-1Lee sat up straight at Gaeta's words. Oh gods, Felix, he thought sadly, you really picked a bad time to lose your marbles on duty. There had been signs. Gaeta had been irritable, angry, and acting much more stressed than his duties caused. He had even snapped at Dee, just an hour earlier when the woman went to hug him in excitement over the stunningly good news, but Lee couldn't quite believe what he was doing and saying. He could only stare.
"I'm from Earth," Gaeta said again, his voice shaking. He looked at the Starfleet captain. "My identification number is EA7727518." He fumbled with his uniform, revealing a small pin that he set down on the metal table in front of Picard.
A metal pin, Lee realized with shock, that was only a little different in style than the insignia that Picard and Crusher were wearing. Battered and dull, not gleaming like theirs, but the odd little symbol was essentially the same. Gaeta looked nervously at Picard.
Picard calmly picked up the metal insignia, while Crusher tapped on her handheld computer and discretely pointed a small metal device at Gaeta, that lit up almost instantly. Then the dull insignia chirped as well, which didn't seem to surprise either Starfleet officer although Gaeta looked shocked. They were a good team, Lee realized with a start, they had taken it all in and were already analyzing it. Unlike his father, who was glaring at Gaeta with that look that had made Lee shake since he had been old enough to know what it meant.
Crusher handed her computer device to Picard, who took it and looked. Then he smiled slightly at Gaeta. "This certainly makes things more interesting." He turned to Admiral Adama, no longer smiling but Lee could see the man's eyes were twinkling with delight. Because, Lee realized, Gaeta was telling the truth, and Picard and Crusher both were pleased that one of their own that had been assumed missing or worse was alive.
Which just added to his own shock.
"It seems we are sharing an officer," Picard said, his tone surprised but pleasant. He held out the computer pad to Adama. "Ensign Gaeta has been missing for over ten years."
The Admiral took the pad and looked at it and then glared at Gaeta. "You are from Earth?" He stood and Lee almost started to rise as well since he knew exactly what was coming. But Roslin suddenly put her hand on Adama's arm as he raised a fist at Gaeta, who flinched back noticeably.
"Let's consider what this means, what is really important right now," she said softly, a warning note in her voice. She stepped between Adama and Gaeta, effectively dividing them. Roslin looked at Gaeta oddly, and then at Picard. "Obviously this is... unexpected."
"I couldn't tell you," Gaeta said quickly, more to Adama than to her. "I was lost in an accident ten years ago. I had to throw away everything but the clothes on my back and my combadge. I shouldn't even have kept that…What could I have said? No one would have believed me and... we have a law about exposing societies that haven't contacted other sentient life to our technology."
"We have a law? Your technology?" Tigh snarled. Gaeta flinched again and Lee realized that Picard and Crusher both were getting concerned. They were trying to not show it, but the tone in the room had gone from pleasant to hostile in seconds. Lee understood instantly why Roslin was trying to keep things calm. No matter how suddenly angry he felt about spending years doubting that Earth was real just to know that Gaeta, of all people, had kept the truth a secret, the fact was that the fleet desperately needed help.
So he shot a glare at Tigh. "Maybe we should all take a moment to digest this."
Tigh glared back at him, like he was going to leap over the table, and his father wasn't doing much better. All the while, Gaeta was turning an off shade of grey. Gods, Lee prayed suddenly, please don't let this get screwed up now. Not over Felix Gaeta being from Earth.
"I couldn't tell you, because it's against the rules," Gaeta said again, "but I could manipulate the route and keep the fleet safely out of… Romulan space."
"And how did you do that?" Adama hissed.
"I do all of the jumps," Gaeta shot back, his eyes suddenly hard. "No one ever checks my work."
"Because I trusted you," Adama said coldly.
"And," Laura said, cutting between them, almost dividing them with her eyes, "now we have good news. Maybe that is the thing we need to focus on. We've found Earth, and the Federation. Captain Picard, I don't think I am overstepping when I say that you're inclined to help us, you've already offered."
"That is correct," Picard said easily. He was allowing her to diffuse the situation, Lee realized.
"Think about it, Bill," she said softly. "What's really important right now?" For a long moment the two stared at each other, as if having an argument with their eyes alone, and then his father seemed to deflate. Roslin nodded slightly and turned to Picard. "We need some help. A lot actually. Although just knowing that Earth is truly real has already given our people a great deal to look forward to."
"Yes," Picard said quickly. He rose to his feet, as did Crusher. "I'd like to get a schedule set to bring over supplies. I also need to let my superiors know what the situation is here and to get some reinforcements here to help." He paused and then gestured to Gaeta. "I'd like to take Mr. Gaeta with me. It has been ten years, after all."
"No," Adama said quickly. "He's my officer and we're having a serious engine malfunction."
"He's right, sir," Gaeta said suddenly. "The Galactica is short staffed…." The man looked down suddenly, and for a moment, Lee felt bad for him. After all was said and done, if what he was saying was true, Gaeta had brought them to safety and his reward so far was to be yelled at. Not exactly a hero's reward.
"No," Roslin said suddenly. "Mr. Gaeta will go with you." She smiled just a little. "If it's been ten years Lt. Gaeta, I think you've waited long enough." Adama looked at her fiercely but she stared him down. "Let's consider it a gesture of good will. I would suggest though, that we not… announce what Mr. Gaeta has done for us until you have him in your shuttle craft." Clever, Lee thought suddenly. The people were already in a state of high emotion and Gaeta wasn't well liked since New Caprica. Things were about to be suddenly better for everyone, and the last thing they needed was an incident. He didn't get the sense that Picard would withhold the proffered help if someone did pound Gaeta into pieces but it didn't need to happen.
"Of course," Picard said easily. "I can imagine that just knowing the place you were seeking is real and able to help will be a shock, without the possible raw emotion Mr. Gaeta's origins might evoke." Which meant Picard understood that it was just going to add to the shock that people were already feeling. Picard seemed to take in Adama's anger and concern. "The Enterprise is well equipped to defend this fleet, and I intend to call for reinforcements. Your people will be protected."
Adama eyed Gaeta. "Then go. They've apparently got the first claim on you."
"I'm sorry," Gaeta said softly. He was still that off shade of grey, Lee realized. And he was actually shaking. If this is going to be discreet, he thought worriedly, they better start moving. Or else Gaeta was going to faint.
"We should let them board their shuttle and then let President Roslin announce what will happen next." Tory said suddenly, also rising to her feet. "That way we can make sure there isn't an unpleasant incident."
"Agreed," Roslin said. "I think the people will be very happy to hear that we're in safe territory, and that we're being protected by a ship from the political union that Earth belongs to."
They left the small briefing room and returned to the landing deck, where everyone cheered loudly. Roslin quickly took a position near a Raptor where a microphone was waiting, while Picard, Crusher, and Gaeta moved to the shuttle where the remaining Starfleet officer was waiting. Lee followed them, as did Tigh, to make it look like they were just escorting the Starfleet people. He was just surprised that Tigh joined him. It's going to work, Lee thought, as first Crusher, then Gaeta, and then Picard slipped into the shuttle.
"I have wonderful news," Roslin began as the shuttle craft began to move. "Captain Picard of the Enterprise has assured me that we are welcome in their Federation and has already offered to protect us and send supplies of food and medicine that we desperately need…"
Kara came up beside him as Roslin continued speaking. "Can you believe it?" she said excitedly, a grin on her face. "They're really from Earth?"
"They are, but it's.. weird." He wasn't even sure how to go there with Kara.
She found a way. She peered around him and then at Tigh, a puzzled look marring her happy expression. "Lee… Where did Gaeta go? He was right here…"
"He went with them," Lee said. "On their shuttle."
Kara looked at him, and rolled her eyes. "Why did he go with them? If they wanted someone to meet and greet, you outrank him."
He sighed. "He went with them, Kara, because Gaeta… is from Earth."
Her expression became unreadable. "What?"
Tigh took up position beside him. "Felix Gaeta's from frakking Earth. He's known it was real the whole godsdamned time. Apparently the motherfrakker has been manipulating the route since who knows when." Tigh grinned ruefully. "I always knew he was a sneaky son of a bitch…."
Kara looked at him. "What the frak do you mean?!" she shouted, loud enough that everyone turned to look at them, including Roslin. Kara didn't seem to care. "Are you frakking joking? What do you mean, Felix Gaeta is from frakking Earth?"
A hush fell over the crowd. After a long moment, Roslin tapped the microphone. "Yes," she said easily to the crowd, "we did discover that Lt. Felix Gaeta is in fact from Earth, and a member of their military organization, Starfleet. However, while that's quite surprising, I think we should all keep our perspective. And I think they prefer just Earth, as opposed to frakking Earth, Captain Thrace."