It’s what Commander Adama isn’t doing.”
Lee grips the phone too hard. “Why don’t you talk to him about that?” Lee asks, evenly.
“He’s stubborn, Lee, you know him.” Lee hears a breath from the other side of the phone. “Zarek is a slimy son-of-a-bitch, but he has some points. Someone needs to listen to him, someone who can do something about it.” Another pause, longer, this time. “Maybe we need a civilian government.”
“There is a civilian government,” Lee points out. “On New Caprica.”
“Just,” Helo sighs, “just talk to him.”
A vision of Dee rises in Lee’s mind, her insistence on his idealism, and her question – what happened to that?
“Sure, Helo,” says Lee, “I’ll talk to him. I can’t promise anything.”
“Thanks.” Helo sounds very relieved; Lee wishes he shared that feeling.
- - - -
“No way,” says Hot Dog, “with that little smile, you bet she’s got full colors or something.”
Racetrack doesn’t change her expression, lets the corners of her mouth twist; she has the other pilots in the card game tied in knots. Honestly, this is the only fun she ever gets anymore.
“Raise you ten,” she says, tossing some cubits into the pot.
“Fold,” says Skulls, immediately.
Hot Dog’s mouth flattens, uncertainly. He looks at her, back down to his cards.
Racetrack crosses her arms. She has this round in the bag.
Narcho thuds down across from her. “My gods,” he sighs, “these runs back and forth from the Pegasus are killing me.”
Racetrack snorts. “That’s what you get for mouthing off to Kat.” She slides her cards flat on the table. “You folding or what, Hot Dog?”
“I’m calling,” says Hot Dog, dropping cubits into the pot.
“The schedules are frakked up like crazy,” Narcho says. “The deckhands are so slow I swear I grew a beard, just watching them check over the Raptor.”
“Agh,” Hot Dog groans, as Racetrack pulls the pot towards her. She trounced him; his hand was mediocre, but he shouldn’t have played it.
“Well, everyone knows that the Pegasus is frakked,” says Skulls, gathering up the cards, dealing again. “Admiral arrested, switched commanders three times in as many months.”
“And they have the best commander of all now, of course,” drawls Narcho, picking up his hand.
There’s a silence, as they study their cards, all of them trying to pretend they didn’t hear.
“On, come on,” says Narcho, “face it. Lee Adama was appointed because of his father, not because of anything he did. He was a good CAG, but the Pegasus is falling apart under his command.”
Kat’s voice, snapped, makes all four of them startle. Racetrack sees guilt dart over Narcho’s face, and she knows he’s wondering, wondering how long Kat was there, whether she heard the conversation.
“You’re on duty,” says Kat, “run to the Astral Queen, pick up Tom Zarek, and take him with the food run to the Pegasus.”
“Yes, sir,” responds Racetrack, tossing her cards down on the table.
Just as Racetrack is about to brush past Kat, out of the room, Kat stops her.
“If I hear you frakkers talking that way about a superior officer ever again, you’ll remember running supplies to the Pegasus as the heights of paradise.” Kat cocks her head to the side, looks at each one of the pilots in turn. “Do I make myself clear?”
The pilots mutter affirmatives.
“Good.” Kat turns, gives Racetrack one last glance, and steps away.
- - - -
The deck chief looks up, from the clipboard he’s scanning. “Major Adama,” with a salute. Not quite as professional as the career military on the ship, but Lee has found that Laird is much more solid where it comes to repairing the machines, keeping the maintenance straight. It’s worth it, as a trade-off.
“You’ve seen the falling progress figures, I assume,” says Lee, smoothly.
Laird nods, cautiously.
“I need you to fix it.” Take the strong tack, that should be the first try. He’s let them slack off too far. “Preferably, before the Cylons jump in and attack us.”
Laird blinks. “Ah, I’ll get on it, sir.”
Lee nods. “Thank you, Chief.”
He turns back to Tom Zarek, who waits, head cocked. “All right, Tom,” says Lee, “Let’s talk.”
“After you, Major,” says Zarek, gesturing for Lee to lead the way, to the converence room.
- - - -
Laird watches Lee Adama leave. His spine feels like it’s crawling, underneath his skin. Preferably before the Cylons attack. Preferably. Who does he think he is?
He’s the commander of this ship.
“Chief,” says one of the hands, “sorry, but it looks like the phone lines, in B wing, are gonna be down for a while longer.”
Laird turns to him. “It should be fixed by now.”
The hand looks uneasy. “Chief, the wires were way more frakked up than we thought, it would have been impossible to get it done, not by—”
“I don’t expect you to do the impossible,” Laird interrupts, evenly, and he gets it. Major Adama is right. They’re slacking, more than they should be, and it’s Laird’s fault. It’s his failing, and it has to be Laird, Laird has to be the one who fixes it.
“Good,” and the hand smiles, relieved. “I think—”
“But you know what I do expect you to do?” Laird raises his chin, pins his gaze directly on the deck worker in front of him. “I expect you to do your job.”
The deck worker swallows, and somehow, the hangar deck is quieter, echoing. People are listening, all of the sudden, and it spurs Laird to go on, to keep speaking.
“All of you,” and now he raises his voice. “We’ve been falling behind. We’ve been letting duties slide when we shouldn’t have, and why? Because we don’t see the point in going on? Because half the human race is trapped, far away, and we don’t know how to get to them? No.” The whole hangar deck is watching now, hands still, tasks forgotten. “When you do your duty, you do it for the Colonies, and you do it for the human race, and you do it for your commanding officer. And for frak’s sake, if you can’t do it for Lee Adama, do it for Helena Cain.”
That shocks them. It really, truly shocks them. Laird’s not sure how many times Cain’s name has been mentioned, since her arrest. It’s almost as though the crew has believed that if they never mention her, she never existed, and her arrest, the statement that she was wrong and Adama was right – it didn’t mean anything.
“We can’t ignore it,” Laird bites out. “She was our commanding officer, and this was her ship. Still is, because we are her crew, hand-picked to her style, and we served under her for months.”
“Cain isn’t coming back,” snapped, an interruption, and Laird looks straight into the eyes of the Pegasus CAG, Cole Taylor. A grimace, in his jaw.
“Maybe not,” says Laird. “But that doesn’t change what she was.”
Taylor nods, just a little, and Laird remembers that he’s supposed to hate this man, but he can’t think of that now, he has more important things to think about.
He turns back to the hangar deck. “Do your frakking jobs!” he calls, to the crew.
When he turns back, he sees crossed arms, a set jaw. She’s a pilot, one of the ones from the Galactica – here to deliver a passenger, an important one.
“You think Helena Cain is a better officer than Lee Adama?” she asks, without preamble.
“It doesn’t matter what I think,” Laird deflects. He’s not watching her; he’s watching Taylor, who hasn’t moved yet, hasn’t returned back to work.
“Well, forgive me if I frakking disagree,” she snaps, and Laird turns his attention to her. “Admiral Cain,” and her tone is so scornful, “nearly killed two of my friends. You might have recalled, Helo Agathon, and Galen Tyrol?”
“Your two officers,” says Laird, “killed a member of the Pegasus crew.”
“He was about to rape the only friendly Cylon we’ve ever encountered,” she shot back. “A Cylon who, I might add, is now an officer in our crew.”
Laird wants to say that he’s not here to get in a debate with her, he wants to back down and let go of this fight, but she’s wrong, so completely wrong that he can’t let this go. “Which is a worse crime,” he asks, “rape or murder?”
“This isn’t about that.” She looks him straight in the eyes, her mouth pressed into a thin line. “This is about you telling your deck crew that a traitor to the fleet is a role model. Acting like Admiral Cain was this amazing kind of hero, well, she wasn’t.”
“You didn’t know her,” Laird shoots back.
“I didn’t have to.”
Laird swallows his words, his anger, like tightening a spring inside his stomach. “Lieutenant,” he says, carefully, “if you’ll just give me a few moments I’ll have your Raptor ready to launch.”
She cocks her head to the side. “Thank you, Chief.”
Laird gives the ship a cursory glance, the blood pounding in his temples. There’s a horrible headache on the horizon, and Laird just hopes that it’ll wait until he’s off-duty to flare up.
He nods to one of the deckhands; the man touches his earpiece and passes the word to the Officer of the Watch, in CIC.
Just a few minutes later, Laird watches the bird launch from the port flight pod.
- - - -
“I didn’t expect that from you.”
It isn’t waiting until the end of his duty; the headache rears up, like a monster, and attaches itself behind Laird’s eyeballs.
Laird drags his gaze up to Cole Taylor, standing with his arms crossed, legs a little apart. A dominant stature. Laird never really saw the point.
“After all, Cain’s the reason you don’t have a family anymore.”
Laird’s stomach feels like it’s been turned inside out. He falls back against the wall.
“Thing is,” continues Taylor, “it’s weird, don’t you think, that you’d even imply that you admired her. Weird that you’d work under her without a complaint.”
Laird’s hands come to his temples.
“She gave the order,” Taylor repeats.
“You fired the shot,” Laird snaps.
“Would you rather we’d left them to die at the hands of the Cylons?”
Oh, gods. Leaving them for the Cylons, to be captured or tortured or just killed, scared and alone and frightened and so far away from him – Laird drops his gaze.
“I didn’t think so,” says Taylor. There was silence, for a moment, and Laird entertained the fantasy that Taylor would go, leave it at that—“Cain did a good job on you,” Taylor breaks the silence. “It makes me wonder, out of the two of us, which one is it that you actually hate so much.”
“Captain,” says Laird, evenly, “I have duties to perform, if you’ll excuse me, sir.”
“Yeah,” says Taylor, “you go right ahead, Chief.”
Laird raises his hand, about to salute, when the alarm goes off.
- - - -
“What the frak?!” Racetrack shouts, the controls bucking under her fingers. “Skulls!”
“Reading red lights all along the engine compartments, fractures on the underside of the ship, we’re gonna have a hull breach!”
No warning, that’s all Racetrack can think as she freezes, not sure where to touch first. Control the Raptor, stop the ballistic course – it could hit a ship in the fleet, communications, send a distress signal – no, Skulls has that, it’s fine, Skulls has the comms, ejection controls – there was no warning.
“Skulls, get up here!” she yells – the ship’s going to blow up, holy frak, Racetrack has never had to use ejection controls in an emergency setting before, she’s landed badly, with a messed up bird, but it’s never been shot out from under her, never malfunctioned badly enough to require—
Skulls ducks into the seat next to her, fastening in, and Racetrack hits the ejection controls.
The cold sweeps in, penetrating through her suit. There are long, long seconds of utter silence.
Behind them, after an eternal instant, the Raptor explodes.