A fan fiction story by Melpomene based on the characters and backstory of "Battlestar Galactica 2003" and composed without permission. No copyright infringement is intended and no monies have been earned.
“Jenna, my friend!”
“Don’t even think about it, Starbuck. I don’t have enough food here to dole out all of everyone’s daily rations, much less sneak you a little extra.” The woman who menacingly waved a metal spoon at Kara was no older than the hotheaded pilot herself and her expression was just as formidable.
“Nah, no food raids today, just came by for a friendly chat.”
Jenna cut her eyes at Kara. “Just talk?”
Kara nodded and flashed a grin that she hoped was less than mischievous. “Maybe a game of Pyramid if you’re not too busy. I’ve got a bottle of Ambrosia stashed in my locker if you’ve got the time.” She fanned a deck of cards easily in one hand.
“Uh huh. Well, talk I can do. That at least hasn’t been rationed to within an inch of its life… yet. You’re gonna have to wait on that game though.” She gave the contents of the large pot in front of her one more stir before setting aside the spoon and wiping her hands on her flour-dusted apron.
Kara slid backwards into a chair and watched as Jenna struggled to extricate herself from the kitchen. It had been too long since she had paid the mess personnel a visit, she decided. Jenna looked positively skeletal.
Jenna had seen better days. Kara had even witnessed many of them. The woman she remembered had been tough but soft, her body given more to curves than brawn. Now, the lieutenant’s collarbone jutted out from her shoulders, visible by the half fastened uniform she wore, and her hands were so thin Kara was almost certain she could count the tendons. She watched her closely as her friend sunk into a chair opposite her. Dark circles shaded her eyes and true exhaustion colored her irises.
“You okay?” she asked, growing truly worried.
“I’ll manage… for a while more at least. But if we don’t get some more food resources soon…” her voice trailed off.
“Frak! We’re that short?”
“Oh, we’re beyond being that short. We’re just trying to scrape by now. It’s getting harder, what with being severely understaffed.” Jenna scraped at her face with reddened hands.
“Understaffed? But we had a full contingent, I know we lost a lot of pilots in the fighting, but you’re not combat officers. You weren’t anywhere near the fighting.” Kara was confused, a feeling she did not like in the least. Confusion tended to bring out the barely controlled anger of violence. Almost everything could be settled with a well placed fist.
“No, we didn’t lose anyone that way. But once the reports started coming in from the other ships… Well, no one was prepared for anything like this, several ships simply didn’t have the crew needed to care for a full compliment of passengers for as long as they’re now having to. We kept shuttling our staff off to the other ships to help out. They were supposed to train whoever was willing to work in the kitchens but incompetence is running rampant out there and none of the civilian cooks seem to like the idea of rationing. We couldn’t get the civilians to cooperate and so we had to leave our guys there, just to make sure the food stores weren’t completely depleted in the first week.”
Kara chewed thoughtfully on her bottom lip. “How many do you have left on board?”
Jenna sighed. “The lead cook, me, three others. We manage to get four meals out each day but just by the skin of our teeth. We work for four hours, sleep for two, then it’s back to work for another four hours. You get the picture. We were told that we should be happy we’re given eight hours sleep time each day but that doesn’t take into account getting to our racks and actually falling asleep. It’s more like four, if we’re lucky.”
Kara shook her head. She had heard rumors of the difficulty that had been arising with some of the other ships. No one had anything better than a tenuous grip on their sanity in the aftermath of the Cylons’ attack and it was showing. Luckily she had managed to avoid any first-hand contact with the problem makers other than the recon mission to extract their own people from the prison ship where they had been held hostage. It was lucky because she doubted she would be able to control her temper and she really was not that keen on visiting the brig just because she had decked a civilian.
“I’m so tired.”
The comment had been so soft that she nearly missed it. “You look like hell.”
“Yeah, thanks.” Jenna used trembling fingers to refasten her hair at the nape of her too-skinny neck. “We may be the ones preparing the food, but we’re last in the food chain.”
“What do you mean?” Kara discovered her anger resurfacing and had no target for its growing energy.
“It’s the rationing. It’s not exactly equal, you know. The Commander and the pilots come first because we can’t risk you getting sick. You’re our only chance against the Cylons. Next it’s CIC, then medical and engineers and so on. We fall in last and, to be honest, there just aren’t enough rations for all the rest much less us. I’m usually lucky if I can swipe half a nutrient bar a day.” Jenna closed her eyes. “Lords,” she whispered, “we’re all on emergency rations to begin with. Emergency. This is short-term we’re talking about, not long-term. No one can expect to remain healthy if they stay on ‘em too long.”
Kara remembered her Academy training, knew Jenna was right on target. She also knew something needed to be done about it but hadn’t the first clue what.
“Lords, you didn’t come here to hear me complain about food shortages that you didn’t even know existed.” Jenna flashed a smile. “Enough about me. How are you doing?”
“You know me. I hear nothin’ but the rain.” Kara’s grin mirrored Jenna’s.
“Yeah, I heard about how you brought in the cat. I wonder if Captain Adama realizes CAG is your own personal code for cat?” she mused.
Kara pulled out her last cigar and twirled it between her fingers. “If he didn’t then, he does now.”
“No recent vacations to the brig?”
“Too busy kickin’ Cylon ass for that. Besides, I’ve got a whole squadron of nuggets to train – it wouldn’t do for the squadron trainer to end up on the wrong side of bars.”
“So they’ve been letting you slide,” Jenna suggested.
“That and I’ve been behaving myself.” She laughed at Jenna’s gasp of mock surprise. “It’s possible, unlikely but possible. Plus, I scored points for bringin’ in that Cylon bird.”
“I heard about that too. You’re still limping. Shouldn’t you have crutches or something?”
Kara shrugged. “I just kept wantin’ to slam the things into the nuggets’ heads.”
“Knock some sense into ‘em? Literally?” Jenna chuckled. Her eyes left her friend as a group of crewmembers entered the galley. “A cook’s work is never done,” she quipped. She had tried to keep her tone light but knew she failed when concern clouded Kara’s eyes again. “I’m fine. Go on now before I put you to work.” She rose from the table, rolled her shoulders, and shooed Kara away with her hands. “Be sure to get something to eat before you go. You need to keep your strength up.”
“Yeah,” Kara agreed absently “you should try to eat something yourself.”
Jenna smiled sadly but nodded before she hurried back to her simmering pot. Kara watched her for a few minutes before she eased herself to her feet, straightening her leg with some difficulty. With a half-formed plan in mind she left the galley and headed toward the CAG’s office, her limp much more noticeable and her thoughts heavy.
Apollo was not in his office and Kara was wiping beads of perspiration from her brow by the time she neared the flight deck. Her knee was kicking her ass and it wasn’t even anywhere near it. She almost chuckled at the incongruity of the thought except laughter would have been an expenditure of energy and she needed all of hers just to make it all the way to the flight deck.
Damn it! She would have to go to the doc and get the frackin’ pain meds he had been trying to ply her with ever since she first hobbled out of his care. Wouldn’t that just make his frackin’ day – a vulnerable Starbuck.
He lifted his head from the conference he had been having with Chief Tyrol concerning the erosion on certain of the Vipers’ landing gear. In truth, the Chief had discovered the problem and had already worked out a solution, he was merely waiting for the okay to implement it. He nodded his agreement with the Chief’s decision and left him to work out the details.
“Have you taken a good look at the cooks recently?”
“What?” He gave Kara a once over. She looked worse for wear. Actually, she looked very bad considering the doctor’s recommendation concerning her duty status.
“You know, the people who prepare our meals?” Kara had been having difficulty controlling her anger ever since she had spoken with Jenna and her rising pain level was not making things any easier. She would have liked to punch someone, anyone besides Jenna, and she thought she still might follow through with the inclination. But in the mean time she was rather pleased with the fact that she was not yet being brought up on assault charges. And, hey, she was still standing so that could be considered a plus too.
“You should.” The pain spiking through her leg was making concentration difficult at best.
“Okay,” he acquiesced. “Aren’t you on patrol?”
She wondered fleetingly if Lee would actually throw her in the brig if he became her victim. “You drew up the flight rotations. I’m grounded until Life Station clears me. It seems I keep ending up there too often recently for the doc’s liking.”
He nodded vaguely and she turned on the heel of her good leg. “Well, gotta go bawl out some nuggets,” she said over her shoulder. “Don’t forget about the cooks.” She hobbled off the flight deck and headed straight to Life Station. The nuggets could damn well sit tight and wait for her to show up.
It was well past mid shift that Lee remembered Kara’s odd request. He had no idea what she thought he would see in the galley but he followed the corridors until he found himself there. Several tables were occupied with crewmembers who greeted him as he made his way toward the rear of the room. His confusion evaporated when he came face to face with a woman he vaguely remembered as an acquaintance of Kara’s.
“Captain Adama?” She looked questioningly at him. An oddly guilty look flicked across her eyes and she looked away quickly.
“Harris, sir,” she supplied. She pushed down the sleeves of her baggy uniform over too-thin arms. “May I help you, sir?”
By the time Lee exited the galley he thought he might just be ill enough to skip his rations for the rest of the week. Somehow in all their careful planning and plotting they had driven five of their own to the brink of starvation. What was just as bad, he decided, was the galley crew’s apparent complete acceptance of their lot.
He was ashamed of the blind eye he had turned to those people and he wondered if anyone but Kara had taken the time to notice them. He doubted it. Kara had always been quick to befriend the galley crew. It had started at the academy as a means to procure a few extra late-night snacks and he guessed she had continued out of habit.
Lieutenant Harris intrigued him. What was an officer doing in the galley as second cook in the first place? He thought he remembered Jenna’s name from academy days. Was there truly a need for academy-trained cooks? Would an officer not be better suited to working in the CIC?
Too many questions warred against his thoughts. He would have to remember to ask Starbuck for an explanation. At present he needed to speak to the Commander. They could not allow the galley crew to continue their enforced rationing when it put their health at such great risk. He only hoped his warning would not come too late.
The day was not starting out well, Kara thought, not well at all. “She’s where!”
Lee cringed inward. He had known Kara would not take the news well. “Half the remaining crew and squadrons are sick. The cause was traced back to the galley and what they consumed there. The dish in question was directly linked to Lieutenant Harris. Sergeant Hadrian believes Lieutenant Harris acted intentionally to incapacitate the ship and lower our defenses. She believes Lieutenant Harris is working in collusion with the Cylons.”
Kara steamed. “And you believe…”
Lee met her gaze. “When you asked me yesterday if I’d actually looked at the cooks I went to the galley to see what it was you were insinuating. I saw Lieutenant myself and she told me, with some coaxing, the situation. I arranged a meeting with my father for earlier today to discuss what changes needed to be made concerning our supply of rations as well as our missing galley crew.”
Kara’s hands clenched into fists but remained at her sides. “But what do you think?”
“I think Lieutenant Harris and her fellow crew members in the galley have been done an injustice. I believe she was exhausted and starving and had no intention whatsoever of poisoning the pilots or anyone else. I believe Sergeant Hadrian is still continuing with her witch hunt.”
“But Jenna’s still in the brig.” It was an accusation.
“No. She was in the brig but I mentioned to the doctor that he might want to have a look at her and now she’s in Life Station. As a matter of fact, the other galley crew have been taken into the doctor’s care too. We’ll all be living off emergency rations packets until they’re healthy enough to return to duty.”
“And the Tribunal’s witch hunt?”
“Is being investigated but since the Tribunal has been removed from the Galactica and isn’t overseen by the Commander, there’s not a lot we can do about the hearing itself. President Roslin was informed of our predicament as soon as the Commander was notified this morning. Both she and my father intend to argue in Lieutenant Harris’ defense but at present Sergeant Hadrian is unable to even begin preliminary questioning with Lieutenant Harris. The doctor refuses to allow any of the Tribunal into Life Station and he refuses to allow Lieutenant Harris to leave until she is well. Your presence has been requested. The doc wants to check on your progress.”
“Yes, sir.” She allowed a sly grin to flicker before Lee raised his eyebrows in surprise.
“You don’t have any excuses to try to avoid Life Station?”
“Nope, I’ve been showin’ up there regularly ever since I left on those frackin’ crutches.”
“You’ll report to him right away?”
“As ordered, sir.”
He pressed a hand against her forehead and narrowed his eyes. “Okay, no fever. Why?”
“Why don’t I have a fever?” Despite the circumstances her friend had fallen into, Kara’s mood had lightened perceptively. Jenna was at least temporarily protected from the harm of the Tribunal and she was being fed and allowed to rest.
Lee shook his head. “You’re expected as soon as possible. Give Lieutenant Harris my regards.”
She nodded and almost clicked her heels together but a stabbing pain in her leg changed her mind. She hobbled slightly all the way to Life Station and answered the doc’s questions. She even let him prod her knee with a minimum of muttered curses and threats of violence. Free of his ministrations, she went straight to Jenna’s bedside.
“Hey, Jenna,” she called softly. She was rewarded with the opening of her friend’s eyes and a weak smile. “What do you hear?”
Jenna chuckled lowly. “Nothing but the rain thanks to your friends in high places. Lords, Starbuck, the president herself called to say she would personally see that this never happened again. President Roslin!”
“Yep, she would be our president.” Kara flashed a cocky grin. “I always did know how to make friends with the right people. Must be my winning charm.”
A shadow flooded Jenna’s eyes. “Thank the Lords you didn’t eat any of that stew. I never meant to hurt anyone, Starbuck, you have to believe me. It was just a stupid mistake – I mixed up the spoiled provisions with the good. It was an accident.”
No, this was not going to work. Pointless remorse was not conducive to healing and recovery. Kara pulled her deck of cards from her pocket and waved them at Jenna. “How about that game?”
Jenna blinked. “But I don’t have any cubits with me.”
“Doesn’t matter.” She snagged a chair and sat down. “This way I don’t have to feel guilty for winning ‘em all anyway.”
Jenna’s eyes widened. “Who told you I was a lousy hand at Pyramid?”
“No, you’re good,” Kara assured her, “almost as good as me. But I get the feeling your concentration wouldn’t be completely on the game.”
“We’ll see about that.” With some difficulty Jenna scooted into a seated position. “I think I’ll let you deal though.”
They played several hands. Kara had been right. While Jenna was ordinarily a fairly slick opponent, she was still too weak to keep track of the game’s more subtle complexities. After her sixth win, and she had not even tried to win the last two hands, Kara stacked the cards neatly and slipped them back into her pocket. Jenna’s eyelids were heavy and she was obviously having to fight to stay awake.
“You get some rest.”
Jenna’s eyes sprang to life again. “You’re going?”
Kara nodded. “You need to sleep. If I find out you’ve been giving the doc a hard time, I’ll come back and kick your ass.” She grinned broadly.
“I believe you would,” Jenna said with a barely suppressed yawn. “I’m too tired to give anyone a hard time anyway. Come back again though, will you?”
Kara nodded and stood but waited at Jenna’s bedside until the slow rhythm of sleep evened out her friend’s breathing. She would actually have to swallow some of her infamous pride and thank Lee. Jenna never would have made it through the Tribunal’s inquiry. They would have found her guilty on the spot and sentenced her without any qualms. Yep, she owed Lee for this.
Lee was adamant. “I didn’t do anything, Starbuck.”
“You talked to the doctor.” She grinned.
“I mentioned that he might want to check on the crewmember who was in the brig. I believe he thought it was going to be you when he went down there. But his actions were his own,” Lee corrected. “I wasn’t exaggerating before – we have been negligent with the galley crew. It never should have come to this.” He checked the flight schedule he had reworked. “By the way, you’re back in the flight rotation as of tomorrow.”
“I am?” She knew she had been hiding the pain from her crewmates but she was surprised to have fooled even the medical personnel.
“According to the recommendations, your leg is healing and you’re able to handle the discomfort well enough to fly. Besides, we’re short on pilots until the food poisoning issue is resolved. Someone’s got to pilot the vipers we have left.”
Kara grinned and started to leave the CAG’s office when her friend stopped her. “The Commander was wondering…”
“I remember the name Jenna Harris from the academy. What’s she doing in the galley?”
Kara shrugged. “She was training to be a pilot when a piece of equipment landed on her leg and crushed it. When she was able to get around they stuck her in the mess hall and she learned that she loved to cook. She has a talent for making even the most inedible dishes taste good. Her leg never healed quite right so there wasn’t any complaint from the instructors that she chose to remain in the mess.”
Lee nodded thoughtfully. “First shift tomorrow, Starbuck.”
“First shift,” she agreed.
The next morning, after an unbelievable hour in hisoffice, Lee was much less thrilled with the prospect of having to track down Kara. She had been pleasantly surprised to see him waiting for her at her locker, until she learned what had drawn his presence.
“I don’t frackin’ believe this!” Kara shouted and slammed her locker shut with all the strength she could muster. The room reverberated with the noise. “Jenna’s suspected because she accidentally gave the crew food poisoning. We’ll just ignore the fact that she was so exhausted she couldn’t remember the last time she had been allowed to sleep for more than an hour at a time. And we’ll close our eyes to the fact that she’s slowly being starved to death. Now I’m under suspicion because I can make that damned raider fly and the Chief can’t?” She kicked the lockers in fury before reason could prevail.
Lee watched Kara’s complexion blanch first white and then a greenish gray as she crumpled to the floor. An exaggerated intake of breath was the only sound she made but tears of pain shone in her eyes. He tried to break her fall before she did her knee any more injury and she did not try to stop him as he ended up sitting on the floor beneath her.
“Starbuck?” Her body was taut against his and he could feel the minute trembles that coursed through her muscles, but she kept silent. “Talk to me, Starbuck.”
She shook her head jerkily. She hurt too much to talk – her body and mind had both been through too much. If she opened her mouth she would scream and so she kept her jaw clamped firmly shut.
The door opened and Boomer stopped on the threshold. She only took a moment to assess the situation. “I’ll contact Life Station,” she told Lee and ducked back out of the room.
Kara shook her head again but Sharon was already gone and Lee was almost certain she would not have obeyed anyway. He tightened his hold on his friend as her trembles increased. He waited for Life Station personnel to arrive and wondered if Kara would be able to hold it together until they did. The med techs were quicker than Kara’s crumbling control and had her back in Life Station before she lost her tenuous hold.
Lee’s first stop, once Kara had been seen to, was to his father’s office. The no fly list had been posted directly to his own office and had been awaiting his arrival at the beginning of first shift and he had been given little time to track down Starbuck and tell her personally she had been pulled from rotation again, much less present his concerns and frustrations to the Commander. Now that Starbuck was incapacitated, he had ample opportunity to do so without worrying with trouble she was getting herself into with the Tribunal.
The doctor blew out a cloud of smoke and glanced at his most notorious charges. Lieutenant Harris had roused with Lieutenant Thrace’s arrival and had worried over the other woman’s condition to such a degree that he had given them both a sedative – as much for his own peace of mind as anything else. Now they both slept albeit fitfully.
From what he could tell, Starbuck had managed to do a fair bit of damage to the healing tissues in her knee – enough for him to backtrack on his recommendations concerning her readiness for flight status. It was just as well, he decided, with the Tribunal’s most recent decisions.
The pilot drew his attention to her bedside with a sudden gasp. He waited until she opened bleary eyes to address her. “You know, that stuff should have knocked you out for the rest of the day. If you keep taking these pills there won’t be any left for me.”
She glared at him but accepted the tablets he offered and downed them without benefit of the water cup he held out to her.
“I’ll assume you didn’t do this to yourself because you missed my bedside manner.” He looked down at her as she shifted on the bed. “Can I trust you to behave if I leave the room?”
“I’m just waiting for you to go so I can drag my ass over to the wall and give it a good kick,” she sneered. Even as she said it her eyes drifted to Jenna’s bed.
The doctor chuckled and walked away. Once he had left, Kara beat fruitlessly against the mattress with her fist, uncaring of the jarring sensation that wracked her leg with more pain. Pain was nothing new. That much she could deal with. Pain was controllable, it was all the rest that left her head spinning with uncertainty: Sergeant Hadrian and the Tribunal, the Cylons…
She closed her eyes, as long as she was stuck in Life Station her hands were tied. There was nothing she could do to prove her innocence to the Tribunal and she had an even slimmer chance of helping Jenna’s case. Maybe things would be clearer after she got some more sleep.
Lee planted his feet squarely in front of the Commander’s desk. “There are rumors, sir.”
The Commander lifted his eyes and looked at his son.
“The Cornucopia is said to have an abundance of food in its hold.”
“There are rumors that Starbuck is a Cylon,” Commander Adama countered.
“Yes, sir. But if I was able to go to the Cornucopia, I would be able to determine if the rumors have any merit. If they do have excess food stores we would be able to slow down the shortages on the other ships, at least until we’re able to find alternate sources of food elsewhere.”
“Even if they do have these rumored excesses, how long would the reprieve last? One day, ten?”
“It could last long enough for us to continue scouting for alternate sources of food, sir.”
“Possibly. Even so, I can’t allow you to go alone and we can’t spare any of our able bodied pilots for even one shift. Until those suffering from the food poisoning outbreak are recovered we’re too vulnerable to attack if the Cylons do find us.”
Lee shifted uneasily. “Yes, sir. But what about Starbuck? She can’t fly but we could take a raptor to the Cornucopia.”
“I’m not certain sending Starbuck with you would be any safer than having you go alone. Regardless, Starbuck’s on the Tribunal’s no fly list.”
“For being a good pilot – the best we have. She was able to operate a Cylon raider and save her hide so now she’s thought to be a traitor?” Lee’s frustration was building. “Sir, you know she’s not a Cylon. You know the dangers of the Tribunal’s accusations. They had Lieutenant Harris sent to the brig for collusion when she made a mistake due to our own actions.”
“I hope Starbuck’s not a Cylon,” the Commander corrected. “I pray to the gods for it every day. At any rate, according to my reports Starbuck’s in Life Station again.”
“Yes, sir. She sustained aggravation to her injury. Aggravation that would not have occurred had the Tribunal used common sense rather than blind fear.” Lee took a deep breath.
“She kicked someone?” Commander Adama would not be surprised to discover that she had.
“Not someone, sir.”
“We’re all frustrated with the Tribunal, Lee. When I gave Sergeant Hadrian permission to proceed I knew it would be opening these possibilities. President Roslin feared the same. But we needed to alert the fleet to the danger and likelihood of Cylons living among us.”
“I’m not arguing that, sir. But they’re leaping to conclusions based solely on fear. They’re operating on paranoia rather than facts.”
“I agree.” Commander Adama paused. “Once Starbuck is out of Life Station, I’ll see what I can do.”
“I can’t promise anything.”
to be continued...