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 Post subject: Episode 32: Retrospect
PostPosted: Sun Nov 02, 2008 8:55 pm 
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Battlestar Libra
Day 253 Time 2205

Wearily, Dr Ralph DeValera stripped out of his operating scrubs and pulled his uniform back on. It had been a long day, taking care of the injured Marines and pilots from the latest battle. He had long ago come to terms with his limitations… no matter how skilled and thorough he was, he couldn’t save them all. Still, though, he always wished he could have done more.

He went back to sickbay, until finally one of the other doctors chased him out. He knew he needed to sleep, but he found himself walking back through the hatch into the medical admin offices.

“Ralph,” Monica said, getting up from where she was sitting at her desk and going to him.

“What are you doing still up?” he asked, startled.

“I’ve already slept for a bit,” she said, touching his arm gently, “but you haven’t.” Her eyes searched his face. “Someone died,” she said softly.

He nodded, rubbing his eyes. “Yes,” he said, depressed. “And I’ve got a couple more very seriously injured… and one of Duncan’s nomads will most likely lose his sight.”

“Come sit down,” she replied, taking his hand and leading him into his office. They sat next to each other on the small couch, and Ralph folded his fingers in with Monica’s, stretching out his legs with a sigh.

“Looking back… if you knew then what you know now… would you still have become a doctor?” Monica asked with interest.

He turned his head, looking at her thoughtfully. “In retrospect, yes. Perhaps even more so, knowing what I know now.”

She took his hand and laid it on her pregnant belly. He smiled, relaxing. “Here,” she said, guiding his hand lower and pressing it firmly against her stomach. He tilted his head, his concentration on his hand, then he laughed softly when he felt the faintest of kicks under his palm. She smiled, nodding, seeing the lines in his face smooth out. He took his hand off her belly and held her hand again.

“I know you started as a medic, a corpsman with a Marine unit,” she said. “How did you end up being a doctor?”

“I wanted to work in medicine since I remember,” he replied, “but it just never occurred to me, or my parents, that I could go to med school. So I joined the Navy as a corpsman, got some experience, and then went to Picon Military Medical School.”

The way he said ‘got some experience’ caused Monica to ask, “Something happened, that caused you to try for med school?”

He nodded, glancing at her. “It’s not a pretty story,” he said quietly. “Are you sure you want to hear about it?”

“Yes,” she replied at once, then more slowly added, “But maybe you should get some rest.”

He shook his head. “I couldn’t sleep right now, anyway,” he said calmly. He paused, his gaze distant, then said, “I was twenty-five when I was assigned to a Marine recon unit; we were sent to Scorpia, to gather intell on a ‘person of interest’.”

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Scorpia, Northern Atenohtep Desert
Eighteen years before the Attack

Corpsman (Petty Officer Second Class) Ralph DeValera pulled the hood of his jacket further over his head, gazing out at the brilliantly bright desert. It was nothing like he’d expected. He’d thought of desert as being flat expanses of nothing but sand, with maybe some dunes; but this was not at all like that.

He lay on a bluff along with some of the Marine squad, looking southward over the land. It was a breathtakingly beautiful, harsh landscape. Huge columns of rock rose starkly from the desert floor, the columns appearing as if they’d been jaggedly painted in layers of red, tan, and grayish-purple. The setting sun stretched the shadows of the columns longer than the monoliths were tall, making the contrast between light and dark as sharp as the edge of a knife.

The desert floor was far from smooth, looking like it had been formed eons ago by glaciers that had scraped long depressions and gullies into the ground. It wasn’t rough, though, but smoothly undulating, sanded by the wind that hissed and whispered over the ground.

“What do you think, Doc?” Staff Sergeant Russell Bailey asked over the combat net. He lay prone several meters from DeValera, scanning the area with binoculars. As he spoke, he lowered them, settling his sunglasses back over his eyes.

“It’s… amazing,” DeValera replied slowly. He took his gaze from the desert and looked at Bailey. “Are we really supposed to be able to find a small group of people out there, Russ?” DeValera been assigned to this Marine unit only recently, and this was his first mission with them, but already he and the squad’s leader had hit it off.

“Yep,” Bailey scooted backwards on his belly, away from the edge of the bluff, and stood, DeValera following his example. “But we’ve got tech on our side.” He glanced skyward. “Callahan has probably already linked up with the sat and has a live feed set up. Let’s go see what she’s got.”

They went to the back of the truck and Bailey climbed in. The truck, from the outside, looked like any other nomad vehicle. Blocky, with three axles and the flat solar panels on top, it wasn’t fast but could surmount most desert terrain. Although a bit cramped, it was large enough to hold a squad of Marines and their equipment—at the moment, a satellite dish was mounted to one of the brackets over the cargo part of the truck.

DeValera didn’t follow the squad leader into the truck, pausing to stand in the shadow cast by it. It was at least thirty degrees cooler in the shade, and he’d read up on desert conditions before they’d arrived. It would get quite cold, once the sun set, but the main danger from the elements was the dry heat of the day that could dehydrate the troops before they realized it.

Bailey jumped back down out of the truck, saying, “She’s got some IR signatures, but until the sun goes down, we won’t know for sure what it is.” He looked out over the rocky expanse and Ralph wondered if the Marine saw the beauty—or just regarded the land as a military obstacle that had to be overcome.

“Who is this guy we’re supposed to find, anyway?” Ralph asked. He was a medic, and hadn’t been in on the classified briefing that the squad leader had attended.

“Don’t know for sure,” Bailey replied with a grin. “That’s why we’re here, hm?”

“Do you know his name, at least?” DeValera questioned.

“Oh, yeah,” Bailey nodded. “Melendi. Ibrahim Melendi.”

_________________
Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper, about budget cuts for the US’s intelligence agencies: "We're not going to do more with less and all these other clichés. . . . We will just simply have less capability."


Last edited by GoldWolf on Sun Jan 11, 2009 10:10 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Sun Nov 02, 2008 9:00 pm 
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Demeter
Day 253

Else’s blue eyes – So like Inga’s, Karl mused with tender bemusement – shone with excitement.

“Papa!” her voice was hushed, reverent, as she examined the treasure before her. “All this… all this is yours?”

Inside the large, meticulously organized trunk were books – beautifully illustrated books, their pages yellow and brittle with age – and rare, wonderful artifacts shared space with music tapes and old letters and the sundry detritus of a life intensely lived… But that was not what caught the young woman’s attention: it was the paraphernalia of his long-ago military career that drew her like a magnet – his uniform and medals, the letters of commendation and the heavily annotated Code of Military Conduct he’d somehow never gotten around to throwing away.

“You were an intelligence officer?!?” Somehow Else couldn’t imagine her soft spoken, sometimes absent-minded Papa as a young soldier, much less one involved in the shady world of spooks. That was for dangerous, mysterious people like Major Dedrick, Ferdie’s boyfriend. Except Major Dedrick didn’t look dangerous or mysterious around Fernanda Bello; he looked happy and love struck and awkward and sometimes even a little goofy... She glanced again at the picture of her father as a young man in uniform, posing before the Canceron flag. He was… cute!, she realized with a start, the soldier staring back at her from the picture, his eyes bright with intelligence and humor despite the stilted pose and serious mien. And his hair was so short! As short as Major Duncan’s. Or Hunt’s.

She blushed, a little flustered at the memory of Buster and Gia’s adopted son. And the way he’d kissed her.

If Karl noticed his daughter’s sudden confusion, he didn’t comment on it. He simply answered, “A long time ago… for a while, yes, I was.”

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PostPosted: Sun Nov 02, 2008 9:06 pm 
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Demeter
D 253
After the battle...

The women sat around the table, drinking tea and chatting. It was such a mundane, natural thing to do that before no one would have given it another thought. But before was no more. Just hours ago, their lives had hung on the line; men and women had fought against seemingly insurmountable odds – and many had died – so that the remnants of humanity would live another day. So the women cherished these moments when they could get together and celebrate life with a cup of tea and inane conversation.

Hokandeya had flown over to Demeter, ostensibly to inspect a shipment of fish and vegetables that had been held up because of the battle. She now sat at the galley table, a full cup of tea in her hand, telling an amusing story about a nurse, a technician and a flag. Else sauntered in, grinning from ear to ear. She was holding an old-fashioned tape player and it was blasting a song.

“I know that song!” Thorny squealed. “I haven’t heard it in ages!”

"Oh Lords, that was one of the first songs I remember listening to when I was a little girl," Jenni Guynes smiled. "Dad would sit me on his garage workbench when he'd go to work on the classic car he owned. Memories!"

“Lords of Kobol!” Inga exclaimed, “where did you find that?”

“Papa and I were looking for some stuff, an’ we found these old boxes of his and when we opened them there was all this cool stuff from when he was young! There’s loads of music tapes an’ old uniforms an’ medals and books! It’s really fantastic, Mama! And this music is kinda nice, even if it is, like, ancient.”

"Calling us ancient?" Jenni smiled and gave Else a wink. "Risky... remember to respect your elders."

“Ancient!” Hokandeya chortled. “Else, you are making me feel older than the hills! I remember when that song first came out. That group was pretty big at the time, what was their name? Black something…”

“Black Spider,” Xenthais stated.

“Black Spider! Of course!” Thorny grinned. “That’s ‘Why did you leave?’ from their ‘Broken Dreams’ album!”

“No, no. Not ‘Broken Dreams.’ That’s from their first album, ‘Love’s a Bitch.’ I remember because it was the first album I ever bought.” Inga laughed. “Gods, I’d forgotten how much I used to like that band!”

“The lead singer was kinda cute, too,” Thorny winked.

“That he was,” Hokandeya agreed. “That he certainly was…”

They all fell silent as they listened to the music and remembered their youth…

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PostPosted: Sun Nov 02, 2008 9:14 pm 
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Terpsichore
Day 253 Time 2315

Xenthais Merconi rested her head against the rim of the tub and closed her eyes. The water was not as hot as she would’ve liked, but Dr. Rijos-Colberg had advised against taking hot baths while pregnant; the water could not be warmer than her own body temperature. Still, even a tepid bath eased her tired muscles and pained back and helped her relax. Tonight, however, it offered little relief: the strain of battle, the hours without knowing Scott's fate, the uncertainty as to whether Riley would make it... and the notes of the song in Else’s tape player, which rang again and again in her brain, taking her back to another time and place…

She didn’t want to go there. She no longer was that girl, hadn’t been for decades. But the music wound around her, mocking her, digging up the past like a half rotten corpse in a shallow grave…

Scott slipped in the hatch, closing it silently. He paused, listening, not wanting to disturb Xen if she was asleep, but he heard the quiet lapping of water and nodded to himself. He was physically tired and emotionally exhausted, but just being here, near her—and hearing the water—eased some of his tension.

He unbuttoned his uniform shirt as he went into the head, dropping it on the floor. Soreness from the recent action was settling deep into his bones, but he ignored it, saying, “Hello, my Kaani’ha.” He knelt next to the tub, dipping his hand into the water and rubbing his palm gently over her rounded belly. “How are our children?”

She'd sensed him walk in and smiled wanly, her heart in her throat with love and some other emotion she didn't want to examine too closely. She placed her hand over his. "They're doing fine. It may be getting a little crowded in there, though." She turned to him. "You look tired." She spoke softly and touched his cheek with concern. A few drops of water rolled down his cheek where her wet hand had caressed.

"I've been wrapping things up, after the mission," he said, studying her face. "You look tired, too." More than just tired. "Are you all right?" He could tell she wasn't.

"I'm fine," she lied, and lowered her face so he wouldn't see. It was hard, though, because her heart was in a vise and she could hardly breathe. It had always been that way, she thought with dismay, she could take anything anyone threw at her. Except kindness.

Scott smoothed his hand down the side of her head, her dark hair silky under his palm. "Na k’aunaì, à k’aunaa mààtaa," he said softly. "I love you, my beloved wife, and you're not fine." He rose to his feet, getting a large, soft towel, and he pulled Xen up from the water, wrapping her in it. Calmly he picked her up like a child and carried her into the bedroom, laying her on the bed and propping pillows behind her. He drew the cover up over her and asked, "Do you want me to make you a cup of tea?"

"No. I..." She choked. "I just want... you here. With me."

He nodded, sitting on the bed to take his boots off, then stretched out next to her, facing her. He put his arm over her, pulling her close, and gently rubbed her back. He kissed her forehead softly, and began to sing in Iri’shèè, a quiet lullaby.

She sighed, warm in his embrace. She didn't want to think about the battle, about the cylons, or the dead, or Riley. A tear slipped down her cheek. "Else found some old music. Karl's, I think. It... reminded me of... stuff." The words spilled out of their own volition. She burrowed deeper in his arms. "Not happy memories..."

He kissed her again tenderly. “Do you want to talk about it?”

She didn't. But she couldn't hold it in any longer. Not while he held her so tenderly. Not while her unborn children wriggled inside her, their thumps and kicks sometimes sharp, but oddly reassuring. Words flowed, hesitantly at first and painfully slow, like butterflies breaking out of their cocoons.

"I was fourteen, and living in Gemenon..."

_________________
Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper, about budget cuts for the US’s intelligence agencies: "We're not going to do more with less and all these other clichés. . . . We will just simply have less capability."


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PostPosted: Sun Nov 02, 2008 9:21 pm 
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Gemenon’s capital
Years before the Attack

The seven teenagers swaggered through the dappled paths, impudent scavenger crows at odds with the pastel, spun-sugar beauty of the park at the break of dawn.

One of them, a raven-haired lad with heavily kohl-ed eyes, embraced his girlfriend as they walked. She was tall and pretty and didn’t look a day over sixteen, still gangly like a spring foal, with long, glossy dark brown hair and huge hazel eyes. Those eyes were now red-rimmed and unfocused with unfulfilled passion and lack of sleep and the weed she’d been smoking.

The boyfriend squeezed her side. “You’re so quiet, baby. Din’tcha like it?” His words were slurred, yet still carried a hint of lewd pride.

“I did, Dean,” she lied. “Of course I liked it. I love you!” she declared with all the ardor of her passionate nature and rebellious youth. “I love you so much!” She stopped in the middle of the path and kissed him fully on the lips, exuberance making up for her lack of experience. Dean didn’t waste the opportunity and deepened the kiss, pressing her supple young body against his. Their friends laughed and smirked at the display.

A pair of joggers ran by the oblivious couple and snorted in disapproval.

An eternity later, they separated. “Let’s go to my crib, babe,” Dean entreated, “an’ ya’ can show me how much ya’ love me…”

“I… I can’t,” her face fell. “I’ve got an exam today…”

“So miss it,” he growled, becoming angry. “What’s more important – me, or that fraking exam? And who needs school anyhow? Me and the band, we’re on our way, getting gigs, soon we’re gonna split, head for Caprica and the club scene.” His eyes narrowed. “There’s loads of girls there, babe,” he said cruelly. “Loads of beautiful, sexy women,” he stressed the word. “Women with experience, women who love their men and know not to leave them…”

“Dean, I…” she faltered.

“Whatsit gonna be, baby?” he pushed his advantage.

She went with him.

Because she really did love him.

….

Three hours later

The black-clad girl opened the door of the elegant row house carefully, hoping against hope only the servants would be around by now.

She wasn’t that lucky.

Then again, she seldom was.

Her mother stood in the foyer, about to leave for the Embassy. As usual, Lavinia was the picture of elegant perfection: not a hair out of place, everything about her, from the expensive suit – feminine and understated, to her manicured hands and sober accessories, projected luxury and quiet authority.

It was a perfect match to the cold marble that lined the sumptuous room where she stood.

She took in her daughter’s appearance – her eye makeup had run, leaving dark streaks on skin that looked even paler in contrast with the absolute black of her clothes. Even her nails – short and bitten to the quick, were black. She wore combat boots – combat boots! – over ripped fishnet stockings. Those stockings were paired with some sort of legging down to the knees, which she wore under a long tunic, split to the waist. The whole shabby mess was topped by a scruffy leather jacket so big it obviously belonged to a man. Probably her boyfriend, Lavinia mused absently.

“Hello, Mother,” the girl mumbled sheepishly.

Lavinia raised an elegant brow at the infrequent greeting; of late, her daughter was more likely to growl in the presence of her parents. If she even acknowledged them.

The elegant woman checked her platinum wristwatch before replying, her tone level and impersonal, the same tone she used to address the help. “You can still make the second period. I’ll send James to pick you up after he drives us to the Embassy.” She breathed in delicately and grimaced with disgust. The girl reeked of sex and alcohol and stale cigarettes and something else she couldn’t quite place. “I assume you will shower before leaving, will you not?” She didn’t wait for a reply; rather, she called out to her husband without raising her voice. “Charles? Do hurry, dear. I have an important meeting this morning, and traffic has been so heavy lately!”

“Already here, Lavinia,” a man’s deep, cultured voice replied. He was tall and slim, impeccably dressed and groomed, the silver strands at his temples emphasizing his patrician features. He smiled, but it didn’t reach his cold blue eyes. And even that superficial gesture froze when he saw his daughter darkening the doorway. “What is she…?” he began to ask his wife, ignoring the girl.

“Never mind, dear,” Lavinia interrupted him. “James will take care of it. Now we really must leave.”

Charles helped Lavinia with her coat before shrugging into his; Lavinia took her purse and designer briefcase and, together, they walked out without another glance at their daughter.

The teenager fisted her hands in anger and stepped out of their way.

She watched her parents leave and then, with a muttered curse, bolted up the stairs to get ready for school.

Xenthais Merconi was five weeks shy of her fifteenth birthday.

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PostPosted: Sun Nov 02, 2008 9:42 pm 
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Day 254 Time 235

Xenthais Merconi, 14 years old wrote:
Xenthais Merconi watched her parents leave and then, with a muttered curse, bolted up the stairs to get ready for school.


Scott touched her face tenderly, wiping away tears. “K’yama’kafan,” he muttered. “Ah, sorry. Your parents weren’t very… they didn’t care about you, did they.” A slow anger stirred in his gut.

She shrugged. "I think they were... incapable of caring. Not like your parents. Vekar and Demetria, right?" She looked at him with a tiny smile. "They loved you very much, didn't they? Sometimes I imagine you growing up wild and free, a child of the desert..."

“Yes, they did love me,” he nodded, smiling at her. “I was a child of the desert for certain, but I don’t know about wild and free…” he paused, pondering. “Well, maybe so, compared to how you grew up. Life wasn’t easy, in the desert, and we all worked hard…”



Scorpia, Southern Bastet Desert
Twenty-one Years before the Attack

He crouched, one knee on the hard, hot desert sand. He was in a gully, the side of the gully he was facing higher than the side at his back. He was dark-haired as all nomads were, wiry and strong, the intent expression on his face making him seem older than his almost-fifteen years.

He held a hand rake, a digging tool with curved tines like the talons of a hawk, and he was carefully scraping away at the packed sand and rocks along the side of the gully. To his left and right were other clan members, also digging for texa gems. They were spread out in the gully, from three meters away nearly invisible in their desert-colored clothing. Other clan members were on watch; clan Stavadri was in the area, and this was a rich deposit for the gems. It wouldn’t do to have the Stavadri raid and take the gems they’d found.

He paused in his digging, using his fingers to carefully break apart a clump of hardened sand and pebbles. He rubbed one pebble between his palms, stopping to gaze at it.

“What do you have, S’kyan?” Ranya asked, alerted by his stillness.

He rose from his crouch, silently walking the few meters to her side. “Look,” he breathed, offering the group leader his open palm.

She took it from him—an unpolished texa gem nearly three centimeters in diameter. She rubbed her fingers over it, nodding, and she flashed the young man a smile. “This is the largest one we’ve found here so far. Good job, S’kyan.”

He nodded without replying, leaving the gem with her, and returned to his spot, resuming his cautious digging.

The Ruaidri clan group continued working until late afternoon, then Ranya led them back to the wellspring where the clan had set up camp. They walked in small clumps of two and three, spread out, the clan guards pacing them even though unseen.

S’kyan walked alone, at first, but one of the other clan members stretched her legs, catching up to him. “I heard you found a large one, S’kyan,” Tortha said.

He glanced at her and nodded. Tortha had killed an enemy, was an adult. She was seventeen years old. They were nearly the same height, even though he was three years younger. Undeterred by his reticence, she went on, “You’re training some of the horses, aren’t you? Isn’t one of them Straw’s colt?”

“Yes,” he acknowledged, finally speaking. He gave her a curious look, but didn’t verbalize his question. An observer might have thought that his quietness was from awkwardness or shyness, in the presence of a girl, an adult… a pretty one. Tortha knew better. All the clan knew that S’kyan was always quiet. And Tortha had never seen him awkward.

“My brother trained Straw,” she explained. “She’s a good mare.”

Again S’kyan nodded. They’d reached the camp, and Tortha headed to her tent, saying over her shoulder, “See you later, S’kyan.”

He flipped a hand at her, veering off to the tent he shared with his parents. He ducked through the front flap, standing still a moment to let his eyes get used to the relative dimness inside. The tent was divided into three sections by canvas walls; the center section the family common area, his parent's section on one side, his own on the other. The floor of the tent was a thick mat, designed to insulate against the hot ground during the day as well as the cold night air.

He heard footsteps outside, stepping away from the flap as his mother came in. “Hello, son,” she said fondly, hugging him.

He hugged her back. “Hi, Mom,” he replied. “When’s dinner?”

She laughed. “Not for an hour or so—get a snack. But wash up first!”

He was sitting cross-legged in the center section of the tent, chewing, when his father returned. “Eating again, S’kyan?” he asked, ruffling S’kyan’s hair.

The young man nodded. “Want some, Dad?” he asked, offering the bag to his father.

“No, you eat it,” Vekar replied with a smile. “I remember how I was hungry all the time, when I was your age.”

S’kyan gave him a dubious look, as if he couldn’t imagine his father as a teenager; then he shrugged, and took another piece of jerky from the bag. “Mom, do I have time to log on and work on my next math assignment?” he called, chewing and powering up the laptop computer.

“Don’t talk with your mouth full,” she scolded, but her tone was tolerant. “Yes, but don’t get too involved.”

He nodded, already typing his Colonial name in the Scorpia Online School logon screen: Scott Duncan

_________________
Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper, about budget cuts for the US’s intelligence agencies: "We're not going to do more with less and all these other clichés. . . . We will just simply have less capability."


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PostPosted: Sun Nov 02, 2008 9:43 pm 
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Caprica City
15 Years Before The Attack

Garris Vernon closed his eyes and pressed the bridge of his nose. He'd been working on this case for two weeks straight, and he was no closer to coming up with that irrefutable argument, that unassailable precedent, that hook that would convince the judge to rule in his client's favor.

It wasn't really his client, though; it was the Firm's client, and a mighty important one at that. It was, actually, quite a vote of confidence that the partners were even allowing a second year associate to work on the case. Garris was aware of this, and had been burning the midnight oil day in and day out to prove up to the task. But after eighteen hours of work, researching and writing, he was beginning to wonder if he'd bitten off more than he could chew, and if the partners had been wrong to trust such an important, complicated litigation on one so young and inexperienced.

The phone rang and he answered it tiredly. "Hello, this is Vernon speaking."

"Don't EAT that,--" screamed the voice at the other end of the phone, however, in lieu of greeting, and then signed. "Sorry, Garris. Kate just tried to eat my briefing paper on sustainable farming....."

"Hi, Rennie," he smiled into the handset. "Sorry I didn't make it to dinner... I'm running a little late..."

He checked his watch. He checked again for good measure. Quarter to three? Two forty-five A.M.???

"Rennie? Is that really the time? Quarter to three?"

"Yeah." said Renatta. "I've been up half the night working on this thing, some boneheaded Assistant Secretary or such thought it would be a great idea to invite a couple of planetary governors to the meeting tomorrow. I drew the short straw to take the thing home and make up a bunch of stupid slideshows to go with the science....."

Garris groaned. "I'm sorry I couldn't be there, baby, but this case, it's really important. Mr. Trevors, the managing partner, is the relationship partner for the client, and if I frak up..."

"At least no one is trying to eat your case files." said Renatta with a sigh. "Is that why you don't just bring your work home? So Kate won't try to make a meal of it?"

"No, no," he breathed. "But I've got the library here, and it's quiet, so I can concentrate. Especially at night. No personal paper shredder is a boon, too." he chuckled.

"You aren't...I mean...." Renatta's voice wavered slightly. "....There isn't anyone...else.....?"

"Anyone else?" Garris was confused. "I think I saw Jack Galindez a couple of hours ago - he's got an evidentiary hearing tomorrow, and some of the securities guys are still around, working on a deal. But you don't have to worry about my staying here alone, love; it's a pretty safe building and I can take care of myself, you know!"

"I meant...You aren't...seeing someone?" said Renatta, her voice nearly choked now.

Realization hit him and he groaned. "Oh, Rennie, how can you even think that, baby? You're the love of my life. You and Katie... you're my life! I know I haven't been around much lately but I swear I've been here at the office. I can transfer you to the security guards if you don't believe me, honey!" He was desperate.

"Then why don't you bring your work home, some night?" said Renatta wearily. "I bring my work home, too, Garris. And I'm going nuts being here all night every night alone, trying to finish my briefings and run after the baby all on my own!"

"Renni, I..." he started, upset that she would think so little of him that she would suggest... and didn't she understand he couldn't work home? He wouldn't have access to the library, or the data-bases, and with Katie running around...

But then he realized that that was what Rennie had to deal with, every day and every night. She, too, had to work most evenings, but unlike him, she had to do it from a small, crowded apartment, while a lively toddler clamored for her attention. "I... I'll see what I can do, honey. I'm going home now. Tomorrow... tomorrow I'll talk with the IT people, see what they can rig up."

"Alright..." said Renatta with a sigh. "And--I said don't EAT that--Garris.....Take a cab home, OK?"

"We can't..." No. Actually, they could afford the cab ride, and if it made her feel better. "I'll call the cab service now. I should be home in twenty minutes, half an hour tops. Just... relax. I'll take care of Katie when I get there."

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Caprica, Kyriake Residence
90 Days Prior To The Cylon Attacks

Eleni adjusted the plaque she had just finished hanging on the wall, and favored it with a small, reminiscent smile. A brass colored overlay on wood, it was engraved with her name and "...In appreciation of 40 years of service to the Government of the Twelve Colonies of Kobol....". For the last two years, since she had received it, it had hung on the wall of her office. She turned away finally, and looked over at her husband.

"Rick....It's been one hell of a life. But I want to talk about...Well....I'm thinking it might be time to move on. I've been thinking lately, about...retirement." she moved her mouth around the last word out as if it were the most foreign of phrases. She had belonged to the Colonial Diplomatic Service since she was 22--young enough at the time she began her career that she had practically been the departmental mascot for her colleagues, decades older. Now at 64, she was on the upper end of 'middle' age, and still by far not the oldest person wandering around headquarters. And yet she had begun to think of retirement, despite that.

Rick - Dr. Richard Kyriake - youthful and handsome at 64, smiled. "It's high time, Eleni. I've been cutting back for a while, and don't miss the hassle. We can travel, enjoy life together... I can guarantee," he went on with a chuckle, "the Colonies can survive without you. "

"Travel?" said Eleni. "I've spent my whole life...Oh, wait. You mean travel without having to keep to a schedule most people would shoot themselves over...."

"Vacations, Eleni," Rick stated with a long-suffering sigh. "You do remember them, don't you?"

"Yes," she said with a smirk. "Like the one we took where you ended up delivering that baby on the flight to Aquaria...." her voice turned slightly more wistful. "We were both always into something, Rick. Always where the fire was hottest, whether it was the latest crisis or the latest plague. Which is why I came to the conclusion that it's finally time to give it up...But only if we both do. I'll submit my papers for retirement....If you'll sell the practice and transfer the last of your patients to that new guy who's been taking over more of the workload lately, what's his name? Ed."

Dr. Kyriake was taken aback. "Are you serious?" he asked thoughtfully. "Would you submit your retirement papers?"

It was... almost unthinkable. Retire for good? He was still young and vital, at the top of his profession, even if he had been scaling back lately and transferring his patients gradually to his partner, Edward Lovell.

And yet... the more he thought about it, the better it sounded. He waited for her response, almost afraid to hope she would go through with it.

"That's what it means for me to do so, yes..." she said. "You can't transfer my work piece by piece like you can a patient here and a patient there. It's an all or nothing game. They've had most all of me, for over 40 years. Time for you to have all of me, now....But only if I get all of you, in return."

"You know you've always had all of me, Eleni..."

But he knew it wasn't really true. First his studies, and then his patients, had taken up most of his time and efforts. Another woman - one whose career wasn't as demanding and all-consuming as Eleni's, would have left him a long time ago...

He placed his hands on her shoulders and smiled. looking deep into her eyes. "All of me, Eleni. And all of you. I'll talk to Ed tomorrow morning and start the transition."

"I'll see the personnel office and submit my papers...effective in two months, give us both time to transition things." she grabbed his hand, squeezed it, and continued. "I figure...Why wait until we're old? I have a good pension...you made good investments. Let's get out while we still have time to have fun. Like.....that." she said, pointing at an ad running on the tv in the background, for a luxury cruise ship. "Book one of those, for right after it all goes through. Call it....a honeymoon, for the next phase of life."

On the screen nearby, the advertisement continued to play. The name of the ship, and a phone number to call, was flashed on the screen: The Highlands Dawn.

Image

Image

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Battlestar Libra
Day 253, Evening
Major David Dedrick



At the small table in his quarters, David pushed back the tray containing his half-eaten meal, then rose and crossed the stateroom to his rack. Settling in, he dimmed the lights further and turned some music on, low. He chose a recording of skrillen, from the mountains of Leonis, in tribute to Colonel Riley. The plaintive wails of the Leonine traditional pipes echoed the sorrow Dedrick felt for the fleet's losses at the hands of the Cylons. He adjusted the pillow under his head and closed his eyes, listening intently to the music. Soon, though, the exhaustion of the last 48 hours took hold, easing him into sleep, and dreams.


* * *

Theseopolis, Skorpia Colony
Michael Dedrick, and son David
Twenty-Five years earlier...



The young boy, dressed in jeans and a pyramid jersey, stepped through the sliding glass door onto the wooden deck. His father stood at the rail, his back turned, gazing into the distance. The family's home was built on a hillside high above the main city, and enjoyed a magnificent view of Theseopolis and the ocean that lay beyond. The scent of salt air, mixed with traces of the city, carried up the slope on a steady breeze. He brushed the hair from his eyes, only to have it blown right back. "Dad," he began, standing at a respectful distance. The boy, just barely a teen, spoke the single syllable and then waited for his father to turn around.

"Mom said you wanted to see me."

"David, come," Michael Dedrick said, gesturing for his son to join him. "I have something to show you."

The elder Dedrick stepped to the corner of the deck, where a gate in the railing gave access to steps descending to the hillside below. He let his son through, then took up a position ahead of him, leading him down the steps.

David knew his father's wine cellar lay beneath the deck, carved into the bedrock on which the house was built. Neither he nor his siblings were allowed down there, and he had heard his mother jokingly refer to it as his father's "cave of secrets". He wondered why he was being taken there now, what it could be that his father wished to show him, but David knew better than offend him with a question.

From the wooden steps, they made their way among the pillars which supported the deck, to the rock face below the main house. Above them light filtered between the boards, casting shadows all around. Moss and ferns grew abundantly in the moist soil, lending the place an eerie forest-like quality.

They came to a solid wooden door set directly in the rock, and David's father grasped the iron pull ring which served as its handle. If it had been secured, David did not notice his father unlocking it; the portal swung open and they stepped into the cool darkness. Michael Dedrick activated a switch, turning on a pair of electic lights. By some trick of their design the filaments flickered and moved, lending a torch-like glow to the wine cellar's antechamber.

The stone of the hillside had been carved with meticulous accuracy to form a room, and supporting beams decorated the corners and the arched ceiling. Another door, similar to the outer one but smaller, adorned one wall of the antechamber. On another wall hung a crest bearing an ornate dragon and shield.

David expected his father to move to the inner door, but instead Michael Dedrick stepped to the dragon and shield. He drew a dagger from somewhere within his clothing, and his son's eyes grew wide. Placing the weapon parallel to the surface of the shield, he slipped the blade through the dragon's claws. The reptilian beast now appeared to be holding the dagger, as though it had been carved that way. There was an audible click, and the outline of a door appeared behind the crest.

"Welcome to my 'cave of secrets', David," the elder Dedrick said, his eyes laughing. "You are thirteen now, and the time has come for you to learn the truth about our brothers, the Thirteenth Tribe." As he continued, his manner became serious. "I am Michael Dedrick, Knight of the Order of the Dragon. Our brothers' secrets I hold in trust for future generations, that their memory will not perish, nor the way to their hidden sanctuary be lost. These I would now pass on to you, if you be willing."

In David's dream, at that moment, Michael Dedrick was not the proud father passing on a cherished tradition to his son, nor was David himself a boy of thirteen staring in awe of his father and his newly revealed secrets. The scene shifted, and his father stood at a conference room table on the Libra; David stood listening with rapt attention, a full-grown man dressed in the uniform of the Colonial Marines. His father grasped him by the arm, his expression serious, his eyes intense.

"I know the way to Earth, David."

"The Cylons took all that away from me, Dad. They took you, and Mom too." David swallowed hard, fighting to control his emotions.

"No matter," Michael Dedrick said, shifting his grip from David's arm to his shoulder. "We will find it, together."

David reached across his chest to place his hand upon his father's. "We will," he said in agreement, "We will." He raised his eyes then, to meet his father's, but the elder Dedrick's visage had become that of his son. David found himself looking into his own eyes.

After that, the scene faded from his mind, as dreams are wont to do.


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 03, 2008 7:22 pm 
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Gemenon’s capital
Thirty-two years before the Attack

Math was one of her favorite classes. Math and history. And Physics. Physics was fun. Literature was fun, too, but for other reasons. Same as Art. She’d always loved Art, and her teachers had often remarked at her talent at sketching and drawing.

Today, however, otherwise fascinating subjects left her cold. She stared at the symbols on the paper, uncomprehending: for all she cared, they could have been scribbled by monkeys, or written in some ancient, obscure language.

She was late.

She was never late, not once since she’d first had her menses.

But now she was two weeks late, and she knew what that could mean.

She opened her handbag and peeked surreptitiously inside. It was still there, wrapped in the same white paper bag with the drugstore’s logo in bright red. A pregnancy test.

Last semester she’d aced the test on Human Reproduction for Biology class. Xenthais prayed to the gods this one would come out negative.

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PostPosted: Mon Nov 03, 2008 8:22 pm 
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Aquaria Colony, City of Grecia
Applied Viral Research, Ltd., a subsidiary of Rohm LifeSciences Corporation
Robert Rand - Two years prior to Cylon Attacks



On the roof of the central laboratory building, four men stripped out of nondescript work coveralls within the cramped space of a air-conditioning compressor 'house', revealing black jumpsuits beneath. Throughout the day they had surreptitiously brought their equipment into the secure facility, posing as members of the construction team working to upgrade the HVAC system. At the end of the workday, they had simply remained behind, each of them having skipped a badge-scan during the day so that the logs read that everyone was on the outside.

Robert Rand buckled his equipment belt around his waist, then checked the operation of the compact automatic rifle he had just assembled. The other three men were similarly engaged. One of them glanced at Rand, asking, "What are we up to this time, boss?"

"This is a simple procurement, Mister Sabetti," the big man responded. His accent had an odd formality to it, common among natives of Leonus. "After we obtain the package, we drive out. A vehicle will be provided by our internal asset."

"Like taking candy from a baby," one of the others stated.

"Yes, very bad candy, Perry," the fourth man added, "and a very possessive baby."

"Markov, you're always so gloomy," Sabetti countered. "Smile, man... you're gettin' paid, and paid well."

"That matters only if I live to pick up my paycheck," Markov answered.

"Ah," Perry said, clipping the sound off short, "this'll be another walk in the park - sleeping guards and a security system my kid could hack. Shit, when was the last time we had to kill anyone? Five jobs ago? And we haven't had a good firefight since last year at BioWare."

"Perry, you're a real nutter," Sabetti said, shaking his head. Turning to Rand, he asked, "Shall I check in with Wilks?"

At Rand's nod, he activated his wireless. [Weasel, this is Lefty, Team is on the field and ready to play ball, copy?]

[Copy, Lefty. The referree is in my pocket, you are clear to put the ball in play. The fans won't see nothin' but four little mice in the corridors.]

"Boss, Wilks reports the security system has been compromised; we are go to proceed with the operation."

"Very good," Rand responded. "Markov, on point. Everyone on night vision. Roof access hatch is 25 meters north. Two by two, move out!"

On the roof of the research center, four black shadows slipped in pairs from the HVAC compressor house and glided along the roof to the hatchway. There was a brief, bright flare of light as the lock was burnt through, then the four intruders disappeared into the building below.


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 03, 2008 8:31 pm 
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Scorpia, Southern Bastet Desert
Twenty-one Years before the Attack

S’kyan read the text on the computer screen intently, absorbed in the lesson. He was sitting with several other Ruaidri clan youth, under an awning that kept the heat of the sun off them. Their instructor, one of the clan adults, looked over S’kyan’s shoulder.

“What are you reading?” Asar asked.

“William Reiser’s theory about the battle of Ursus, during the Kampos war, Kyafk’i,” the young man replied, glancing up at her. The students were studying military history, and the clan’s warleader was the natural teacher.

“The Kampos war isn’t on the schedule until next year, S’kyan,” she said, but without reprimand. Vekar’s son had shown an interest in military tactics and strategy starting at a young age. The clan’s educational curriculum was largely self-paced, so long as the students learned the required materials at the Colonial education system benchmarks. S’kyan was far ahead of those benchmarks when it came to military history.

“I’ve finished all the lessons before it, Kyafk’i,” the youth said, slightly defensive.

“Yes, I saw you’d sent off your module exam answers,” Asar assured him. She had full confidence he’d get another perfect score. S’kyan was an excellent student, no doubt influenced by his mother, who held a doctorate in anthropology. “What do you think of Reiser’s theory?” she asked him, interested in his response.

S’kyan looked at the screen contemplatively. After a moment, he said, “I think he’s full of kaashi, Kyafk’i.”

“Oh?” she asked. “And why would you say that an acknowledged academic expert on the Kampos war is full of kaashi?”

The warleader heard him out, and she had to admit that S’kyan’s reasoning was sound.

_________________
Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper, about budget cuts for the US’s intelligence agencies: "We're not going to do more with less and all these other clichés. . . . We will just simply have less capability."


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 03, 2008 10:14 pm 
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Caprica City, Vernon Residence
Two Years Before The Cylon Attacks

"What'll it be, Garris?" said Renatta, flopping down on the couch, tossing her briefcase aside on top of her husband's case, and looking at the clock, which currently read 8:30 PM, with a slight exhausted smirk. "Delivery pizza, delivery stir fry, or delivery tacos?"

Garris Vernon, esq., popped out of the kitchen, a too-small red apron over his white shirt and expensive suit trousers. "Not today, babe. I'm preparing my famous warm steak salad."

He walked to her. "What? No kiss? After I slave over the stove to put dinner on the table?"

"Well..." said Renatta, giving Garris a quick peck, "....I figured dessert usually comes after dinner, you see...."

"You call that a kiss?" he growled with an exaggerated scowl. With a quick motion, he took her face between his hands and kissed her soundly on the lips. "That's the appetizer," he drawled. "I'm looking forward to dessert..."

"You won, didn't you...." said Renatta with a smile after she came up for air.

He grinned. "The judge didn't even retire to chambers after the closing statements; she ruled from the bench. Dismissed all claims against our client."

"Except, of course, for the bill they owe you....."

He grinned wider, if that was even possible. "They settled the bill as soon as we got to the office, they were so happy." He took her hand and raised her from the couch, placing his left hand on her waist and taking a few steps. "Get out your dancing shoes, Mrs. Vernon. We're celebrating Saturday night."

"Clearly, I should have gone into the law...." said Renatta, spinning around at the end of a dance step. "Then I could get burnt out and overworked....for actual cubits...." the tail end of the sentence dissolved into a giggle.

Garris' deep laughter joined Renatta's mirth. "You work for the good of humanity; I'll work for the cubits..." He finished the step with a flourish and bowed before her. "And now, if you will excuse me, sweet lady, I shall see to your dinner."

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PostPosted: Mon Nov 03, 2008 10:20 pm 
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Battlestar Taurus
Commander's Quarters
Evening of Day 253
(with Goldwolf)


William Guynes flipped on the light switch and was greeted to a big mess. Books, clothes and other items were on the floor. Shaking and tight turns. I need to invest in some shelf strappings. Glad to see the crib didn't move. Maj. Azmos' floor bolts held rather well.

Tiredly, Will made his way across the room and to the couch. As he cleared off a spot, he noticed a box and a photo book on the floor. Jenni had taken to scrapbooking during her down time. The Commander picked up the book and box and sat it on the couch. I need to get that to her on Demeter when I go over tomorrow.

Carefully, Guynes opened the box and started to flip though the pictures. They were all photos that he or friends had taken during his academy and career days. He stopped and looked at one with a smile.

Image

A good guy...he joked that was his good side. It was 'Old Man' Mike Dyers...Admiral of the Columbia BSG. Guynes had served as the lead destroyer commander for him. It was his last duty post before being assigned as XO of the Intrepid. He found another picture of him in boxing trunks with a towel around his neck.

Will started to laugh, That was taken right after I won the battle group boxing tournament. Damn, Sgt. Ramone left me with a few shiners around the eyes.

It was a memory lane moment for William. For the first time in days, he allowed himself to smile and even laugh. During his first year as XO on Intrepid, Guynes took a lot of pictures of the day-to-day life on the battlestar. For a moment, he paused at a picture of Admiral Jacobs. On the Admiral's desk, he could see another picture. It was one of the few pictures in his office of a woman that was not his wife or family.

That was Commander Susan Johnson, if I remember right...the person I replaced. If I remember right, she died in a rafting accident. Tom talked about her a lot, I know he grieved for her loss. She had been at nearly every duty post he had been at.

Then, he came to another boxing photo...it was of him and another person that William still saw on a daily basis. This picture was also signed: Never box a man that does the work of the Gods. - Priest DeShera.

Will erupted with a loud laugh, Hell of a right hook. Gods, I'd pay to see you and Razor go a few rounds.

After flipping through the picture, Guynes stopped at a photo he hadn't seen in years. It was shot sometime during his second year with the Columbia BSG.

During those first two years in the battle group, he befriended the Columbia's XO. They last spoke six weeks before Intrepid started her exploration mission. Time changed ranks and where they served, but it never changed his level of respect for the person.

Will stood up, still holding the picture. He made his way to the small bar and pulled out a bottle of ambrosia. It's dark hues and smell took him back to another time where the friend was the teacher and he was the student.

-----------------------------------------------------

Five years before the Storm
Between Scorpia and Virgon
1430


Commander Guynes had been aboard the battlestar less than ten minutes. The ship's XO had greeted him on the fight deck. After dropping off his gear in his temporary quarters, Guynes and the XO made their way to the CO's office.

"Commander, it'll be nice to have you aboard the next few weeks. If you have any questions, feel free to ask."

Commander Guynes smiled and shook the man's hand, "I'll try not to be too nosy or ask any dumb ones, Commander Belzen."

"No problem at all." The XO looked at the Marine guard. "Please inform the Admiral that our expected visitor is waiting."

After a few moments, William entered the office. As the door closed, he popped a salute with a small smile. "Commander Williams Guynes reporting, Admiral."

The Admiral returned Guynes' salute. "Welcome aboard, Commander." The Admiral's voice was as dry and matter-of-fact as usual. "I'm looking forward to busting your ass for the next three weeks."

"When I was informed that it was your ship that I was coming to for Mercury-Class training..." William's smile became even broader, "...well, let's just say I expect that. Congratulations on the promotion to Admiral, Helena. Those insignias look good on you... sir."

"Thanks, Will," Admiral Helena Cain replied with a slight smile. "Congratulations to you, too. I was glad to hear about your promotion and posting to the Intrepid. You'll do well there." She paused and then asked, "How is grouchy old Mike Dyers doing?"

"Thank you and Admiral Dyers is still the same old grouch we all know and love, too bad he's retiring at the end of the year. He apparently put in a good word for me with my new CO." William has almost forgotten about a box he was holding, "He told me to tell you congratulations and to enjoy this. He mentioned something about it being from Sagittaron and thirty years old."

Cain accepted the box, weighing it in one hand. "He may be a grouch, but he knows his booze," she said, smiling. "We'll have to sample this, later... if you survive the next few weeks." She put the package on the table and said, "You'll be serving under Jacobs on the Intrepid. Have you met him yet?"

"He interviewed me personally. Before I went back to Virgon to get my gear and come here, I spent a week on Intrepid. She'll be ready for space trials in six months. I also get the feeling I have some rather big shoes to fill....and I'm trying to get a feel for Jacobs." Guynes paused for a moment before continuing, "Ten years at Picon Fleet Headquarters and he's jumping back in the saddle. I'm the only major officer on the ship that hasn't served with him, it seems."

Cain put her palms on the table a moment, looking down thoughtfully. She looked back up at Guynes and said, "He's an old school hard-liner, Will. He's tough, but he's fair, and he doesn't hesitate to speak his mind."

"Maybe that's why Michael Dyers likes him? You want to know what caught my attention during the interview?"

"What's that, Will?" she asked with interest.

"I'm sitting there in his office and at one point, I see the pictures on his desk and wall. Typical pictures of the wife, children and grandchildren... then there's two framed photos on a bookcase that tells me about the man I'm talking to."

Cain raised an eyebrow, wordlessly encouraging Guynes to continue.

"It's pictures of him and Admiral Nagala. In one they're both holding a chain of fish and in the other they're standing over two deer with their guns." William looked at Helena with a raised eyebrow, "All I could think was if 'I frak this up, my next duty station could be a sewage ship'. He seems like he'll be a good person to have as a CO, but it may take some time to get to know him and the way he does things. Ever had any dealings with Admiral Jacobs?"

"Yes," she nodded, her expression carefully neutral. She regarded Will a moment, then said, "When I said he won't hesitate to speak his mind, I meant it. He doesn't care if he's in the minority." And I wouldn't be surprised if he was one of those against me making admiral, she thought, but her expression didn't change. "He's honest to a fault, and expects the same of his officers. He'll bite your head off if you don't give him the straight story."

"I watched that during my short stay on Intrepid." William smiled, "A contractor screwed up a computer install in CIC and tried to cover his butt. Needless to say, when the Admiral found out the tech was lying, the chew out was not pretty and the man was escorted off the ship."

"I can imagine," she nodded dryly.

"So, I guess it's time for the big question: how quickly are you going to start running me through the meat grinder?"

"You've got fifteen minutes to report to Engineering," she replied, "so you better get your ass in gear!"

"No rest for the weary, eh?" William smiled. "I'm glad they put me on Pegasus for training. Thanks, Helena."

"We'll see if you'll still thank me in a week," she said.

As he left, Commander Guynes looked back at Cain and smiled, "Talk to you again soon, Admiral."

"You can count on it, Commander."


----------------------------------------

I learned a lot from you, Helena. William let out a sigh and then downed the last of the ambrosia in his glass.

Some saw you as tough and unapproachable at times, but I saw more humanity in you that most people would ever give you credit for. No matter what some people thought, you earned your way to the top...

Guynes walked back to the couch and placed the picture back in the box and closed the lid.

...and I hope you had a chance to give the Cylons hell, old friend.

_________________
"Times change...and so must I." - The Doctor, 'Time of the Doctor'


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 03, 2008 10:35 pm 
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Gemenon’s capital
Thirty-two years before the Attack

Principal Horace Bloome examined Xenthais Merconi’s file and frowned. She’d only been at Greystoke Academy eighteen months, since her parents had been transferred to Gemenon as “ambassadors” from the Colonial central government. They were not really ambassadors, of course – the Colonies had been united for decades now – but old habits died hard, and the Caprica government (as it was often called by residents of the less-favored Colonies) had soon realized the advisability of having trained diplomats as liasons between the Central government and that of the more “difficult” Colonies. Bloome tried to remember them, but could not. He’d only met them twice, and that only briefly. He only had a vague recollection of a handsome couple, elegantly dressed, with the practiced affability and careful reserve of career diplomats.

The girl, however, he had no problem recalling. She was pretty enough, in the coltish way of athletic young girls who had yet to get used to their grown up bodies. But that wasn’t what made her memorable – there were many attractive girls in the Academy, quite a few of them prettier and livelier than Xenthais Merconi. It was her ready intelligence and intellectual curiosity that set her apart from her peers. She wasn’t an easy student – she could be stubborn, and challenging, and had a rebellious streak a mile wide a thrice as deep. But she was an excellent student, a straight-A student with an unquenchable thirst for knowledge.

Lately, however, her grades had slipped. Worried teachers had wondered, and brought it to his attention. She was distracted, they’d told him with concern; she sometimes fell asleep at school, and missed classes, and hung around with a troublesome crowd – older kids who smoked and drank and were disrespectful of their parents and elders; “Kids,” said one particularly stern professor with utter disdain, “who have taken up Caprica’s sinful ways.”

Bloome listened, and agreed that something was terribly wrong, and called the Merconis for a meeting.

Charles’ face displayed the precise balance of paternal distress and righteous indignation as Principal Bloome relayed Xenthais’ slide into truancy; Lavinia’s eyes misted at the right moments, and she gasped when told of her daughter’s doubtful choice of friends. “I… we had no idea,” she uttered with a catch to her voice. “We have been so busy lately…”

She was the very image of distraught motherhood.

Principal Blomme patted Lavinia’s hand and reassured her that she shouldn’t blame herself, that most teenagers went through that phase, that Xenthais was an intelligent, sensitive child, one who, with gentle but firm guidance, was sure to come around and blossom into the delightful young woman her loving parents had raised her to be.

The Merconis thanked him profusely: Charles pumped his hand, Lavinia hugged him awkwardly. And then they left.

Horace Bloome closed the file before him, satisfied that such a bright student would now be saved, thanks to his prompt intervention.

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