This really was the first thing I ever felt confident about letting anyone else read. Looking at it now, I'm in despair about some of the technical problems with it - that floating PoV got away from me many a time - but it may be a while before I can revise and rework it. I was learning when I wrote this (still am!) and boy! did I have a lot to learn.

 

Section One

 

The military were the problem, of course. No matter how he twisted and turned, no matter what plans and permutations he came up with, considered and eventually abandoned, it all hung upon the military. If he could get their support, he would win. He would be unassailable. With military backing he could take the Presidency and slowly convert that to the absolute power base that he craved. Lords of Kobol, no! That he deserved ! He glanced at his reflection in the mirror hanging opposite his desk and preened a little at what he saw there. The face looking back at him had a nobility and strength, he thought. The hair was thinning now, but increasing middle age had given him an expression of authority and gravity that many found imposing and attractive. It was every inch a President's face. He should be President. He had to be President. He was born to be President.

Except that Adama had got there first, and Adama commanded the support of the military. True, Adama sometimes had trouble keeping the Council in check, but he had strong allies there like that old fool Anton and Siress Tinia, and so far he'd ridden out any attempt to unseat him. Adama was President and was likely to remain so for the foreseeable future. No amount of staring at the Presidential face in the mirror could change that fact. Sire Uri scowled, his mind once more returning to the problem of how he could swing things so that the support Adama enjoyed slipped away.

The main thing was to weaken Adama's hold on the Council and at the very least, gain the acquiescence of the Warriors, the defenders of the remnants of humanity; their acceptance of him at the head of the Council. With that, he could rule the remnants of their people, ensure that it was his voice that prevailed, his will that overrode everything else. If he could secure the military.

The trouble was that he knew very well that if the warriors were going to choose a dictator to support, it wouldn't be him. There was no way that they were likely to support him seasoned politician though he was, as long as Adama was there, and Adama's damned son was in command of the warriors. Apollo's allegiances were crystal clear: utterly loyal to his father, there was no hope of swinging him to Uri's side. Besides, Uri hated the young Captain. He gave a very non-Presidential squirm as he remembered Apollo's public contempt on Carillon. Without Apollo, they might never have escaped the Cylons and their Ovion allies. Uri scowled resentfully. It wasn't his fault that the Ovions had deceived him, but Apollo had cleverly made it seem as though it was. Apollo's account of what had gone on down on the planet had been the key reason why Uri had had to resign his Council seat. Apollo still hadn't paid for that, either.

Uri sighed impatiently, drummed his fingers on the polished surface of his desk. What he wanted to do was get at Adama, and, somehow, get his revenge on Apollo on the way. He just longed to see that young man disgraced and shamed as publicly as he'd been shamed. His fingers paused in drumming, his eyes narrowing. That would be the ideal solution of course. Neutralising Adama through that precious son of his and then manoeuvre himself into the Presidency

The fingers resumed their drumming. But how? How?

 

 

Apollo

It had been an uneventful patrol. We hadn't seen anything of the Cylons for a couple of sectars now, and a lot of people in the Fleet were hoping that this meant we'd finally slipped the net and escaped them. I was never convinced of that. They hated us so much that they'd chase us to hell and back to make sure they destroyed us, so I kept the squadrons on alert, making sure that we kept up both long and short range patrols and that the pickets were maintained.

Still, this patrol had been quiet. Well, sort of quiet. It might have been very quiet if you didn't have Starbuck as your wingman. I love him dearly - he's been my best friend for half my life now - but boy, can he be a pain in the arse when he's cooped up in a Viper cockpit three centars away from the Fleet and three centars away from sex, booze and cards. He never stops talking, mainly about sex, booze and cards.

You'd think after fifteen yahrens we'd have run out of things to say, but it's never been like that. We've always had something to talk about, even if it's sometimes just me saying “mmn” and “yes” and “really?” in all the right places as he tells me the details of his latest sexual adventure, or him cajoling me into putting down a secton's pay on another of his Pyramid schemes. He always promises me that this one will be the one to make us rich. Never happens. Never will.

So we'd talked and talked about everything and nothing, the way old friends do. And when we got back he was waiting for me in the landing bay - he'd landed a centon before me - ready to talk me into going with him to the OC and joining this hot, hot game that he had lined up.

“Sorry,” I said as we headed into decontamination. “I've already agreed to bankroll this one. That's painful enough. Why should I have the added agony of watching my money disappear?”

“ ‘Pollo!” he said with an injured innocence that might have fooled a few people, but not me. I've known him way too long for that.

A- pollo,” I reminded him. I hated nicknames and lived in dread of someone resurrecting the one I used to have when I was a kid. Starbuck uses it now and again when he's cross with me about something, but he has to be really hacked off to do it. The consequences usually don't bear watching. Pretty much like how seeing my money go on his system doesn't bear watching.

“Well why not, A -pollo?” he demanded with sarcastic emphasis as we went through the decom bay. “I tell you this time we can't lose.”

“You always tell me that and I'm still waiting to be rich enough to retire. Sorry, but for once I'm home early enough to pick up Boxey out of school and spend some time with him. And that's exactly what I'm going to do”

“Lords, but fatherhood has increased your boringness quotient! Bring him along - it'll be educational.”

“I'm sure,” I said dryly. “I'm all for Boxey learning. But I'd rather he didn't learn what a soft touch I am.” We got into the turbolift.

“He knows already.” Starbuck grinned at me. “He just has to look at you with those big blue eyes and say “Ple-ee-ase Dad” and you cough up whatever it is he wants.” He looked at me beseechingly with his own big blue eyes and made his bottom lip tremble. “Ple-ee-ase, Apollo.”

I looked at Starbuck suspiciously. “Oh, so that's where he learned that one. I might have known. You're a bad influence on my son, Starbuck.”

Starbuck shrugged. “Why not? I was a bad influence on his father, and on the whole he turned out all right.” He gave me his most charming smile, watched me melt under it, knowing I was never mad with him for long, and stepped out of the lift at the OC level. “Well if you won't, you won't. See you later, Apollo”

“Significantly poorer, no doubt,” I shouted after him as he disappeared towards the Pyramid game. He merely waved. I gave up. Nothing would ever change Starbuck.

I got up to the Bridge, gave my report to Colonel Tigh and my father, and headed down to the instruction area. There were a lot of parents standing around waiting for school to finish. It was a good day for me when I could get to pick up Boxey myself. He was used to a variety of people coming to get him: my sister Athena, Boomer, Starbuck, Jolly or any other warrior I could coerce into the task. I didn't get to do it myself anywhere near often enough.

It was Boxey who brought Serina and me together. She was lovely and clever and famous. I'd often seen her on the news, calm and beautiful no matter whether she was reporting a battle or interviewing some wily politician. She never let either get away from her. The first time I actually saw her for real though, she was grubby and smoke stained, and more than a little wild eyed at watching Caprica City go up in flames. I thought she was beautiful, even when she stopped a mob from tearing me apart and laid into me with demands to know where the Fleet had been, why we hadn't been there to protect the Colonies. When I saw her again, she was cleaner and even more beautiful, but completely distraught about the shocked state her little son was in after the Destruction. She roped me in to help him. I didn't mind. I liked kids. Athena's only a couple of yahrens younger than me, but there were seven yahrens between me and Zac, and I'd got used to having a kid brother tagging along everywhere. Boxey was only just six then, and he reminded me a lot of Zac when Zac was little. Zac had died at Cimtar, only couple of days before, so I suppose I was vulnerable to big-eyed kids just then.

After that, things happened pretty quickly between me and Boxey's mother. I never loved any woman the way I loved her. I was surprised myself about how quickly we became lovers. Unlike Starbuck, I'm not exactly noted for having a devastating effect on the ladies, but I seemed to have had some sort of effect on Serina. Maybe she wanted someone who offered her security: she'd been a little bitter about the way men ran from responsibility when they realised that she and Boxey came as a package, but I had no qualms about accepting the job as his Dad when Serina and me got sealed. When she was killed only days later, that left me as the only family he had. And he was all I had left of her, so we clung together a bit. I think that having him to care for kept me going. Mostly I forget that I didn't really father him. He couldn't be more my son if I had. He's eight now and growing out of the engaging imp phase, but a lot of fun.

“Dad!” Boxey sounded delighted that it was me who'd come to get him, and he was quick to give me a hug. He's an affectionate child, and I'm glad that I'm not missing out the way my father did. He was away so much when we were growing up and he regrets that a lot. We have a good relationship, Dad and me, and we're pretty close, but if I'm honest, most of that came about after I graduated from the Academy and was eventually posted onto the Galactica. That's when I really got to know him.

“Hi,” I said. “Good day?”

“Not bad. We did some good history stuff today, all about the founding of the Colonies.” He knows that's one of my passions and we like reading history texts together. “What did you do?”

“Well, the highlight of my day was spending three centars listening to your Uncle Starbuck on patrol.”

“Where's he now?” Boxey asked eagerly. He loves Starbuck best of all my friends, I think. Well, I do too.

“Playing Pyramid,” I said, thinking wistfully of my lost cubits.

“With your money again?” Boxey said in the same tolerant tone I often found myself using when I spoke of Starbuck. It said a lot about how genetics were not everything. Boxey doesn't look much like me, but he often sounds and acts just like me.

Starbuck was right. Boxey already knew I was a soft touch. I just shrugged and we laughed. “So, what do you want to do tonight? Rejuv centre for a couple of centars before we eat?”

“Can we play electronic Triad?”

“Only if you promise not to beat me again. That was just so embarrassing.”

“Huh!” said my son with a cheeky, very Starbuck-like grin. “That was because you let me win.” He tucked his hand into mine as we walked along. I was glad he was still young enough to do that, to need the contact. In a few yahrens he wouldn't need me in quite the same way, and I admit I wasn't looking forward to that.

We had a great time in the Rejuv centre. Boxey's actually pretty good at electronic Triad and he gave me a hard time with one or two very nifty little moves. I promised him that in a couple of yahrens I'd start teaching him the real thing. Me and Starbuck still played in the Tournaments regularly - we were still champions, actually - but we both knew that we wouldn't have that many yahrens of competitive playing left. Some of the other teams were pretty fierce and though I hate to say it, we weren't getting any younger. Lords, I'd be thirty in a few sectons. That didn't bear thinking about, but it would be nice to train Boxey up to replace us, probably with his friend Dillon.

Starbuck came in to join us a couple of centars later. Starbuck's normally full of life, bouncing along as though he has springs in the heels of his combat boots, bright eyes, bright smile; cheerful and confident. Now he looked depressed; his shoulders were drooping and he was almost dragging his feet as he walked slowly towards me. His face, what I could see of it in the swift glance he sent my way, was disconsolate, the face of a child cheated out of a treat it had confidently expected to get. I was poor again. No surprises there, then.

“Go and play with Dillon for a while, son,” I said to Boxey.

Boxey caught sight of Starbuck. “What's wrong with Starbuck, Dad?”

“I'd say he just lost all my money at Pyramid. He just doesn't take these little disappointments as well as he used to.”

Boxey grinned at me. “Maybe it's because he's getting old.”

That stung. I suppose to him we were old, but that was no consolation. “Do you mind? Starbuck's the same age as me. Now scoot!”

Boxey laughed and hugged me before running off to join Dillon and his family at the other end of the room. He waved cheerfully at Starbuck as he went.

Starbuck sighed heavily. “I hate cheerful children,” he said by way of greeting, dropping into the chair opposite me. He avoided my eyes. Bad sign.

“Uh-huh.” I said and waited.

He looked at me sidelong. “Did you win?” he asked, indicating the electronic Triad board between us.

“Just.” I put on my sternest and most forbidding expression, and waited some more. I wasn't going to make it easy for him.

He sighed again. “That was an opening gambit, Apollo. You missed your cue. You were supposed say, ‘Did you ?'. “

I shrugged. “You do know what a rhetorical question is, don't you Starbuck? A waste of time.”

“Ask me anyway,” he said, and he looked so plaintive and depressed that I sighed and nodded.

“We may as well get it over with, I suppose. All right, Starbuck. Did you ?”

His mouth twitched slightly, and he looked as if he was going to cry. I knew I was about to get the contrite explanation, the apology for losing my money. Starbuck is always contrite when he loses my money. It doesn't stop him trying again though. Then suddenly he was tossing a handful of golden cubits onto the top of the board, and grinning like a lunatic.

“Did I! Got you that time, A- pollo!” he burst out laughing at the expression on my face. “Fooled you,” he jeered.

I poked at the cubits. “All mine?” I said, and flashed him a grin.

“Not quite. Half's mine.”

I frowned at that, did a rapid calculation in my head. “Wonderful. You won me all of twenty cubits?”

“Hey, it's better than losing,” he pointed out, and divided the spoils with me. “Point is, Apollo, I was just testing out the new strategy. Now we know it works, we should try it out on one of the really big games over on the Rising Star”

“No.”

“But Apollo…”

“Absolutely not. The last time we went over there I almost had to sell myself and my progeny for the next three generations to get you off the hook. You lost big time, remember? And how close did you come to a court martial? And if this ever got out who'd be in the dock with you for covering up your sins?”

“But Apollo…”

“And I don't want any excuses about how the game was rigged, or any reminders about how suffocatingly good you've been since then. No, Starbuck.”

“But Apollo…”

“Hope that's legal,” said a very unwelcome voice, and both Starbuck and I stopped squabbling and groaned.

Imagine a man built like a shuttlecraft, with the brain of a retarded amoeba, the social skills of a Cylon and the personal hygiene habits of a warthog. A man who was bully and a bigot, and who hated warriors on principle. Then imagine he's head of Council Security. Lovely combination for our chief of police.

“It's legal, Reese. What do you want?” Starbuck gathered up his half of the booty and pocketed it.

“Not you this time, hotshot.” Reese hated Starbuck. A yahren or so ago he'd thought he'd got Starbuck on a murder charge, and he was truly pissed off when we managed to prove Starbuck's innocence. “Although I'll get you one day, for some scam you pull. No, it's the Captain I want.” He turned to me and grinned, nastily. “The Council wants to see you”

I groaned. “At this time of day? What can they possibly want?”

Starbuck grinned at Reese. “Have they demoted you to messenger boy then?” he said.

The man smiled, and I didn't like the way he did that. I realised then that he had two very large security guards with him. Something was wrong. The Council could be arbitrary and capricious - they were politicians, after all - but they wouldn't send their head of security and two goons on a simple errand.

“Not yet,” Reese said with unimpaired cheerfulness. “I'm here officially.” He glanced around, saw Boxey in the corner with Dillon. “You don't want any trouble in front of the kid, do you Captain Apollo? Why not just come quietly?”

I stared at him, taken aback. “What are you talking about?”

“You're under arrest, Captain. Now we can do this the easy way and you can behave yourself, or we can knock you down and put the cuffs on you. It's up to you.”

I almost laughed. “That's ridiculous!”

Starbuck looked at Reese, not sure whether to laugh or explode. “Under arrest? Apollo? Sire Goody-two-shoes? You have got to be kidding.”

“No.” Reese was really enjoying this now.

He handed me a Council warrant and it was like I got kicked in the solar plexus. It actually had my name on it, authorising him to use whatever means necessary to arrest me. I stared at it, then at him.

“You're charged with rebellion and treason, Captain,” he said, and his glee was almost palpable. “Now, are you going to be a good little traitor and let me arrest you without any trouble, or am I going to have to beat the crap out of you in front of the kid? Your play, Apollo, your play.”

 

 

Once ICN - Inter-Colony News- had carried the news to every Colony and Colonial outpost in the star systems. To be one of their top news readers had meant being in one of the plum journalistic jobs available, at the top of the journalistic tree. It meant instant fame, instant recognition. Serina, one of the most beautiful and glamorous of ICN's reporters, had been a celebrity in her own right. If she'd married Apollo before the Destruction, that would have been a news item in itself. But ICN had gone the way of most other Colonial institutions: into fire and radioactive dust as the Cylons had destroyed the Colonies.

As the fleet had gathered together no-one had bothered about trying to reinstitute some form of broadcasting. For many sectars everyone was focused on survival, and only slowly as the fleet got under way, did the newly elected Council turn their thoughts to issues of communication and information. They recognised that over one hundred thousand people crammed into just over two hundred ships needed some distraction, something to take their minds off their woes and ills. A good broadcasting system would take some of the pressures off, lessen the risk of woes and ills being fanned into civic unrest. So Inter-Fleet Broadcasting had been born. Enough equipment had been cannibalised from various ships to set up a small studio on the Equus, enough tapes and discs of old shows had been rounded up to form the core of a broadcasting programme, and they filled in with transmissions of the Triad contests, reports of Council activities, announcements from the President, and accounts of any firefights the military got into. Compared to ICN, it was a very low key production, but it was a start. They hoped soon to start producing their own dramas and shows, but it would be a slow business.

IFB's top reporter - well, almost the only reporter - sat back in her chair as the camera switched onto Jak, her co-host of IFB's daily news show. The producer, looking so excited that Zara thought he would faint, pushed a paper at her. It was a hand written announcement, that she read with increasing disbelief. She looked at Fron in astonishment.

“Never!” she mouthed at him, aware that Jak was watching the by play out of the corner of his eyes.

Fron nodded excitedly. “Read it” he mouthed back, and signalled to Jak to wind up his fascinating account of that sectar's production quotas on the Agri-ships.

Zara straightened as the camera swung back to her. She put on her gravest expression, spoke clearly and impressively.

“A news bulletin has just been received. The Council has just announced that the Galactica Strike Leader, Captain Apollo, the son of President Adama, has been relieved of his command and has been arrested on a charge of rebellion and treason. No other details are yet available, but stay tuned. We will bring you the details as we receive them. I repeat, Captain Apollo, the son of the President, has been charged with treason and is currently under arrest on the Galactica. Stay tuned for more news as it comes in...”

 

 

Adama

Except for periodic inspections, I don't often have cause to visit the Galactica's brig. The last thing I ever expected was to be going through those strong steel doors to visit my son.

The Galactica has only a small prison area of three cells. It had never been intended to hold prisoners for very long, although it had functioned as a temporary prison in the early days of our flight from the Cylons. But not for long. One of the last ships to join the refugee fleet had been the Prison Barge, still full of the most dangerous prisoners from the Colonies: murders and psychopaths, every one. Now it was used as a more general prison, under Reese's command.

They hadn't moved Apollo to the Barge yet. When Councillor Jeth asked the Council's permission to raise a matter of grave urgency, and presented to them the evidence he'd been given of my son's apparent treachery, Sire Solon advised that the law decreed an immediate trial. Because of the seriousness of the charges, this would be no ordinary court martial, but a full trial to be heard by the Council itself. The penalty if Apollo was found guilty did not bear thinking about. In the meantime, my son was locked into one of the small holding cells in the Galactica's Brig. At least I could get to see him and find out what this was about.

He was pacing round the cell like a trapped animal when I got in, agitated and nervous. He looked relieved to see me.

“I've ever been in here before,” he said with an attempt at a grin. “So far I seem to have led a blameless life.”

I didn't smile back. This was serious and he had to know that. “If we don't sort this out you might have a longer aquantainceship with prison than either of us would like. The rest of your blameless life, I suspect.”

Apollo winced and nodded. “What the hell's going on?”

I scowled at him and sat down. “I don't know, Apollo. You tell me.”

Apollo shot me a hurt look. “Dad, I have no idea what this is about!”

I looked at him closely, then nodded. Apollo wasn't lying to me. Apollo had never lied to me. “I've come to take you up to see the Council, Apollo. Sire Jeth presented a dossier to this afternoon's meeting. It contained the sworn testimony of several people who claim to be acting on your behalf, recruiting support amongst some of the more dispossessed amongst the survivors for a military coup. The idea appears to be to replace the Council with a military junta. There's depositions, records of conversations, even video footage of you giving the men money.”

Apollo was white-faced. “But that's ludicrous!”

“And the video footage?”

Apollo could only shrug. “I don't know! I don't have that much money to throw around. I certainly don't have enough to bankroll a military coup! The whole idea's ridiculous.”

“The main prosecution witness against you is a man called Galen, a merchant originally from Cancera. Do you know him?”

Apollo was frowning. “Yeah, I've met him. A few sectons ago me and Starbuck and Boomer went across to the Rising Star for a night out. Starbuck got into a game with this guy, Galen, and a couple of others. Paul and…and..”

“Llan,” I said, and Apollo nodded.

“Starbuck lost everything he had. I ended up bailing him out, as usual. Any money I handed over was to pay Starbuck's gambling debts.”

“Then why did you say that Galen could have half now and half later, when he'd delivered? Delivered what, Apollo?”

I always know when Apollo's guilty about something. He has the most expressive face. He looked about six yahrens old and as if I'd just caught him with his hand in a cookie jar.

“Oh Lords,“ he said unhappily. “You're going to be mad about this”

I sighed. “In the circumstances, that's not a consideration. I'd rather know the truth, Apollo”.

He was standing in front of me, fidgeting nervously. “I mean really mad. I sort of bent the rules a bit.”

“Not as far as a military coup?” I said sharply.

“Of course not! But I did bend them to …” his voice trailed away and he went red.

“Let me guess. To keep Starbuck out of trouble.”

He nodded “He says the game was rigged, and he ended up betting everything he had. I mean everything, Dad. The thing was, Starbuck had heard about this big game and was desperate to try it. So we went straight over there from a long patrol, and we were still in uniform and still armed. The idiot put his laser on the table and lost it.”

I sighed, again. “A serious disciplinary offence, that could have landed him in a court martial,” I said heavily. “And you bought the laser back and covered all this up.”

“Well, sort of.” Apollo was almost squirming. “He's had nothing but hell out of me for sectons for it, but I couldn't let him get into that much trouble…” his voice trailed away again. He met my gaze without flinching. “I'll take my punishment for that, Dad, but I don't know anything about a coup. That's really stupid.”

“Why pay this Galen only half what he was owed?” I said nothing about his folly in buying Starbuck out of trouble. I knew I'd have done the same for Cain or Tigh in my time although I saw no reason to tell him that, and the least that he and Starbuck would get out of this would be a severe and formal reprimand.

“We weren't convinced he would hand it over otherwise.”

“But he did?”

Apollo sighed and nodded. “No problems. He was really friendly. I've seen him a couple of times on the Rising Star since. I even bought him a drink.” He looked at me gloomily. “There was more than the Pyramid game set up that night, wasn't there?”

“It looks like it,” I agreed. “But the trick is going to be in proving it, Apollo. How do you propose to do that?”

He just stared at me. He didn't know. Neither of us knew.

 

 

“Phase one completed successfully,“ Jeth said with quiet satisfaction

Sire Uri smiled slightly. “I saw the IFB bulletin. Very satisfying.”

He looked at the three men with Jeth. Merchants. Probably once rich merchants, they all had the discontented air of men of affluence and influence, who had come down in the world, robbed of their riches and power by the Cylons at the destruction of the homeworlds. One, the leader, was a dark thickset Canceran in the middle fifties, Galen. The other two, Llan and Paul, were from Leo, and he thought, Aquaria. He'd be more certain when he heard the man speak. They had been Galen's two accomplices on the Pyramid table, recruited to help destroy Apollo and through him the President. This was the first time he'd met them, content until then to act through his agents and remain out of sight himself. Now the die was cast, he had to see for himself that these men would achieve what he wanted them to achieve.

He looked at them calculatingly. He liked the look of them. They'd handled everything well, so far. He had watched his quarry carefully for some time and had realised that an easy way to get at Apollo would be through the chancy gambler who was his best friend. Galen and the others had performed admirably in drawing Starbuck into an unwinnable game, and through him, incriminate Apollo. Having kept a close, if covert eye, upon Adama and his son had paid off. Knowing that Apollo would never let Starbuck down had given him the key to the whole business. Now they were on the last stretch. “You're all prepared for tomorrow?”

Galen nodded. “Yes.”

“The main burden of the prosecution testimony will fall on you, Galen. You're clear about what you have to say?”

“I've rehearsed him myself,” Jeth said. “He knows.”

“I don't understand, though, why we're not to implicate Adama as well,” Paul said in his thick Aquarian accent.

Uri hid a small smile of satisfaction that his guess at the man's nationality was right. He liked being right. “Too crude and obvious. I don't think anyone would believe that Adama was involved in a military coup - he's already President after all. What could he gain by it? But his son - perhaps wanting to secure the succession, to make sure that the Presidency eventually falls to him…” Uri paused and shrugged. “We've all come across ambitious young military officers before. It will ring true, if you remember your lines tomorrow.”

“We'll remember,” Galen said with a quelling glance at Paul. “And as long as you remember your promise to ensure we come out of this without spending time in the Barge, it will continue to ring true.”

“You have my word on it. Jeth will cast you as three men temporarily blinded by a young man's passion and oratory, but who have recanted, and who have been working for him for the past few sectons. You may not be considered heroes, but no charges will be brought.”

“After the trial we'd better lie low,” Llan said. “Adama and the warriors might not be too happy with us.”

“You had better be based on another ship for a while,” Uri agreed. “I've arranged space for you on the Astoria.”

Galen scowled at that. “I've a lot of business on this ship, Sire” he said.

“There's nothing to stop you from coming aboard here whenever you want,” Uri said “I'm merely suggesting that you move your headquarters to somewhere less obtrusive and less easy for the warriors to find you. As long as you vary the times and periods you come here to conduct whatever business you have, they'll have more difficulty locating you.”

“All right,” Galen agreed, and at a gesture from Jeth, he and the others took their leave.

“Good men,” Uri said with patent satisfaction. “And well primed for their role”

“Well paid, too,” Jeth said dryly.

Uri shrugged. “It's worth it, if I can topple Adama by destroying that son of his. You'll press for the death penalty.”

“As we agreed. Although I doubt whether I'll be able to persuade enough of the Council to vote for that. I think he's more likely to end up on the Barge.”

Uri thought about that and shrugged again. “If it gets rid of Adama and disgraces Apollo, I can accept that.” He smiled at Jeth. “We make a good team.”

Jeth smiled back. He was sitting beside Uri in the latter's quarters. Now they were alone he leaned forward and brushed Uri's lips with his.

“I know,” he said, drawing back to see Uri smiling in satisfaction. “And we'll be good in the Presidency together too.”

“Very good,” Uri said and lay back, loosening his clothing. “Show me how good you can be,” he invited, and moaned softly as Jeth's warm mouth enclosed him. He looked down at the dark head working busily on his groin. Uri's smile grew broader. Jeth was very useful, in more ways than one. He was Uri's eyes and ears on the Council, Uri's agent in this move against Adama, and Uri's…..well, he was just Uri's. Useful in many more ways than most people imagined. Poor fool. He had better pray his usefulness did not come to an end.

 

 

The trial, very short and sharp, was held the day after the arrest. The Council didn't want to waste any time: this case was too important. The Galactica had no formal courtroom, so Reese had his people set up a court within the Council Chamber. They created a small enclosure directly in front of the highly polished Council table, and as the audience crowded in, two Security guards set out a table and chairs for Apollo and his counsel. Ranged behind that were rows of chairs for the spectators, mainly military personnel, none of whom could believe this of Apollo. He was properly disdainful of politicians, as a soldier should be, but that he should plot rebellion like this was inconceivable.

At the stroke of ten, the Council came in procession, following Adama, and sat at their normal table. More than a few of them were very aware of every eye on them, aware of the cameras, walking with self-conscious solemnity and dignity, and looking remote and judicial. They were the ones who at least recognised the theatrical element of this, who would use it for their own purposes.

Adama took his usual seat in the centre of the table, in full ceremonial Presidential garb. When he exchanged a look with Starbuck and his daughter, he looked momentarily haggard and drawn, as if he were attending his own funeral, but then he drew himself erect, dignified and reserved. He would endure it. People could only imagine what he felt: he wouldn't show it. It was worse when Apollo was brought in. By accident or design, the dock was placed directly opposite Adama, so that he had no option but to look at his son throughout the trial. Not able to speak to him or comfort him, but merely watch his son's disgrace and humiliation.

From where he sat, Adama could see Boomer and Starbuck in the front row of seats, Athena beside them. They'd chosen their places carefully, he realised, knowing that Apollo would be able to see them and be comforted by their closeness. He recognised most of the spectators he thought, as he stared stonily out at them. Many of the pilots were crowded into the seats behind, all there to support Apollo: the rest were watching from the ready rooms as IFB broadcast its most exciting and thrilling drama since Cimtar.

Against his wishes, the cameras were there. IFB had negotiated all night with individual Council members and with Security, cajoling, bribing, even begging. In the end, they had been allowed to set up their cameras at the side of the room and broadcast live, although without commentary. The trial was being watched avidly over the monitors by virtually everyone in the fleet, fascinated by the thought that the President's son, a military hero, had turned traitor and had plotted to overthrow the elected Council and replace it with military rule. The excitement when Apollo was brought into the courtroom could almost be felt.

Apollo was in full dress uniform and wearing all of his medals. Adama looked at him, hiding his anxiety. He caught a glimpse of Athena, and saw her wipe her eyes. He'd not been allowed to see Apollo that morning. Athena had been the one to take him his dress uniform for the trial.

Apollo was never very comfortable out of battledress, complaining that in dress uniform, warriors looked like prize bulls at a country fair, all bedecked with braid and ribbons. To show off our prowess and fertility , Starbuck had once said in agreement as he and Boomer had forced Apollo into dress uniform before an awards ceremony. Works for me, and you need all the help with girls that you can get…. . Apollo even objected to the medals, grumbling that it was worse than wearing jewellery, particularly the two gold and diamond Goldclusters that were carefully placed above the rows of more mundane campaign and battle honours. If pressed, he confessed to being proud to own them, but that he felt a prize idiot having to wear them in public. What he really hated was the cape: he'd never learned the trick of managing it gracefully, and mostly acted as though he believed its sole function was to throttle him. Normally, Apollo had to be coerced or blackmailed into his dress uniform. But when Athena had brought his uniform and medals to the Brig half an centar before the trial was due to begin, he'd got into it meekly and without protest.

Athena reported back to Starbuck and Boomer that Apollo looked awful, still shocked and bewildered. He'd obviously slept very little, if at all. She kept some of the details to herself: the way that Apollo's hands had shook so badly that she'd had to pin the medals into place for him, the way he'd held on to her for a moment in quiet despair, before Reese had chased her out and she'd had to leave him to come up to the court room. She'd only had time to kiss him and wish him luck.

But when he came in, with an escort of armed Security men, he was pale but as composed as his father. Apollo had a wide streak of pride in him - he'd be damned before he provided any sort of public spectacle. He ignored the presence of the IFB cameras completely. He walked to the appointed place in a hushed silence, and came to attention, saluting smartly, his face expressionless. Adama exchanged one unreadable look with him then nodded at Sire Anton, the elderly Vice President.

Anton spoke into the silence, not needing to call the room to order. “Because of the conflict of interest, the President will play no part in this trial,” he announced calmly. “I will preside. Guard Commander Reese…”

Reese was enjoying this. He hated all Colonial Warriors, who mostly openly despised Security, and he was particularly enjoying the thought of getting their bastard Strike Leader who, he'd always thought, had hidden behind his father's power and influence long enough. He formally called the Court to order and read out the charges. That Captain Apollo, Strike Leader of the Battlestar Galactica, had conspired to overthrow the duly elected Government of the people, and replace it with military rule. That the said Captain Apollo was hereby charged with rebellion and treason.

Anton waited until he'd finished and looked at Apollo, who was still standing at attention. “At ease, Captain. How do you plead?”

Apollo's voice was remarkably steady. “Not guilty,” he said firmly, almost scornfully

Anton nodded. “Let that be recorded. Your counsel?”

“Colonel Tigh has agreed to act for me,” Apollo said, and Tigh, who had been waiting patiently at one side of the Council Chamber came to stand beside him.

Tigh had been glad to help, although he'd tried to persuade Apollo to find a civilian lawyer. I'm not a legal expert, he'd warned Apollo. You'll need someone who knows the law. Apollo had shaken his head. I couldn't trust anyone, not knowing if Jeth's bought them. I can trust you.

“Colonel,” Anton said gravely. “Please be seated.”

“Sir.” Tigh was still standing. He spoke with unusual formality. “Sir, I wish first to register a formal defence objection to the speed at which this trial has been convened. Captain Apollo has had no opportunity even to see the evidence that has been laid against him. There was been no opportunity to review it, to consider a defence, or call defence witnesses. This goes against every tenet of natural justice and we move for an adjournment to allow a proper defence to be mounted.”

Anton nodded. He had expected this. He turned politely to Sire Solon, the Council's legal expert. “Sire Solon. Your opinion?”

Solon shook his head. “In the normal state of affairs that might be a valid point, Colonel, but there are strong arguments weighing against you in these particular circumstances. The legal code is clear that in the case of rebellion, in time of war, the trial should take place immediately. During peacetime, there are precedents where the Council has agreed in the past to waive this legal requirement and grant an adjournment, but, frankly, those precedents don't apply to this case. The statute is quite clear: there may be no such adjournment while we're at war.” Solon looked and sounded uncomfortable, well aware that justice was being denied. “This is an archaic law, framed for a time when the Colonies frequently warred with each other. It should have been repealed yahrens ago, but since it was not, it still applies. We are at war. No adjournment is possible. You and Captain Apollo will have to use every opportunity to answer the charges and question the evidence as we proceed.”

Anton glanced quickly at Adama's grim face and looked at Tigh. The first line of defence gone. “That seems clear,” he said, and nothing in his voice or demeanour gave a hint of how unwelcome Solon's judgement was. “Please be seated, and we will proceed. Sire Jeth will open for the prosecution…”

Tigh sat down reluctantly beside Apollo. “Well, we tried,” he said quietly.

Apollo tried to smile at him. “I didn't think it would work. We'll just have to wing it.”

“Not the best way of conducting a defence on a capital charge,” Tigh muttered as Sire Jeth got importantly to his feet and moved around to the front of the Council table.

This was Jeth's big moment, the culmination of sectars of careful planning. He had written and rewritten his opening speech, carefully polishing every phrase to gain maximum, damning effect. He explained how information on the plot had come to him, how shocked and appalled he had been that one of the Fleet's key military officers was apparently planning a coup, how hard he had been to convince, even given occasional lapses on Apollo's part in the past. He reminded the Council, delicately, of the difficulties with the Terrans and the Eastern Alliance, for example, and the Captain's role in that escapade when he had defied Council instructions. He agreed that even such evidence of hot-headed enthusiasm on the part of a young man surely couldn't add up to treasonous rebellion. But, Jeth admitted sadly, he had been particularly shocked and then convinced by the video footage showing incontrovertible proof that Captain Apollo was attempting to buy support amongst some of the more dispossessed of their people, some of those most discontented with their lives as permanent refugees. He dwelt with regret on Apollo's outstanding military service, how that had all been turned to dust and ashes by overweening ambition, by a lust for power that had overcome the young hero's better judgement. But sad as that was, the outcome was that the Captain had abused his position and plotted to overthrow democratic rule, replace it with military law and a military government, choking the democracy that had been the hallmark of Colonial civilisation for millennia. The evidence was overwhelming, as he hoped to demonstrate. He called the merchant, Galen to the stand.

Galen's performance was as masterly. The merchant played the role of reluctant convert to Apollo's plans, a man who'd been drawn unwittingly into something illegal and who'd eventually decided to collect evidence against the Captain; a man who was very sorry that he had, for a short time, been dazzled by the young hero, dazzled enough to contemplate joining him in his treacherous scheme, but who had seen the light before it was too late.

Jeth started out mildly enough, getting Galen to explain how he'd met Apollo. The merchant made no mention of Pyramid games or lasers, just a casual meeting in the main lounge of the Rising Star, sectars before, when he and a man he had just met had had a little too much to drink and had ended up arguing about the role of the military. Apollo, standing nearby, had been drawn in. Galen recounted the conversation, almost word for word matching the deposition that the Council had seen. The other man, Llan, a merchant like himself, had been sore at the losses he and the rest of humanity suffered, had blamed the military and Apollo had defended the warriors vigorously.

“Look, maybe we did make mistakes, but it was the bloody politicians who got us into that mess. Self serving bastards every one of them…”

“The Warriors got us out of the shit,” Galen said in support. “Without them, we'd all be dead.”

“You were paid to protect us,” Llan objected. “But what did you do? You sodded off and left the Colonies wide open.”

“And who ordered us to do that? Who said to us that they needed an escort at the peace talks, to make them feel important? Who said they wanted the entire military at Cimtar and who got most of the military killed as a result, along with the Colonies?” Apollo paused. “Including my little brother. The morons we voted into office, that's who. It was the politicians who betrayed us then, who murdered all our people, and they'll do it again now.”

Llan muttered something indistinguishable, and Galen shook his head. “He's drunk, Captain. He's drunk and mad because of everything we lost. He wants someone to blame and you're just handy”.

Apollo was thoroughly roused. “I can't understand why my Dad set up the Council of Twelve again. We were well rid of them. The only time things made any sense was those first few sectons when we were under military law. Things got done then. Now every time someone wants to do anything sensible, the bloody politicians have to argue about it for six sectars first.”

“I think you're right, Captain,” Galen said gloomily “We've voted into office the most self-serving, self-important bunch of weasels that I've ever seen. And we're stuck with them.”

Apollo had smiled suddenly. “Not necessarily, friend. Not necessarily.”

Apollo was frowning as he listened to this account of his first meeting with Galen. Although it wasn't true, he looked momentarily uncomfortable about the sentiments that Galen claimed he'd expressed. There had been times when his frustration with the Council and the way it fought every move Adama made, had been freely expressed in words not a million miles away from those that Galen was now claiming were Apollo's own. Tigh had warned him more than once to watch his tongue in public about some of the things he said about the Council. Apollo had tried, knowing that Tigh was right, but on occasion his frustration had boiled over. Now it looked like some of those incautious chickens were coming home to roost. He was angry, too, that even poor dead Zac was being dragged into this, to blacken Apollo's name and reputation further, to make it seem that he was motivated by the desire for revenge as much as for the desire for power. He glanced at his father, and Adama stared back at him. Apollo sighed and looked away.

“And then?” Jeth prompted.

“Then we talked. He asked a lot of questions, but they mainly boiled down to him trying to get a handle on how many like Llan and me there were.” Galen looked apologetically at the Council, some of whom were still looking offended at his offensive description of them. “Please understand. On Cancera, before the Destruction, I was a wealthy man, with a thriving business. Not a rich man or a blue-blood, like the Captain, but wealthy enough and respected by my own people. In one night, everything went. I know I'm lucky to be alive, but for two yahrens now I've been crowded into a little ship, living on rations and with nothing to do. I'm a Trader. I'm not trained to do anything else, and the only jobs on offer in the Fleet are menial tasks, and the only reward a few extra rations. I admit it, I got very resentful and discontented. There's hundreds like me in the ships, waiting for something better and, in the meantime, looking for something to blame.”

“And that interested the Captain?” Jeth asked

“Sure. It gave him a lot of potential supporters. I wanted something better: he might, he thought, be able to offer it. There's a lot of people would be interested in that.” Galen looked ashamed. “I listened to him. I thought he might have a point, that there may be something in it. So I agreed to sound out a few more like me, people who'd be willing to help if it came to it.”

“Came to what?” Jeth asked

“Getting rid of the Council,” Galen said baldly.

“Something you agreed with?” Jeth asked mildly.

Galen fidgeted uneasily. “Well…. you need to blame something, don't you? For a little while I thought he might be right, then I realised he had his own reasons for doing it. He wasn't really about sharing power with those of us that didn't have any, but for keeping it for himself and probably a few like-minded military types.” Galen looked deprecatingly at Jeth. “That made me think hard about what he was doing and what I was getting in to. That's when I realised how stupid I was being, that the Council was no more to blame than I was, and getting rid of them to replace them with a load of tin-pot military officers wasn't too bright an idea. I realised that no matter how he dressed that up, what the Captain was talking about was a military coup. Treason. I wanted no part of that. I realised that if I disliked the Council so much, I could vote for someone else the next time round. I don't think the what the Captain was planning had room for allowing anyone to vote for anything. It just had room for them doing what they were told.”

Sire Jeth nodded. “And so you recanted.”

“Well, I wasn't really that far in. Llan and me - and a third guy the Captain was trying to recruit, Paul - we had a little talk between ourselves and decided that we'd try and get proof of what the Captain was planning and turn him in. It was pretty hard work - he'd never meet anywhere very public where we could get witnesses, but when we told him about a group who'd be willing to help with a little financial encouragement, he handed over some money to me and Paul managed to get that on video. That's when I felt able to come to you, sir, and ask for your help and advice.”

“Perhaps we should see the video,” Jeth said and nodded to Reese.

“Oh shit,” Apollo sighed under his breath. He knew that this would look pretty damning. He could remember this conversation, and how easily it could be misconstrued, made to fit into Galen's story. If his father was right, and Starbuck betting his laser had just been sheer good luck for the opposition, it had given them a wonderful opportunity to frame him.

The video footage was a little wobbly - Paul had evidently hand-held the camera - but it was unmistakably Apollo and he looked nervous, even slightly furtive. The sound quality was adequate, if not outstanding..

“I've got half the money here,” he said, and handed Galen a wad of notes “Half will follow, when you deliver.”

“You're asking a lot. There's other people involved.” Galen said “ I can't answer for all of them”

“That's the deal. You get the rest when I get what I want.”

Galen looked rueful, shrugged. “You're a hard man, Captain.”

“Not hard enough,” Apollo said. “When?”

“One centar, here.”

Apollo nodded. “Done.”

There was a murmur of disbelief as Jeth asked a few more questions in which Galen once more protested the nobility of his intentions, then turned politely to Tigh. The Colonel, after a whispered consultation with Apollo, rose to his feet.

“Captain Apollo categorically denies this farrago of lies and innuendo…”

“Well, he would, wouldn't he?” said Galen with a shrug.

“Be silent,” Anton admonished him and nodded to Tigh.

“The Captain has an alternative explanation for the video footage, which we will bring forward with a defence witness later. But I want to ask this witness one question. You're a self-confessed rebel, claiming to be discontented, fomenting dissent and civil unrest, a potential troublemaker.. Give me one good reason why the Council should give credit to anything you've said against an officer whose loyalty has never been in question, whose military record is impeccable and, indeed outstanding and admirable, and whose courage had been proved in a hundred battles protecting this Fleet - and you - against the Cylon enemy?”

Galen glared at him. “The best reason of all,” he snapped “I'm telling the truth and I've witnesses to support me!”

Jeth moved in swiftly and smoothly. “Whom we will call now, I think, with the Council's permission. Colonel Tigh may recall any of these witnesses, of course, once we have the full picture of Captain Apollo's iniquitous dealings with them.”

“Agreed,” Anton said reluctantly, at a nod from Solon that indicated that this was within legal precedent, and Tigh sat down, fuming.

“Nice try,” Apollo said quietly with a sigh. “Jeth's really stitched me up on this.”

“You handed it to him on a plate,” Tigh shot back, and Apollo nodded gloomy agreement.

Llan and Paul followed with substantially similar, but not identical evidence. Apollo found himself half-admiring that. Whoever plotted this out had allowed for the natural variation you would get if three people were telling a tale, for three slightly different points of view. If they'd all said identical things, it wouldn't have rung true. Clever, clever, clever.

At the end of Paul's evidence, Anton glanced at his chronometer. More than an centar had gone by, and Apollo's case hadn't advanced very much. The testimony against him was very strong. Tigh had tried to show that the three men had conspired together, but apart from their claimed link with Apollo, there was no proof that the three had had dealings before.

“Colonel Tigh, do you wish to question the witnesses again or call one of your own?”

“I'd prefer to call Lieutenant Starbuck, please,” Tigh said, and watched grimly as Starbuck took the stand. Everything hung on this.

Starbuck, with an anxious glance at Apollo's pale, set face, gave his evidence as composedly as he could. They'd come back late from a long patrol, he said and he had hustled the Captain through debriefing and out to the Rising Star. “I'd heard about this big game, you see,” he said ingenuously. “I wanted to play, and I still had a bit of money left. Apollo - the Captain didn't really want to go straight there but I persuaded him and Lieutenant Boomer to go with me.” Starbuck looked thoughtful. “I think they came along to try and keep me out of trouble,” he added.

And the game, asked Tigh, was in the main Chancery?

“Er, no,” Starbuck said . “This was a private game, down on Deck 6. Well away from the Chancery, where there's too many controls on the limits to the pot. This one was a bit more exciting. I was playing against those three..” Starbuck nodded towards the three men sitting quietly on the other side of the room. “At first I won. A bit easily, in retrospect, but I stayed for another hand and then another. I'd had quite a lot to drink, you see, and maybe not as sharp as I ought to be. Then I lost the lot. The game was rigged.” He sighed, looked embarrassed. “If I'd not been drinking, I'd have realised earlier, but by the time I worked out how they were doing it I'd put down every cubit I had - and some belonging to the other guys. I was so far in hock by then that I got a bit reckless. We'd gone straight over after the long patrol. I was still armed and I put my laser on the table.”

“And Captain Apollo didn't try to prevent a disciplinary offence, one that could have had you in a court martial?” Tigh asked as if in disbelief.

”He'd gone off for a while. Apollo doesn't get much of a kick out of watching the game. By the time Boomer had gone to get him and bring him back, I'd lost the laser too.” Starbuck looked sheepish. “I'd sobered up by then and realised I'd been bilked. Apollo was furious with me, but all he could do right then was try and get the laser back. Galen agreed to give it back if we handed over five hundred cubits in exchange. Apollo had to come back to the Galactica to scrape together the cash and he handed it over later that night. That's what they videoed - him buying back my laser for me.”

“But in that case, if it was nothing more than the Captain bending the rules, serious as that was, why did he only hand over half?”

“We didn't trust Galen. We knew we'd been set up - only then we didn't know for what. Now we do.” Starbuck gave the three merchants a very unfriendly look. “We figured he wouldn't hand it over unless he had a good reason. With-holding half the price seemed a good reason.”

“That explains the Captain's point about paying the rest on delivery, and Galen's about the other people he had to consult, giving the impression that he had to clear the deal with the others in the game, with Llan and Paul. And afterwards? When the Captain had bought back your laser?”

“We came back here and he read me the riot act. It's not often that the Captain gets that mad, but he was pretty mad then. He's had me doing every filthy job for sectons as punishment for being so stupid.” Starbuck shrugged. “I deserved it. I was stupid.”

Jeth stood up at that point. “You've known the Captain, how long?” he asked

“Fifteen yahrens, almost,” Starbuck said, treating Jeth to the same unfriendly stare that Galen and the others got.

“You met at school, I believe and have been friends ever since. I suppose that's why the Captain might be willing to bend military regulations for you.” Jeth managed to damn both Apollo and Starbuck with that one sentence. “Tell me. Lieutenant, weren't you effectively adopted by Commander Adama and Siress Ila?”

“No,” Starbuck said flatly.

“But you lived with the family, didn't you?”

Starbuck shrugged. “I spent a lot of time there,” he agreed. “Apollo and me have always been good friends.” He could see where this was going and he didn't like it.”

“Quite. You owe them a great deal.” More insinuation in that calm voice. Jeth knew better than belabour the point. “You do a great deal of gambling, I believe, Lieutenant? You certainly have the reputation for being something of a chancer, although I'm sure that your games are all perfectly honest.”

“Perfectly,” Starbuck ground out, keeping his temper with difficulty. It would do Apollo no good at all if he gave this man such an opportunity.

“Quite,” said Jeth, with a world of meaning. Starbuck's reputation as a wild card was well known: he didn't need to say any more.

Apollo sighed and sat back, quietly despairing. He could see where Jeth was going, and he could see too that several of the Councillors had been swayed by it. Despite Tigh's and Starbuck's best efforts, when Starbuck was dismissed from the stand, he hadn't managed to do much to convince the Council of Apollo's innocence, but had many of them at least willing to be convinced of an attempt to cover up and explain away Apollo's culpability.

Jeth made hay with that. In his closing remarks he spent some time on the sheer improbability of the explanation. Was it really likely that the Strike Leader would bend the regulations to such an extent? And if he was corrupt enough to do that, the Council must accept that he was certainly corrupt enough to plot the Council's overthrow. He reviewed the evidence given by Galen and his associates, portrayed them as men temporarily tempted, but who had more than repaid for their lapse by the laudable way in which they had helped bring the true culprit to justice. The evidence was overwhelming, and compelling. Sire Jeth called upon his fellow Councillors to find Captain Apollo guilty as charged

Tigh, by contrast, had less to work with. They were trying to prove a negative, and that was always harder. He once more reminded the Council of Apollo's unblemished record, argued that the activities he was accused of were out of character and reliant upon the testimony of men, who by their own confession, were apparently willing to act treasonably. He reminded the Council of everything Apollo had done to ensure the safety of the Fleet: his actions at Cimtar that saved the Galactica from destruction, clearing the minefields in the Nova Madagon, saving the Colonials on Carillon, the raid on Gomoray, destroying, with Lieutenant Starbuck, a Cylon basestar that threatened the Fleet. These were not the actions of a man who put self before duty, Tigh said passionately. These were the actions of a Warrior who had never forgotten his oath of allegiance for an instant. The Council should throw out these ridiculous charges.

Anton sat silent for a moment when Tigh had finished then gestured to Apollo to rise. “Captain Apollo, do you have anything to say before the Council retires to consider the evidence and its verdict?”

“Only that I am not guilty of the charges,” Apollo said in the same firm tone that he'd used over two centars earlier, saying substantially the same thing. He met his father's eyes squarely.

“Then the Court rises,” Anton said and stood. This time he led the Council out of the Chamber, walking at Adama's side. Adama and Apollo exchanged one look as the Council left, neither face giving much away.

Apollo collapsed back into his chair. “What now?” he asked Tigh.

“We wait,” the Colonel said, and sighed. “I wish you'd chosen a better counsel,” he said fretfully.

“The odds aren't exactly stacked in my favour,” Apollo said sourly. “I don't think it's made any difference and I'm grateful for everything you tried to do. It's so bloody unfair to try and defend yourself without knowing what the hell you're accused of.” He noticed that the IFB camera was fixed on him, and he grimaced slightly. He turned in his seat to look at his friends behind him. “Starbuck's upset”

“So he should be,” Tigh said coldly, and they settled down into a pained silence.

Apollo felt sick. He wasn't at all hopeful about the outcome. Jeth had had plenty of time to prepare his case: their archaic rules had meant that he'd had none, had heard the details of the case only as the Court heard them. He wondered if they would execute him. He turned and caught Starbuck's strained expression and he grinned ruefully. A slight noise distracted him and he turned his head. One of the guards standing at the side of the dock was tapping his fingers softly on the butt of his laser. Apollo watched, fascinated, as the man's fingers moved. The noise seemed to fill the whole world.

For a long time after the Council left, Starbuck couldn't take his eyes off Apollo. He felt so guilty that he wondered if he could bear it. Then Apollo turned and gave him that rueful little grin, and it was all he could do not to break down. In desperation he turned to Athena.

“Are you all right?” he asked her, seeing her pallor and the strain in her eyes.

Athena sighed, her gaze on Apollo. He was sitting patiently in the dock, watching one of the guards. “I feel terrible, Starbuck. What do you expect?”

“It'll be all right, you'll see,” Starbuck said awkwardly

Athena looked at him in bewilderment. “It'll never be all right again,” she said desolately and they sat in silence for what seemed an eternity. She suddenly grasped his hand painfully. “Oh God, they're coming back.”

The Council had been gone barely half a centar. Athena paled with apprehension and got slowly to her feet as the Council came in. She stared at her father's set, expressionless face, trying to read it. Nothing. Not good. She collapsed back into her seat again when Reese, still acting as court usher, gave the order for them to be seated. Apollo, very pale, remained standing at attention, looking steadily at his father.

Anton waited until everyone else had resumed their seats. “Captain Apollo. The Council has carefully considered the evidence against you, as presented by the witnesses and supported by video corroboration. We have also considered the testimony of Lieutenant Starbuck. And we have considered your record, which until now has been more than exemplary. As well as your counsel, several members of the Council have been impressed by the number of times in which your heroism and courage were crucial in the conduct of the war against our Cylon enemies - at Carillon, at Gamoray, so many times since….” Anton watched the young man in front of him. “But the evidence presented to us is overwhelmingly against you. You have been found guilty as charged.”

There was a gasp of dismay and astonishment from the assembled spectators. Starbuck buried his head in his hands in disbelief, and Athena was crying silently. Boomer, sitting on her other side, had an arm around her, his face showing his shock. Apollo drew a deep breath but didn't flinch.

Anton paused to let the murmuring die down.. “Before I pronounce sentence have you anything to say?”

“No,” Apollo said shortly, his eyes still on his father. “Except that I'm not guilty”

Adama looked away from his son's steady gaze and fought for control.

“Then it is the will of this Council that you be stripped of the rank and honours you have disgraced and dishonoured.” Anton looked coolly at Apollo, saw the wince on the otherwise set face. “The penalty for rebellion and treason in time of war is death, Captain Apollo, and some of the Council pressed for the full sentence to be handed down. But in recognition of your hitherto blameless record, and for the courage you have shown in the defence of this Fleet in the past, that sentence is commuted to Category One life imprisonment. That is the only alternative open to me under our legal code. No appeal will be allowed.” Apollo looked stunned. “Do you understand me, Captain?”

Apollo nodded dumbly, his mind whirling.. He had expected to be shot. Category One? What the hell was that? Some other archaic rule?

Anton stood up and moved to stand in front of Apollo. “You are dismissed the service that you have disgraced,” he said, using the old ritualistic formula to signify dishonourable discharge. For an old man, he was surprisingly strong. His fingers twisted in the medal ribbons and with a sharp tug he pulled them free, tearing the fabric of Apollo's dress jacket. He tore away some of the braid, leaving frayed edges to hang, and unpinned the Captain's insignia from Apollo's collar.

Apollo stayed silent, managing to keep his face still and expressionless. His mind was still working behind the mask, the historian in him thinking about the origins of this old ritual. Yahrens ago they would have broken his sword and slashed away the braid with the broken braid. You couldn't do that with a laser. This was hard. This was very hard. He looked at his father, and saw Adama turn away. For the first time, Apollo had to duck his head to hide his expression.

The court was silent and watchful. Starbuck watched his best friend's public humiliation, with a set face and clenched fists. He wanted something to hit.

Anton looked down at the tumbled heap of medals and ribbons in his hand, and let them fall to the floor. The detritus of a military career that was ending in ignominy. “Take him away” he said at last, and turned away as the disgraced and dishonoured prisoner was surrounded by non-military guards and returned to the brig to await sentence.

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