Chapter 16 – Fair Winds and Following Seas

Prolmar Sector – Uncharted Space

The Galactica emerged from her jump moments later; a few small fires could be seen along her hull. Her tough hide was pock marked with great blackened patches and ragged holes where her armor had been torn away. Flying above the fleet, she silently watched over her charges, protecting them from all threats as they made their way slowly through uncharted space. Within a few minutes damage control teams began to emerge all over the Galactica's battered skin. Donned in bright orange exposure suits, the crew members swarmed across their home like scorned ants, aggressively confronting the damage to the ship with torches and welders.

Battlestar Galactica – Combat Information Center

The first thing the Commander noticed when they emerged from the jump was the stillness on the bridge. It stood in stark contrast to the violent shaking and screeching of alarms that had dominated the compartment during the battle. Commander Adama ignored the smell of ozone which permeated the C.I.C., and instead enjoyed the silence as he waited quietly for the ship's powerful sensors to become active, knowing that at the very least, they had escaped the Cylons.

A soft beep sounded from above snaring the Commander's attention. A smile pulled at the corners of his mouth as he studied the navigation display first and the Cylon-free DRADIS screen second. He held his eyes closed and breathed out slowly, luxuriating in the peace that he felt for the first time in days. He opened his eyes and turned his attention to Colonel Tigh next to him. "Colonel Tigh, what is our status?"

Tigh concentrated as he pulled up the relevant information on the table in front of them, "Navigation confirms we have arrived in the Prolmar sector, DRADIS confirms that all 63 civilian ships have arrived and are proceeding on a matching course. Damage Control teams have been dispatched and have begun repairs."

The Commander tilted his head, studying the overhead screens as the Colonel continued his report, the steady cadence of his monotone voice rolling over him like a wave. There was damage to be sure, it would take weeks to repair the ship, and longer than that to recover from the losses that they had all had suffered at their home worlds. But against all odds, they had survived, and now they had a chance to continue to survive.

"Thank you, Colonel," he said quietly to his longtime executive. He savored one last moment of peace, before deliberately reaching for the com relay attached to the side of the table. He looked at the handset for a moment before slowly depressing the transmit button. "This is the Commander. We have escaped the Cylons and have successfully jumped to the Prolmar Sector along with the civilian ships. Good work. That is all."

A loud cheer emerged from the crew in the C.I.C. and he smiled brightly as he watched his crew bask in the warm feeling of victory. He waited quietly just a moment, studying the dark skinned communication specialist as she wiped tears from her face.

Noticing his gaze upon her, Specialist Dualla, slowly looked up at the Commander and deliberately brought herself to attention. The Commander had been dreading the Galactica's decommissioning and his retirement, as a result he had been uncharacteristically moody and on edge for weeks. Now she could see that the tension which had been pulling on his face had lifted, he seemed rejuvenated, or at least with purpose.

"Dee, please open a secure channel with Colonial One," he requested easily.

"Yes, sir," she responded immediately. With a smile, she quickly turned to her station and began to hail the President' ship.

Freighter Bill Thurston - 12. Captain's quarters

Rebecca sat heavily on the thin mattress of her bunk, the cushion compressing firmly against the metal frame on which it sat. She immediately sprang back to her feet and quickly crossed the small distance to her desk on the other side of her cabin. Reaching in, she grabbed the tall bottle that was half filled with the clear amber liquid. She held the bottle above her head, studying it through the light. With her hands shaking slightly, she carefully set the bottle on the desk, and slowly returned to her bunk. She sat there quietly, staring at the bottle without seeing it, forcing her mind to stay blank. She was numb and she wanted to stay numb, not feeling, not caring, and not thinking.

Three soft knocks at her hatch caught her attention; she stared at the door, refusing to move. A few moments passed, and she absently watched the latch spin counter-clockwise, the hatch swung open slightly, and the petite form of Nurse Harris entered quietly.

Spera stopped just inside of the hatch and immediately noticed the bottle of Ambrosia sitting on the desk. "I wanted to check on you," she said quietly. She sat on the mattress next to her Captain and turned to face her, she fixed her gaze on Rebecca, her soft eyes offering both compassion and support. The two sat in silence for a few minutes. Spera deftly stood up and stepped across the cabin. She picked up the bottle and turned to Rebecca, a smile just pulling at the corners of her mouth. "How long has it been?" she asked, rocking the bottle back and forth gently.

"Five years," she answered quietly.

"Well, I think this one time will be okay."

Rebecca turned to her with a look of surprise on her face, "You didn't know me when I drank." Rebecca dropped her head; it hung for a few seconds before she brought it back up. She looked back at her friend with a slight spark in her eye and the beginning of a smile on her face. In a light tone, she sarcastically added, "Believe it or not, I was a real bitch back then."

Spera laughed at that while she selected two small glasses. She filled the two glasses half-way and sat them down on the shelf across from the pillow. "Why don't we pray first, you're a follower of Zeus?" she asked.

"Yes, it's been a few days since I have prayed." Rebecca got up from her bed and knelt in front of the dresser built into the side of the frame. She opened the top drawer, and carefully removed a small white wooden box. She carefully placed the box on her small desk in the corner of her cabin, and gently opened it. Centered on the lace doily she placed a small crystal candle holder between an ivory idol and an intricately decorated copper incense burner. She whispered a short incantation before quickly lighting the crimson candle first and the incense burner second. She looked over at Spera, and together they knelt in front of the make shift altar. Rebecca took Spera's hand in hers as the burner filled the room with the fragrant smoke. With a subtle nod, Rebecca began reciting lines from the sacred scrolls, Spera joining her moments later.

The two remained kneeling in front of the alter in silence; the incense had burned out minutes earlier. As if reacting to a silent cue, Rebecca firmly squeezed Spera's hand before letting go, and gingerly stood up before extinguishing the delicately burning candle.

Spera stood up a moment later and turned to Rebecca; the two stood facing each other, the emotions of the day playing across their faces. She turned towards the shelf and carefully picked up one of the tumblers and handed it to Rebecca. She reached back and picked up the second one and turned back to her friend. She held it up slightly and nodded to Rebecca.

Rebecca, closed her eyes briefly, steeling herself, she raised her glass to match Spera's and solemnly toasted, "To our family, our friend's, and our homes." She held the glass a moment before bringing it to her lips and with a sigh of resignation, she tilted her head back and swallowed the contents of the glass in one loud gulp. She squeezed her eyes closed and coughed violently as the liquid scorched the back of her throat.

"Gimme that," Spera chided her friend, taking the tumbler from Rebecca. She quickly refilled both glasses and handed one back to Rebecca. She held the tumbler in front of her, "To the future, the undiscovered country which lies before us."

The ambrosia in the bottled was shared shot by shot between the two of them, and for the next several hours the two friends mourned, sharing memories of loved ones, good times and bad, and their fears for the future. Hours later, the two friends slept heavily, the bottle lying empty on the table.

Cylon Heavy Raider – D769RG3

Alexei waited anxiously in the passenger compartment as the Heavy Raider violently shook and bounced as it made its transit through Ragnar's dangerous storms back to the Basestar above. The trip to the station had been revealing and troubling. The Cylons had spent hours on the station, they had searched every compartment, every closet, they had even removed some of the wall panels in the causeways. But they had found nothing, every storage area had been cleared, Tylium stores emptied, the armories had been scoured, the Colonials had even cleaned out the maintenance lockers. Alexei's eyes settled on the boxed computers which were stored in the rear of the craft. These computers, plus the ones filling the trailing three Heavy Raiders would be examined line by line for information. But he knew it was pointless, as thorough as the Colonials had been with the supplies, Alexei knew without a doubt that the hard drives on the computers had been wiped clean.

A sudden wave from the storm seemed to toss the Heavy Raider as if it were a toy. Alexei grimaced as the thick straps dug into his shoulders, awkwardly trussing him to the narrow bench along the side of the craft. Moments later the Heavy Raider recovered, and with a frustrated sigh he angrily shoved himself into the rigid backrest. He silently cursed the station they had just left, and the Colonials who had built it in the first place. The concept of establishing a sanctuary base in the hellish nightmare of this planet was more than sheer folly, it was insanity itself. This base's existence showed with grim reality the determination and tenacity that the Colonials possessed. During the first war, the Colonials had been repeatedly beaten back to the edge of extermination. But every time as his Cylon ancestors closed on their goal of eradication, the Colonials would regroup, fight back, and eventually fight the war to a stalemate. The fact that this base existed, the supplies within now safely tucked away for future use, and the Cylons past experience with their enemies, led to one conclusion. The humans would not be easily exterminated; they would not go quietly into the night. Alexei was sobered, if not slightly depressed, by the realization that his kind had started what was sure to be a bloody and protracted war. A war, which history suggested would likely be without end and unwinnable.

A strained cough caught his attention, the Number Five they had found abandoned on the station sat across from him. Wrapped in a thick blanket, he sat on the bench heavily, his eyes blankly staring at the ceiling above. He was sweating profusely and shivering in misery, the radiation from the planet had greatly affected him. Alexei studied the dying agent with concern. It was not concern for the Five or even pity for the pain the man was suffering through; his concern was far more selfish. Uncomfortable questions flew through Alexei's nervous mind, 'How had the Colonial's discovered that the Five was a Cylon Agent? Why had they left him on the station? Why hadn't they executed him upon his discovery?' But the question that bothered him most, 'If they discovered that the Five was a Cylon Agent, what was to stop the Colonials from discovering other Cylon Models?' More personally, he considered the other Two's within the Colonial fleet. 'What would happen to those models if they were discovered? And what would happen to him, if he were ever captured?' He took a long look at the Five, shuddering at the thought of a possible fate that he would not imagine. For the first time, Alexei questioned the wisdom of prosecuting this war and disturbing the uneasy peace which had lasted forty years.

A sharp and gurgling gasp broke his depressing reverie, tuning towards the sound, Alexei and the other Cylons silently watched as the Five, clutching his throat, awkwardly stood up. He turned his head towards the others, his eyes were squeezed closed in anguish, and his face was twisted into a painful grimace that nearly matched the ghastly wheezing that slipped through his pressed lips. Suddenly, his face relaxed, a moment later he crumbled onto the deck, his head bouncing sharply off of the solid flooring. Dumbfounded, Alexei sat there staring at his brother, who was lying awkwardly on the floor, a small puddle of blood was slowly growing below his broken nose.

After a moment, a Four tentatively approached the body. He knelt down next to the Five and softly pressed his thumb and forefinger to the Cylon's throat, quietly checking for any sign of life. Finding none, the large Cylon bent his head down in remorse. He looked up at the others, and slowly shook his head, silently confirming the passing of their brother. The Four returned his attention to his fallen Cylon brother a moment later. With an unexpected delicacy, he gently rolled the body on its back before carefully straightening the legs and deliberately crossing the arms across its chest. Lastly, the Four removed his jacket and softly spread it across the body.

The Cylons watched the Four slowly stand up and return to his seat. Alexei was numb, he stared blankly at the others in the cabin with him, they returned his gaze, equally silent and unseeing. Slowly, he began to regain his composure, it was a Six who caught his attention first. Her head was turned to the side and her chin was buried in her outstretched hand. But beneath the platinum blonde locks of her carefully styled hair, hot tears slowly trailed down her exquisite cheeks. The cabal of Cylons sat in silence for several minutes, each adjusting to the new realities of war.

Alexei looked over at the Centurions standing in the back, calmly waiting, blissfully apathetic to the dangers and trials posed by this grand crusade. Right now, he envied their sense of purpose.

Battlestar Galactica - Pilot Quarters

Cursing under his breath, Derek rolled on his back, staring into the blackness of his bunk. Sleep would not come tonight, he was too wound up after the events of the last several days. Fighting the urge to roll over again, he took a slow calming breath and closed his eyes while trying to quiet his brain. It was no use; he sat up and gently slid the curtain to his bunk open. Finding the footholds, he climbed down being careful not to disturb Sarah who was sleeping below him. He paused and shook his head in disgust as he looked at J.J.'s empty bunk on the floor. Padding gently to his locker, he silently opened it and reached in for his backpack which held a tablet and headphones. As he pulled them out, a slight reflection caught his attention. He stood stock still, staring at the shadow in the darkness. The temperature in the compartment seemed to drop rapidly, and he shivered as he was suddenly overcome by the imagined chill. He started to reach for the object, and then quickly pulled his hand back, as if his fingers had been snapped. He continued to stare at the shadow, and slowly, his right hand began to reach forward again. His eyes were closed when his fingers closed around the thick polymer handle. With his left hand holding the thick leather belt fast, he flicked his right wrist, forcefully sliding the bulky weapon out of the holster. He looked at the gun in the darkness; it seemed to feel heavier than he remembered, before carefully placing it into the backpack. Steeling himself, he headed through the hatch, not certain where his late night journey would ultimately take him.

He wandered aimlessly through the corridors, they were mostly empty this time of night, even the overhead lights were dimmed. He walked numbly through the narrow passageways, his monotonous footfalls had a calming influence on his earlier frenetic mind. Derek didn't keep track of where or for how long he traveled through the sleeping vessel, he wasn't even completely aware that he had finally come to a stop. Seemingly at peace, he surveyed the five corridors that came together at this particular junction. He recognized the corridor to the left, some of the pilots had been talking about an ad hoc memorial that was being set up further down the passageway. He turned and began heading towards it, morbid curiosity drawing him further in.

Battlestar Galactica – Memorial Causeway

Derek looked over the dimly lit compartment; the few overhead lights had been softened by a covering sheer yellow material. Burning candles were placed haphazardly throughout the space. Their soft twinkling combined with the muted and competing scents from the various incense burners gave a heavy and somber feel to the space. The corridor came to an end in front of him; a standard hatch was centered on the far wall. The rest of this wall, as well as the two adjoining ones were covered in pictures. Pictures of families, friends, lovers, and colleagues, there were hundreds. They covered every inch of the wall, the edge of each picture covering the picture below it, or the left or the right. Derek stopped in the center of the frame, slowly spinning, taking in the pictures, the twinkling candles, the incense, the notes declaring undying love, pleading for forgiveness, or for help from the gods. It was overwhelming. Derek staggered towards the wall, collapsing heavily on the deck. He slipped off his backpack and fumbled with the zipper, clumsily opening the bag.

His hands plunged inside, unseeing fingers roughly pushing past the tablet computer and the handgun. His hands slid into the document pocket and he firmly grasped the manila folder stored there. In a rush he pulled the folder out of the bag. He spread it open on his lap with one hand; his other desperately grabbing the picture within. He threw the empty folder to the side and squeezed the picture tightly with both hands. Tears streaming down his face, he rocked violently back and forth several times before dropping the picture to the deck in front of him. He curled his head into his elbow and he screamed. Out of breath, he inhaled deeply, groaning like a wounded animal, before screaming into his arm again, not caring who heard his pain. He alternated between screaming and breathing several more times until finally his throat was too ragged to continue. He sat on the floor, his nose inches from the picture and sobbed loudly. With a sudden flurry of motion he smashed the picture to his face, the photograph creasing over his nose. His breathing slowed as his lungs struggled to pull air through the thick glossy paper; the musty scent from the photo grew heavy and damp from his salty tears, spittle and the mucus running freely from his nose. Gasping for breath, he pulled his head up and coughed roughly. Not having a handkerchief, he wiped his face and blew his nose loudly into his sleeve. He steadied himself for a moment before carefully flattening the now ruined picture on the deck between his legs. He looked at it intensely, his lips curling back and pressing against his teeth, his hands shook rapidly as the muscles in his arms twitched in frustration. A final labored shudder accompanied a high pitched choking sound which escaped his clenched jaws as his breathing finally returned to a more normal rate. He gently wiped his tears away with his hand, his head bowed down; he continued to stare at the picture. Slowly, without looking his right hand reached out, his fingers deliberately closing around a shoulder strap on his pack. He slid the pack along the floor towards him until it pressed against his side. His fingers released the strap before tentatively making their way into the bag. He lifted the gun slightly and carefully placed it in his lap. He studied the gun intently, his fingers deftly releasing the safety before chambering the round.

"I miss you," he breathed quietly.

He lifted the gun and turned it towards him, his eyes unflinching as he stared down the barrel. He brought the pistol forward, his mouth opening sub-consciously. The metal barrel was cold on his lips, and he nearly gagged as it pressed his tongue uncomfortably to the floor of his mouth. His thumb pulled back, cocking the weapon, and his index finger tensed slightly on the trigger. Basic training took over, his breathing slowed and his hand steadied as he readied himself to take the shot. One final breath, he closed his eyes and pictured his newborn daughter in his arms, twelve years earlier. He squeezed his eyes tighter, and the image changed to his wife, smiling brightly on their wedding day. She was so beautiful, so full of life and hope.

"No!" he howled as threw the gun across the chamber. It crashed loudly into the far wall, ricocheting wildly across the room, finally coming to a stop in a dark corner.

He sat on the deck, absolutely still, his heart pounding through his chest. He slowly dragged himself off of the floor and determinedly walked across the compartment. His pistol had come to rest at the base of a messily arranged dais to the Goddess Hera. That was a sign, he thought. His wife had worshipped Hera, and her faith had strengthened his bond with the gods. He bent down and retrieved his gun; immediately locking the safety and clearing the chamber. He laid the gun onto the floor next to him and tentatively kneeled in front of the altar. He grabbed a small matchbox which was lying next to the altar and quickly lit a thin white candle which sat in an elegant pewter holder. He stared at the shimmering candle for short period before bowing his head in prayer.

His prayers finished, Derek stood up and retrieved his bag. He slowly walked the perimeter of the compartment as he surveyed the pictures on the bulkheads, pausing every so often to more closely look at one or to read an attached note. He looked at the now ruined picture of his wife and child in his hand and decided that he would print out a new picture to post tomorrow. Derek's mind now finally settled, he returned to Hera's altar and softly sat in front of it, placing the picture in his lap. He reached into his backpack again, this time removing his tablet and a set of headphones. Derek placed the headphones on and began to methodically search his music library, deliberately selecting songs which had meaning for him and his family. His eyes closed as the music started, it washed over him, and gently soothed his tortured soul, gracefully taking him back to happier times.

Derek smiled as his mind returned to a tropical beach, it was seven years earlier, and he and his wife had returned with their five year old daughter to the palm covered island where they had spent their honey moon. They were laughing and splashing in the warm water, he was relaxing in a scratchy hammock and over the wind and he could barely hear a ukulele and singing.

"Somewhere over the rainbow

Way up high

And the dreams that you dreamed of

Once in a lullaby"

Israel Kamakawiwo'ole

The End

Author's Note:

There are a few people that I need to acknowledge and to thank for helping me develop and ultimately write this story. First, my wife Jenn. Thank you for not only providing time to both develop and work on the story, but also as a sounding board for ideas, and help with editing. Lori, thank you for suffering through my earlier draft and providing help with both grammar and story concepts. And of course, a big thank you to everyone who took the time to read my little yarn and offer encouragement and constructive criticism. This story has been my first writing project (not including reports for work) that I have worked on since high school. A very long time ago, and what seems like in a galaxy far far away. It has truly been a very fun experience.

As for this story, Ragnar was originally intended to be the prologue for a longer story which takes place during season 2. I felt that for the intended story to work, I needed to show how Derek made his way to the Galactica. I found that as I wrote the prologue, that this introductory piece took a life of its own, and eventually morphed into a complete stand-alone story.

As for my original story, I have begun outlining, and am looking forward to writing it. Please be patient, Ragnar took me several years to piece together, and it is by far the simpler story of the two.