Epilogue : Apollo Redux

 

"Hey, am I glad that there's another one of me!"

"Another one of you?" Fee had been warned that he'd be in a shared dorm. He stared at the burly young Leonid who'd just burst in on him, then grinned. "You must be Boomer."

Boomer grinned and held out his hand, offering a very strong grip that had Fee's eyes watering slightly. He flexed his fingers, surreptitiously, when Boomer released them. He wouldn't be arm wrestling with this one, if he could help it.

"Enlisted, I mean." Boomer sat on the opposite bunk. "I couldn't believe it when I got here and found out I was the only one this yahren. I could have kissed Captain Nolan. You met him yet? He's the adjutant."

"I just met him. He told me who you were. Why did you want to kiss him?"

"The reassurance he gave me that I wouldn't be on my own. He said you were expected but held up."

"I would have been here earlier, but my partner's been ill. I couldn't get away."

"Oh. Sorry. I hope everything's all right now."

Fee shrugged, feeling the all-too-familiar stab of apprehension and fear. "It's okay," he said, not able to say more to a stranger.

Boomer looked at him a little askance, clearly regretting opening this line of conversation.

Fee let himself relax, and said, "It's not been too great here, then?"

"I ought to warn you, this has been one long, long couple of sectons— Phoebus, isn't it?"

"Just Fee." Fee regarded him thoughtfully, and turned away as he emptied the last of his kitbag out onto his own bunk and finished putting his stuff away. "My Dad was Academy," he said. "He warned me that it always took a few sectons for enlisted cadets to settle down. He said that the problem is that the rest of the final yahren group have been together for three yahrens. Adding some unknowns into the mix always takes a bit of gelling."

"Your father came here? All the way through?"

"We always do in our family. My sister's just starting her second yahren. It's just that I delayed coming for a while."

"You might be okay then. They might think of you as one of them, even if you came up through the ranks. Come to think of it, you talk the way they do."

"Where I come from, we prefer our officers to come up from enlisted." Fee sat down opposite him, amused that all his yahrens in the Eastside hadn't robbed him of his well-spoken tones. Alex had teased him about it, gently, once he'd started to speak again and he'd rediscovered a sense of humour.

"Don't say that! You'll never fit in if you say that. They're all ladies and gentlemen and the sons and daughters of ladies and gentlemen. So far as they're concerned, enlisted probably eat peas off their knives."

"I just use fingers."

Boomer laughed. "It's a bit hard to deny I'm working class, though. My folks moved to Caprica City from Leo just after I was born, and we lived in the Eastside until I was thirteen."

That explained the Caprican accent, then.

"I live there now," said Fee. "In Canal Street."

"Not far from where I used to live." Boomer gave Fee a bleak look. "By the time they'd bailed me out of juvenile detention for the second time, my parents decided we needed to get out. They re-emigrated back to Leo and then moved on to one of Leo's agricultural colonies in the Corellus sector. I've lived there ever since."

"If you were a mass murderer, I'm asking for a room change."

Boomer grinned. "I'll have you know that you're rooming with the best hot-rodder of hovercars in the entire Eastside."

Fee grinned back. He liked this man. "A talent like that will always come in useful. But I can see your problem. Here at the Academy, you figure either as urban delinquent or straw-chewing peasant?"

"You got it. The cadets love grinding their gentility in my face. Well, the Senior Cadet does and one or two follow his lead. Did it happen when your dad was here?"

"Dad says it happens every yahren. He said the former enlisted people dealt with their tormentors pretty sharply."

"Oh, sharp as in a punch to that turned-up nose?" Boomer looked wistful. "I'd love to, but his father's my captain. Captain Darius supported me going career and put me straight up for officer training. I don't really think I can repay him by rearranging his son's face."

"In Dad's time, it was a little more subtle than hitting. He went through it all with me pretty carefully. He said I might find it useful." Fee grinned. "Actually, he was Senior Cadet and I think he remembers it so well because he was on the receiving end. He looked very ashamed of himself when he told me about it."

"I could wish Bojay was on the receiving end," said Boomer.

"The Senior Cadet?"

"And Captain Darius's oldest and dearest. For some reason, the captain wrote to tell him I was coming, and for him to welcome me. He sure as hell did that."

"Captain Darius is who, exactly?"

"Commander of the Persia." When Fee continued staring, keeping his expression blank, Boomer grinned and said, "Destroyer, Third Fleet."

"Ah, the Third. We," said Fee grandly, "don't notice anything outside of First, or outside of Battlestars."

"Not even Destroyers?"

"At a pinch," said Fee, looking at Boomer down his nose. "If we really must."

"I'd love a Battlestar posting, but they only take the best. Which ship are you on? The Galactica itself?"

Of course, the pearl-grey cadet uniform that they all wore didn't show any previous allegiances and Fee's Guard insignia was carefully pinned on the inside of his jacket - out of sight, if not out of mind. Boomer had no way of knowing where Fee had served.

"My Dad is. He knows every commander, colonel and senior captain in the Fleet, so he probably at least knows of your captain. He's never mentioned him. I'm not in Fleet."

"Infantry?" Boomer sounded shocked. "What's a good boy from a Galactica family doing in Infantry?"

"Not that, either."

Boomer's eyes widened slightly. "Oh," he said. "The Guard?"

Fee nodded. He glanced at Boomer's grey cadet battledress. Like his own, it didn't show rank markings either. "Did they give you a field commission?"

"They did. Long overdue, mind. You?"

"Me too. I joined up nearly five yahrens ago, when I was eighteen -"

"I was eighteen, too. Six yahrens for me."

"How badly do you want to go back to the Persia?" At Boomer's shrug, Fee nodded. "Well, then, maybe we should follow the example of the enlisted cadets in my Dad's day."

"Are you going to rearrange his face?" asked Boomer, hopefully.

"Just his preconceptions. Follow my lead on this?"

"Wherever you want to take it. Where do you want to take it?"

"I'll take Dad's advice and remind them of a few pertinent facts about the difference between real officers and trainees, Lieutenant Boomer. Do you have medal ribbons?"

Boomer's smile was beatific.

Fee rooted around in the stuff on his bed until he found the small case that held his medal ribbons and pinned them in place. He reflected that it was probably only the second or third time he'd worn them, the Frontier Guard not being big on display. Boomer took his set from a drawer. Between them, it was an impressive array.

"We won't do anything so crass as to draw attention to the medals," said Fee. "But they won't miss seeing 'em. Are the other cadets like Bojay?"

"Some are friendly, especially the scholarship people who probably went through all this crap when they were in the first yahren. Bojay's just rubbing my face in it, I think, playing lord of the manor to my lowly serf. He knows I can't get back at him because I owe his dad."

"Unpleasant. Who'll be on our side then?"

"Well, the friendly ones. Trent, I guess, and Mione, Phillipz, Starbuck and probably Suzanne. Most of the others won't care one way or the other and will just wait to see who comes out on top. Bojay throws his weight about a bit and I don't think he's as popular as he thinks he is."

"I look forward to meeting them all."

Boomer smiled. "You know, so am I! This might be fun."

Fee grinned back. "Thanks to my Dad, his timely warning and the fact he spent half his last leave coaching me for just this eventuality. So, show me around?"

Boomer was quick to oblige. Fee hadn't been to the Academy for yahrens, not since he'd been a kid, tagging along with Adama to watch the excitement at graduation days. His memories of it were patchy, and he appreciated Boomer's guided tour of the lecture halls and libraries and study rooms. He kept an eye open for Athena, but didn't catch sight of her. It was a big place, and they could probably rattle around in it comfortably enough without bothering each other too much.

He enjoyed the tour, deciding he liked the Leonid he was to room with. They had a lot in common. Both he and Boomer, as real pilots, scorned the flight simulators housed in a separate building, but they were, Boomer said glumly, required to use them to keep their skills up. At least when the final yahren class graduated to using the training Vipers after Yule, he and Fee would do their flights without an instructor, just to keep up the required number of flying centars so they didn't have to be tested to regain their wings. They had a friendly discussion about the relative merits of Raptors and Vipers—only slightly hampered by the fact that Fee had never flown a Viper and Boomer had never even seen a Raptor—that kept them occupied until diverted by the sports facilities. The Triad courts were impressive. He and Boomer agreed immediately to team up, hoping they could give the cadets a run for their money.

"But some of them are pretty good," warned Boomer, pausing outside a door. "This is it."

Fee nodded. He and Boomer had discussed their plan of action as they'd taken the tour. He was ready.

Boomer threw open the door and said, loudly, "And this is the common room. This is where we can watch the vid, play chess, allow Starbuck to take our money off us at Pyramid."

It was a pleasant room, full of cadets relaxing between the rigours of the day's instruction and the start of the evening study period. There were about thirty of them.

One stocky young man about Fee's own age got languidly to his feet. "Well, well, Boomer. You've found a new friend. And if it isn't another enlisted man to bring added meaning to the word 'common'."

Despite knowing exactly what to expect, Apollo rose up, fighting mad at condescension from someone who, like Hanson, he would hardly regard as an equal. For the centon, Fee was able to contain him, reminding himself that they had a plan, he and Boomer, and they should be allowed to get on with it, unhindered by short-tempered blue-bloods. But he let Apollo's contempt tinge his tone when he looked the cadet up and down and turned to Boomer. "And this is?"

"The Senior Cadet, Bojay."

"I see," he said. He shrugged, dismissively, and looked around the room, giving Bojay his back. "Not a bad place."

Bojay scowled, unused to being ignored. "Don't forget to pass on what we've taught you in the way of table manners, Boomer. We don't want to have to go through it all again with every enlisted man who comes here."

"He means no eating peas off your knife," said Boomer kindly.

"Ah." Another dismissive glance at Bojay. "What else have they been teaching this lot over the last three yahrens, other than how to be deadly with their eating implements?"

Bojay, a faint colour on his face, frowned. "You can hardly expect me to go over the curriculum."

Fee continued to ignore the Senior Cadet, responding only to Boomer. "I'm more interested in the gaps in their education, because it looks like they're spending too much time on table manners and seem to have left one important bit out of their training. Or do you think they've just forgotten how to salute an officer?"

Bojay stared as if Fee had suddenly transmogrified into the Imperious Leader. The room was very quiet now, everyone listening intently.

"Do you think that they ever knew?" queried Boomer.

"Dunno. I mean, apart from the instructors, it's not like he's met many for real, not while he's been playing at toy soldiers with the other children for the last three yahrens."

"Safe here at the Academy," said Boomer, all sweetness.

"A long way from the fighting, anyway. And all that time, you and me have been doing it for real. Six yahrens, did you say, Lieutenant?"

"Six," confirmed Boomer.

"And five for me. What's your kill?"

Boomer shrugged. "I lost count, Lieutenant. You know what it's like."

"I do, indeed." For the first time, Fee condescended to notice the Senior Cadet directly. He could see that Bojay—and others—had noticed the medal ribbons and that Bojay was opening and closing his mouth like a stranded fish. "So, Senior Cadet, eh? That's quite the honour, I guess. Like being head boy at school."

Bojay choked, but Fee didn't give him the chance to speak.

"Well, while you were safe here at school being trained to use your fork without hurting yourself, Lieutenant Boomer and I have been killing Cylons. And we've done it pretty well. That's why we're lieutenants. Real ones."

"Maybe you should just start filling that gap in his training?" suggested Boomer.

"You're right." Fee looked Bojay up and down again. "Probably a wasted effort, but we should use our experience to help the toy soldiers along. So, lesson number one: real Warriors outrank trainees any day of the secton."

"Er—" said Bojay, scarlet faced.

Fee noted that quite a few of the other cadets were grinning. "If we flunk out of here tomorrow, we'll still outrank you. So, trainee, why don't you show me how well you can salute?"

Boomer snorted appreciatively. Bojay took a step backward, looking shocked.

After a micron, Fee said to Boomer, scornfully, "I wouldn't have him in my unit even as something to shield a real warrior."

"I don't suppose you can blame them," said Boomer, tolerantly. "It probably confuses them, the Academy making us wear these silly uniforms while we're here so we don't dazzle the schoolchildren." Boomer eyed Fee critically. "It's not your colour, by the way."

"Certainly isn't yours." Fee turned his attention back to Bojay. "Well? Did they ever explain to you, trainee, what being on report for insubordination actually entails?"

"It'll look bad, on his record," said Boomer, shaking his head sadly.

Fee said, cold as Apollo could make it, "I ordered you to salute, Cadet. Right now."

Bojay's arm moved slowly to put his hand over his heart, his eyes wide with shock.

"Sloppy," said Fee, with another of those up and down looks.

"We're going to have to fill in those training gaps," said Boomer.

"It'll be an uphill struggle. At ease, trainee. Now, because neither of us unreasonable and because you obviously don't know any better, we'll overlook your lack of professionalism this time. You have my permission to sit down and we'll pretend you didn't make any silly comments." Fee dropped his voice slightly, trying to sound like Samn in a snit. "However, repeat them, and I'll give you a personal training session in the gym. I'll break both your arms and then I'll put you on report for disrespect to an officer. Are we understood?"

Bojay stared, mouth open. Several of the cadets were laughing openly.

Fee waited for a micron. "Trainee! I said, are we understood?"

"Er—" was all Bojay could manage.

"This one's a bit thick," said Fee to Boomer. "Do you think he grasps the concept yet?"

"Oh, I think he's got it."

Fee sniffed. "All he's fit for is target practice. He wouldn't last five centons with my lot."

They turned their backs on Bojay and sauntered over to a free table. Boomer, beaming happily, made Fee promise to bless his father and all who sailed with him.

Fee was happy to oblige, already mentally drafting the letter that would tell Adama of the success of his tactics and training. "He said the usual taunts were about class, so he coached me through potential scenes like that half a dozen times. I'd never have come up with all that on my own. Unlike him, I'm lousy at witty repartee. Left to myself I'd have lost my temper and gone straight into arm breaking." Fee settled into a chair and smiled benevolently at a Senior Cadet who was still standing rooted to the floor, face a very unhealthy red. "I wonder if Dad looked like that when it was him. I must ask him."

"Do you think he'll tell you?"

Fee laughed and shrugged. "I may have to get him a little drunk, first," he conceded.

A tall, skinny cadet with wheat-gold hair came to join them, grinning widely. He stopped a couple of feet away and saluted with snappy elegance. Boomer laughed.

"Well, that was entertaining!" the cadet said to Boomer. "Why didn't you do that when you got here?"

"Because I do have some obligations towards the idiot's father," said Boomer.

Fee watched Bojay slowly resume his seat, taking in the repressed fury, shame and resentment. Somehow he didn't think Bojay was going to turn out to be a bosom friend. "I don't. Let's do our best to cream him at Triad and embarrass the hell out of him in flying lessons."

The blond cadet laughed at him. "I do that already," he said.

Boomer nodded. "He does, too. This is Starbuck, Fee, the one I was warning you about with regard to Pyramid. Don't play against him if you have anything at all of value in your life and don't try and beat him at flying. He's a natural. Starbuck, this is—"

"Apollo. My name's Apollo." And to Boomer, to counter the puzzled frown. "The other's a... a nickname. It's time I grew out of it."

"Apollo." Starbuck smiled, his bright blue eyes alight with amusement. He held out his hand to be taken. "Fancy name! I'll bet that's taken some getting used to."

"Yeah," said Apollo, taking the proffered hand in his. "It has."

 

End.

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