The Magnificent Warriors _Adaptation_ - BATTLESTAR GALACTICA by wuzhenguang

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									Battlestar Galactica: The Magnificent Warriors
By Eric Paddon

                         Chapter One

     From the micron that he'd awaken, Adama had a sense of dread that
this was not going to be an uneventful day. Ordinarily, he was not the
kind of warrior that liked to go by gut instincts, but ever since the
Destruction, when he'd failed to act on the gut instincts he'd felt about
a trap being sprung upon the Colonies, he had been listening to inner
hunches more than ever. And too often, he'd seen those gut instincts
vindicated time and again.
     When he reached the Bridge, he saw that Tigh had a grim expression.
Already, the Commander felt vindicated again about his pessimism.
     "Commander," the executive officer said, "Delta patrol from Blue
Squadron reports a Cylon listening post lies right smack on the Fleet's
present heading."
     "Damn!" Adama lowered his head and placed a hand on top. "It
couldn't have happened at a worse time. We're still trying to outrun
those baseships that dodged us at Arcta. If we stop to try and maneuver
the Fleet around that listening post's range, we might end up giving
what's behind us time to catch up."
     "Agreed," Tigh nodded, "Commander, I don't think we have any choice.
We have to take out that listening post fast and keep moving ahead. If
we hit them before they can broadcast a signal back to Baltar's
taskforce, we should be able to proceed at normal speed."
     "I concur," Adama turned to Omega, "Mobilize all sections of Blue
Squadron! They are to launch immediately, rendezvous with Delta Patrol
and take out that listening post!"
     As the Bridge Officer gave the order over the unicom, the Red Alert
glow and high-pitched klaxon filled the bridge.
     By all the Lords, Adama thought as he assumed his position on the
upper level, let this battle be swift and successful.


     It only took the bulk of Blue Squadron ten centons to catch up with
Jolly and Greenbean's Delta patrol, which had been standing by to wait
for the rest of the vipers to join them for their assault on the Cylon
base.
     "We've been staying outside their scanning range since we first
detected them," Jolly radioed Apollo, "Close monitoring of their
communications band shows they haven't sent out any signals concerning
us."
     "Okay, good," Apollo said, "Initiate full jamming of all localized
communications bands so they won't be able to send out any signals to the
main taskforce once we drop in on them."
     "Jamming initiated," Greenbean flicked the appropriate switch.
"We're ready to head on in."
     Blue Squadron then went to maximum turbos to begin the assault. For
those like Boomer, Jolly and Greenbean there was a sense of satisfaction
that they were finally getting their chance at a strike like this. Their
illness prior to the Battle of Kobol had prevented them from taking part
in the last assault on a Cylon listening post.
     "Apollo!" Starbuck warned, "It looks like they figured out they were
facing attack. They've launched their fighters!"
     "I see them," Apollo nodded as he checked his scanner, "About twenty
of them altogether. The outpost must have sent their whole contingent
up."
     Several microns later the fighters came into view. From the lead
position, Apollo and Starbuck took out the first several, then had to
deal with them peeling off in all directions.
     "Apollo," Boomer radioed, "The outpost is unguarded. I'm going to
slip in and take care of wiping her out so we don't have to worry about
them sending out any signals that can override our jamming."
     "Okay Boomer, you do that. We'll finish off the rest of these
fighters."
     "I'll give you cover from their anti-assault batteries, Boomer,"
Giles said as he pulled up alongside the lieutenant and they peeled off
on a heading that would take them toward the nearby asteroid.
     Behind them, the rest of the vipers engaged in pursuit of the
remaining fifteen Cylon attack craft. Apollo felt an air of tension rise
as he realized that the path they were pursuing them on was taking them
on a direct heading toward the heart of the Colonial Fleet.
     One-by-one, Blue Squadron picked them off until there were only
three left. But those three were fast proving to be the most elusive.
     "Blue Leader to Galactica!" Apollo radioed. "Warn the Fleet that
three fighters from the base have outrun our pursuit. Expect them to
start attacking in the next centon or two!"
     "Message received, Blue Leader. Will warn the Fleet immediately,"
Rigel's voice betrayed no emotion in Apollo's ears.
     "Jolly? Greenbean?" Starbuck called, "You two are closest to them.
Can you get them before they're on top of the Fleet?"
     "Won't be easy," the fat sergeant muttered with concern. "I think
they dumped most of their fuel when they realized they wouldn't have an
outpost to go back to. It's making it hard to keep up with them!"
     "Jolly, my scanner shows them headed for the Agroship and the two
agro support ships!" this from Greenbean, "I'm going to afterburners now
and see if I can overtake them," he then paused and added, "Wouldn't want
to see you left with nothing to eat."
     "That's not funny, Greenbean!" Jolly snapped, "I'll follow you on
afterburners myself."
     "Apollo?" Starbuck radioed back, "What can we do?"
     "Nothing," Apollo sighed, "It's all in their hands now."


     Jolly was feeling an edge of frustration as he and Greenbean
struggled to catch up to the three Cylon fighters that were now bearing
down fast on the giant Agroship, which served as the chief source of the
Fleet's food supply. The Agroship was flanked on either side by a
support ship, which conducted special experimental harvesting operations
and also stored excess seed and other essentials needed for growing crops
in space.
     Come on, he thought as the fighters started to come back into his
range. Not much longer!
     He saw the fighters on the flanks peel off, with each of them headed
for one of the support ships. Jolly kept him aim concentrated on the
lead one, which was still bearing down on the main Agroship, which from
the sergeant's standpoint, was the more important one to deal with.
     "Jolly!" Greenbean was no longer in the mood for making morbid
jokes, "They're firing on the support ships! No way can I get to the one
on the starboard side in time!"
     "Just do what you can with the port one!" Jolly saw the lead one
opening fire on the main Agroship. A blast erupted from the mid-section
and he knew right away the ship had suffered extensive damage. He knew
now that he had at most just a few microns or else there would be no way
of saving the Agroship from destruction.
     As Jolly finally saw the fighter come on his attack computer he was
briefly blinded by a massive explosion to his right. He didn't need to
hear Greenbean's report that the starboard support ship was now gone.
     The lead fighter got off one more shot on the Agroship before Jolly
finally saw it blink on the center of his attack computer. He pressed
the fire button rapidly and at last, the fighter was destroyed.
     "Jolly!" Greenbean shouted, "Get that one off the starboard flank
before he can head back on the main ship!"
     Jolly looked to his left and saw that Greenbean still wasn't in
close enough range to take care of the fighter that was now scoring hit
after hit on the portside support ship. It was fast becoming clear to
Jolly that this ship, like it's identical sister, was doomed.
     It was time to make a tactical decision.
     "Greenbean, hook up with me. We need to make sure that nothing more
hits the big ship."
     Reluctantly, the blonde ensign disengaged from his pursuit of the
fighter attacking the remaining supply ship and rendezvoused back with
Jolly. Now that they were together, they assumed a protective screen
above the Agroship and each one could now train their sights on the two
remaining fighters from a more advantageous position.
     An instant after the last of the two fighters was finally destroyed,
Jolly and Greenbean saw the remaining support ship finally give up its
fight to live.
     Both of them knew the battle was over, but that it had clearly come
at a great cost.


     "It's over, Commander," Tigh's voice was subdued as he listened in
on his headset for the full report on what had happened.
     "Damage report?" Adama braced himself.
     The executive officer took a breath. "You aren't going to like it.
The two agro support ships were destroyed."
     The commander let out a disgusted groan, "What about the main
Agroship?"
     "Survived, but we're getting reports of heavy damage," Tigh listened
in, "Captain Demeter is waiting for a full report from Operations Chief
Carmichael. Probably won't have it for another centon or two."
     Dejected, Adama made his way back to the navigation and board and
shook his head in disgust.
     "If it weren't for the danger of what lay behind us, I never would
have considered attacking that outpost in a micron," he said, "And
now.....that decision of mine may well end up affecting this Fleet's
ability to survive."
     "Adama, we had no choice," Tigh said, "Prudence dictated taking out
the listening post to minimize the prospect of being discovered by the
baseships. And that part of the mission was a success. Blue Squadron's
report is that they took it out completely and there is no indication any
communications went out that could have overridden our jamming."
     "Yes, but if our ability to feed the people of this Fleet is
suddenly put at risk, then our ability to travel through space suddenly
becomes meaningless."
     "Adama-" Tigh started then stopped as he heard new information come
over his headset. "Report coming in from Captain Demeter now. The
airlock for Agro Dome #1 was lost. That's....the main dome for the
Fleet's basic crops."
     "Well, that's repairable," Adama grunted, "Inform Captain Demeter
that a maintenance team of Chief Shadrach's will be over as soon as
possible. And I want Operations Chief Carmichael to report to my
quarters with a full report on what we're facing in no more than three
centars from now."


     Jolly and Greenbean were both feeling an air of trepidation as they
stood in the commander's quarters to make their final report on the
battle to Adama. They knew what the ramifications were from the loss of
two critical support ships in the Fleet, and they could only hope that
Adama didn't use that as the occasion to discipline them both.
     But to their relief, once they had finished, the commander wasted
little time giving them a nod of reassurance.
     "Based on your description of what happened, and from what Captain
Apollo has also told me, I think there is no question that both of you
did the best that was humanly possible under the circumstances," Adama
said, "Neither of you is to blame for the destruction of the two agro
support ships, and it will be noted in the record that you both performed
to the best of your abilities in this engagement."
     "Thank you, Commander," Jolly said, feeling relief go through him.
He was getting yet another reminder of why he'd always considered it a
privilege to serve under Adama ever since he had been assigned to the
Galactica as a raw recruit.
     "Dismissed," Adama said. The two pilots turned and left the room.
No sooner were they out the door though, when another person entered the
commander's quarters. The short, diminutive form of Agroship Operations
Chief Carmichael. Before the Holocaust, Carmichael's thirty yahren
career as an expert in farming and agro science had culminated with an
appointment as Deputy Minister of Agriculture in the Gemonese civil
government. Because he was the highest expert in the field to survive
the disaster, his appointment as head of operations aboard the Agroship
had been one of the easiest decisions Adama had ever made.
     "Colonel Tigh asked me to report to you, sir," he said.
     "Yes, thank you Carmichael," Adama said, "Your full report on the
damage to the Agroship."
     "It's all pretty straightforward, Commander," Carmichael said, "When
we lost the airlock to Agro Dome #1, we lost the entire crop of basic
food staples for the entire Fleet. About four sectars worth of food lost
in the blink of an eye."
     "I see," Adama said, "What about the other sections of the Agroship?
Hydroponics? Botanical gardens?"
     "All emerged unscathed. But Commander, the loss of our crop
presents us with some very serious problems."
     "It won't affect our immediate ability to feed the people, will it?
There is sufficient levels in storage compartments to meet our needs?"
     "For now, yes," Carmichael admitted, "But Commander, we're facing a
more grave long-term crisis."
     "How so?" Adama raised an eyebrow, "Surely we have sufficient stores
and alternative resources to compensate for the loss of a single crop?"
     "Yes, Commander, but you're making the assumption that we can plant
another crop and have it ready for the next harvest cycle."
     "Meaning we don't have that capability?"
     The Operations Chief slowly exhaled, "At this point Commander, Agro
Dome #1 couldn't force-grow enough to feed our staff of planters, let
alone the people of the Fleet anytime soon."
     "Well what do you need to fix that problem?" Adama felt his concern
rising. "More planters? More nutrients for the soil? Whatever you need
to get another crop flourishing again, I'm sure we can find a way of
providing it."
     Carmichael decided to be blunt, "Can you provide me with new seed,
Commander?"
     Adama frowned, not sure that he'd heard him right. "What?"
     "This is what it comes down to," the Operations Chief said, "In
order to get a new crop started in Agro Dome #1, I need new seed for our
staple crops. And because of the destruction of the support ships and
the damage sustained to our ship, I don't have any."
     "But...." Adama was trying to recall his elementary instruction in
agro science from long ago, "But how can that be? You have surplus food
at your disposal to get us through the next crop, why not draw seed from
there-----"
     "Oh, I could draw some, but Commander that would be a very
time-consuming process and inhibit our ability to properly distribute
that surplus when we run into the shortage problem, which we will in due
time. And I could never get enough to compensate for what we lost to get
a normal healthy crop out of the next harvest."
     "Very well," things were moving too fast for Adama, "What about
alternate resources? You said there was no damage to hydroponics or the
other experimental areas. And we have an undamaged livestock ship-----"
     "Commander," Carmichael said patiently, "What we turn out from
hydroponics and the other experimental areas is only meant to supplement
the normal diet for the people, not act as a substitute for the basic
staples. And as for the livestock ship, in order to keep their animals
healthy and fit for human consumption, they need to be fed in part by
what we grow among the staple crops. Once we exhaust our remaining
storage surplus and start shifting to those other resources, we'll use
them up so fast that within a few sectars there'll be almost nothing left
to eat in this Fleet at all because we won't be able to compensate for
the increased intake from there to meet the needs of the people."
     Adama settled back in his chair and shook his head, trying to
confront the magnitude of the problem he now faced as Fleet Commander,
whose first goal was to meet the basic survival needs of the people he
led.
     "Carmichael," he slowly rubbed his chin in contemplation, "What's
the window of opportunity to get new seed to you before any significant
problems develop?"
     "If you can get me new seed within a sectan, Commander, then I could
whip our teams of planters into shape to have us meet our deadline for
the next harvest cycle before any shortages would likely come up."
     "You'll get it," Adama said with sudden determination, "No matter
what it takes, you'll get exactly what you need before that deadline."

     For the next several centars, there was nothing but constant
activity throughout the Galactica's bridge, as the crewmen on duty had
all been ordered by Adama to research every existing Colonial Star Chart
file on record in the battlestar's extensive computer data base. Their
objective: to find a single planet known to consist of high agricultural
resources and report it's existence to Adama immediately.
     It was early evening when an exhausted Colonel Tigh arrived in
Adama's quarters with the news that the search effort had finally paid
off.
     "Commander," the executive officer said, "We've found a promising
source for new agro-seed. It came from a star chart that's seven hundred
yahrens out of date, but I took the liberty of sending ahead a viper
patrol to take a long-distance scan to confirm these old records."
     "Yes?" Adama felt some optimism returning for the first time all
day.
     Tigh set several papers down on the commander's desk. "Serenity
Colony. A human agro-settlement."
     Adama stared at the report in surprise, "We've been in the Alpha
Quadrant for almost a sectar now and long since past the established
Colonial Frontier. How could a human colony exist this far out?"
     "Established at a time when the Colonies felt the Alpha Quadrant,
extending out to Gomorrah and the Delphian Empire, was totally free from
any possible impact from the war with the Cylons." Tigh said, "Adama,
after all the studying we did of the old records, we're finding out that
the potential for small outposts of human settlement, descended from the
Colonies, is quite high in this section of the galaxy. At least until we
start encroaching on the Delphians territory, whenever that might be and
reach the end of charted space."
     "All right," the commander nodded, "And long-range scan confirms
that this settlement still exists?"
     "Yes. And long-range scan of what grows on the planet confirms that
agro-work is the only thing that could still sustain such a colony after
all these hundreds of yahrens."
     "Then it looks as if we've found our source, and will have to obtain
seed from there." Adama put a finger to his lip. "But.....to approach
this Colony would present some difficulties."
     "Yes," Tigh nodded, "Given the proximity we found ourselves in to a
Cylon listening post, we have to guard against the possibility that even
the humans based there have been able to flourish by cutting some kind of
deal with the Empire. We certainly can't approach them as Colonial
warriors."
     "No we cannot," Adama concurred, "It would be more to our advantage
to approach them in the guise of a human settlement from elsewhere in the
star system. And the star charts and our scans do confirm that others in
proximity to Serenity still exist as well?"
     "Yes."
     "That takes care of that point. Offering them Colonial cubits would
not be an adequate form of payment, and would reveal too much to them.
If we can assume that cultural practices of an earlier era still hold
true, then the best way of obtaining new seed from them would be through
a trade. Offering something to them that would be of immense use to
them." he paused to reflect, "Now what do we have in the Fleet that could
be of special value to a community such as Serenity's?"
     Tigh thought about that for a micron, "Well....one thing our viper
scan reported was how the power output levels emanating from there are
very low. It's logical to assume that an energizer might be a valuable
commodity to help increase their overall productivity."
     Adama nodded, "Yes. I think you're right. We certainly have our
share of energizers here aboard the Galactica, but," he frowned, "I might
have to ask our resident expert Chief Twilly about this, but don't our
energizers have distinctive serial numbers and markings?"
     "I'm not sure, but I think that's correct." Tigh realized the
meaning of the comment, "If we have to guard against the possibility of
Serenity having a connection somewhere with the Cylons, then giving them
an energizer with such markings would complicate the situation."
     "Give me a centon." Adama leaned over and hit the unicom that would
let his voice be heard throughout the battlestar. "Attention. Chief
Twilly, report to the nearest telecom unit to contact Commander Adama."
     It only took thirty microns from the time Adama made the
announcement for his telecom unit on the other end of his desk to chime.
"Chief Twilly?"
     "Yes Commander." the voice of the Galactica's leading expert in the
field of engineering and propulsion came through, slightly out of breath.
"You caught me just in time. I was about to leave for the Agroship to
see if any of her propulsion systems were damaged."
     "Well this won't take long. I need you to clarify for me whether
the energizers we keep aboard the Galactica have distinctive Colonial
markings and serial numbers that would directly tie them to being part of
a battlestar's equipment."
     "Energizers?" Twilly chuckled, "Commander, those things are
custom-built for every component they might be needed in. That's why
they have to have those markings, as well as the name of the ship they're
intended for engraved in four places."
     "I was afraid of that," Adama sighed, "Is it possible to take an
intact energizer unit, remove all such markings, and allow it to still
function?"
     Twilly's silence on the other end indicated his surprise by the
question. "Commander, that's really a tall order you're asking. The
only way to remove those markings is to burn them off completely, and
there's no guarantee you could avoid damaging the inner components if you
subjected them to that kind of rigorous treatment."
     "I see. Thank you, that's all I needed to know. You can return to
your duties now, Chief."
     "Thank you, sir," there was a great deal of relief in the engineer's
voice that struck Adama as puzzling, but he thought no more of it as he
put the telecom unit down and shook his head in disgust.
       "Well so much for that idea. Any energizer we have here on the
Galactica is worthless to use as a bargaining chip to get new seed."
     "Then I guess we have to find an energizer with no markings," Tigh
mused.
     Adama looked up at him, and in an instant his optimism returned.
"You're right. That is what we have to do. Colonel, notify Captain
Apollo and Lieutenant Starbuck that they're to start investigating all of
the older civilian ships in the Fleet to see if the kind of energizer we
need exists. And I want them to have their survey finished before
mid-day period tomorrow."


     The next morning, Adama found himself roused awake by the sound of
the telecom unit next to his bed. Somewhat groggily, he reached for it
and hoped it would be good news this time.
     "Yes?"
     "Father, it's Apollo," his son's voice sounded somewhat guarded.
     "Oh yes!" Adama rose in his bed, all of the sleep gone from him.
"Is this about that search effort for an energizer?"
     "Yes it is, um.....I don't know how to put this. It's.....kind of
good news and bad news."
     "What?" Adama frowned, "Did you find an energizer with no marks?"
     "Yes, yes I did," his son said hastily, "It was built in the Orion
system, which means it has no Colonial markings whatsoever, military or
civilian. That's the good news."
     Suddenly, Adama felt the waves of pessimism in his gut that he'd
awaken to the previous day. "And the bad news?"
     His son took a breath, "The ah....the owner of the energizer doesn't
want to give it up."
     "What?" Adama swung his legs out from the bed and felt a wave of
anger go through him. "Did you tell the owner this is a serious Fleet
emergency?"
     "Yes, I did. But, I'm afraid that didn't impress----"
     "Well you tell the owner this!" Adama felt his anger increasing,
"That by my authority as Fleet Commander under this state of Martial Law
we're operating under, I'm giving a direct order to have that energizer
turned over immediately. If the owner's worried about being properly
compensated, that'll be taken care of later. But if you don't have that
energizer within the next centar, I want the owner thrown in the Brig!"
     "Um....Father, I don't think you understand. I already told the
woman that's what she'd likely face, and her exact words were, and I
quote, 'Go right ahead and arrest me then, because I'm not giving it up
unless I get the kind of compensation I really want.'"
     "The woman?" Adama wondered if he was going mad, "Apollo, just who
is this person?"
     Apollo took another deep breath before answering, "Siress Belloby."
     Adama's face suddenly changed from one of intense anger to one of
intense sickness and dread. So great were those emotions, he nearly
dropped the telecom.
     "Oh my God," he whispered. "Of all the people in this Fleet......"
     "She did say that she was quite willing to discuss matters of
compensation for the energizer, but.....she was quite clear that the only
person she'd discuss them with is you, Father."
     "That figures," Adama barely managed to get his words out, "I'm on
my way."
     As the commander got up and began to dress, he wished he were a
recruit performing turboflush cleaning detail at that instant. By far
that would have been a more pleasant task then the one he knew he was
going to have to perform today.

                            Chapter Two

     Throughout the shuttle ride to the passenger ship Orion, Apollo
found himself unable to take his eyes off the bouquet of flowers Adama
held in his lap. The thought that his father would have to deal with the
first major internal crisis to come up since the illness that had struck
down half of the Galactica's pilots in this way struck him as something
out of the worst farcical play he'd ever seen in his life.
     He decided he needed some answers from his father.
     "All these yahrens, whenever I heard Siress Belloby's name come up
in conversation at home, you always said you didn't want to hear her name
mentioned." Apollo said, "Just how is it that you know her?"
     Adama shook his head in disgust, "Belloby and I were children
together on Caprica," he said, "Primary school classes. That was when
she first began.....taking an interest in me."
     "Oh boy," Apollo shook his head, knowing immediately the kind of
behavior his father was talking about.
     "I....made the mistake of humoring her, by pretending to reciprocate
the interest. I....just thought it was all in fun, because you know how
boys react to that kind of situation at that young an age......"
     "Oh yeah," Apollo nodded dryly, finding this all so incredible.
     "But....Belloby, she......thought differently about it, and that's
why when we grew older, she.....well, she kept up showing the interest.
And I.....well, I didn't want to be cruel to her, so I would take her out
to some harmless public activity like a triad match or an Armament Day
Parade. Never anything intimate like a private dinner, but.....she still
seemed to think that we were somehow a serious item."
     "I think I can guess what happened next," Apollo said, "This was
when you met Mother and started going out with her, and Belloby grew
jealous when she saw there was a serious rival for your affections."
     Adama shook his head and shuddered as he recalled the bad memories
of so many yahrens ago, "Apollo, if I tried to describe the night Belloby
showed up at my apartment when I invited Ila over for dinner for the
first time, you just wouldn't believe it. It was something straight out
of some bad melodrama or farce. Before you knew it, they were
practically in a catfight with each other. And that was only the first
time one of those confrontations happened. It wasn't until a few sectars
went by that Belloby finally realized how serious things were between me
and Ila and started to back off, and thank the Lords she'd begun setting
her sights on a rich industrial merchant, Sire Rayburn. She eventually
married him, and after that the only time I ever saw her again was at a
society function during a furlon, and believe me it was embarrassing to
even so much as say hello to her."
     "Well what happened to her husband?" Apollo was finding it hard not
to laugh.
     "He died twenty yahrens ago and left her with one of the largest
fortunes in the Colonies," Adama went on. "And that's what enabled
Belloby to have her own personal ship at her disposal when the
Destruction took place."
     "And make her prominent enough a person so that if any punitive
action were taken against her to get the energizer from her, you'd be
looking at a public relations disaster with the friends she undoubtedly
has on the Council." Apollo finally added the last piece of the puzzle
that explained his father's sick timidity.
     "Yes," Adama nodded. "As much as I hate this, I've been left with
no choice but to....charm her if I have to, if we're ever to get that
energizer."
     The captain leaned back in his chair and absently shook his head,
"Good luck."


     As Adama approached the entrance to Siress Belloby's chambers, he
wondered if he was going to get physically ill before this was all over.
A part of him wanted to turn around and run away from this fast, and see
if some alternate plan could be enacted to get the seed the Fleet needed.
But when he glanced back over his shoulder and saw Apollo standing at the
other end of the room with a bemused smirk, he knew that wasn't an
option.
     "You're really enjoying this, aren't you?"
     "No," his son shook his head, "I'm as embarrassed as you are to see
you in this position, Father. But....we all have to make sacrifices at
some point. So to borrow a phrase you used to say to me when I was a
kid, just hold your head up high."
     Adama shook his head in amazement to hear that expression used by
his son to him. It was as if their roles had been reversed.
     The sound of a sing-song, feminine voice from inside the next
compartment suddenly filled the room. "Come in Adama! I've been waiting
for you!"
     Adama nearly dropped the flowers he was still holding as he reached
over to open the door that led to her chambers. When the door opened, he
was greeted to the sight of a garishly decorated room in noisy shades of
red and lavender that telegraphed nothing but bad taste to him. And
lounging on the equally garish red bed, wearing a gown that also matched
the decor, was Belloby. While it would have been unfair to describe the
dark-haired siress as unattractive, there was little Adama or most men
would have found beautiful in her face, which suggested someone who had
spent too much time imbibing choice ambrosia and other intoxicating
spirits.
     There was an impish smile on Belloby's face, and the way she kept
bobbing her head indicated to Adama that the Siress had despite the early
time of the cycle, was tipsy from too much drink already.
     Lord help me, he thought as he approached her.
     "Well, well!" Belloby said as she fidgeted with her jeweled
necklace, "To think that I would have the honor of having the great
Commander Adama visit me in my humble little dwellings. That's almost
too much for any woman to handle for one day."
     Adama took a breath and forced a smile, "The pleasure is mine,
Belloby. It's.....good to see you again."
     "Mmmm, and it's so good to see you too, Adama." She then squinted
at him. "Oh my, Adama, you've gone white since we last met! I can
remember how your hair used to be such a lovely shade of black."
     "Well....I'm not as fortunate as you are in that regard."
     "Oh well thank you darling," she touched her well-coiffed brown
hair, "But just between you and me, I have something done to keep it that
way." She glanced at him curiously, "A man in your position could afford
to do the same, couldn't he?"
     "You know how it is," Adama was finding it impossible to keep
smiling as he took another step toward her. Belloby's coarseness, which
he could remember seeing early signs of as far back as their childhood
days together, had seemingly grown by leaps and bounds in the yahrens
since. "Some luxuries remain inaccessible even to commanders."
     "Of course. But do sit down, Adama," she patted the empty spot on
the bed and brought herself up to a sitting position. "It's been such a
long, long time."
     Adama felt himself sweating as he offered the bouquet to her.
     "Flowers?" her tipsy smile widened as she took them, "For me? Why
Adama, I could have sworn this was just going to be a business call from
you, once I realized you'd be coming over."
     "Well now, Belloby," Adama forced himself to chuckle, "A man can
always take the time to recognize the.....beauties in life."
     Belloby set the flowers down and suddenly began to laugh.
     "Oh Adama, darling. I may have had a few Sagitarian gins already,
but even that's not enough to dull me to that quite insincere tone in
your voice. If you're suddenly bringing me flowers, you must really want
that energizer so badly!"
     Adama sat down next to her and decided to drop the charade.
     "Belloby," his tone was deadly serious now, "I don't think you
understand the seriousness of the situation."
     The siress was already shaking her head. "Oh no, darling Adama.
That handsome son of yours told me everything last night about why you
need it. I'm so glad to see he's the very image of you when you used to
take me to the triad matches. Those were such wonderful times, weren't
they, Adama?"
     "Of course," he mumbled, "Belloby, I really don't want you to force
me to-----"
     "To what?" her tipsy voice suddenly took on a pointed edge, "To
throw me in the Prison Barge if I don't just meekly give you something
that's rightfully mine? Oh Adama, you wouldn't want to handle the
scandal of that now, would you? I mean, can you imagine how my good
friend Zara, you know the one who broadcasts the news to everyone in the
Fleet, might report that? And then there's my old friend Sire Feo, who
sits on the Council. He'd want to know why you felt the need to act that
way to a poor little woman like me who only wanted a little compensation
for doing her duty?"
     How did Sire Rayburn ever put up with you, I wonder? Adama now
began to seethe inside, and he wondered if he was going to be able to
keep his real emotions bottled in. "All right then," he said calmly,
"What sort of 'compensation' did you have in mind for the energizer?"
     Belloby let out another tipsy laugh and drew closer to him, "After
all these yahrens, I think that should be obvious," she then inflected
her words with her attempt at sultriness, "I....want.....you....Adama. I
want us to finally have a chance at recapturing those wonderful times we
had when we were so young and innocent." Her expression grew soulful,
"We really could help each other a lot, couldn't we, Adama? I
mean.....you're so alone now, and I'm so alone now. Why can't two lonely
people in all this trouble and destruction we've had to go through, just
learn to help each other?"
     Adama suddenly got to his feet, and now he found it impossible to
contain the bubbling anger he felt inside.
     "You really think this is some sort of game, Belloby?" Adama's
voice was cold. "This shouldn't be about you, or about me, or about us
helping each other. It should be about us helping the people of this
fleet have a chance to survive. Can you really be so selfish as to think
only of yourself when the lives of so many are at risk?"
     Belloby's smile faded, but as she placed her hands on the bed and
looked up at Adama, it was clear that she hadn't been intimidated or
impressed.
     "Adama," her voice was now at the most serious it could be, "I saw
enough destruction for a lifetime four sectars ago the night I saw
everything that had meaning to me in the universe go up in flames. It's
haunted every dream of mine ever since," she managed to get to her feet,
"I want a chance to enjoy life again. Is that too much for anyone to
ask? And if I've got a chance to find some enjoyment again, why does
that make me as bad as you think I am?"
     Adama felt all the frustration return. In an instant, Belloby had
managed to take all the fire out of him completely. If he followed his
gut instinct and had her arrested, he knew he'd have to face those
feelings of guilt that he always knew he'd face if he'd never gone out
with her when they were young.
     Damn you, Belloby.
     "All right," he said calmly, "Perhaps we can find ways of helping
each other....even as we find ways of helping the fleet too."
     The siress suddenly burst into another tipsy grin, "Oh Adama
darling, what a wonderful diplomat you are! Why don't we start
discussing the particulars, and when we're done, you can tell your son
outside that the energizer is all his for the taking!"
     But when Adama left the room ten centons later, he walked past his
son without saying anything, a grim, stoic expression on his face.
     "Father?" Apollo called after him, "Father, what happened?"
     Adama stopped and wheeled around, "Go down to the engineering
section. Belloby's notified them and cleared you to remove the
energizer. That's all!"
     And then, his father angrily stormed off down the corridor.


     After finishing his duties aboard the Orion, Apollo returned to the
Galactica and went straight to his father's quarters. More than two
centars after Adama had stormed away from him aboard the passengers hip,
he could see his father still visibly angry and animated, pacing back and
forth throughout the room.
     "Father," Apollo decided he needed to keep his tone dead serious.
"We've ah....finished securing the energizer. A team's being assembled
to handle the mission. Myself. Boomer, Starbuck, and Jolly. We'll be
wearing civilian clothes that should fit right in with an agro-society."
     "Very well," Adama seemed to be struggling to keep his tone under
control. "The mission can be under way in a centar then?"
     "Yes," his son nodded.
     "Good," Adama stopped pacing, "That gives me thirty centons to get
some clothes for myself and be ready."
     Apollo frowned, "How's that again?"
     "I'm going on this mission, Apollo." There was a firmness in
Adama's voice that reminded Apollo of the tone he'd hear just before it
was time to receive punishment.
     "But Father," Apollo was taken aback. "There's no reason for you to
go."
     Adama angrily shook his finger at him, "I have been cooped up in
this Fleet for the better part of two sectars now. I am going on this
mission, and that is final!"
     "Sir, with all due respect, you're desperately needed here aboard
the Galactica! We may have been able to knock out that Cylon listening
post with total ease, but there's always the possibility of those
baseships we eluded only two sectans ago suddenly catching up to us
again."
     "If a military emergency were to come up, which I doubt it will in
the time it will take us to complete this mission, then I have every
confidence in Colonel Tigh's ability," Adama refused to budge. "And at
this point Apollo, we are facing a situation as grave as any Cylon
attack. If we don't get new seed, then eventually we'll have no food,
and if we have no food then we all perish! It's as simple as that. Now
enough with these objections, and get your team ready with enough
short-range provisions for six!"
     Apollo knew there was no point arguing with Adama, either as son to
father, or captain to commander. "Yes sir," he muttered in defeat and
moved toward the door, but then stopped just as it opened.
     "Wait a centon," Apollo said as he turned around. "Provisions for
six? Adding you to the mission just makes five."
     Adama's inner fury was causing him to tremble, "Siress Belloby will
be accompanying us."
     "What?" Apollo's face twisted in bewilderment as he closed the door
and stepped back toward him, "Father, just what did you have to promise
her in return for that energizer?"
     Adama's hands were behind his back, his head help up high as though
it were the only way he could keep his sense of dignity. "I made a
promise to....." he had to struggle to keep his feelings of distaste in
check, "court her, as the old expression goes. I did not say when or
where, but the promise was to spend some time with her in some way,
somehow. And as far as I'm concerned Apollo, taking her along on a
mission to a forgotten agro-colony is a lot less embarrassing to me then
having to take her to some dinner in public aboard the Rising Star where
I'd have to see Kobol knows how many important people staring at me!"
His voice was rising as he forced out the last sentence.
     "And maybe she'll lose her appetite for being courted if she has to
get exposed to how tough a mission could end up being?"
     "That is not a consideration, since I want this mission to be as
smooth as possible!" Adama angrily retorted. "Now in the meantime,
Captain, will you stop dithering in my quarters and get yourself ready
for this mission, because we must have those seeds before the sectan is
out!"
     "Yes sir," Apollo said as he bid a hasty retreat, this time not
stopping to look back. Inside, he felt embarrassed to see a man as proud
as his father subjected to the indignity of doing favors for someone like
Siress Belloby, whose self-centered behavior and obliviousness to the
dangers the Fleet faced reminded him exactly of Sire Uri, when he'd
stumbled on his private party aboard the Rising Star just after the
Destruction.
     There's a pair that would deserve each other, he thought in disgust
as he made his way down to his quarters, where he knew Boxey was likely
waiting for him. It was an off-day from instruction periods for the
little boy, and Apollo knew he'd been looking forward to spending some
time with his father in the Rejuvenation Center.
     When he entered his quarters, he saw Boxey and Muffit sitting on the
other side of the room. The downcast expression on his face indicated
that he'd already heard about the mission his father would be leaving on.
     "Hi Boxey," Apollo said as he removed his flight jacket and went
over to his locker to see if the civilian clothes he'd requested had
arrived. He saw that they had.
     "Hi," his son's voice reflected his expression. "Athena said you
were leaving again."
     Apollo hesitated replying as he continued to take off his uniform.
"Well.... Boxey, you see it's like this. The attack yesterday forced me
to change my plans. But I promise you, I'll make it up to you next
sectan and we'll really have some fun in the Rejuvenation Center."
     "Why do you need to leave me behind all the time?" Boxey asked.
     Apollo slipped into the trousers of the civilian outfit. "Boxey,"
he said gently, "I'm a warrior. And you know that means I sometimes have
to go on missions where it's not safe for a little boy like you to go."
he paused, "That's why I didn't want you to stow away on the shuttle to
the ice planet. You saw how dangerous that was, didn't you?"
     "Sure," Boxey admitted, "But I got to meet all kinds of people. All
those children, even if they did look alike."
     "Yeah," Apollo nodded, "But was hiding in the ice crevice while that
patrol of Cylons walked by, fun? Or feeling yourself knocked around
inside the landram while the shuttle was going in for a crash landing?"
He finished donning the civilian outfit and came over to him. "Boxey,
that's why you've got to remember why being a warrior isn't all fun.
Sometimes it means things that can be pretty scary, and that's why you
can't go along on these missions with me, until you're older and you've
learned how to handle what might happen."
     "You mean there's a bunch of Cylons on this planet with a big weapon
too?"
     Apollo didn't expect that question from him, "Well....no."
     "Athena says it's just a mission to get fresh seeds, isn't it?"
     His father looked him in the eye and suddenly realized that he had a
point.
     "Yeah, that's right, Boxey," he paused and nodded, "And you know
something? It isn't going to be dangerous like the ice planet was.
Heck, that's why your grandfather's taking along a...." he hesitated to
form the next word, "friend of his. And if his friend can come, there's
no reason why you can't come too!"
     Boxey immediately smiled, "And Muffy?"
     "Of course!" Apollo laughed and hugged him, "You two come with me,
and this will be a mission we can all have some fun with."
     As Apollo led his son and his daggit out into the corridor, he knew
he was apt to invite some grumblings from his father over granting this
leeway to Boxey, especially after the little boy's stowing away aboard
the shuttle for the Arcta mission had led to some serious tongue-lashings
from Adama about obeying orders, once they'd returned. But at this
point, Apollo didn't care. He'd seen too much time he'd wanted to spend
with his son slip away from him of late, and if he could avoid letting
that happen, he was going to do it.
     Besides, he had a feeling that his father was going to be too
preoccupied with Belloby to keep from objecting to Boxey's presence.


     "Commander," Tigh said over his headset, "We're transmitting the
full data we have on Serenity Colony to the shuttle's computers. You
should have plenty of time to check it over again on your way to the
planet."
     "Thank you, Colonel," Adama said from inside the shuttle as he
tugged at the high collar of the white cloak he wore. It had been so
long since he'd last wore any kind of a civilian wardrobe that he knew it
would be awhile before he got used to it.
     "Why Adama, I had no idea you planned our first date to be a nice
little stroll among the stars!"
     Adama turned around and saw that Belloby had arrived and was
standing in the entryway to the shuttle. He had to force himself not to
lose control.
     "Sit down Belloby," he politely motioned, "I'll join you in a
micron."
     The commander then turned to his right where Boomer sat in the
pilot's seat, and then to his left, where Starbuck was sitting. Both of
the warriors were staring straight ahead, refusing to show any sign that
they'd heard what had just transpired.
     Only when Adama turned around and head toward the back of the
shuttle, did Boomer and Starbuck finally let some of their feelings out
with twisted grins and low giggles.
     "Oh boy," Starbuck snickered, "Something tells me this isn't going
to be completely routine."
     "That'd be the first sure tip you ever gave me in your life, Bucko,"
Boomer said as he went back to the pre-flight checklist.


     "Well Adama, I think this is so generous of you, to give me a chance
to finally get off that crowded ship of mine and move about again!"
Belloby only seemed slightly less tipsy then she had earlier in the day.
To Adama, seeing Belloby less inebriated only highlighted everything
else that was annoying about her.
     Adama forced a smile as he sat down directly opposite Jolly, who was
staring at the floor and absently tugging at his moustache.
     "Ah, Siress Belloby!" he motioned, "I don't believe you've met
Flight Sergeant Jolly of Blue Squadron. Sergeant Jolly, Siress Belloby."
     The fat sergeant managed a brief wave, but was too embarrassed to
say anything.
     "Nice meeting you," the siress barely nodded her head and
immediately sat down next to Adama, "Adama, just what kind of romantic
hideaway are you taking me too?" her voice was dripping with her idea of
what sounding seductive should be like, but which to a sober ear was
anything but.
     The commander felt the queasiness rising, "Ah, Sergeant!" he rose
and came over to Jolly, "I believe you were telling me you recently
volunteered for Officer's Training. How's your progress?"
     Jolly was caught off guard, "Oh! My progress.....ah, well it's
coming along fine, thank you sir. I ah....in fact, it says my chances of
receiving a commission are quite good."
     "Excellent," Adama patted him on the shoulder, "It's always nice to
see a good warrior advance in the ranks."
     "Ah, excuse me Commander, I think I need to help Starbuck and Boomer
with the checklist." He then rose and disappeared toward the front as
quickly as he could go.
     "No-" Adama whispered in despair, and then with defeated
resignation, forced himself to sit back down. Almost immediately,
Belloby began to rest her head on his shoulder.
     "Oh Adama, you should learn to loosen up," she cooed, "In no time, I
can make a new man of you."
     More like half of one, he thought with disgust. So much was his
mind focused on wishing he were someplace else, that he didn't even
notice Apollo entering the shuttle with Boxey and Muffit trailing them.
     "Is that Grandpa's friend?"
     The sound of Boxey's voice jolted Adama back to reality. He looked
up and saw his son trying hard not to grin.
     "Yeah Boxey, you could say that. Come on, let's get ourselves
strapped in."
     Adama shook his head in disbelief. Now he had to face the indignity
of all this happening in front of his grandson as well.
     "Galactica Core Command, this is Alpha Shuttle," Starbuck said from
up front. "Checklist complete. We are ready to launch."
     "Affirmative Alpha Shuttle," Tigh's voice filled the craft, "You are
cleared to launch. Good luck."
     The blonde warrior glanced back and didn't bother hiding the grin,
"I think we're all going to need plenty of that, Colonel."

                         Chapter Three

     Since it was first established more than 700 yahrens ago by pioneer
settlers from the Twelve Worlds, the Serenity Agro-Colony had changed
relatively little. A population of some 2000 concentrated in the main
town and outlying agro regions were for the most part able to earn a
comfortable living. While not able to establish new technologies in
spaceflight, the Serenians had still been able to preserve their
technological knowledge of the ancestors who had first settled the planet
so many hundreds of yahrens of ago, and it allowed them to engage in
commercial activities with settlements that existed on some of the
neighboring planets in its own star system. From the standpoint of one
raised in the Colonies, Serenity would have seemed like a backwater
community that still managed to offer most of the basic necessities a
modern civilization should offer.
     The average cycle on Serenity, because of the planet's angle from
the sun, was 60% in nighttime conditions, which often suited the natives
just fine since it usually meant an excuse to spend slightly longer
periods in town enjoying the pleasures the Town Chancery had to offer.
Business was usually at full peak within a centar after night had fallen,
and stayed that way almost to dawn.
     The noise and crowds of the Chancery finally proved too much for a
bearded man of thirty-five named Dipper. He had one of the most
important jobs in Serenity as the right-hand man to the town's popularly
elected Chief Administrator, Bogan. It was his job to make sure that the
will of whatever Serenity's leader wanted was always carried out, and to
also advise him on important matters related to the colony's well-being.
     Tonight seemed like one of those nights where he could relax and
feel easy. He took out a curved holder called a hookah, from which a
fumarello was attached to the end, and lit it. The hookah had
practically become a trademark of his, one that always enabled people in
Serenity to know exactly who he was, and how important his job as Bogan's
right hand man was.
     After taking just one puff, he turned around and could look out
beyond the edge of the town limits toward the distant rocky plateaus.
And instantly, he saw a sight that made him freeze in horror. The sight
of both of Serenity's two moons in full view, which happened for a period
of several cycles every sectar.
     Whenever that sight filled the night sky, it meant only one thing..
     Dipper dashed back into the Chancery as fast as he could go. When
he entered, his eyes searched for his boss, who was seated at a table in
the middle enjoying a Pyramid game.
     "Bogan!" he shouted, "Both moons are out!"
     "Frack!" the middle-aged man, dressed in the most elegant suit of
anyone in the room, threw down his cards and got to his feet. "Kill the
lights! And get every door secured and bolted fast!"
     As a burst of frantic activity took place inside the Chancery, Bogan
and Dipper made their way outside and dashed frantically across the town
square toward the building that housed the town jail. All around them,
the people of Serenity were fleeing to get inside whatever building was
closest to them and seeing to it that the doors were bolted as quickly as
possible.
     To the sounds of frantic townspeople screaming and running for
cover, another sound now filled the night. The sound of a massive herd
of equine beats drawing closer and closer to town.
     When Bogan and Dipper reached the jail, they saw the man they were
looking for. A man loading an ancient numo gun, who looked very nervous.
     "Farns," Bogan said, "I hate to tell you.....but it's time."
     Town Constable Farns looked at them, and there was no mistaking the
look of terror on his face. "As if I didn't know. You can hear the
whole herd. And you expect me to stop them with one of these ancient
relics that couldn't stop a hedgehopper?"
     "Farns, take it easy!" Bogan tried to sound a note of reassurance
that he knew was insincere. "These Borays are herd creatures. Your
presence alone should be enough to stop them from pillaging and stealing
our crop surpluses."
     "It's their way," Dipper chimed in, "All you have to do is stand out
there and make a show of force."
     Farns glared at him, "Is that what the last three constables before
me did? All ending up the same way after you bribed them with all kinds
of perks into taking the job in the first place, like you did with me?"
     Bogan's expression grew taut and angry, "Farns, if there's one thing
the people hate more than the Borays, it's cowardice. You accepted that
badge, and once you accept it------"
     "I know, I know!" the Constable said with clear resignation to his
fate, "He's got it for life, however long that is. It was my decision to
take your offer and now I have to live with that." He finished loading
the numo, "I might as well get this over with."
     Dipper held open the door for him as Farns went outside. As soon as
the constable had stepped out, the bearded man immediately barricaded the
door. Outside, the sound of approaching hoofbeats had grown deafening.
Above them, the sound of wild squealing from those riding the equines
could be heard as well.
     Amidst the din of noise that was causing almost everything inside
the room to shake, they could hear a single shot, but then nothing more
but the hoofbeats and the squealing. On and on it went for centons. The
only other sound Bogan thought he heard was the sound of objects crashing
from somewhere on the edge of town. He already knew from past experience
what that meant. The sounds of food storage sheds being emptied with
rapid swiftness.
     Finally, when the sounds began to recede, Bogan took a chance on
opening the door. He could see two long spears sticking out of the side,
which meant they had been hurled there with great force.
     The Chief Administrator and his adjutant then moved out into the
town square and saw the body of Farns sprawled out in the center of the
road. Another of the spears protruded from his back. His numo lay
useless by his motionless form.
     Bogan stood over the body and shook his head with sadness. Farns
had lasted almost a two sectars in the job, getting through the last
rampage, which had been a miracle in itself. It had probably been too
much to expect he could get through another one unscathed.
     "Poor Constable Farns," Bogan sighed as he removed the gold
Constable's badge from Farns' tunic. "He was one of the best."
     When Bogan looked up, he saw that a large crowd had now ventured
out, each of the expressions on the peoples faces totally grim.
     "I ah....suppose there aren't any volunteers to take Farns' place?
The ah....job does pay quite handsomely."
     "You out of your mind, Bogan?" one man said sarcastically, "I'd just
as soon take a job working for Mephistopholes himself."
     "Likewise," another man said as the crowd now dispersed, "It'll be a
cold day in Hades before you get any of us to take that job, Bogan."
     "They're right," Dipper said glumly, "Nobody in his right mind's
going to accept that badge. Even if we doubled the wage we'd still get
no takers."
     The Chief Administrator nodded, "I'm afraid you're right, Dipper."
He sighed, "We're just going to have to hope and pray that before the
next rampage, which might well happen tomorrow, some drifter from one of
those other planetoids will come by to solve our problem there. That's
how we got Farns' two predecessors."
     "I'd rather pray for that gallmonging slime Nogow to keel over,"
Dipper said sourly, "That would solve our problems better than a new
constable would."
     "Not likely to happen anytime soon," Bogan said sadly, "We have to
place our hopes on the first alternative."


     Throughout the shuttle ride, Adama wondered if he'd have any of his
sanity left by the time they reached Serenity. There seemed to be no
limit to Belloby's incessant desire to openly flirt with him in front of
everyone else. With Jolly helping Boomer and Starbuck, and Apollo
spending his time with Boxey, there was no one on board for Adama to turn
to provide some distraction.
     Forgive me, Ila, he thought of his late wife not for the first time
since he'd been forced to begin this farce with the woman who had seen
herself as Ila's rival.
     When he heard Starbuck's voice calling him, he felt like someone
who'd been spared from the executioner's blade.
     "Commander? You'd better come up here, we're about to land."
     "Ah yes!" Adama rose, leaving Belloby with a hurt look that he'd
walked away from her. "Yes, Lieutenant, what do your scans of the region
indicate?"
     "Exactly what our earlier viper scans showed." The blonde warrior
knew he had to keep a straight face. "I'll set her down far enough from
town so that no one from there can realistically stumble onto the
shuttle, but close enough for us to get there with ease on our support
vehicle."
     "Good thinking." Adama nodded. "What kind of support vehicle did
we load?"
     "Land sled," Boomer said, "About what one would expect for short
ground transport in a society no more advanced then the fourth to fifth
millennia."
     "All right," the Commander said, "The two of you will take the sled
with the energizer into town, and contact the civil authorities, who
should be receptive to the offer."
     "Sounds agreeable to me," Starbuck said wryly, "It'll be interesting
to see what kind of ladies inhabit this Serenity."
     Adama stared at him and was on the verge of offering a disciplinary
retort but decided to forget it. If he couldn't summon the nerve to
raise his voice with Belloby, then how could he ever do it with Starbuck.
     "Just don't take too long," Adama patted him on the shoulder as he
prepared to go back to his seat. And then, when he saw Belloby stretched
out in her seat giving him a coy wink, he couldn't help but add,
"Please."
     He made his way past Apollo and Boxey. The little boy was asking
his father if there might be any real daggits on Serenity. As much as
Boxey loved his robot pet, there was still one part of him that fondly
remembered the first Muffit, his live daggit on Caprica, and he would
have loved the chance to see a live one again.
     "I'm not sure, Boxey." Apollo was saying, "But hey, what does a
real daggit have on Muffit anyway?" he patted the robot on the head.
     Boxey looked thoughtfully at his pet and grinned, "Nothing!" As
soon as the word was out, Muffit let out a beeping sound of approval.
     Adama wished he could think of an excuse to join in, but he knew he
didn't. Resigned to his fate, he sat next to Belloby who immediately
planted her head on his shoulder once again.
     "Mmmm, Adama, is there any chance we might get a few centons alone
once we're on the ground?"
     "Ah....not likely, Belloby." he then said hastily, "Not that it
wouldn't be a nice prospect, but.....we do need to have a couple men to
stay with the shuttle at all times. After all, we wouldn't want to run
the risk of seeing our only hope of leaving destroyed?"
     "Destroyed?" the siress let out an annoying sounding laugh. "You
mean if that happened, we'd have to spend the rest of our lives on a nice
planet with no unfiltered air......I'd almost welcome that!"
     Any chance I could leave you behind? He thought with disgust, as he
now had a good inkling as to why Belloby's late husband Sire Quincy had
died so prematurely.
     "Can you just see us, all alone, stranded on a nice planet together,
where we could just let go of all our inhibitions," she put her arms
around him and seemed on the verge of kissing him on the cheek.
     "Belloby, please," he whispered as he shot a glance toward Apollo
and Boxey, "Not in front of the children!"
     The sound of the shuttle touching ground on the surface jolted them
so that Adama could break free from the siress' hold. He got to his feet
and for the first time managed to get all his command bearings back.
     "All right, let's move out and not waste a micron! Apollo, Jolly
get the land sled out. Boomer, Starbuck you see to the energizer. And
Boxey," he glanced at his grandson with a wry expression, "You and Muffit
can be the chaperones for me and Siress Belloby."
     "Yes sir!" the little boy grinned.
     When Adama turned around, he saw for the first time with
satisfaction that the smile was gone from Belloby's face


     Once the sled was unloaded and the energizer placed in the back,
Boomer and Starbuck got in and drove off toward the distant lights of the
colony on the horizon. The terrain was mostly barren with numerous rock
outcroppings and small cliffs, which offered a somewhat bumpy ride, but
nothing that either warrior found difficult in the slightest.
     After a ride of twenty centons, they reached Serenity. Their first
reaction was one of slight confusion when they saw that almost every
building in town now had their lights off. Only one building showed any
signs of activity, and from the sound of music and people laughing that
emanated from the open doorway, Starbuck immediately knew it could only
be the sounds of a local Chancery. That was a sound he knew all too
well.
     "Looks like this is the only place open, Boomer." he said as they
brought the sled to a stop in front of the entrance.
     "It doesn't sound like the sort of place one goes to, to trade an
energizer for seed," Boomer said dryly, "You sure you're not looking for
an excuse to try one of your patented systems on this unsuspecting
population?"
     "Hey come on Boomer, we've got to start asking questions someplace.
A Chancery's as good as any other place to start. Especially when it's
the only one open."
     Figures that we'd end up in a Chancery again, Boomer thought as they
stepped out and entered the building. Let's just hope this doesn't end
up being as bad as the one on Carillon turned out to be.


     "Since this was the first night of the full moons for both, chances
are we'll have it again the next two cycles," Bogan said as he and Dipper
walked through the Chancery. "And since we've entered the new solstice
period, we're facing another extra centar of night conditions too. This
is the worst possible time to have no constable."
     "Well, don't look at me," his aide said as he took a puff on his
hookah, "Unless we find another down on his luck prospector or some poor,
unwitting stranger, we are just out of luck."
     Suddenly, from the other side of the room toward the entrance, they
could hear a brash sounding voice saying, "Boomer, we're in luck! This
is my kind of town."
     The two men turned around and saw two men, one blonde, the other
dark-skinned entering the Chancery. Immediately, they both knew that
neither was part of the Serenity population.
     "Well, well," Bogan felt a smile curling on his lips as he pulled
out the constable's badge. "What have we here?"
     He slowly made his way toward them. "Excuse me," he said, "You two
are strangers to Serenity, aren't you?"
     Starbuck eyed him cautiously, "Could well be."
     "Well I'm Chief Administrator Bogan. You might say I'm in charge of
this community, so if there's anything you need help with, I'm the man to
come to."
     "Pleased to meet you," Starbuck extended his hand, "I'm Starbuck.
This is my friend, Boomer. We're looking for someone to talk to about an
agro purchase."
     "Oh?" Bogan lifted an eyebrow as he reciprocated the handshake, "You
boys farmers?"
     "Yeah, my father and I....we run a pretty good sized nitron field in
the next quadrant. But....we've just suffered some reverses of late."
     "Really?" Bogan's curiosity was piqued. "What happened?"
     "Ah...blight," Starbuck said, hoping he'd remembered the correct
term. "Totally wiped out our crop for the next harvest cycle. That's
why we're in need of fresh seed grade."
     "That's right," Boomer chimed in, "And it's our understanding that
Serenity Colony is noted for having full bins of seed surplus."
     "Well, we do pretty good," Bogan said, "We've got more than 700
yahrens of experience in agro techniques."
     "We were hoping of the possibility of a trade-off," Boomer added.
     "That's an interesting idea," the Chief Administrator nodded, "A
couple of strong young fellows like you, could fit right in with our
needs here on Serenity."
     "Ah no, no," Starbuck gently shook his head, "We weren't talking
about us. We're talking about something that could meet your needs a lot
more."
     "Like what?" Dipper spoke up for the first time, taking another
puff.
     "An energizer," Starbuck smiled, giving all the salesmanship he
could in his tone of voice.
     "Is that so?" Dipper lifted an eyebrow, "How much power?"
     "Ten thousand kilons," Boomer said, putting the same effort in his
voice too, "Enough to sustain more agro-operations through your longer
night cycles then you could have asked for."
     "Ten thousand," Dipper almost whistled through the clenched hookah
between his teeth. "Now that sounds impressive."
     But Bogan was almost immediately shaking his head, "No, no, I don't
think that would fit into our immediate plans, Dipper."
     Starbuck was taken aback, "Ah, but sir, that's a little hard to
believe. Practically every planet in this quadrant is always in need of
more power."
     "Is that so?" Bogan looked at him, unimpressed, "In that case, that
gives you a lot of places to make deals in, doesn't it?"
     "Not with an agro-community like Serenity is," Starbuck couldn't
believe this was getting nowhere. "You have something that meets our
needs best."
     "We're not the only agro-community in the quadrant," Bogan eyed him
with a trace more suspicion, "Or weren't you already aware of that?"
     Starbuck knew he had to do some quick thinking to explain that
point, "None that match your reputation, that is."
     "I see. Well, I'm sorry Mr. Starbuck, but I'm afraid we have pretty
much all the power we need at this time. You sort of caught us in a boom
period where we don't have to worry too much about extending our night
operations."
     "Come on," Boomer felt a rising sense of inner exasperation, "You
mean that's just it? Not even a look at the energizer to see how it
compares to your existing systems?"
     "Sorry, I can't help," Bogan said, "But if you are interested in
staying on, in exchange for seed-----"
     "Ah, no," Starbuck cut him off, "We're a pretty tight-knit family,
and we do have to be on our way soon because our crops are in trouble.
Even a short-term work contract would be too long a wait for us."
     "Well, then I guess we'd have to deal some other time then," Bogan
walked away from him.
     "Wait!" Boomer called out, "Couldn't we approach any of the
individual farmers here to see if they're interested in dealing with us?"
     Bogan turned back, "You're free to scout them all out, if you want,
but it would take you more time to talk to them, then it would to stay on
in a work-contract with us."
     And then, he and Dipper moved off to the back end of the Chancery,
indicating that the conversation was over in every sense.
     "Felgercarb," Starbuck muttered, "Now what do we do?"
     "What else?" Boomer's shoulders sagged, "Go back to the Commander
and report. Maybe he'll have an idea of how we can change our strategy."


     "Bogan," Dipper whispered to his boss, "Why'd you turn them down?
We could really use that power."
     "We need those two men even more," Bogan said, "Our next constable
has to be either one of them."
     "All well and good, but they're not going to stay voluntarily, so
that means we don't have a new constable, or the energizer."
     "You're wrong, Dipper," Bogan smiled wryly, "Within the next few
centars, we'll have them both. Get your best men ready to move, now."


     The ride back toward the distant shuttle was for the most part,
silent and glum for both Starbuck and Boomer. A quick rejection from the
Serenity officials was the last thing either of them had expected.
     "We've got about ten centons before we'll be back," Boomer finally
broke the silence, "Thought of the best way yet of explaining this to the
Commander?"
     "No," Starbuck said as he steered the sled through a passageway
between two rocky hills, each no more then fifteen feet high. "Right
now, I'm trying to think of how many ways a starving Fleet of people
might want to have us noduled if we come back empty."
     "Well that's one option Adama's not going to let happen," Boomer
said, "If they stay intransigent, I wouldn't be surprised to see Adama
call out a viper squadron and take what we need by force if it comes to
that. Based on what I've seen, I don't think Serenity's cut any deal
with the Cylons to keep themselves going. It seems pretty clear they've
been able to stay sheltered from the Empire's encroachments."
     "I'm not sure even the Commander would want to go that far,"
Starbuck dissented.
     "Starbuck, when you're talking about the ability of our entire
population to survive, even desperate measures like that could be called
for."
     Starbuck was about to reply, when suddenly both he and Boomer were
blinded by a massive rope net dropping over them from above. And then,
they could feel the force of at least three men jumping on top of them as
well, forcing him to stop the land sled, and then dragging the both of
them off.
     "Hey!" Starbuck shouted as he clawed at the net, trying to catch a
glimpse of his attackers. "Lousy gallmonging snitrods, what the frack
are you doing?"
     There was no response as the three men dumped Starbuck and Boomer to
the ground, making sure they were both wrapped securely in the rope net.
Inside, the blonde warrior thrashed about trying to catch sight of them,
but now he could tell that whoever they were, all wore hoods over their
heads.
     Boomer finally managed to pull the net off first, but by the time he
got to his feet, he could see the land sled receding into the distance.
He thought for a micron of chasing after it on foot, but knew he'd never
be able to catch up.
     "You dirty daggit waste!" Boomer wished he could think of a better
insult, "Why don't you fight like men?"
     "Boomer, never mind them and get me out of here!" Starbuck shouted
from behind. Frustrated, the dark-skinned warrior came back and managed
to pull the net off Starbuck.
     "Frack!" the brash warrior got to his feet and then kicked the rock
wall in frustration, "Frack, felgercarb and shit! Of all the lousy
things to happen----"
     "I know, I know," Boomer said, trembling with anger, "But there's no
point talking about it. We've got a long walk ahead of us."
     "It's not that far back to town," Starbuck shook his head.
     "What do you mean, town?" Boomer asked with bewilderment. "We've
got to tell the Commander what happened here, and let him decide what to
do."
     "You do that," Starbuck said, seething over the indignity of what
had happened. "I'm going back for the energizer, because I've got a
pretty good idea who sent those thugs after us."
     Light suddenly dawned on Boomer, "Bogan."
     "Right," Starbuck nodded, "No wonder that snake wasn't anxious to
talk about a trade."
     "Why bother trading for an energizer when you can steal it," now
Boomer was seething as well. "You're right. Go back there and see what
you can do. I'm sure I can get the Commander and Apollo to come with me
and help you out."
     "I'll try to give them both a surprise," Starbuck managed a wicked
grin as he started to walk back toward Serenity, "They're about to get
the full Starbuck treatment from me!"


     "Well?" Bogan asked as he saw Dipper enter the Chancery.
     "Total success," his deputy grinned. "One energizer, one land sled,
now safely in our hands."
     "Excellent," Bogan took out a money bag from his coat pocket and
tossed it into Dipper's outstretched hand. "That's fifty quantums worth
of territorial gold for you and each of your men."
     "Much appreciated, sir," Dipper said as he stuffed the bag in his
pocket. "And I want you to know we were very careful not to leave any
tracks that could lead them to us."
     "I'm sure you were quite thorough," Bogan smiled as he sipped a
drink.
     "Excuse me."
     Both of them turned around, and Dipper froze when he saw a visibly
angry Starbuck standing before them.
     Bogan though, refused to look rattled and instead flashed a friendly
smile, "Well, stranger. Welcome back!"
     Starbuck returned the smile, but kept it unfriendly, "That's real
hospitable, Bogan. However, I'm afraid that some of the citizens you're
responsible for as Chief Administrator, aren't that neighborly."
     "Oh really?" Bogan feigned concern, "What happened?"
     Starbuck didn't need any more confirmation of what he already knew,
"I take it you didn't see anyone come in here in the last centar or so?"
     "No," he shook his head, "Lot of people come and go. Many of them
perfect strangers. What makes you think it's any of our people who
aren't....neighborly, as you say?"
     "Let's just say I have my suspicions," Starbuck gave him a pointed
stare. "My friend and I were jumped outside town by robbers."
     "Robbers?" Bogan lifted an eyebrow, "Well if that happened, young
man, it could only have been done by strangers. We don't tolerate that
kind of thuggery in Serenity."
     "Is that so," Starbuck now injected sarcasm into his tone, "Well
sorry Bogan, but given how close we were to town when we got jumped, I'm
afraid that whoever did it could only be one of your nice friendly
townsfolk. And since you're the ultimate authority here in town, that
means you ought to be in a position to do something about that."
     "Excuse me," Dipper said nonchalantly, "I've got a game to get back
too."
     Starbuck glanced at him, convinced that the chief adjutant was one
of the men who had attacked Boomer and him, but decided he needed to stay
focused on Bogan for now.
     "Well?" he pressed, "What about it, Bogan?"
     "You've made a pretty serious accusation."
     "I'm prepared to back it up in time."
     "Well, as I recall, time isn't something you have a lot of."
     "Not if you expedite things," Starbuck increased the hostility in
his tone, "Now how's about enforcing the law?"
     "I'm afraid that's not my job," Bogan shrugged, "I may be Chief
Administrator, but law enforcement is handled by others."
     "Really?" Starbuck found that interesting, "And who handles it now?"
     Bogan took a breath, "Our town constable. But....I'm afraid he's
moved on, and the position is vacant."
     "How convenient," the sarcasm increased in the blonde warrior's
tone.
     "I can tell what you're thinking," Bogan said in a low tone, "I'd be
careful about taking the law in your own hands without some suitable
authority. People around here," his eyes wandered about the Chancery,
"They....stick together. They don't care much for outsiders who don't
have a stake in their own problems. Now, if you were willing to stay on
for awhile, just a few sectars, you'd have a chance to bond with the
community and find people willing to help you out."
     "I told you, I have crops to get back to and people to feed!"
Starbuck snapped. "So stop with the recruitment pitch, Bogan."
     "You said your crops were blighted and that your people needed
seed," Bogan said matter-of-factly. "Now maybe if you had the money to
pay for the seed, you could take care of your immediate problem." he put
a hand to his chin, "You do have money, don't you?"
     Starbuck shook his head faintly and pulled out all the money in his
hip pocket, "Well, I do have a lot of currency from our last crop sale.
Different systems, but it's all hard money so that should make it good
anywhere. No paper felgercarb for us."
     Bogan looked over the numerous golden coins and ingots spread out on
the table. "Orion checks," he noticed and then frowned, "Colonial
cubits? Where did you get those?"
     Starbuck froze as he realized that Colonial currency would not be
the norm so far out from the Colonies and deep in the Alpha Quadrant.
Passing off Colonial currency ran as much risk as passing off an
energizer with Colonial markings unless he came up with a quick
explanation, and fast.
     "We do a lot of business with people whose activities take them all
the way back to the Colonial Frontier itself," Starbuck said, "And from
our standpoint that kind of money has the most solid financial stability
over any of the local territorial currency in this star system."
     "Good point," Bogan nodded, which indicated that he accepted that
explanation without question, which made Starbuck sigh with relief
inside. The Chief Administrator collected all of the currency and went
over to a nearby exchange machine, which would calculate the total value.
"Give me a micron here, and let's see what this comes out to."
     Starbuck looked at the machine's readout, which indicated 120.
     "Let's see," Bogan said, "Seed goes for 12 quantums a lexon. That
means what you have will get you exactly ten lexons of seed."
     "No good," Starbuck said, grateful that this society still used the
normal Colonial term for grain measurements, "I need at least fifteen
hundred. And if you want my opinion, 12 quantums sounds pretty high."
     "Well, I'm afraid that's the going rate," Bogan said, "It's a long
way to the next agro-outpost, if you want to check their rates out."
     "No thank you," Starbuck said as he collected all of his money and
stuffed it back in his pockets, "I think maybe I'll try to make this pile
grow. After all, this is a Chancery."
     As Bogan saw Starbuck move off toward the gaming tables, he felt a
satisfied smirk come over him. The young man had just walked into the
next phase of the trap.

                         Chapter Four

     "Now let's see how good you can take astral readings, Boxey," Apollo
said as he held Boxey on his lap and pointed out the various features of
the night sky. "The mark of a good viper pilot is his ability to know
exactly what something is when he sees it."
     Boxey raised his arm and pointed, "There's a big planet there that
has to be a category....three?"
     "Category two, Boxey," his father said gently and pointed to one
further to the left in the night sky. "That's a category three one. The
giveaway is the red swirling clouds which shows an unstable atmosphere.
Right away when a viper pilot sees that, he knows that's not a place he
can set his ship down when he's in trouble."
     Boxey let out a slightly frustrated shrug.
     "Hey, cheer up," Apollo hugged him, "In no time at all, there won't
be a single thing in the galaxy you won't be able to recognize. Because
I know learning all this is going to come naturally to you."
     "I hope so," he said and then looked back at him, "Dad, when can we
go back to the Galactica?"
     "Getting homesick?" his father chuckled.
     "A little," Boxey looked about, "There's not much on this planet.
It's kind of boring."
     "I know what you mean," Apollo said as he got up and put Boxey down.
He led him by the hand back toward the shuttle. "But until Starbuck and
Boomer come back with the seed, we have to stay here. So for now, what's
say we head back and have a chat with your grandpa."
     Boxey glanced up at him, "Do I have to talk to his friend too?"
     Apollo kept smiling, "What do you think of her?"
     His son rolled his eyes, "She's weird." His expression then grew
concerned, "She's not going to become my grandma, is she?"
     His father didn't suppress his laughter, "No, Boxey, I don't think
you ever have to worry about that."
     "Thank goodness," the relief in Boxey's voice was obvious.
     That makes two of us, Apollo thought wryly as he approached the
shuttle. Jolly was standing guard outside. Adama and Belloby were
clearly still inside, and Apollo didn't want to know what indignities the
siress was subjecting him to now.
     He saw Adama emerge, his expression one of a man who felt as if he'd
just escaped from prison.
     "I told Belloby I needed a breath of air," he said as he stepped
toward Apollo and Boxey. He then glanced down at his grandson and
allowed himself his first genuine smile in a long time, "Enjoying
yourself, Boxey?"
     "Sure," his grandson shrugged, "But it's not as exciting as the ice
planet."
     "For which you should be grateful," Adama leaned down and kissed
him, "Now you go play with Muffit, while I have a word with your father."
     As soon as Boxey was out of earshot, Adama let out a sigh of relief,
"Lords, I feel as if I'll need to be sized up for a restraint suit before
this is over."
     "I take it the siress has been spending the whole time making
advances?"
     "Even worse," Adama said, "Between her flirtations, she has to
regale me with endless, boring stories about our childhood, and how she
knows how I must have 'really' felt about her, as she put it. And then,
she starts recalling things I hadn't remembered for well over fifty
yahrens." he shook his head, "She's been without her usual share of
spirits for quite a few centars, and I'm finding more how she's even more
impossible to take when she gets closer to sobriety."
     "You could have avoided this," Apollo's tone became serious, "If
you'd let Starbuck and me search the Fleet for another cycle, I'm sure we
could have found another energizer on another ship."
     "If it was just a case of looking for a simple energizer, you're
right, I would have done that," Adama said, "But Apollo, can you begin to
understand the responsibility I face as Fleet Commander to see to it that
are people are taken care of on this journey to something we still
haven't pinpointed a definite heading for? If a food crisis erupts for
even so much as one cycle, the long-term repercussions for my ability to
lead become far more disastrous then having to suffer the indignity of
Belloby at my shoulder for a short time."
     "I understand," Apollo said, "Still.....I know how painful it is for
you to have to demean yourself before someone like her. Even if
it.....does have its comical elements to the rest of us."
     "I'm sure you and Starbuck and everyone else have been laughing up
your sleeves the whole while," his father sighed and then smiled weakly,
"Who knows, perhaps in time when this is just a distant memory, I'll be
able to look back on this and laugh at it myself. I can see why for
people like you, having something to laugh at, even if it is at my
expense, can almost be a needed catharsis after all we've gone through
these last sectars."
     "That's a good way of putting it," his son nodded. "Once we get
hold of the seed, how much longer do you have to keep up your promise to
Belloby?"
     "For not one micron," his father said firmly, "And if Belloby wants
to make a big deal of it then, so be it. I'll be in a position of not
having to care any longer, and if it means she's going to complain to all
her society friends about it, it's only going to make her look bad, not
me."
     "Glad to see you're putting it all in perspective already."
     "Commander!" Jolly suddenly called over, "Boomer's coming back! On
foot."
     Adama and Apollo both frowned at this. "On foot?" the commander
said as they made their way back.
     "Something must have happened," an edge of concern crept into
Apollo's voice.
     When Boomer reached the camp, he was staggering slightly after his
long walk.
     "Boomer, what happened?" Apollo grabbed him by the arm.
     The dark-skinned warrior took a breath, "Robbers."
     "Robbers?" Adama felt the urgency rising inside him, "Boomer,
where's Starbuck?"
     "He went back to town to take care of some new.....business."
     "What are you talking about?" the commander demanded, "Where's the
seed?"
     Boomer braced himself, "Commander, there's no seed, and we've had
both the land sled and the energizer stolen out from under us by
robbers."
     "What was that?" Belloby's shrill voice pierced the night as she
dashed out of the shuttle. It seemed as if sobriety had been fully
restored to her at last. "What about my energizer?"
     "Like I said, we were jumped." Boomer said, wishing he didn't have
to deal with so many inquiring voices surrounding him.
     "By whom?" Adama refused to let up.
     "I don't know, it all happened so fast.....but Starbuck and I think
it's possible the town Chief Administrator hired a bunch of goons to
steal it after they wouldn't trade for seed."
     "Of all the stupid things I've ever seen in my life!" Belloby was
clearly angry, "Adama, is this what you train those warriors of yours to
do?"
     Boomer decided he wasn't going to be polite to someone like her,
"Look lady, I'd like to see you do any better unarmed with a net thrown
over your head!"
     "Settle down, settle down," Adama motioned his hands, determined to
take charge of the situation. "Boomer, I'm sure you both did whatever
you could, but the important thing now is to get to Starbuck. Now you
said he went back to town?"
     "Yes."
     "Well if you're right and the colony leaders are responsible for the
theft, there's no telling what he might be up against. We have to go
now." Adama turned to Jolly, "Sergeant Jolly, you'll stay and guard the
shuttle and look after Boxey as well. Apollo, Boomer, grab your lasers
from the munitions locker on the shuttle. We have to get to town as fast
as possible."
     "And I'm going too!" Belloby's tone indicated this wasn't to be a
subject for debate. "That energizer is worth a lot to me, and I'm not
about to see it lost because of this!"
     "Father," Apollo cautioned, but Adama was shaking his head no, to
indicate that he wasn't going to object to her presence.
     "We've got a long walk ahead of us."


     As soon as Starbuck realized that Pyramid was the preferred game at
the table where Dipper and several others were gathered, he felt as if
he'd caught the luckiest break of his life. In a backwater community
like this, there was no way the townspeople could be familiar with any of
the systems he'd come up with to con many an unsuspecting fellow pilot
out of a pot. Systems that would never beat a professional dealer, but
ones that were sure to suffice with this crowd.
     "I want to warn you guys," Starbuck said as he settled at the table.
"That you are going to be in for the worst drubbing of your lives."
     Dipper only allowed himself a faint smile. It only took one hand to
see what the young man was up to, and as far as he was concerned, that
was going to make his job all the easier.
     Two centars went by, and Starbuck found himself slowly accumulating
a large share of winnings. His bankroll of 120 that he'd started out
with, had now grown to well over 900. He was still a long ways off from
coming close to the amount he needed, but as far as the blonde warrior
was concerned, it was quite a few steps in the right direction, and he
had every intention of taking more.
     Through it all, Dipper didn't show any frustration over his mounting
losses. Most of it was deliberate at this point, and he knew that if
everything worked out, Bogan would compensate him quite handsomely.
     "There you are," Starbuck said with pride, "Perfect red Pyramid."
     "I don't believe it," one of Dipper's compatriots, a sad-faced man
named Duggy said, "I've never seen anyone get a perfect Pyramid in my
life."
     "Always a first in every one's life, my friend," Starbuck said as he
racked up his winnings. He knew this would put him well over 1500 in the
bankroll at this point. Now he'd gone from 1% of the funds he needed to
10%.
     By morning, I intend to have enough.
     "It's really interesting, Mr. Starbuck," Dipper said as he took
another puff on his hookah, "That someone like you who comes from a
farming background could be so well-versed in Pyramid playing."
     "Really?" Starbuck smirked, "I'll tell you what I find interesting,
Dipper. That you and your friends here, started out with the same amount
of money to lose before you had to start digging deep into your pockets.
You all work together some place?" he added the tiniest trace of
accusation in the last sentence.
     "Hardly, Mr. Starbuck," Bogan said as he made his way over to the
table after watching the proceedings, "Farm workers here all receive
uniform compensation."
     "Is that a fact?" Starbuck said, keeping that hint of accusation in
his tone. "When we started two centars ago, everyone here had 50
quantums to begin with. If that's a routine wage for a few cycles
harvest, you really must have one heck of a profit surplus in your town
treasury."
     "Little things like that is what helps Serenity live up to its
name," Bogan smiled and looked down, "You still seem to be well-short of
what you'd need for 1500 lexons," his brow knitted slightly, "Out of
curiosity, if you need that much seed, how many people are you trying to
feed? I'm not aware of any settlements that would require that much."
     "Let me keep a few trade secrets of my own, if you will," Starbuck
waved his hand and then looked around the table, "So are any of you
clowns up for more punishment?"
     Dipper glanced up at Bogan, who then faintly nodded his head.
     "Sorry, Mr. Starbuck," the adjutant rose, "I think my friends and I
have had enough for one night. Some of us have wives who might not be so
understanding when they find out how much we've lost."
     "Ah, bad mistake to mix Pyramid and matrimony," Starbuck kept
grinning slyly, "I hope you've learned your lesson."
     "I'm sure we have," Dipper nodded, knowing what was coming now and
glad that he could give way to Bogan. He and the others moved over to
the next table.
     "Looks as though you've run out of sources to draw more funds with,"
Bogan noted.
     "Not necessarily," Starbuck said, "The night is still young, and
there are plenty of others in this Chancery who I think I can persuade to
part with their money after a few more hands."
     "Maybe you'd like to try me," Bogan sat down in the chair Dipper had
just vacated. "I always enjoy a good competition with a Pyramid master."
     Starbuck's grin widened, "You're on."


     "How much further do we have to keep walking?" in her annoyed, sober
condition, Belloby's voice reminded Boomer of what scratching the edge of
a nail over a metallic surface sounded like. "My feet are killing me!"
     "Up ahead," Boomer pointed, "We should be there in another half
centar."
     "Looks further away then that, Boomer," Adama said as he squinted,
then turned around. "There's your answer for why it seems closer then it
is. That second moon's out again and shining full force."
     "I noticed that earlier," Apollo said, "The second moon has one of
the fastest rotation cycles I've ever seen. One centar they're both out,
the next centar, just one, and now they're both out again."
     "An interesting phenomenon, but hardly one of great importance,"
Adama grunted. "Let's keep moving."


     Two hands with Bogan immediately resulted in two more winning pots
for Starbuck. As the winnings continued to mount, the brash warrior
decided it was safe to be openly smug.
     "Guess this isn't your night after all, Bogan."
     "Maybe," Bogan said, "One more hand."
     "All right," Starbuck dealt the first three cards. "Hover or
build?"
     Bogan glanced at them. A red and green Pyramid base and a blue
capstone meant almost no chance of a winning hand. Which suited him just
fine.
     "Hover," he said.
     Starbuck dealt his own cards and glanced at them, "I will....build."
He drew another card and saw to his satisfaction that he already had, as
he'd predicted, a perfect half Pyramid with the same color capstone.
"All right, now let's get down to business. You open."
     "A hundred quantums," Bogan deposited the coins on the table.
     "Sounds nice," Starbuck said as he then pushed the entire pot of his
winnings into the center of the table. "That's what I raise you. Now
match it or fold, Bogan."
     "Hmmm," Bogan looked at the table with a wry glance. Dipper had
made his way back over to watch in, since he knew the big moment of truth
was about to happen. "Well, if I were able to match that, you'd almost
be halfway to your total purchase price if you won, wouldn't you?"
     "Seems that way," Starbuck wished he'd brought a fumarello with him,
since the desire to take a satisfied puff on one was filling every part
of his body. "I'd think a man in your position would be able to match
that, wouldn't you, Bogan?"
     The Chief Administrator let out a chuckle, "Even Chief
Administrators sometimes get caught with a shortage of funds, Mr.
Starbuck," he paused, "Like right now for instance."
     "Too bad."
     "But I'll tell you what," he set his cards down and reached into his
coat pocket. "I might be able to compensate by offering this as
payment."
     Starbuck looked down at the table and saw an elaborate carved
triangular gold shield with a smaller circle covering the top.
     "What's that?"
     "Belonged to someone who's moved on now," Bogan didn't bat an
eyeball. "It is solid gold though."
     Starbuck absently picked it up and squinted at the tiny inscription,
"What's this writing on it?"
     "An old expression written in the tongue of the people who first
colonized this world," Bogan said, "I'm afraid they've moved on too. No
one knows what it means anymore."
     "Hmm," Starbuck held it in the palm of his hand, not noticing that
most of the people in the Chancery now had their eyes trained on him.
"Feels like gold, but what's say I run it through your exchange table
computer first?"
     "Be my guest," Bogan motioned.
     Starbuck went to the back of the room and dropped it in the
container. His eyes then widened in amazement when he saw a value of 500
come up.
     "Whoa!" he said as he retrieved it, "This thing's thicker then I
imagined. Has to be pure gold to get a value like that."
     "Will that do for this pot?"
     Starbuck made his way back toward the table. "Yes, I think it
will."
     When the welcome sight of Serenity came into view, Adama began to
feel a bit of relief that they could soon start to take some action.
     "Commander," Boomer said, "I don't think it'd be a good idea to
directly approach the Town Administrator. If he is responsible for
stealing the sled and the energizer, then his goons have to have stashed
it away somewhere for safekeeping."
     "Good point," Adama nodded, "Boomer, you and Apollo fan out and try
to look for signs of the sled's tracks. Chances are, they haven't been
hidden yet."
     The two warriors split up and began to search the different side
streets that led away from the town square. Adama and Belloby remained
in front of a large wooden structure at the point where the town limits
ended. Large bales of straw were piled up in front of the building.
     Adama avoided looking at the siress, wondering what she might say at
this point to drive him crazy any further. But more than two centons
passed before Belloby finally broke the silence.
     "You really think they're going to find it?"
     Adama kept looking ahead, "They're good warriors, Belloby. I have
confidence in their ability."
     "Well you're wrong, Adama. Because I know exactly where it is."
     Adama turned around and looked at her in dumbfounded amazement.
     "What?"
     "I know where it is," she drew up to him, "And if you give me a
kiss, I'll be glad to tell you."
     Adama's face darkened, "Belloby, if this is your idea of a joke,
it's a very bad one."
     For the first time, her expression changed to one that seemed
totally normal. Her voice suddenly took on an aura of regret that
surprised him completely.
     "You're right, Adama. Consider it a celebration for finding the
energizer."
     She then impulsively threw her arms around him and kissed him.
Adama tried not to do anything that would convey a negative reaction,
since he knew that if she were being sincere, alienating her would be the
worst thing imaginable.
     "There," she sighed, "I'm sorry I had to force you to do
that.....and everything else, Adama. I.... guess suddenly now that I'm
sobering up, things are beginning to seem a bit clearer to me about
what's at stake for the Fleet."
     Adama could scarcely believe this sudden change of attitude. Was it
all genuine, or was it another act, designed to get him to lower his
guard for later? Either way, he knew he had no choice but to treat it as
though it were the former.
     "Oh, Belloby," he said reassuringly, "You...don't have to be hard on
yourself."
     "I should, I should," she waved her hand, "I...won't deny I've
gotten a lot of pleasure out of our time together, but.....if I ended up
offending your sense of delicacy, being so soon after you lost your wife,
then I apologize for that too."
     "Belloby," he said gently, "I appreciate what you're saying.
And....I'm sure we can talk some more about it, but....we are short of
time. Where is the energizer?"
     Belloby smiled, "You're practically standing on it."
     "What?" he frowned.
     "While you sent those expert warriors of yours off into the side
streets without checking the ground in front of you, I noticed the sled's
tracks leading straight to the shed right behind us." she motioned her
hand.
     Adama looked at the building they stood in front of and then saw the
distinct lines as well. And he could also see more clearly how the bales
of straw had been stacked in a hasty fashion, as if to conceal something.
     Feeling elated, he grabbed her and kissed her on the lips before
running off to get Apollo and Boomer. And leaving Belloby with the
feeling that maybe her change in tactics would finally lead to some true
rewards.
     A half centon later, the three men had returned.
     "Boomer, you're to stand guard here and make sure this stays secure.
And if anyone so much as tries to get past you, you're to shoot him
down."
     "Will do," Boomer said, "Now that you've got the energizer back, you
might want to pay a visit to the Chancery. That's probably where Bogan
and his crowd are hiding."
     "We'll do that." Adama motioned to Apollo and Belloby, "Let's go."


     "There you go," Starbuck grinned as he set his cards down. "Can you
beat that, Bogan?"
     The Chief Administrator threw his cards down, "No, I can't."
     "Then I guess this is all mine," Starbuck said as he pulled the pile
of winnings, including the gold shield toward him. Once he emptied the
coins into a money bag, he couldn't help but pick up the shield again and
admire its detail.
     "Congratulations, Constable Starbuck," Bogan rose and patted him on
the shoulder.
     "Huh?" Starbuck frowned, "Ah, Bogan...what are you talking about?"
     There was no response, as Bogan had walked away to the other side of
the room, just in time to see Adama, Apollo and Belloby enter. Adama
immediately approached Dipper, who was standing closest to the entrance.
     "Who's in charge here?"
     "Chief Administrator Bogan," Dipper motioned, "He's right here."
     "Yes," Bogan came up to them, "How may I help you?"
     "I'm Squire Adama, Lord of Valerium," Adama found himself dipping
back into an old novel he'd read as a child to come up with his title,
"I've just recovered some stolen property of mine and would like to speak
to whoever is in charge of law enforcement in Serenity."
     "Ah," Bogan's face lit up, "Right over there in front of you. Our
town constable."
     The crowds parted, and Adama, Apollo and Belloby were stunned to see
him pointing at Starbuck, still fingering the shield.
     Adama took two steps forward and with the veins throbbing visibly in
his forehead, came up to within a foot of where Starbuck was sitting.
The warrior's back was still to the commander.
     "Constable Starbuck?!!" he said in a loud, angry tone of voice.
     As soon as Starbuck heard the familiar voice, the meaning of the
shield suddenly hit him, and he began to slowly sink in his chair while
turning the deepest shade of red imaginable.
                         Chapter Five

     Twenty centons later, they had retreated to the jail, where a deeply
embarrassed Starbuck had forced himself to sit down behind the desk that
went with his office. Adama stood in front of him, glaring at him with
more anger then Starbuck had ever seen in his life.
     "Will you answer me something I've never understood about you, in
all the yahrens I've known you, Starbuck?" Adama was through holding in
his emotions at this point. Things had finally reached a breaking point
for him. "Just HOW do you get yourself into these crazy fixes?" he was
practically bellowing, "In the last sectar alone, I've had to put up with
you losing a recon viper because you let a cache of ambrosia distract
you, and then it was finding out you tampered with the computer to get
yourself on the Arcta mission. And now THIS?"
     Starbuck had always wondered if a day would come when his luck would
run out and he'd have to face the full fury of Adama like he'd never seen
it before. Now it had happened, and it was everything he'd always been
afraid of.
     "Well," he said awkwardly, "I was just trying to find the guys that
robbed us?"
     "Oh is that so?" Adama didn't let up, "And naturally, you just
expected to find them in a card game. Where else would someone with your
vices think they'd be? I suppose the next place you would have looked
would have been the local fumarello dealer!"
     "Commander," Starbuck protested weakly, "My number one suspect, that
guy Dipper, was in a card game at the time. I thought maybe I could
catch him with his guard down, and even if I didn't, I'd give us a cash
infusion that could help us buy the seed anyway."
     "And what did you get out of it?" he pointed at him, "A badge you
can ill-afford to wear. A total loss of time in our ability to prevent
famine from breaking out. And who knows how many lives lost in the end!"
     "You tell him, Adama!" Belloby said from the other side of the room,
her hands on her hips. "These warriors of yours are so reckless."
     Before Adama could offer a retort demanding she keep her mouth shut,
the door opened and Bogan entered.
     "Ah, glad to see you settled into your new office, Constable," he
said. "And....I'm afraid there isn't much time."
     "Chief Bogan," Adama came up to him and dropped his voice to a
normal tone, "You appear to be a reasonable man......"
     "I like to think so," Bogan said, "In fact, I'm prepared to offer my
full apology for the incident involving the loss of your energizer, which
I understand you've now recovered. I'm sure that your friend, now that
he's constable, will see to it that the town issue a proper
indemnification for the inconvenience you suffered."
     "That's not the issue, Bogan," Adama said, "This....boy, could
hardly be of use to you as your constable, but he's needed with me. I
can ill afford to lose even so much as one hand after the loss of our
crop."
     "I can sympathize with that, Squire," Bogan said, "We face the same
problem here as well."
     "Then if you understand my position," the commander smiled, "You'll
allow him to resign."
     "Sorry," Bogan shook his head, "That's against the law. In
Serenity, the position of constable has always been a lifetime
appointment."
     "That's absurd!" Adama spluttered, "You barely know this boy. He
never was appointed!"
     "He accepted the badge of office," Bogan said, "And once that
happens, you accept all the responsibility that goes with it."
     "Chief Bogan," Adama decided he had reached the breaking point. "So
far, I have seen your community treat my party, which came in friendship
in the hope of obtaining a mutually beneficial trade, with robbery, and
now duplicity to serve your community's ends. I have a low opinion of
people who operate that way, and when I find myself the victim of that
kind of conduct, I am prepared to use whatever means are at my disposal
to rectify those injustices!"
     Bogan stared at him for a long centon, and while the Administrator
tried to remain stoic, it was clear that to Adama that his words had
rattled him completely.
     "I'm going to assume that's a threat, Squire," Bogan said, "And I
would assume you'd be prepared to back that up."
     "If need be," Adama said coldly, "But a simple rectification of
outstanding issues goes a lot further with me, then does wanting to make
good on such threats."
     "I'm sure of that," Bogan sighed, "All right, Squire. You win. If
the boy means that much to you, well.....you seem like nice enough
people. You can have him back. Even if it means you're putting a great
many of us at risk by not letting us have someone serving as constable."
     "Appoint someone else."
     "It's not that easy," Bogan said, "No one else in town wants the
job."
     "And why not?" Starbuck decided he'd had enough of keeping quiet,
just as he'd had enough of being referred to as a 'boy'. "Does it have
anything to do with what happened to the last person who had the job?"
     "You might say that," Bogan said cryptically.
     "Well what happened to him? How could he have left town when the
job's a lifetime appointment?"
     "I said he'd departed. I didn't say where. The fact is, he died in
office."
     "Really?" Adama glared at Bogan with sarcasm, "After a lifetime of
service to his people?"
     Bogan's lips tightened, "This isn't a joking matter, Squire.
Because unless you plan on getting off this planet soon, you're as much
at risk as we are."
     "Talk some sense, Bogan, because you're not making any!" Starbuck
said angrily.
     "All right, you might as well know," this time it was clear that the
Chief Administrator planned to level with them. "The fact is that
Serenity is on the verge of becoming an endangered colony. It's been
that way for almost a yahren now, ever since the Borays who roam the land
found it was easier to steal food then grow it themselves."
     "Borays?" Belloby wrinkled her nose in disgust, "You mean this
planet is filled with those odorous vermin?"
     "Yes, they're quite numerous. But because they're a herd species,
they stay close together and do everything their leader does. And a
yahren ago, a Boray named Nogow became their new leader, and he started
this whole campaign of pillaging and plundering every time both moons are
out and full."
     Adama's eyes narrowed, "You mean....like tonight?"
     "Yes," Bogan nodded, "We already had one rampage earlier this
evening, which is when our last constable met his demise. And
now....because we're facing a longer than usual night cycle because of
the solstice shift, we could end up seeing something that's really rare.
Two rampages in the same night because when one of the moons disappears
and comes back, those primitive minds think a full cycle has passed."
     "If they're rampaging, you should be able to get rid of the slimy
scum," Belloby chimed in again.
     The Chief Administrator chuckled mirthlessly at her, "Easier said
then done. Did you notice the weapons that line the wall of this
office?"
     Starbuck and Adama turned around and frowned, "Numo sticks? That's
your only source of weaponry?"
     "I'm afraid so," Bogan said, "Laser ammunition is but a distant
memory in our society. Our problem was we were so prosperous for so many
hundreds of yahrens, that it got to a point where we didn't think we
needed to keep weapons like that any longer. Because of that, we don't
have the means to just blow them away."
     "Then how do you handle the problem?" Starbuck asked, "And why does
the position of constable matter so much in the equation?"
     "You have to understand how Nogow operates," Bogan answered, "If we
leave our food bins unattended, then they pillage all the grain and crop
seed they can get their hands on, but the town itself stays unmolested.
Our people stay safe, but we start losing so much of our hard-earned crop
and our ability to survive. On the other hand, if the food bins are
locked tight, then his next inclination is to go into town for a drink or
ah...." he looked over at Belloby, "companionship."
     The siress visibly squirmed in horror over this revelation.
     "So now we face the problem of either letting them steal our food or
molest the town and perhaps steal a few of our women. If we can't afford
the former, then there's only one way we can prevent the latter from
happening. That's having the constable stand at the head of the street
that leads into town square, and make a few well-placed shots with his
badge shining prominently on his tunic. It....has a way of keeping them
in check, because they react to symbols. The two moons in the night are
a symbol to them, and so too is the constable's badge. That's why one
man wearing that badge can ultimately make a bigger impact then a whole
group of people with no badge standing with arms to block their path."
     "But evidently, the last constable who tried to do that, didn't do a
good job, right?" Starbuck noted caustically.
     "And the two before him," Bogan said pointedly, which caused
Starbuck to slink back in his chair. "The occupational risk is that with
all those Borays charging in on equines with their spears raised, the
chance is always high for one or two of them, even after Nogow turns back
and leads them away, to throw their spear at an open target like the
constable usually is. But because it's the badge they respect, not the
individual man, it doesn't matter even if they know they killed the last
one. So long as someone is there with that badge to head the leader off,
then most of them will stay clear and not pillage the town." He shook
his head, "But lately, we haven't been able to prevent that. And because
of that, more people then just the last three constables have been killed
as a consequence."
     Starbuck lowered his head and stared at the floor, "I don't feel so
well."
     "Starbuck, don't you worry," Adama said, "Bogan, you gave me your
word that we could have him back. I sympathize with the problem you
face, but you have to find a new solution to your problem then what
you've been doing."
     "I'd like to come up with one, Squire," Bogan's tone was sincere,
"Anything else would be better, it's just that....there are no other
alternatives available."
     From outside, they could hear the pounding of feet, and then the
door swung open to reveal an out-of-breath Apollo.
     "Father, I think you'd better come with me," his tone was urgent.
And then, he pointed at Starbuck, "And you too, Constable, since you're
the authority in this town."


     When they stepped outside, Boomer was already there, discreetly
keeping his distance, but with his laser pistol now drawn.
     "You can see for yourself, Commander," he motioned. "A whole herd
of them, going after those food storage bins. They'll probably keep
going even after they've fully loaded their packs."
     The four of them found themselves both amazed and repulsed by the
sight. They could see well over thirty of the ugly, snout-faced Boray
creatures, some still on their equines, while others were ripping open
the fronts of the storage bins and emptying the containers as much as
they could.
     Borays were a species well-known to the Colonies, but it had been
many yahrens since Adama had seen one of them. They were just as
repugnant as he remembered them. The one thing that struck him as so
ironic, was that despite their appearance, they were not devoid of
intelligence, and could even be communicated with over a simple
Languatron.
     "Adama?" Belloby's voice sounded from behind as she stepped out of
the jail. "What are you going to do?"
     The Commander turned around and grabbed her by the arm, "Belloby,
get back in the jail and hide in a dark corner. It's not safe for you to
be out here."
     "Adama if you think I----"
     "That's an order, Belloby!" he said angrily.
     With a haughty flourish, she turned around and went back in, clearly
angry over being talked down to.
     "What do we do, Father?" Apollo asked with concern.
     "Well, if the badge impresses them, then the first thing we need to
do is to have you, Starbuck, get in front of us."
     The blonde warrior sighed, "Here I am, being volunteered again." he
stepped in front of the other three. "Okay, now what?"
     "Draw your weapons," Adama kept his voice low, "We'll fire in the
air first. Boomer, you get on Starbuck's right flank, Apollo on the
left."
     They took up position, with Starbuck remaining at the center, and in
front of them.
     "Raise weapons," Adama softly ordered. "And.....now!"
     Each of the warriors fired one shot into the air. It caused all of
the Borays to scatter from their pillaging of the food bins. One of the
Borays, clearly the leader called Nogow, then motioned his hand and the
Borays took to their equines yet again.
     Within a matter of microns, the herd had begun to approach toward
the heart of town, where the four warriors stood.
     "Holy Frack," Starbuck whispered in horror, "It feels like they
could shake us to death."
     "Fire again!" Adama ordered, "Now!"
     This time, they fired two shots each from their lasers. It caused
the pack to stop briefly, but from the lead equine, Nogow raised his
spear and they resumed their charge.
     "They're still coming!" Apollo warned.
     "This time in front of them!" Adama barked.
     Another barrage of laser fire was unleashed toward them, but it
still didn't slow them down.
     "Take cover!" the Commander shouted. "Don't let yourself stay in
the open!"
     The four of them ducked under a low overhang next to the stairs that
led back into the jail. They could see several spears land a few feet
away from them, along with several torches. And then, they saw them
begin to turn away.
     "I think they're finally retreating." Starbuck said above the roar.
     Suddenly, they saw above them, the door open and Belloby emerge
holding a numo.
     "If you think I'm going to stay in there cooped up and let you
handle this all yourself, Adama, you're----"
     The siress suddenly let out a scream as one of the Borays that had
yet to turn around with the rest of the herd, abruptly grabbed her off
the steps and loaded her onto the equine. Stunned, the four warriors
emerged from their hiding spot just in time to see the last of the herd,
with Belloby clinging to the Boray that had seized her, disappearing from
view.
     Adama shook his head in stunned disbelief. For all the terrible
things he'd been thinking about Belloby, this was the last thing he
wanted to see happen to her or anyone else. And it only compounded the
difficult situation he already faced again.
     "Commander, what do we do?" Boomer spoke up.
     "We get some information we'll need," he said with determination,
"Come on!"
     He led them back into the Town Square, where the lights were still
off and the streets deserted. "Bogan!" he called out, "Chief Bogan!"
     Finally, the lights to the Chancery came back on, and Bogan emerged
followed by more of the townspeople. "What happened?"
     "They've captured our woman," Adama didn't know how else to describe
her.
     "Oh, Lord no," Bogan said with concern, "I am so sorry, I----" he
stopped and took a breath. "I watched you out there stand so unafraid
when they first charged on you. I think it's obvious to me that you're
not ordinary farmers."
     Adama tensed slightly, not knowing what this might mean.
     "There's only one group of fighting men I can think of that would
show such courage like that." He took another breath, "Am I in the
presence of warriors from the Great Colonies, from where our ancestors
came from?"
     Adama wondered for a micron if he should level with him. But it
seemed evident that Bogan and Serenity Colony had no connection with any
Cylon forces that might have intruded close to the quadrant, so he could
feel safe for now. "Yes."
     "I thought so," Bogan said with deep admiration. "I....have to say,
I feel so insignificant by comparison. And....you have no idea how sorry
I feel for the deceptions perpetrated upon you and your people. If
you've come wanting new seed, it can only be for the greater good of
serving the Colonial Nation." He paused, "However you resolve this
situation with the Borays, I can assure you of giving you everything you
possibly need."
     "Thank you," Adama said, "For now though, our problem is finding out
where the Borays camp. We need to locate where they are so we can get
our woman back."
     "Well, the Borays live in the canyon and there's one path from town
that leads to it. I can point that out to you, but as far as finding the
camp itself, I'm afraid I wouldn't know how to pinpoint that for you."
     "I see," Adama said grimly, "So where does that leave us then?"
     "Father, wait," Apollo snapped his fingers, "I think I know how we
can track down where their camp is. But it'll mean a trip back to the
shuttle first."
     Adama looked at him, "Then take the sled and get back there as
quickly as possible!"


     Far away, there was an air of restlessness aboard the Galactica's
bridge. Colonel Tigh had spent the better part of a centar pacing back
and forth, wondering when some word would finally come in that the
mission objective had been fulfilled.
     For the tenth time in the last centar, he made his way over to
Athena's station. The expression on the Commander's daughter was enough
to tell him that the situation had not changed.
     "What do you suppose has happened, Colonel?" she said aloud,
"They've had more then enough time to get the seed if all went well."
     "I know," Tigh nodded, "But we're just going to have to wait it out
a little longer it seems like." he then moved over to Omega's station,
"Omega, how much longer will we stay in normal shuttle range of
Serenity?"
     The Bridge Officer made the computations on his screen, "Another
thirty centars, Colonel. After that, only a viper could get back there."
     "And with our three top flyers in Blue Squadron taking part in this
mission, that spreads our ranks too thin to send more pilots back to look
for them, if it comes to that." an air of tension entered the Executive
Officer's voice, "I hope it doesn't have to come to that."


     "Come on Jolly, don't you want to play another hand?"
     The fat sergeant tried not to yawn. For the last several centars,
he'd played one hand of Pyramid after another with Boxey to pass the time
and it was becoming clear to Jolly that the little boy had been learning
too much about the game from Starbuck. Which meant that for him, there
was no enjoyment to be found in it whatsoever.
     "I....think I need a break from all this, Boxey," Jolly got to his
feet. "What say we step outside?"
     "Had enough?" he grinned crookedly at him.
     "Yeah, I surrender, I surrender," Jolly held up his hands. "You're
the best, Boxey."
     "And remember when we get back. Five mushies you owe me!"
     "I won't forget," his head then perked as he heard a sound, "I think
your father's back, Boxey."
     "Yea!" Boxey said, thinking, Maybe I can go home now.
     But when Apollo stepped off the land sled alone, it was clear to
both the warrior and the little boy that going home wouldn't be happening
anytime soon.
     "Boxey," Apollo said as he came up to his son, "You know how smart a
daggit Muffit is, don't you?"
     "Sure," the little boy said, "There's no one smarter."
     "Well that's why your grandfather and I need him now. Without
Muffit, we won't be able to make the mission succeed?"
     "Really?" Boxey's interest was piqued, "What does he need to do?"
     "Well Muffit's got sensors inside him that can let him find people
when we don't know where they are. That's why we need him. So you don't
mind if we borrow Muffit for the next few centars, do you?"
     "I'll ask him," Boxey turned to his pet, "Muffit, do you want to
help us go home?"
     The daggit let out an approving nod.
     Apollo laughed and picked up the daggit, "Then come on Muffit, we've
got some work for you to do." He turned around and gave his son one last
grin, "Back before you know it!"


     When Apollo returned to Serenity twenty centons later, he wasted
little time.
     "You got that piece of Belloby's cloak that fell off when the Boray
snatched her?" Apollo asked.
     "Right here," Starbuck handed it to him.
     "Okay," he held it up under the daggit's metal nose, which had been
programmed with the sense of smell that a real daggit had. "Okay,
Muffit. Use this and your tracking sensors to find Belloby. Got that?
Find Belloby!"
     "If you need any extra numos, we'll be happy to give you all you
need," Dipper said as the warriors loaded themselves into the sled.
Already, Muffit was beginning to move down the path that led into the
canyon. "I know they're not as efficient as your lasers, but-----"
     "We appreciate the offer," Adama said, "But I don't think they'll be
useful."
     Bogan nodded, "Whatever you think best. Our hopes and prayers go
with you," he smiled, "And to the woman you love."
     Adama tried not to let a sour expression come over him as he
motioned Starbuck to start up the land sled. A micron later, it had
begun following the robot daggit into the canyon.
     Ten centons went by as the vehicle made its way deeper and deeper
into the canyon, always maintaining a slow enough speed so Muffit could
stay ahead of them.
     "The only other clue Bogan could give us is that the Borays often do
a lot of chanting and carrying on after a raiding party. If we get close
to them, we should be able to hear them."
     Apollo glanced up at the rock formations that rose fifteen feet
above the canyon surface. He could have sworn he'd seen a brief glint of
light, but just as quickly, it was gone.
     "Father," he said, "I get the feeling we're being watched."
     "Yes," Adama nodded, "I sense it too. And for some time now."
     Several more centons went by, and suddenly the robot daggit came to
a stop and began to motion its head up and down. Starbuck immediately
stopped the land sled and the four of them got out.
     "Get the illuminators out," Adama motioned. Boomer reached into the
back of the sled and removed them, handing one to Apollo, and keeping the
other one.
     "Look at that," Starbuck pointed at Muffit, who was now perched in
front of a large opening in the rock face, "He says it's through that
cave there."
     They followed the daggit in. The light from the illuminators
managed to pierce the blackness and keep the path clear for them to
continue.
     "The key is their leader, Nogow," Apollo noted, "Maybe if we could
reason with him, it could have a chain reaction on the rest of the
Borays. They'd follow his lead and not scavenge any longer."
     "Yes," Adama nodded, "He's the one all right. If he weren't so
lazy, the Borays wouldn't have started stealing their food."
     They proceeded another thirty metrones through the cave and emerged
out into the night air, when Boomer's illuminator suddenly revealed a
large group of Borays just ahead, gathered around a fire.
     "Commander, look!" he pointed.
     "I see," the Commander noted, "They allowed us to come this far.
Maybe they want to avoid a confrontation."
     "Commander, they're behind and above us too," Starbuck's eyes darted
about. "All those Borays who were watching us, are now on top of us!"
     "Easy, Starbuck," Adama motioned.
     "Looks like it's all over, but I'll tell you this, I'm not going
without a fight!" The brash warrior added.
     "Pray it doesn't come to that."
     One Boray stepped forward, brandishing a spear by his side. He
seemed to study the group of men carefully and the motioned to the Borays
behind him. Immediately they began to raise their spears.
     "Fire!" Adama barked.
     Starbuck and Boomer trained their shots so that they didn't hit the
creatures. With pinpoint precision, they shot the spears clean out of
the hands of the first two that were about to attack.
     The lead Boray, who had given the signal to them, stopped and seemed
to frown, though it was impossible to tell given the twisted nature of
his snout-like face. In an instant Adama realized this had to be the
Boray leader, Nogow. For the next centon, it seemed to the Colonials as
though a tense stand-off were now in place, with neither side willing to
budge.
     Finally, Adama slowly turned to his son. "Apollo," he said, "Give
me the Languatron."
     The captain took it out of his pocket and handed it carefully to his
father.
     "Wait here," the Commander said as he slowly moved toward the Boray
leader.
     "Father-" Apollo protested.
     "It's all right," he said reassuringly as he drew closer to Nogow,
who was taking tentative steps toward Adama as well.
     Adama drew up to within two feet of him, his bearing firm and erect,
the Languatron securely in his palm. "Are you willing to talk?"
     Nogow let out a series of low grunts that the machine immediately
translated into a generic male voice. "I will talk."
     "Good," Adama felt relieved. "Someplace more private?"
     Nogow gestured to his left, indicating another cave on the opposite
side of the canyon. Adama followed the Boray leader in, and saw two more
Borays standing guard over Belloby.
     "Oh Adama!" she said with relief, "Thank the Lords, you showed up!
I knew you had to care!"
     "Belloby," he shook his head in disbelief at how even amidst all
this, the siress still had to keep playing her silly romantic games.
     Nogow let out some more grunts, and when the Languatron translated
his words, Adama could scarcely believe it.
     "Your woman talks very much!"
     He drew himself up and looked the Boray leader in the eye, "Look,"
he said, "You love your people. I love mine too. With that....common
bond, we should be able to work something out that can be of advantage to
all of us........."


     Outside, the three warriors felt the tension increase as they could
see the Borays on all sides viewing them with hostility. As each centon
went by, it seemed like they were all moving closer to them.
     "I'll tell you something," Starbuck said, "These guys actually make
me yearn for Cylons!"
     "I'll remind you of that, the next time a group of centurions is
surrounding you," Boomer dryly added. For the two of them, gallows humor
was all they had to fall back on. Apollo though, didn't chime in with
one of his own.
     Funny, Starbuck thought. There used to be a time when Apollo would
always come up with the morbid jokes in a situation like this. Not
anymore.
     His thoughts were shattered when one of the spears from a Boray
perched on the cliff landed just two feet to the left of them. Starbuck
looked back up to see which one had thrown it, and then decided enough
was enough. His shot struck the Boray who had thrown the spear in the
chest. The creature tumbled over the cliff and fell fifteen feet to the
ground below.
     Seeing one of them struck down seemed to have an effect on the rest
of the Borays, and they immediately backed away. Still, the air of
tension remained.
     "I wonder what's going on in there," Apollo finally broke his
silence, "It's been almost ten centons now."
     "Well no one's a better diplomat then your father," Starbuck said,
"If anyone can get them to understand-----"
     The blonde warrior stopped when he saw Adama suddenly emerge from
the cave. There was an angry and exasperated expression on the
Commander's face as he pushed his way through the other Borays.
     "Something tells me he didn't get through to him," Boomer said
dryly.
     "That is the most obstinate, self-centered, selfish, lazy snitrad
I've ever met in my life!" Adama was fuming, and Apollo knew it had to be
serious since he couldn't ever recall him using that expression in his
life.
     "What did he say?"
     "That he's only interested in his own personal comforts, and that he
can't help it if Boray custom dictates that the rest of them follow his
lead when he decides he wants to indulge in some pleasures in town." The
commander shook his head, "How can you bargain with a creature like
that?"
     "Hmmm," Starbuck stopped to reflect on Adama's words. Already, the
germ of a new idea was entering his mind. One that he was convinced
might salvage his reputation with the Commander if it worked.
"Commander, I did hear you right? Lazy and interested only in his own
personal pleasure? It doesn't matter to him what the rest of the Borays
do?"
     "That's exactly what I said," Adama said, "And since Belloby still
has the potential to offer him.....pleasure, even if he thinks she talks
too much, he won't release her."
     "Commander, could I have the Languatron?"
     "What for?" he frowned.
     "I want try a new diplomatic approach with him," Starbuck said, "It
might work, if all you say about him is true."
     "How?" Apollo stared at him, disbelieving, "You're not a diplomat,
Starbuck. How would you know how to bargain with him?"
     "I think I've got some leverage that might work," he motioned to the
badge that was still attached to his tunic. "Remember, the symbol does
carry a good deal of weight to them."
     "It's worth a try," Adama shrugged. "Go ahead, Starbuck. We'll
keep you covered."
     Starbuck made his way down toward the cave. As they watched him
disappear inside, Boomer suddenly shook his head, "I don't know why I
feel this way, but if he ends up saving our hides after all the trouble
he's gotten himself into, I think I'm going to resent it."
     "That's the trademark Starbuck behavior, Boomer," Apollo couldn't
help but add.


     When Starbuck entered the cave, he saw Nogow still standing next to
his aides, and also could see that Belloby was furious.
     "Oh, so now Adama's sent you, has he? After all you've done to get
yourself into trouble....losing my energizer...getting yourself
constable... and letting me get captured by these filth, you think I'm
supposed to feel good that you've arrived?"
     "Hey take it easy, Siress," Starbuck motioned, "I'll have you out of
here in no time." He looked at Nogow and trained the Languatron at him,
"Now look, Nogow, I've got a proposition for you that I think for someone
who has such an affinity for the finest things in life couldn't possibly
think of refusing....."


     "I think they're getting impatient again," Boomer noted grimly as he
saw the Borays start to draw close to where they were standing once
again.
     "We've already had to kill one of them," Apollo said, "If we do it
again, it might get them to back off, Father."
     "Don't fire until one of them is about to throw their spear," Adama
warned, "We have to give Starbuck a chance to get through to that
indolent cretin."
     "What do you suppose he's offering him?"
     "I don't know, but since I feel totally stymied in trying to talk to
him, I don't think there's anything to lose by having Starbuck try."
     "Commander!" Boomer pointed to their left, "Over there!"
     They could see one Boray lifting his spear into the air. Adama
trained his laser pistol and fired, shooting the spear out of the
creature's hand. It was enough to make Apollo marvel at how his father
was still capable of shooting a laser with such precision after so many
yahrens away from the field.
     The Borays retreated, but the three men knew that unless there was
some headway from Starbuck soon, it would only be a matter of time before
their shock wore off and they would start encroaching once again.
     "Our problems are solved!"
     They turned around and saw Starbuck emerge from the cave with a wide
grin on his face. Behind him, stumbling over the rocky surface was
Belloby.
     "Starbuck!" Adama came over, grateful to see both him and Belloby
emerge. "And Belloby, thank the Lords you're okay."
     "No thanks to you!" the siress said sourly, "Adama you've really
lost your touch." she then turned and smiled warmly at Starbuck, "But you
should have seen how Starbuck handled that filthy wretch    He had him in
the palm of his hand all the time." She grabbed him by the wrist and
looked adoringly in his eyes, "Lieutenant, I have some very important
friends in high places who could see to it you go a long ways in the
Service."
     "Ah...thank you Belloby, but.....that's really not necessary,"
Starbuck kept his tone polite, but was already wishing she'd let go of
him.
     "Let me show you how grateful I am," Belloby suddenly kissed him on
the lips, and for the first time Adama and Apollo were both glad to see
someone else have to be receiving end of Belloby's treatment.
     "To the victors go the spoils," Boomer said dryly.
     "Okay....ah, thanks." Starbuck said as he managed to get free of
her. "Commander, I think maybe if you get Belloby and the others away
from here, I can explain better how Nogow and I have.....worked something
out."
     "By all means," Adama said, "Apollo, Boomer, take Belloby back to
the land sled."
     "Will do," Apollo motioned Belloby to move out, and then the captain
remembered to pick up Muffit, who had stayed in front of them the whole
while. "Okay, Muffit, back to the sled!"
     Once they'd moved out and Adama and Starbuck were alone, the
Commander stared quizzically with him.
     "How did you get through to him?"
     "By telling him that if he wanted luxury and comfort, there was a
simpler way to get it then leading pillaging campaigns." He held up the
constable's badge, "And they key to it, was all in here."
     "That's interesting," Adama said as he eyed the detail on the badge
for the first time. And then, his eyes narrowed in disbelief.
"Starbuck, can I see that for a micron?"
     "Sure, but I can't let you have it too long."
     The Commander held up the gold badge in the dim glare of the
torchlight. "Lords of Kobol....Starbuck, did they tell you what this
inscription on it means?"
     "No," the blonde warrior frowned, "Bogan gave me some felgercarb
story before he tricked me into taking it about it being the language of
the original settlers of the planet who'd....moved on."
     Adama handed it back to Starbuck. "Starbuck, his story didn't have
as much felgercarb in it as you thought."
     "Huh?" the lieutenant's frown deepened.
     "I'll explain later," he said as he saw Nogow emerge from the cave.
"In the meantime, you fill me in on how you defused this situation."


     A centar later, inside the Chancery, a beaming Bogan was handing
over several documents to Adama.
     "Present these deeds to our Bin Supervisor, and you'll be entitled
to all the fresh seed that can fit in your ship. I'll have all the spare
men he can afford help load it in." The Chief Administrator hesitated,
"There's a lot more I wish I could ask you, now that who you really are
is clear to me, but.....I get the feeling it's better that I don't ask.
Serenity was settled 700 yahrens ago, after the war between the Colonies
and the Cylon Empire began, and even though we've been fortunate to be
sheltered from the fighting in all the yahrens since, I'd have to think
matters still haven't been resolved if you've been trying to keep your
identities concealed."
     Adama smiled thinly and decided this was the time to ask the other
question that had been burning on his mind. "Chief Bogan, I'm curious
about one thing. When your ancestors first settled this planet 700
yahrens ago, were there already humans living on this planet?"
     Bogan seemed surprised, "Why yes, as a matter of fact there were. A
very small aboriginal band that lived out where the Borays live now. We
couldn't understand their language though. There were only about fifty
to a hundred of them, and now they're all gone. After mixed breeding,
their original line, whoever they were became extinct." He paused, "How
could you have known that?"
     "Just curious," Adama picked up the documents, "Again, our people
will be very grateful for your kindness. We do have a great many to
feed."
     "I'm certain," Bogan said, "And....your energizer I know will help
us a great deal in increasing our nighttime operations." he paused and
smiled, "Incidentally, I plan on introducing a resolution at the next
Town Committee meeting about altering our charter regarding the position
of Constable being a lifetime appointment."
     Adama returned it, "Wise thinking, Chief Bogan. But as things stand
now, I think your next Constable will want to keep the job for life."
     "How's that?"
     The Commander motioned to the door, "Starbuck, bring our guest in."
     The doors opened and a smiling Starbuck entered with the Boray
leader behind him. His presence caused everyone in the Chancery to bolt
up and scream in fear.
     "No, no!" Starbuck waved his hand, still smiling, "It's okay!
Nogow's here to become friends now!"
     "Friends?" Dipper's eyes widened in disbelief as the rest of the
Chancery patrons eyed the Boray with suspicion and fear. "How?"
     "Simple," Starbuck came up to Bogan, "In exchange for stepping down
as Boray leader, and getting the Borays to go back to farming their own
food, leaving all of yours unmolested, and leaving your town property
undamaged, and your people safe, Nogow's agreed to take over my job and
become your new town constable!"
     Bogan's jaw nearly fell open as he saw Nogow beaming and pointing
with pride to the shield on his tunic now.
     "Constable....Nogow?" he could barely get the words.
     "Yeah, you see it's like this," Starbuck said, "I told him that if
luxury and comfort was all he wanted in life, there was a simpler way to
get it then leading a bunch of Borays on pillages and causing so much
senseless destruction. And that's when I told him about all the
wonderful privileges and perks that came with my job. Great salary.
Full access to all the food and drink you want. And because Serenity is
noted for being such a well-knit community where the locals don't try to
cheat each other or cause trouble, that means the job of constable really
doesn't have to do any serious work at all. By the time I was done, I
had him practically begging for it!"
     Bogan put a hand on his chin and started to laugh, "Starbuck, you
are one skilled diplomat! Giving one Boray all he needs is small change
compared to what we've lost in pillages. If that keeps Nogow in line and
guarantees the Borays are off our backs for good, then that's fine by
me." He looked at Dipper, "You agree?"
     There was a trace of reluctance in the adjutant's voice since he
wasn't keen on seeing Nogow win any rewards after all the damage that had
been caused, but finally he took a thoughtful puff on his hookah and
shrugged as if in defeat.
     "And believe me, he takes one part of the job seriously," Starbuck
said as he motioned Nogow to sit down at the table, "If any Borays
decided to pillage again, he'd view that as a threat to getting whatever
he wants, so that means he would be more than happy to make sure they
stay out."
     "You've thought of everything, Starbuck," Bogan turned to Dipper,
"Dipper, what say you buy our new constable a drink and toast our mutual
good fortune?"
     The aide allowed himself a crooked smile, "Might as well."
     Bogan turned back to Adama one last time, "The Lords be with you and
your people, Adama."
     "And yours as well, Bogan."
     When they reached the doorway that led outside, Starbuck couldn't
help but turn back one last time. Both Bogan and Dipper were chatting
with Nogow as if they'd known each other for a long time.
     "Looks like the beginning of a beautiful friendship," he grinned as
they stepped outside.
     "Too bad it couldn't be the same with us, Starbuck," Belloby sighed,
"Oh, if I were only thirty yahrens younger."
     The uneasy feeling returned to the lieutenant again, and this time
Adama was glad to be the one smiling at someone else's expense. His
smile widened as he saw Belloby force another kiss on the blonde warrior
again.
     The siress then turned to Adama, "Adama, darling, I'm afraid this
time together revealed that we're more apart from each other then ever
before. You're so refined and dignified, and me, I love to enjoy life to
the fullest. I guess rekindling what we had was never meant to be. I'm
at the stage of life where I need a real animal to give me what I need."
     "Of course," Adama nodded gently, feeling relieved it was all over.
"I'm sure there are plenty of lonely men in the Fleet who share your zeal
for life. No hard feelings, Belloby."
     As she moved ahead toward the land sled, Apollo chuckled and patted
his father on the back. "Thank the Lords," his son said, "I just
couldn't see myself calling her Mother."
     Adama turned around and stared at his son, "One more laugh at my
expense, son?"
     "I guess so," Apollo chuckled as they headed toward the sled. "What
was all that talk about early human settlers on the planet?"
     "Something that provides a good deal of reassurance to me, Apollo,"
Adama said, "The inscription on that constable's shield is the writing of
those first settlers. Kobollian language."
     "Kobollian?" Apollo was taken aback. "You're sure of that?"
     "I recognized it immediately," Adama smiled, "Apollo, for the first
time we've found evidence that people from the Thirteenth Tribe came
along this path on their journey to Earth. That means that even though
the precise direction is still not known to us, we have reason to keep
going into this part of the galaxy."
     A beaming Apollo put his arm around his father's shoulder, "In that
case, between that and the seed and getting Belloby out of your hair
forever, this mission was a total success."
     "In every sense," he said as they reached the sled. "Come on, let's
get that seed and then go home."
     "Boxey's been looking forward to nothing else."
     As the sled started up, Adama took one last look at the Chancery and
the people mulling in and out. This was by far a good, thriving
community of humans, and he could only hope and pray that the terror of
the Cylon Empire pursuing them never came across this colony.
     It struck Adama as amazing at how so many small pockets of humanity
could exist in these isolated enclaves of charted space, representing
communities that had been able to live such sheltered lives from the long
terror of the war. And now it had paid its greatest divided for them in
that their communities had been able to keep flourishing even after the
destruction of the Mother Civilization from whence their ancestors had
first come.
     There was one part of Adama that wondered if in coming to these
outposts, with so much Cylon pursuit trailing them, were these sheltered
enclaves of humanity being put at risk? And if so, wasn't it incumbent
upon him to warn these people and offer them the protection of the Fleet,
in taking them aboard as had been done a sectar before with the
population of the Proteus Penal Colony?
     As powerful as that argument was, Adama knew he couldn't act on that
instinct. The bottom line was that the Serenians, like the other
outposts they encountered, needed to remain free to chart their destiny.
Just as the Colonials needed to be free to chart their own destiny one
day on the last great outpost of humanity that had to exist in the
universe. The shining blue planet known as Earth.
     When the shuttle was finally away two centars later, fully loaded
with the seed that would keep a famine from breaking out, Adama was able
to see Serenity disappear from you with a totally clear conscience.

The End

								
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