Disclaimer: I don't own BSG. Blah blah blah blah...
Summary: In the aftermath of Gaeta's Mutiny, Racetrack receives a visit from Athena. Takes place after the events of "Blood on the Scales".
A/N: Contains A LOT of spoilers for Season 4.5
Racetrack missed Galactica.
The old bucket had never exactly been paradise. In fact, life on Galactica had in many ways been similar to life in prison. The routines had been monotonous, the food had been crap, the showers had been lukewarm, and the living quarters had certainly not been four-star quality. Still, at least on Galactica she had had a life. A purpose. Something which every morning she could look forward to - or rather something she could look forward to hating. Now, she had nothing to love or hate when she woke up. Imprisoned in a cell on the Astral Queen, Racetrack was no longer sure if she was alive or dead - or both.
Racetrack stared aimlessly at her bleak surroundings and fidgeted with her dog tags - the only item she had been allowed to keep from her service on Galactica. Since her incarceration, the tags had been rubbing uncomfortably against the skin on the back of her neck. This was odd because she had worn them for years and they had never bothered her like this before. The tags were a constant reminder of what she had lost, and they seemed to grow heavier with every day that passed. Yet, she could never bring herself to remove them. They were the last shred of life she still had. Shaking her head, Racetrack sighed to herself and closed her eyes. She cast her thoughts back to the events a couple weeks prior.
She had been a willing participant in Felix Gaeta's mutiny. After six years of loyal service, she had suddenly turned her back on Admiral Adama. Gaeta had convinced her, along with many others, that the Old Man and the President had lost their minds and that this alliance with the Cylons would lead the Fleet to ruin. The time to make a stand against this madness was now Gaeta had said. Initially, Racetrack had been reluctant to help. Openly speaking out against the Admiral and the President was one thing. A full-fledged mutiny was an entirely different matter. Gaeta then reminded her that this wouldn't be the first time she had involved herself in a mutiny. Almost two years prior, Racetrack had helped Laura Roslin and Lee Adama escape from Galactica. And so after having been reassured that their revolution would be as bloodless as possible, Racetrack agreed to help smuggle Gaeta's ally, Vice President Tom Zarek, off Galactica and back to the Quorum of Twelve. At the time, she had told herself things would turn out for the best.
As it happened, things went badly. Very badly. Instead of getting the support of the Quorum, Zarek had simply opted to massacre them all. Gaeta had captured the CIC and taken Admiral Adama into custody, but failed to stop President Roslin from escaping to the Cylon Baseship and convincing the Cylons to help her. While the Cylons were busy distracting Gaeta, the Admiral's allies had rallied together and rescued the Old Man. Many of Gaeta's followers rejoined Adama either out of guilt or simply to save their own skins. Admiral Adama and his supporters then reclaimed CIC and captured both Gaeta and Zarek putting a decisive end to the rebellion.
After hearing of Gaeta's defeat, Racetrack had taken refuge in an empty storage compartment. She hid there for hours contemplating what to do next. Part of her had wanted to get off Galactica in a Raptor and flee to one of the civilian ships. Another part of her had wanted to make a last stand and go out guns blazing. She ended up doing neither. Instead, she had phoned CIC and informed Lieutenant Hoshi of her whereabouts. She had then allowed herself to be taken into custody by the Marines who arrived five minutes later.
As expected, she was taken to the brig where Skulls, Narcho, Seelix, Redwing and the other mutineers were being held. She did not speak with any of them. Instead, she had laid down on a cot and fallen asleep hoping to wake up and discover that this was all just a bad dream. No such luck, unfortunately. She had frakked up big time.
The next morning, Racetrack and the others had been taken to the Hanger Deck. She figured the Admiral was going to have them all lined up before a firing squad. Or simply tossed out an airlock if he didn't want to waste ammunition. Privately, she had hoped for the firing squad. Better to die quickly from a bullet to the head than to suffocate slowly in the cold vacuum of space.
The Admiral had been waiting for them on the Hanger Deck. Images of the grim, harsh expression on his face that day flashed into her mind. She recalled the coldness in his voice as he informed the prisoners that both Felix Gaeta and Tom Zarek had been executed less than an hour ago. The two Marines responsible for carrying out Zarek's order to slaughter the Quorum had also been put to death. Racetrack and the others, however, would not share their fate. Enough people had died for one day, the Admiral had stated flatly. Instead, the mutineers were to be dishonorably discharged from the Colonial Fleet and incarcerated on Zarek's old prison ship, the Astral Queen. The Admiral had then departed without another word.
Initially, Racetrack had thought herself lucky to have escaped death. But as she was being loaded onto the transport heading for the Astral Queen, she quickly came to realize that this punishment was possibly worse than death. For six years, Galactica had been her home. Had Racetrack simply been executed that morning, at least she would have died at home. She would have died a pilot, an officer, and a soldier. Instead, she was being reduced to a common criminal. She wasn't even welcome in Galactica's frakking brig anymore.
Racetrack had maintained her outward composure during the trip to the Astral Queen. She had maintained it as she was being escorted off the transport and separated from the rest of her comrades. She had continued to maintain her composure even while being strip searched, scanned, forced to don a red prison jumpsuit, issued a number (which she didn't bother to memorize), and finally placed in a cell. Fifteen seconds after the door had been slammed shut, her composure crumbled and she had found herself fighting back a sudden onslaught of tears. It had taken every ounce of energy not to cry that day. Eventually, she had exhausted herself and fallen into a blissful sleep.
As her mind finally shifted back to the present, Racetrack took in the reality of her situation. Physically she was still alive. But this wasn't living. This was simply existing without purpose, without hope, without anything. Her body may have been spared, but her soul had been ground to dust. She had been cast aside. Forgotten. Condemned to wander alone in the dark without so much as a candle. As it so often did, Adama's accusing voice echoed through her mind:
"You swore an oath when you put that uniform on. You pledged to defend this ship and her crew... If you do this, there will be no forgiveness, no amnesty... You'll die with nothing."
The Old Man may have been speaking to Gaeta when he said that, but Racetrack felt as if his words had been directed at her. For Gaeta had at least died wearing his uniform. Racetrack, on the other hand, would truly die with nothing.
Suddenly, another voice rang out interrupting her contemplations: "Prisoner 4830 (Racetrack assumed that was her number) stand at attention! You have a visitor."
Racetrack opened her eyes and stood up in astonishment. Corporal Ferguson, the guard for this section of the ship, was unlocking the cell door. Beside him was the last person she expected to see: Sharon "Athena" Agathon. Ferguson opened the door and allowed Athena into the cell. Athena then nodded to Ferguson, who responded with a crisp salute before closing the door and locking it again. Athena then turned to face Racetrack. She waited for the guard to depart before speaking.
"How are you, Racetrack?" Athena asked the former Raptor pilot.
Racetrack shrugged and forced a smile. "Reasonable I guess. The heating system is down again this week, but nothing I can't handle. How have you been?"
"I'm doing fine," Athena replied, "So is Hera. Helo's still recovering from his head injuries, but Cottle says he should be back on his feet by tomorrow."
Racetrack nodded. "That's good to know."
Athena placed a small bag on Racetrack's bed. "I brought your stuff from Galactica. Not much. A lot of it got confiscated by security, unfortunately."
"Thanks anyway, Athena," Racetrack said, "I have a feeling I'm gonna be stuck here for a while. Might as well decorate the place up a bit." She paused momentarily before speaking again: "How's the crew holding up?"
"We're having to run joint CAPs and recon missions with Sixes and Eights from the Baseship." Athena replied, "A lot of the crew is pretty unhappy, but it's not like we've got much of a choice given the sudden... drop in the number of qualified pilots."
Racetrack smirked. "You know, Athena, with all those Sharons running around, you and Helo had better develop some kind of secret code. Otherwise, he might end up frakking the wrong woman."
"I'm not worried," chuckled Athena, "The other Eights aren't going to try anything with Helo. I've made it clear that anyone who does is going have to a very unpleasant experience."
"Good thinking. How's the Old Man?"
"I don't know. But he's definitely troubled." Athena sighed, "He's spends half the time in his quarters doing God knows what. The other half he spends watching the maintenance crews repair the ship. Some days he just wanders through the corridors aimlessly. He hasn't been the same ever since he authorized the usage of Cylon technology to keep the ship from falling apart-"
"Yeah. Tyrol discovered some frakkin ugly damage in the engine room. He did a bit of investigating and found that the ship's structural integrity is severely compromised in all sorts of places. We're lucky to still be in one piece right now."
"You said something about Cylon technology."
"Tyrol thinks he can keep the ship intact by applying the organic resin from the Baseship to the damaged areas."
"You mean that slimy crap you see everywhere on a Cylon ship?"
"Yup." Athena nodded, "In theory, it should reinforce the ship's hull. Keep everything stuck together."
"Cylon super glue." Racetrack mused.
"You could think of it like that."
"And I assume the Cylons are helping us out here as well?"
"Someone's got to do it. And most of the crew won't even touch the stuff."
"So now we're running CAPs with the Cylons, doing repairs with the Cylons, and on top of all that, we're pasting Cylon goop all over the ship?" Racetrack shook her head and laughed. "Godsdamnit, Gaeta is spinning in his grave right now." She cleared her throat before changing the subject, "I don't suppose we've found a habitable rock yet?"
"We've found a few places, but none of them look very appealing." Athena replied, "We could sure use your help right now, Racetrack."
"Wow, that means a lot to me, Athena. It really does. And I'd love to help, but my days are just packed." Racetrack said darkly, "Being a condemned prisoner happens to be an all-day, all-night job."
Athena folded her arms across her chest. "I was a prisoner myself for nearly two years, Racetrack."
"Does it get any better?"
"Not really. Doesn't get much worse though. You just get used to it after a while."
"That's very encouraging. Thank you."
Athena sighed, "I still can't believe you're in this mess, Racetrack. I never thought that you of all people would frak yourself up this badly."
"Yeah, well I'm only human..." Racetrack trailed off, looking down at her feet and deliberately avoiding eye contact with Athena. Finally, she looked up again and dryly stated, "Look, Athena, if you're here for an apology, you're wasting your-"
"I don't want an apology, Racetrack," Athena interrupted, "You chose a side and stuck with it. You can't take that back now. I came here because I wanted - well - I guess I just wanted to know why. Why did you do it?"
"It was for the good of the Fleet," Racetrack said as-a-matter-of-factly, "You know your people better than anyone, Athena. The only reason why our Cylon 'friends' haven't turned on us is because they need us. Once they have everything they need, they'll wipe us all out without a second thought."
Athena raised her eyebrows. "Do you really believe that?" she asked.
"I don't believe it, I know it!" Racetrack replied indignantly, "It's exactly what we would do in their situation. They're the enemy! Nothing will change that."
Athena shook her head. "That's Gaeta I'm hearing." she said.
"What the hell do you want from me, Athena?" Racetrack snapped, "You asked me why, and I told you why. What the frak more am I supposed to say?"
"I want to know why you suddenly chose to forsake everything the two of us went through these past few years." Athena angrily fired back. "I want to know how all those missions, all those battles, all those meals, all those card games, all those things we did together could end up meaning nothing to you." She looked Racetrack in the eyes and said softly, "You and I were friends, or at least I thought we were. What could possibly have made you forget that?"
Racetrack's defiance evaporated. She hung her head in silence and then sat down on her cot. "It's hard to explain." she said eventually.
Athena sat down on the cot next to her. "We have time." she said gently, giving her friend a warm smile.
Racetrack sighed and stared at Athena. "We were friends, Athena. I never forgot that." she said quietly. She closed her eyes for a moment before adding, "Our friendship is the reason why I did what I did."
"What?" Athena had no idea what Racetrack meant.
Racetrack looked at Athena again and sadly said, "When I look at you, I'm supposed to see a machine. A thing. Some sort of creature that's not human. But no matter how hard I try, I can't help but see you as a friend." Athena nodded, giving Racetrack permission to continue. Racetrack took a deep breath before speaking again, "It used to be so much easier to hate you. When Helo and Starbuck brought you back from Caprica, all I saw was another backstabbing Skinjob. One that had duped some idiot who couldn't keep his fly zipped up. I wouldn't have trusted you if you said that water was wet. I guess I felt guilty for letting Boomer betray us right under my nose. After the Old Man gave you a uniform, I swore to myself I wouldn't be fooled again. I never turned my back on you. I watched your every move. I was always waiting for a sign that I should just blow your head off."
"But you never saw one, did you?" said Athena.
Racetrack shook her head. "No. I never did." she replied, "Instead, I started to let my guard down. Every day that passed, I became more and more comfortable around you. I couldn't stop myself. It was like you were exerting some kind of power over me. I kept telling myself that this was not right. That you were a machine - a Cylon - the enemy. That you were no different than Boomer. But it was like being stuck in quicksand. The more I struggled the deeper I sank. Then one day, I looked at you and I suddenly saw something... Something that just scared the frak out of me."
"What was that?" asked Athena.
"I... I can't...I can't say it... I don't know how..." stammered Racetrack. Her words were barely decipherable. Her figure seemed to shrink as she turned her eyes downward. Never had Athena seen Racetrack like this - so small, so vulnerable, so emotional. She had to bring her back somehow. Athena took hold of Racetrack's trembling hands and gripped them tightly.
"Racetrack, look at me." Athena said softly. She placed a hand on her friend's cheek. "Look at me, please." she whispered.
Slowly, Racetrack raised her head and looked into Athena's eyes. Neither woman said anything. A full minute passed before Athena finally spoke again, "What did you see, Racetrack?"
Racetrack inhaled and exhaled deeply but did not break eye contact. She answered in a voice that barely came out as a whisper: "I saw someone I could trust with my life."
"And that frightened you? Why?" asked Athena.
"Because I knew I was totally screwed." Racetrack explained, her voice now returning to normal. "No matter what you did, I would still trust you. You could betray me and I wouldn't be able to lift a finger to stop you." She sighed. "I guess that's the real reason why I joined Gaeta. I just... I just didn't want to go through it all over again."
"You were terrified by the prospect of willingly placing your life in the hands of not just one but hundreds of Cylons," Athena surmised, "You'd much rather have the Cylons always be your enemy."
Racetrack nodded. "Enemies can be a lot less frightening than friends," she said, "At least enemies are predictable. You can always rely on them to hate you and to try to kill you. But you can't always rely on your friends to do anything."
Athena squeezed Racetrack's hands again. "I know how you feel." she said, "It's exactly how I've felt ever since I swore an oath of allegiance before Adama. I live with hundreds of people I have to trust with my life. I know that no matter what I do, there will always be someone who hates me and wants dead just because I'm a Cylon. I also know that at any given moment, somebody could sneak up from behind and kill me. I walk out of my quarters every day knowing that there is a chance that I might not make it back alive."
"Frak. How the hell do you deal with that every day, Athena?" asked a bewildered Racetrack.
"I tell myself every day that if I do indeed die at the hands of those I trust, I'll at least die honoring that trust, even if that trust was misplaced." Athena replied.
"I never thought of it like that." mused Racetrack. She then sighed and said bleakly, "I envy you, Athena. When you die, you'll die with something. I, on the other hand-" she gestured to her surroundings, "-I'm gonna die with nothing."
"No, you won't. Not if I can help it." Athena stood up and gripped Racetrack's shoulders. "I'll speak to the Admiral on your behalf. I'll tell him that you realize you've made a mistake and that you want another chance. I'll tell him that you're a good officer. That the ship needs you. That-"
Racetrack shook her head dismissively. "Don't bother, Athena. You know what the Admiral said. No forgiveness. No amnesty."
"Then I'll talk to the President as well. I'll talk with the new Quorum. I'll get your case heard by someone somehow."
"You can get it heard, but I doubt anyone will listen. I frakked up. Plain and simple. Can't change that now. There's no mercy for traitors. We both know that."
Athena look Racetrack squarely in the eyes and said, "You are not a traitor, Racetrack. You're a good person. I'll make them understand that, even if you yourself don't understand."
She then turned around and called for Corporal Ferguson to open the door. As the guard began unlocking the cell, Athena turned back to face her friend.
"I need to know one more thing, Racetrack," Athena said, "Do you still trust me with your life?"
Without hesitation, Racetrack answered, "Yes."
"Then if I don't get you out of here, you can at least die with that."
Having nothing left to say, Athena departed the cell, the door slamming shut behind her. Racetrack watched both Athena and Ferguson walk away until they were out of sight.
Then she was alone again.
Racetrack lay back on her cot thinking about Athena's last words. Finally, she said to herself, "It's not much, but hell, I'll take it." She then turned over and fell asleep.
Two weeks later...
"Prisoner 4830, stand at attention!" Ferguson's voice rang out.
Racetrack, having been rudely interrupted from her sleep, groaned and looked at her time piece. "Oh my gods, it's not even 0600 hours yet!" she protested. She covered her head with her pillow.
"This is not role call. Stand at attention!" Ferguson barked.
"Look, if this is about what happened in the mess hall yesterday, I-"
"Prisoner 4830, stand at attention, now!"
"Frak off, Ferguson! Go bully Narcho for a change, you overbearing son of a b-"
"Lieutenant Edmondson, STAND AT ATTENTION!"
Holy crap, that wasn't Ferguson who had spoken that time! Only one man in the universe could speak with so power. Racetrack almost fell off her cot as she scrambled to get up. Composing herself as fast as possible, she stood at attention before Admiral Bill Adama.
The Admiral ordered Ferguson to open the cell. Ferguson complied. Adama stepped into the cell. He then dismissed Ferguson who saluted and walked away. Racetrack noticed that he hadn't locked the cell, or even closed the door. Not that it really mattered with the Old Man standing in front of the entrance. Adama had once beaten a Cylon Centurion to an oily scrap heap with nothing but a metal pipe and his bare hands. It was very unlikely a puny girl like Racetrack could get past something like that. Besides, the Admiral's mere presence was enough to freeze Racetrack where she stood.
Several tense moments of silence passed before Adama spoke. "At ease, lieutenant." he said finally.
It took Racetrack a few moments to get herself at ease. She wondered why Adama had referred to her as "lieutenant." Hadn't she been kicked out of the Colonial Fleet? Maybe old habits just die hard. She looked more closely at the Admiral. Somehow, he seemed aged and tired - more so than usual. His expression was grimmer than it had been the last time she saw him. The pain of all the losses he had suffered was showing in his eyes. Athena was right. The Old Man wasn't the same. Maybe Galactica wasn't the only thing that was dying from within.
"Athena's daughter has just been kidnapped by hostile Cylon forces," Adama spoke in a low, even voice, "She's being held at a heavily fortified Cylon installation."
Racetrack did her best to keep her composure. She didn't want to think about what Athena was experiencing right now.
The Admiral continued, "Our Cylon allies, as well as certain members of the crew, have convinced me that we need to rescue her. That somehow, this girl controls the fates of both our races, or something like that. However, I'm not going to put the lives of every person in this Fleet at risk for one little girl, no matter how important she may be. Galactica will be on this mission alone. Given the strength of the enemy and the ship's deteriorating condition, the chances of success or even mere survival are very low. I cannot force my crew to go off to their deaths."
Every word was coursing through Racetrack's skull as she absorbed all this. What was he getting at? Why was telling her all this? He couldn't be asking... Could he be? Was it possible?
"Most of the crew will be transferred to the Cylon Baseship. Our allies have agreed to give command of their ship over to my senior staff." Adama stated, "I will be staying aboard Galactica with a skeleton crew. Volunteers only."
The Admiral's next three words shattered Racetrack's mind: "Are you in?"
Racetrack swore her heart had stopped beating at that moment. "Sir...?" she stammered.
"Are you in, Racetrack?" Adama repeated.
Racetrack's mind was reeling. She couldn't get herself to form any words or even make any audible noises. The best she could do was nod her head up and down repeatedly in an exaggerated motion. That counted as a "yes", right?
"Good," Adama smiled, "Then welcome back to the Colonial Fleet, lieutenant."
Racetrack finally managed to get some words out of her mouth. "Sir... I-I don't know... I don't know how to thank you...I-I..." she couldn't finish the rest of her statement.
"Don't thank me, lieutenant. Thank Athena." Adama said.
Racetrack frowned. "Athena?"
"Athena specifically requested that you be allowed to join this operation. She says that this mission requires a person of your caliber and skills. She also says she trusts you even if no one else does. I trust her, so I suppose I can trust you as well."
"You can count on me, sir. I won't let you down."
"Just don't let yourself down, Racetrack." Adama turned and exited the cell. "Corporal Ferguson will show you to the storage area. You'll find your flight gear there." he said, "There's a shuttle waiting in the main hanger bay that will take you back to Galactica. You're to report to Captain Thrace in two standard hours for a formal mission briefing. Do you understand?"
"Yes, sir." Racetrack saluted.
Adama saluted back. "Dismissed." he said. The Admiral then left without another word.
Racetrack smiled weakly and wondered if Starbuck would give her an assignment or simply blow her brains out as she had threatened to do so in their last encounter.
Ferguson stood at the entrance and motioned for Racetrack to follow him. "If you'll come with me, lieutenant." he said.
Racetrack nodded. "Very well, corporal." she said. Thank gods he had stopped calling her "Prisoner Four-Eight-Whatever."
Without a second thought, she walked out of the cell. As she stepped outside her cell she suddenly felt bathed in a glorious, invisible sunshine. Her dog tags ceased scratching against the back of her neck and became as light as a feather again. Nothing could describe this moment for her. She was alive again! She had been reborn. She was once more a pilot, an officer, and a soldier. And if she died today, that was who she would die as.
She had been wrong to fear her friendship with Athena. Not only had Athena given her her life back, she had taken away her fears and replaced them with understanding. Racetrack now understood that she could trust Athena without being afraid. It didn't matter if she was a Cylon. She was her friend, a loyal friend, and that was all that mattered. Racetrack swore on her heart and soul that she would do whatever it took to save Athena's daughter. It was the least she could do to repay her.
Racetrack felt tears form in her eyes but this time did nothing to stop them from flowing freely down her cheeks. She wasn't afraid anymore.
She was coming home.
A/N 2: Just fyi, the idea of all the mutineers being imprisoned on the Astral Queen comes from what RDM said in his podcast for "Deadlock."