Section Three

 

 

“Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit,” Greg said monotonously and helplessly as he raced through the corridor's to Reese's personal quarters. “Oh shit.”

He didn't wait to knock on the door. This was an emergency, and he had Reese's security codes. He tapped the codes into the security panel with shaking fingers, and hurtled into the room as soon as the door slid aside. As he expected, Reese was busy.

Apollo was on his hands and knees on the floor, head hanging, naked. Reese kneeling upright behind him and holding him just above the hips to steady himself, powered in and out of Apollo's body, daggit style. Greg could see Reese's prick, glistening with lubrication, as it plunged in between Apollo's buttocks, pulling back and thrusting forward again. Apollo's body shuddered with each thrust, and he was gasping noisily.

Reese had been using the riding quirt again, Greg saw. The once smooth skinned back and shoulders were criss-crossed with angry looking weals and cuts, some half healed, some still bleeding. Apollo had obviously done something that hadn't pleased the Security Chief, or hadn't pleased him well enough or fast enough. Reese enjoyed using the quirt. He didn't need much excuse.

“Tighter, you bastard. Tighter!” he was saying to Apollo, and he was using his hands to pull Apollo back rhythmically to meet every forward thrust of his own.

Greg wet dry lips. He'd been there with Reese, where Apollo was now. He still often was. He'd been taught by Reese to tighten the muscles in his buttocks and rectum to match Reese's rhythm and grip that surging prick hard as it was driven up into him. It sent Reese crazy to feel that hot tightness close around him. Greg slid a hand into his pants and rubbed himself vigorously as he watched, momentarily forgetting their problem. But only momentarily.

“Reese!” he yelled again, and the Security Chief drove up into Apollo and stopped his strokes, turning his head.

“What?” he demanded with understandable irritation at the distraction. His face and body were glistening with sweat, and Greg guessed that he'd been hammering away at Apollo for some time. Apollo didn't move or even turn to look at Greg. He didn't care.

“Commander Adama's here - for him. They've got release papers, Reese.” There was panic in Greg's voice.

Reese stared at him fixedly. Greg, nervous, pulled his hand out of his pants, his erection suddenly melting away under that dangerous gaze. Reese looked down at Apollo.

“Hell,” he said, with deep feeling.

“I left him in your office, but he's yelling about getting Apollo back right now.

“Fucking hell!” said Reese, then to Greg's astonishment he started pounding Apollo again. “Won't be a centon…”

Five or six fast, very hard strokes that had Greg wincing in sympathy, and Reese was coming, shooting his load up into Apollo's body with a grunt of satisfaction. He pulled out fast, letting Apollo collapse into a heap on the floor. Apollo lay still where he'd fallen, his breathing harsh and difficult. Reese got up, and wiped himself clean on a small towel, breathing hard.

“Release papers?” he demanded, and looked them over. All in order, down to the Council seal.

“We've got orders to go to the Rising Star, too, to arrest Sire Uri on murder and conspiracy charges.

Reese wasn't much interested in that. “Hell," he said again, looking down at Apollo.

“What are we going to do?” Greg asked apprehensively.

“Release him, of course. Stop worrying - they can't touch us for anything. We've complete legal immunity.”

“But this is the man's son!”

“Shut up. They can't do anything. He's out of his head, anyway. “ Reese handed Greg the towel and turned to find his clothes. “All right. Clean him up and get him dressed. I want him back in his cell in five centons, do you understand? Oh - and give him his needle. He just earned it.”

 

 

 

Boomer

Commander Adama was prowling around Reese's office. That was unusual. Normally the most patient and reserved of men, he just wanted to get Apollo out of there. It had been a long three sectars for him. Starbuck was doing his famous imitation of a daggit on a sunspot, worse even than Adama. Me, I was a bit more patient. I could remember when my mother came to get me out of juvenile detention when I was caught hot-rodding hovermobiles, the amount of forms they had to fill in. My mother was almost crosser with me about that then getting caught in the first place. She was grateful in the end though. They'd had a good rehabilitation programme, and they got me interested in the Colonial Service and that probably kept me from following most of the other kids in my neighbourhood into jail.

“Where the hell is he?” Starbuck burst out at last.

“Filling in forms,” I said soothingly. “Probably in triplicate. Not even the Destruction will have stopped the bureaucracy.”

The Commander snorted derisively, then turned sharply as the door open and Reese and his second came in. Reese looked his usual self - bullish, confident, maybe a touch defiant. The second, Greg, looked nervous. He kept licking his lips and watched the Commander out of the corner of his eye. Both Starbuck and me noticed. Starbuck looked at me, suddenly apprehensive. I don't think the look I gave him reassured him. I didn't like the look of things myself. The guy was very, very nervous.

“At last!” the Commander said, not letting Reese say anything. “I want Apollo, and I want him now. You've got your copy of the release order.”

Reese nodded. He and Adama had never got on and he didn't seem any more inclined than the Commander for pleasantry. “It's all in order. This way, Commander..” He gestured for us to follow him. “The solitary cells are on the other side of the main grid.”

I'd never seen it before. The central core of the barge was empty space, the walls lined with dozens of open-barred cells. I was astonished by how many prisoners the Barge carried. She was always intended for the most dangerous of criminals, those thought too dangerous for a planet-side prison - the psychopaths, the severely mentally disturbed, the pathologically violent. Most of those were still housed here: they were too dangerous to be considered for the amnesty offered to some of the prisoners, the way Croft had won his amnesty. We'd added a few prisoners on our voyage, of course. The Barge was the only prison we had now, and I remembered that as well as the petty thieves and murderers who'd enlivened our voyage, we'd put the Eastern Alliance people here. This wasn't a place of rehabilitation and retraining, the way my juvenile centre had been. This was straightforward confinement to protect the rest.

The prisoners all crowded to the front of their cells to watch us pass. The noise was indescribable - hoots and jeers and cat-calls, and many of them rattled the bars as if trying to get out at us. Not friendly.

“Nice,” said Starbuck, looking around nervously. He'd almost ended up here after the Ortega affair, would have done if me and Apollo hadn't managed to trap Karybdis. I could understand how he felt. “If I never said thanks before, Boom-boom, I'm saying it now.”

The Commander stalked along beside Reese as if deaf and blind to the noise, to the reaction that our very presence was provoking. He looked as if he was smelling something bad. Greg scuttled along behind them, increasingly nervous it seemed to me. The Commander ignored both of them. He and Reese never spoke a word to each other until we'd gone aft through the Grid, to the dim quiet corridor beyond.

Reese paused outside of a door. “Here,“ he said briefly and gestured Greg forward.

I wasn't happy. Greg was very edgy, and Reese, it seemed to me, was more obviously defiant.

The door slid open. The cell was pitch dark, no lighting at all. The Commander stared into it for a micron then turned to Reese, his face dark with fury.

“Lights,” said Reese laconically, looking right back at the Commander, not giving an inch. Greg touched some control in the corridor wall and the cell was suddenly brightly and harshly lit.

I don't think I'll ever forget my first sight of Apollo in that damned cell. He was on the floor, huddled into a corner, half sitting up, his back to us. His head was hanging and he was breathing badly, every breath wheezing and rattling in his chest, his thin body shaking uncontrollably. He didn't even turn his head to see who was there. It was if he didn't realise that anyone was there, or didn't care.

The Commander crossed the cell in two steps - it was a tiny place, a three metre cube. He knelt down beside Apollo and touched him gently. “Apollo?” he said.

Starbuck and me were just behind him. We watched as he gently turned Apollo. We saw the dull, wide green eyes stare back at us unseeingly, saw the way that Apollo's head dropped limply, so that the Commander had to catch him by the chin and tilt his head back to look into the blank, expressionless face. And we all saw the hypodermic.

“Apollo,” Commander Adama said again.

If the Commander hadn't been supporting him, Apollo would have just slid to the floor. He was completely out of it. The tourniquet was tight around his upper left arm, the hypodermic still in the swollen vein in the inside of his elbow. It was empty, and a thin thread of blood was meandering down his forearm from the injection site. His breathing was rapid, noisy and shallow and even when the Commander lifted him up, he didn't know that his father was there. He didn't know that any of us were there. His eyes were very dilated and glazed, looking into the Commander's without a hint of recognition. I wasn't even sure that Apollo could see him. I didn't think the outside world existed for Apollo just then.

“Oh shit,” I said, shocked beyond belief. It was like seeing Mikey all over again, poor long-dead Mikey. I don't know how many times when I was growing up we found Mikey like this, out of his head on the Shadow that eventually killed him. He died screaming and insane, with massive organ failure from the poisonous crap he'd been injecting into himself for yahrens. He was twenty two.

“Apollo?” Starbuck sounded as shocked and disbelieving as I felt. His hand on my arm gripped so tight that I winced. Starbuck liked the occasional spiked fumarillo, to help him relax, he said. Apollo was so down on that, that Starbuck always had to smoke them in secret, usually in the turboflushes. If Apollo caught him, he made sure Starbuck's life wasn't worth living. To see Apollo now was heart-rending.

“Oh God, Apollo,” the Commander said again, but Apollo didn't hear him. The Commander looked up at Reese. “What is it?” he demanded

“Shadow,” I said, before Reese could.

I leaned down and gently took out the hypo and loosened the tourniquet. I'd done it for Mikey often enough. Apollo's arm was a mass of sores and scarred veins, ulcers that were seeping pus and blood. Mikey's arms had looked like that, but after yahrens of Shadow. They must have started Apollo off on a hell of a rate for him to be this bad, started him at terminal, killing levels. From the number of injection sites - and his right arm was the same, I checked - Apollo had to be taking six or seven hits a day, maybe more. It took Mikey five yahrens to get to that level.

The Commander was in shock, could only glare at Reese.

The Security Chief shrugged, elaborately casual. “You know the rules, Commander. The law allows us to use any means we think necessary to restrain Category One prisoners. We have complete legal immunity. For everything - and anything.”

Commander Adama still said nothing, looking into Apollo's white face and the lifeless eyes. I was slightly surprised at how clean Apollo was, that he'd shaved at some point during the day. Mikey had turned into a dirty slob, all his energies focused on his next hit. He'd had no energy to spare for personal hygiene. It wasn't until afterwards that we realised that Reese had insisted that no matter what, Apollo didn't deteriorate to quite that extent, and why. But the lack of a beard meant I noticed the bruising: his left cheekbone was black, and his lip was split. There was fresh blood on his mouth. Both the bruise and the split were recent, but the thin red scar running diagonally across his right cheek from his eye to the corner of his mouth wasn't. They'd beaten him that day, and it hadn't been for the first time.

“Get out of here.” Commander Adama found his voice. It was so full of suppressed fury that it frightened me. Adama never lost his temper, never lost control. He sounded as if he was about to now. “Get out of here right now.”

Reese swaggered as he stepped back . “Fine, Commander. But remember what I said. We can treat the prisoners here exactly as we like.”

Starbuck surged towards him, as furious as the Commander, and I had to catch him and hold him back.

“Leave him, “ I said. “Reese isn't important. Apollo's what's important.”

He was trembling in my grasp, but nodded, looking murderously at Reese. I knew how he felt about Apollo, how he'd grieved and mourned at the trial and after, how he'd never for a micron wavered in his belief that Apollo was innocent and that we'd prove it somehow. He'd been almost incandescent with joy when we'd succeeded and this was a very bitter blow.

“I'll get you, you bastard,” he said with absolute sincerity, and turned away to kneel beside Commander Adama, helping to support Apollo.

Reese merely shrugged again, and turned away. “I have to go to the Rising Star. Greg will see you through the formalities,” he said with a fair attempt at indifference.

I wondered if he was really as casual as he was acting. Adama's a hard man to cross, and he is Fleet Commander. Even if he didn't resume the Presidency now Apollo was free - that was a joke, in the circumstances - he could, and would, make Reese regret ever having been born.

“But Reese…” Greg was taken aback, obviously wanting to get out of there, out of range.

“Do as you're told,” Reese said savagely, and the sudden switch from urbanity to anger indicated that he wasn't as confident as he felt. He disappeared without anyone taking any more notice of him, leaving Greg hovering uncertainly by the door.

“I'll get Salik,” I said, and Commander Adama nodded, never taking his eyes from Apollo. His face was set, almost expressionless. He's not a demonstrative man in public, careful always to treat Apollo the same as any of his officers, but we knew how much he cared for Apollo, how he must feel. I spoke quickly into my communicator, getting through to Tigh on the Galactica's bridge. He didn't waste time with questions or exclamations. He merely promised me that the medical shuttle would be on its way as fast as humanly possible.

The Commander was sitting on the floor now, cradling Apollo in his arms and rocking him gently, as if trying to soothe a child to sleep, his face hidden in Apollo's hair. I think he was crying. Starbuck was kneeling beside him, holding one of Apollo's hands. He looked like he'd been pole-axed, too shocked to function.

Apollo was over the initial stages of the hit and the shaking and mild convulsions were less obvious. He was still blank-eyed, but he'd be slowly coming down now. His breathing, though, was terrible, and I didn't like the way that his chest heaved to get every shallow, painful breath. A bad chest infection, maybe pneumonia. I knew from what I remembered of Mikey that Apollo's resistance to infection would be seriously compromised by the Shadow. Mikey got every infection going.

“Colonel Tigh says twenty, twenty five centons, sir,” I said to Commander Adama. He nodded without speaking. “And he'll warn Athena to keep Boxey away from the flightdeck.”

That got through. Adama loves Apollo's stepson as if he were blood-family. Apollo is the only father Boxey has ever known, and the child had suffered enough from his absence without having the added horror of seeing Apollo in this condition. The Commander glanced up at me for a micron, nodded his thanks. As I'd thought, his face was wet.

I touched Apollo's face. For all its pallor, he was burning with fever. I looked around the cell. There was a door in one corner, a tiny fresher behind it. I soaked a towel in cold water and brought it back, using it to bathe Apollo's bruised face, trying to get his temperature down a little.

“Why?” Starbuck asked abruptly. He was watching me with eyes dulled with misery.

“Control,” I said. “My brother was an addict. If Mikey missed a hit, he'd do anything to get the stuff. Much easier to keep your prisoners under control if you addict them to Shadow and then threaten to withhold it if they don't behave.”

“I'll kill him,” Starbuck said wearily.

“Reese isn't important right now,” I said again. “Apollo is.”

“Control,” said Commander Adama bitterly. “Along with the beatings.” He hadn't missed the bruises despite the greater grief and shock over the Shadow.

I think Greg resented being left by Reese to face the music. Maybe he was just determined to let as little of the blame rest on him as possible.

“Reese,” he said, “It was Reese. He hit him a lot and got him onto the Shadow. It made it easier for him if Apollo…” he saw the look on our faces and corrected himself hastily. “…if Captain Apollo was too drugged to put up a fight. It was less trouble than getting us to tie him down.”

I froze as I realised what the bastard was saying, suddenly sick to my stomach. Commander Adama pulled Apollo in very close, holding him protectively.

“You mean..?” Starbuck choked.

Greg shrugged and nodded. “Since he got here. We had to fight him down and tie him to begin with.”

Commander Adama looked up at us for a micron, then down at Apollo. He said nothing. He'd gone very white and for a centon he buried his face in Apollo's hair again.

“And how many of you did it take to do that?” I asked. I could feel my fists clenching and unclenching. Oh God, poor Apollo. For the first time I noticed the metal restraining rings set above the built-in bunk. I was beginning to realise what those were for.

“Four or five,” Greg said. “But with the Shadow, he was too doped to know what was going on.”

“Much more co-operative,” Starbuck said savagely, and he looked as sick as I felt. He was heaving with nausea.

Greg shrugged again, “Yeah, he stopped fighting. He'll do anything for it. Reese was with him when you got here.”

Commander Adama pulled Apollo closer. I was a bit worried about how tight he was holding him. Apollo was having enough difficulty breathing.

“It didn't stop you beating him,” I said, hoping that when Starbuck got Reese, I'd get a crack at this stupid, ignorant oaf.

“Reese plays rough,” the man said. “And he likes to hurt. He used a quirt on him earlier.”

We looked at each other. Then I took a few steps forward and even I was surprised how cold my voice was. “You will go down to the shuttle bay and wait for the Galactica's medical shuttle, and escort Dr Salik back up here when he arrives. If I see hide or hair of you before Salik gets here I'll blow your fucking head off, do you understand me? Get out of here.” I didn't even raise my voice.

“It wasn't me, it was Reese,” Greg said in an injured tone, the tone of a man who'd been trying to co-operate and had been misunderstood and misjudged.

“You saw it, you helped Reese.” Starbuck had got the nausea under control. “You're as dead as Reese is.”

The man stared at us for a micron, looking from me to Starbuck. Then he looked to Commander Adama as if seeking protection and reassurance. The Commander is known throughout the Fleet for being upright, moral, law abiding, the epitome of a good man. But he looked back at Greg and there was so much bitter anger in the look that it promised the retribution that Starbuck and me had spoken of, but which the Commander didn't need to vocalise. Greg made a queer, fearful sound and lurched out of the door way and disappeared. We ignored him.

“I thought he'd been badly beaten, but a quirt?” Commander Adama said. “Help me with him.”

He held Apollo while Starbuck quickly undid the thin prison shirt. Now they'd lifted him up, I could see that the shirt was stained with fresh blood.

“His back's bleeding” I said as I went to help.

“Shit. Oh shit,” Starbuck was saying as we eased Apollo's shirt away from his shoulders

Apollo put up no resistance, limp and heavy in his father's hold. It was like undressing a big rag doll. At the first sight of his back we were all silent, struck dumb, then Starbuck was scrambling to his feet, heaving again. He only just made it into the fresher, and the Commander and me could hear him throwing up.

Apollo's back was a mass of weals. Some were old, thin scars like the one on his face. Others were half healed, but there were a host of red angry marks, freshly done. A few times Reese had evidently hit so hard that he'd broken the skin, cutting mercilessly into the thin shoulders and back. Some of these cuts were still oozing blood, and one or two were so deep I thought they might need sutures. Added to that were several wounds on Apollo's shoulders, more than one of which was infected, with swollen puffy looking flesh leaking yellow pus.

“They look like bites,” I said, touching one gently.

The Commander merely nodded, and I remembered what that moron had said about Reese playing rough. We both knew how the bites had got there.

I went into the fresher. Starbuck was splashing cold water onto his face, looking pale and sick.

Okay?” I asked, soaking the towel again. I felt awful. That's why I had to keep busy, or I'd be joining Starbuck over the basin.

“Fucking hell, no. That's my Apollo the bastard's done that to.” Starbuck was holding onto the basin, sweat on his forehead as he fought back the waves of nausea.

I touched his arm comfortingly. I knew how Starbuck felt about Apollo, all the love and passion he'd hidden away for yahrens. “I know, Starbuck. He needs you right now.”

The anguished blue eyes met mine, wet with tears. “Boomer, he doesn't even know I'm here,” he said in despair. “I thought this would be so wonderful, getting him back. But he doesn't know I'm here! God!” He broke down again, sobbing like a hurt child.

I hugged him and nodded. “I know,” I said again, and went back to where Commander Adama was sitting holding his son, dry-eyed now.

I used the towel to clean up as much of the blood as I could, as gently as possible, hoping that the cool towel would soothe the soreness. Apollo didn't seem to feel it, thank heaven, although he would when he was down a bit more and temporarily back in the real world before the need for his next hit took over.

“Is Starbuck all right?” the Commander asked, and I was astonished in that in the midst of his own misery and wretchedness he could feel for Starbuck's.

“He will be,” I said, and helped the Commander pull Apollo's shirt up over his shoulders again. “It's just - ”

Commander Adama nodded. “I know. They've been closer than brothers since they met. Poor Zac was terribly jealous of Starbuck, you know.”

“I remember.” I'd witnessed one or two of young Zac's temper tantrums when he couldn't attract his big brother's attention because big brother was too occupied with Starbuck, and, to a lesser extent, with me. I love both of them equally - we've been friends since we met in the first yahren of the Academy - but I know how close they are. I share some of that, but not all. It's enough. I took the thin blanket from the bunk and helped wrap Apollo in it.

Commander Adama put a hand on mine for a centon. “Thank you, Boomer. You were always the practical one. Starbuck's all nerves.”

Starbuck came back just then, pale and shaky. “Sorry,” he said, and sat down beside the Commander. He took one of Apollo's hands in his.

And so we waited. We listened to Apollo's harsh, difficult breathing and looked at the thin abused body that the Commander was cradling in his arms, and we thought about what Reese had done, and I think we all three planned murder.

I don't think that Apollo had ever had sex with a man before. Hell, I knew he wouldn't have. His only likely partner there would be Starbuck, and I knew Starbuck had never made a move on Apollo. He'd always been too afraid that Apollo, who's shy and reserved and probably hasn't had that many sexual partners anyway, would get scared and he'd lose the friend who meant more to him than anything and anyone in the universe. Not that Starbuck had ever said anything to me, but I wasn't blind. I knew how he felt. The thing was, I'd never thought that Apollo would be scared, but that he was just too shy to signal to Starbuck that he too would like to take their friendship further. I thought that Reese had taken something that, in the right circumstances, Apollo would have willingly given to Starbuck.

So I sat there and thought about what rape, violation and enforced drug addiction would have done to the reserved, gentle and sensitive man whom I'd known and loved like a brother for yahrens. I thought that we were in for a whole mess of trouble.

Salik took almost half an centar to reach us, but I have never seen a more welcome sight than that fussy, precise little man bustling into the quiet cell. By the time he got there, Apollo was still high but a little more aware of his surroundings. He was certainly aware of the pain in his back and was whimpering in his throat with each harsh breath, although he still wasn't focusing on us. That was hell to listen to, but would be even worse when he came down completely.

“Thank the Lords!” Commander Adama said in heartfelt tones.

Starbuck got out of the way quickly, to let Salik in at Apollo.

“What do we have?” Salik asked. He was frowning as he heard Apollo's breathing. “Apart from pneumonia, I mean. Lords, but he's congested.”

Commander Adama took a deep breath. How he kept his voice even was a miracle. “Apart from the pneumonia, we have Shadow addiction, at least one recent severe beating and repeated rape”.

Salik shot him a sharp look. “Get him onto the bed,” he ordered, and when the Commander obeyed, he looked Apollo over with increasing and evident anxiety. He tutted audibly over the ulcerated arms, listened through his stethoscope to Apollo's breathing with a deep frown, and looked furious about the bites and beatings. Out of decency, I think, he didn't attempt a rectal examination with all of us there. Besides, I think he had other priorities. .“Where's that guard?” he demanded.

“Here,” said Greg, reluctantly from the doorway. He avoided my eyes, ducking his head so as not to catch my gaze.

“How much were you giving him?” Salik was gently probing at one of the worst sores and scowling.

“He shoots it up himself, now. He has for sectons,” Greg said resentfully.

“How much?” repeated Salik unmoved by this attempt at diversion.

“Twenty milligrams, six, seven times a day,” Greg muttered.

“Good God!” I couldn't help myself. “That'll kill him!” That was the equivalent of poor Mikey at his worst.

“If the pneumonia doesn't first,” Salik said. “Get me some. Get me a sectar's supply for him.” Greg nodded and vanished.

“Salik?” Commander Adama said protestingly.

The doctor gave him a cool, but not unsympathetic look. “I'm sorry, Commander,” he said. “Even if I can get him through the effects of these beatings and the pneumonia, it'll be some time before he'll be strong enough to be taken through a detox programme. I'm going to be doing his hits for him for a few days”

“Do you have to?” and Adama's distaste and reluctance were obvious.

“Yes.” Salik was uncompromising. He looked at Apollo with compassion. “He's got enough problems without us forcing him into withdrawal, don't you think? It would kill him” He reached into his bag and took out a hypodermic. “I'm going to sedate him - his back must be agony - and then I want him back to the shuttle and into Life Centre as soon as that guard brings us the Shadow. “ He picked up Apollo's hand and looked sourly at the sores and ulcers. “Of course, it would be nice if I could find a useable vein.”

He gently got the hypo into one of the less horrible looking veins and within a few microns the awful whimpering stopped. Apollo's eyes closed, and that was a relief, not to keep looking into that empty stare.

“I'll put an intravenous line in when we get him onto the shuttle,” Salik went on, “and get some antibiotics into him. We'd better get him onto some oxygen. He's got so much fluid in those lungs he sounds like he's drowning. He must have been ill for days and they haven't done anything.”

“Except beat and abuse him,” the Commander said bitterly.

“I'll check that out when we get him back.”

“Who piloted you over?” Starbuck asked abruptly.

“Lieutenant Jolly. Why?”

Starbuck nodded. “That's okay, Jolly's a friend. He'll not blab about what's happened to Apollo.”

“He won't know,” Salik said. “All he and anyone who might see us will know is that Apollo's unconscious and on his way to Life Centre.” He was momentarily distracted as Greg reappeared with a package of Shadow. “Ah good. Now let's get him back.”

“I'll carry him,” Commander Adama said, and with me and Starbuck helping, he lifted Apollo up off the bed. Adama's a big man, and cradled Apollo in his arms as if his son was still a child. Apollo's head fell limply onto his shoulder, and Adama held him very close for a moment. I think it was beginning to sink in, what they'd done to him.

Starbuck was very close to Adama, holding Apollo's hand, so I ended up carrying the Shadow, and I had to fight my repugnance to the stuff to even touch the packet.

“I'll take him if he's too heavy,” Starbuck said anxiously.

The Commander managed a faint, understanding smile. “I'll manage him, but stay close, Starbuck. He'll need you”

So we got him to the shuttle and Jolly broke all the speed records to get him back to the Galactica. I remembered what Sire Anton had said in the Council antechamber about what a home-coming Apollo would have. He was right. One hell of a homecoming.

 

 

Commander Croft of the Celestra had expected the Officers Club to be in the middle of a wild celebratory party. Not that anyone had ever celebrated when he got out of the Barge, but Apollo was okay, really, and he felt like joining in. He didn't normally socialise much, although he had every right to use the Galactica's OC, but this was an exception. He was not expecting to find everyone sunk in the depths of depression instead.

Impatient at everyone talking to him at once, Croft singled out a face he knew, one he thought belonged to someone with a vested interest in Apollo. Sheba passed on the few details they'd gleaned from Jolly. Apollo had apparently been unconscious when they'd brought him down to the Barge shuttlebay and Jolly hadn't been able to get much out of Starbuck or Boomer, except that Apollo had been found like that. He had been badly beaten and, Jolly had said, had been breathing so badly that Salik had put him straight into life support and onto oxygen. So far as she knew, Apollo was still unconscious in Life Centre with Adama and his family. It had been a couple of centars since they'd assembled down on the Alpha Bay deck to meet Apollo and welcome him home: instead they'd found themselves meeting a life support pod. They'd had no news since then.

Croft scowled. It didn't sound good. It sounded as if Reese had run true to form. Croft knew the form Reese ran to.

They were expecting either Starbuck or Boomer to come and tell them what was happening, Sheba said. Croft didn't think it would be Starbuck. He'd seen the way Starbuck had looked at Apollo on Arcta, the way he'd protected the Captain, watched his back. He probably wouldn't leave Apollo. Croft ordered a drink and settled down at a corner table, deciding to wait with the Galactica's officers. As usual he sat alone, not inviting company. Nor was any offered.

It was a centar or more before Boomer came in. The OC spotted him instantly - they'd all been watching the door anxiously. Croft noted their anxiety, concluding that they must really like Apollo. He thought that Apollo was probably okay to serve under: he'd been okay on Arcta. A good commander and fine warrior.

Boomer was accosted almost before he got through the door. Jolly saw him first and leapt to his feet. “Boomer! What's the news? How is he?”

Boomer's dark skin was tinged with grey and he looked distressed. “Let me get a drink first,” he said, and accepted the one that Jolly hurriedly thrust at him.

Everyone was silent, watching him knock back the ambrosa. Croft, watching from his quiet corner, didn't think that his reaction was a good sign. Apollo was probably pretty bad. Alive, though. Boomer would have been much more distressed if the Captain hadn't made it.

After a centon, Boomer sighed. Croft thought that he seemed to be choosing his words very carefully. “Well, Salik says that he'll pull through. He's had a bad time. Reese and the guards seem to have used him as a punchbag virtually every day for the last three sectars: some of his bruises have bruises. Salik says there's no serious internal injuries, but….” Boomer paused and shrugged. “He has pneumonia, too, badly, but he'll get through it. He'll be one very sick Captain for the next few days, but he won't die on us just yet.”

There were a lot of relieved faces as they absorbed the good parts of Boomer's message, then the anger hit.

“Bastards!” Giles spat out. “They can't get away with that!”

“Oh yes they can,” Croft said from his corner, and every face turned towards him. “Apollo was a Category One prisoner, don't forget. He'd be the only one on the Barge, now we've marooned Baltar.”

“So?” someone said.

“Most prisoners have few human and legal rights under our penal code.” Croft's tone was even, disinterested, the tone of an academic speaking of theory, as if speaking of something that had ever touched him personally, but he knew they'd all be thinking how well he knew this. Few of them trusted an ex-prisoner, an ex-Barge rat. “Category One prisoners have none at all. The Barge has absolute power over them, and can use any means at all to keep them under control. There's no comeback, no redress. The Barge has complete legal immunity over how they treat them.”

“You're not serious,” Sheba said uncertainly. “I mean, everyone knows it's pretty tough on the Barge, but…”

“I spent ten yahrens on the Barge, Lieutenant,” he said, and now he sounded bitter. “I'm totally serious.”

“What was it like?” she asked quietly, and there was sympathy and understanding in her voice.

Croft didn't need that. He wondered if Apollo would. “Hard. Very hard. They own you, body and soul. You can get a beating for anything or nothing, because they need the exercise, or they don't like the way you look. or the way you've just called them sir. They'll shove you into solitary on a whim, into isolation and blackout, sleep deprivation, sensory deprivation, starvation. They know that there's no comeback, that they can't be touched for it. With most men, that sort of power corrupts. They use it.”

“And there's really nothing we can do?” Greenbean said, sick at the thought of them getting away with it.

“Not officially, perhaps,” Croft said. “But you know where the guards drink on their days off.” There were nods of agreement at that, and Croft smiled, thinking that Council Security was in for a bad time. Tough.

Sheba obviously hadn't finished on extracting information. “Apollo was in solitary confinement anyway,” she said. “Not on the main grid. Do you mean that they'd do all that to him? They'd have every opportunity to.”

“As a matter of course,” Croft said. “The aim is to break the prisoners, make them compliant and tractable, easy to handle. Knowing Apollo, I doubt if he was the most willing and co-operative of prisoners, especially if he was burning with resentment about the injustice of it all anyway. So he'd suffer for being difficult. But even without that I can believe he got a daily beating. Reese always had it in for the Commander's son, didn't he? And beating up a man who can't get back - that's Reese's style. That, and drugging the most intransigent ones who don't respond to a kicking.”

Boomer said nothing, looked away as they all stared first at Croft, and then at him.

“I've heard that drugs are pretty rife on the Barge,” Jolly said when Boomer wouldn't speak. “With what? Drugged with what?”

“Shadow, mostly. Cheap and very, very effective.” Croft returned Boomer's gaze. He knew he was right. They'd drugged Apollo up. He knew Shadow, had seen its effects on so many of the Barge's inmates. There was no way they'd be able to keep Apollo's addiction secret. It was better to get this into the open. Boomer didn't look mad at him for saying it. He looked grateful, if anything.

“Lords!” Sheba said in horror and disbelief. “Boomer?”

Boomer shrugged. “Salik says he can deal with it.”

“They drugged Apollo? Got him onto Shadow?” Greenbean sounded as horrified as Sheba.

“So far as we can tell, several large prison guards decked him six times a day and held him down while Reese got the needle into him.” Boomer was struggling to keep his tone even. Whatever he'd seen on the Barge when he had gone with Starbuck and Adama to get Apollo had shocked him deeply and they all realised that. Apollo had to be in a very bad way.

“Good God,” Bojay said.

Croft wondered if he'd imagined the slight note of satisfaction in the temporary Strike Leader's tone, but Boomer looked at him quickly, too. Croft looked thoughtfully at Bojay. He'd heard that Bojay was hacked off that his appointment was just temporary. If Apollo was an addict, that increased his chances of keeping Apollo's job permanently. Croft looked sour at that. The Ice Gang hadn't had much, maybe, but the members of it had remained loyal. Well, more or less. He didn't like the disloyalty and opportunism that Captain Bojay was showing.

“They'll get him off it,” Jolly said firmly. “After all, Apollo is probably the most anti-drugs of anyone I know. He used to play hell with Starbuck about those doctored fumarillos of his, remember?. Apollo would never have taken drugs himself. He'll want to get off the stuff.”

“Yeah, I guess,” Boomer said wearily.

Croft shook his head at that but decided to say nothing. He didn't think that they really knew much about Shadow, if they thought that. Apollo had been on the Barge for over three sectars, and most of that, Croft thought, would have been Shadow. They might have started out by injecting him forcibly, but not for long. Shadow was just too addictive. He'd probably been shooting himself up for sectons. The Apollo who was anti drugs, the old Apollo, probably didn't even exist any more and the Lord alone knew if that Apollo could ever come back. Croft thought that Shadow may not have been Apollo's idea, but he suspected that all Apollo was now was something to put the needles into.

“How long, Boomer?” Sheba asked. “How long before we get Apollo back?”

If you ever do . Croft thought cynically as he listened to the message that he suspected that Adama had entrusted to Boomer.

“Salik won't even think about detox for a secton or two,” the dark warrior said. “Not until he has the pneumonia under control and Apollo's over the worst effects of the beatings. After that, I don't know. Sectons, probably. Maybe a couple of sectars. It takes a long time for the Shadow to get out of the system, and it's not pleasant or easy. He's in for a hard time.”

“Shit,” sighed Jolly. “Where's Starbuck?”

Boomer grinned slightly. “Where else? The only way to get him away from Apollo at the moment would be to have him surgically removed.” He picked up another drink. “Leave it for now, okay? I've told you all I can.”

“When you see him, Boomer, tell him that we're thinking about him, and we love him and we want him back soon,” Sheba said.

Boomer nodded at the loud chorus of agreement, but didn't miss the look on Bojay's face. Bojay wasn't signed up to any of Sheba's message, but Boomer turned away without saying anything and joined Croft at the quiet corner table.

“Thanks” he said briefly.

Croft raised an enquiring eyebrow.

“For raising the drugs thing. I didn't know how to tell them.”

“But you thought you had to?” Croft was relieved. He'd wondered if he was doing the right thing.

“There's no hiding it. The Commander decided that it would be better just to tell everyone: they'll understand it isn't something Apollo would have done himself.”

“Bad?”

Boomer sighed. “He was completely out of his head. He had no idea we were there - or where he was, I think. It broke the Commander's heart to see Apollo like that.”

“And that's not all, is it?” Croft watched Boomer carefully. “Reese has a certain reputation, for liking pretty young men.”

Boomer said nothing, stared down at his glass.

Croft nodded. “I thought so. That'll be one reason why Reese got him addicted. Much easier to break him and train him. Shadow is very, very addictive, especially in the doses Reese would be using. It wouldn't take long before Reese got him to the point where he didn't need to tie him down first.”

Boomer shrugged. “I don't know. I don't know, the state Apollo was in, if he'd even notice.”

“He'd notice,” Croft said dryly. “Rumour was that Reese is into rough sex: he likes to hurt and he likes to mark.” He drained his glass. “I didn't like Apollo at first, when we did the Arcta mission. I thought he was brash and cocky, and full of being the Commander's son. But then I got to know him on Arcta, and to respect his abilities as a warrior. More than that. I got to like him as a person. All that brashness just covered someone who is really quite shy and desperate to get out from under his father's shadow, who's always had to prove that he's not won what he has because of who his father is. We've had a few ambrosas together since, did you know? Talking about our losses, mostly. He was the only man who understood how I felt about losing Leda, because of how he lost Serina.”

Boomer took another swig of ambrosa. “He's been one of my best friends for over ten yahrens, since we met at the Academy. I can't believe that there's no way we can get Reese for this. It's burning the Commander up. Me too.”

Croft smiled. “Well, I've an idea about that. Sit tight, Boomer, where there's lots of witnesses and help them plan how to get the guards. I'll take care of Reese.” He stood up.

“What are you up to?” asked Boomer curiously.

The cold smile grew broader. “I'm going to talk to a politician. It's a dirty job, but someone has to do it”

 

 

 

Sire Anton looked thoughtfully at Croft, thinking of this man's chequered history. Anton had been one of the few Council members to support Adama's proposal to rehabilitate Croft after Arcta, and had supported his candidature for the command of the Celestra after old Kronus died. He thought that Croft had amply repaid the trust Adama had put in him.

“You wanted to see me because you needed the help of someone ruthless and unprincipled?” Anton repeated Croft's opening gambit in amusement.

“You're a politician,“ said Croft with a shrug “Goes with the job description, doesn't it?”

“I suppose so,” Anton agreed, still amused. “What can I do to help?”

“You're still acting President, right?”

“Temporarily. Now we've managed to clear Apollo, I'll be handing office back to Adama as soon as I can.”

“Good. I need a President, and this isn't something Adama would do, even for Apollo. You've heard?”

Anton's expression clouded. “Only that the boy is badly hurt, no details. Adama's still in the Life Centre with him, and not to be disturbed. I can guess, though. The Barge is not exactly a holiday camp, is it?”

Croft's mouth twisted. “Anything but. Apollo's been beaten and drugged, Sire Anton. Beaten every day, if I know Reese, and because he wouldn't let the bastards break him, held down and injected with Shadow until he's addicted. The Lords alone know if he'll recover, but even if he does it will take a long time and he'll probably never be the same. And, as we both know, Reese can claim immunity from prosecution. Our enlightened law sees to that. I'm not happy about that. I'm not happy about that at all.”

Anton nodded slowly. “I have the feeling Adama won't be happy either. He'll be pressing for a change in the law. He'll have my full support. I hadn't realised our legal system was so barbaric”

“The change is long overdue. But it won't be retrospective, will it though? It might stop Reese and his goons beating the shit out of prisoners in the future, but it won't do anything for Apollo.” Croft looked Anton in the eye. “I like Apollo. We get along pretty well, and there's not a lot of people I can say that about, and not a lot of people who trust me. Apollo did. I don't like what Reese did to him. But I don't deny that I'd like to get Reese on my own account, too. And I'd like do it now, when Apollo's family and friends are in the Life Centre with him, and no-one can accuse them of anything.”

“I wouldn't believe you if you did deny you wanted revenge. So, Commander, I ask you again. What is it you want me to do?”

“I want you to call Reese now and order him over here to explain himself. Oh, you know that everything he did is within the law, but you think you and he ought to have a little discussion about the merits of moderation. Nothing heavy, just a friendly chat, so that you can inform yourself of Barge procedures before you have to meet Adama. You're sending a shuttle, and would he please be on the Barge shuttledeck in twenty centons. And he's to come alone.”

Anton's eyes were alight with amusement. “A shuttle that you'll be piloting?”

“I can arrange that with the Alpha bay Deckmaster here. He's an old friend of mine, and he won't ask any questions. He'll deny ever seeing who took the shuttle and he'll arrange for the Bay monitors to fail at critical moments.”

“And?”

“Do you really want to know, Sire Anton?”

“I think I do,” the old man said with imperturbable calm. “Just for my own peace of mind.”

Croft smiled slightly. He doubted if anything much ever disturbed that particular state. He found himself liking and respecting the old politician. “And I think the shuttle will suffer a catastrophic - but temporary - airlock failure on the way back to the Galactica.”

“Dear me,” Anton said mildly. “How distressing." He leaned back in his chair and contemplated the ceiling, face serene as he thought this over. But not for too long. He sat up, and reached for the comlink on the Presidential desk, and his tone was as serene and unruffled as his expression as he spoke to Core Command. “This is the acting President. Patch me through to the Barge commandant, please."

Croft's smile grew broader, and very, very wolfish.

 

 

 

Adama

Every time I had come into the Life Centre since Apollo had recovered consciousness, it was to find him lying quietly in the narrow hospital bed, looking at nothing. Even now, when he was physically well enough - theoretically - to get up for a few centars, I'd walk in and find him lying there listlessly. It wasn't the Shadow: I had Apollo's routine by heart and timed my visits carefully so that he'd be at his most alert, in that all too short centar between coming down from one hit and the increasing need to take another. I had been there while Apollo was injecting himself, or in the throes of a hit, or when he was growing increasingly distracted as the need for Shadow became more pressing. But watching Apollo at any of these times was too distressing for us both, and I'd learned to come in to see him only when I was reasonably sure that Apollo would be rational enough to realise that I - or anyone - was there at all.

As soon as we had got him back to the Galactica, Salik had taken him into surgery, to insert some chest drains to clear the fluid from his lungs, suture the worst of the cuts and bites on his back and excise some of the infected tissue in his arms. He was really very ill for a few days with the pneumonia, and although we were concerned about him, Salik assured us it wasn't life threatening. Still, Salik kept him heavily sedated, to let him heal: Apollo is usually an awful patient, always restless and eager to get out of bed and back on his feet. Usually when he'd been injured in the past, the only way to keep him in bed was to sedate him or tie him down. In the circumstances, we thought sedation was kinder.

Salik told me privately what I expected to hear: that there was unmistakable evidence that Apollo had been repeatedly abused. Luckily the physical damage was minimal. There were no ruptures or tearing, although there was some internal bruising. I dreaded to think, though, of the psychological damage it would have left.

Consequently, my reaction to Reese's disappearance was mixed. I really was at a loss to know whether to be glad or sorry. Boomer told me that Croft had had something to do with it, although he wasn't sure exactly of the details, and I had my suspicions about Anton's involvement. I have tried to live all my life by the precepts of the Book of the Word, and I knew that I ought to do more, to champion truth and justice. But then I looked at my son, and thought about him. The last thing Apollo would want would be for what had happened to him to become public knowledge. Sometimes truth and justice are not compatible. In this case, justice had been done and the truth and Reese were better dead. I decided against inquiring too closely into the circumstances.

There were complaints from Barge guards, too, that they were being set upon and assaulted every time they left the Barge. Tigh told me that he'd heard that Reese's second in command had been particularly badly beaten, and that his chances of a full recovery were doubtful. I'd seen Boomer at the Life Centre earlier, Cassiopeia dealing with some minor injuries to his hands. I decided that I wouldn't look into that too closely either. I would live with my conscience about not acting to stop the warriors exacting a little clandestine revenge.

Naturally, I was there when Apollo woke up for the first time, five days after we brought him home from the Barge. He was very bewildered and disorientated, and it took him some time to understand what I was telling him, that he was vindicated and free. I'd practised all sorts of speeches, all kinds of ways of telling him . In the end it came down to three words. You're free, son . I held him very close when I told him. He took it all very quietly, watching me with dull, lifeless eyes that looked enormous in that too-thin face. No joy or excitement, just a quiet passivity and acceptance that was so unlike him, that I wondered uneasily if Salik was right, and my Apollo was gone for ever, lost in beatings, abuse and Shadow.

Salik had been aghast at the amount of Shadow that Apollo was using. He took a high concentration hit at least every four centars, the sort of rate even long-standing addicts could only dream of. Salik warned that I wasn't to expect too much: that Apollo had a very severe addiction and that was what defined him now, that our old Apollo was very far away from us. Perhaps we'd never get him back. Salik was concerned that the amount of abuse was already putting a huge strain on Apollo's heart and other vital organs: we were facing major liver and kidney failure, heart attacks, cerebral haemorrhage….death… if we didn't get him off Shadow soon.

So after I'd told him that he was free, that Uri and Jeth had been arrested and were on the Barge in his place, and waited for a reaction that never came, I told him that we knew about the Shadow, that he wasn't to worry about it, and that we'd deal with it when he was stronger. He didn't say much about that either.

Physically, apart from the Shadow, he was recovering well. The pneumonia had cleared in a few days, and the various bruises and contusions from the beatings were healing. He would carry some of the scars for life, but Salik had assured me that there was no permanent damage.

Psychologically things were not so encouraging. Apollo seemed sunk in a deep depression. He rarely spoke, and then only if spoken to first, when he would rouse himself a little and respond, but wearily and without enthusiasm. He never spoke about what had happened or about his addiction. My old Apollo would never have been so passive, so withdrawn but not even Starbuck could rouse him. It was as if he didn't care about anything any more. It worried the life out of me. I thought that Apollo's depression went deeper then merely the alienating effects of the Shadow and I was increasingly anxious about my son's state of mind. Apollo hadn't been this withdrawn, even when Serina had died. At least then his promise to adopt and care for Serina's young son had given him a reason to keep going. Now even Boxey couldn't reach him.

The day after we'd brought Apollo out of the Barge, when he was still heavily sedated, I took Boxey in to see him. Apollo hadn't been the only victim of Uri's plotting. Boxey had suffered too. He adored his father, and had missed Apollo as much as any of us. Like us, he'd staunchly believed in Apollo's innocence and that we'd prove it and get him back one day.

I told Athena the whole truth. She was devastated, of course. She and Apollo are not that far apart in age, and have always been very close. Between us, when she had recovered herself, we met Boxey from school that afternoon and told him that his father was free. That part was easy. It was much harder explaining that Boxey couldn't see him immediately, that Apollo was hurt and too ill for visitors. The child, of course, was desperate to see him, and I thought it was better that we allowed a brief visit as soon as possible.

Salik and I had agreed between us what he could be told. Salik had explained gently to Boxey that his daddy was ill but was going to be just fine and would wake up in a few days. We didn't tell him about the torture and the Shadow. How do you explain that to an eight yahren old? All we could tell him was that the people on the Barge had hurt his Dad badly and it would be while before Apollo would be well enough to come home and things got back to normal. But the important thing to focus on was that Apollo was free.

Boxey had been so gentle and tender, just holding his father's hand for a few centons as Apollo slept. He cried a little bit over the scar on Apollo's face and touched it very gently. Does that hurt him? he'd asked. No, we told him. Your Dad's asleep and he's not in any pain, and it's all healed now. Boxey had sighed and hugged Apollo very gently. When I said he had to leave and he kissed Apollo goodbye, he kissed the scar. The way, he said, his mother had kissed him better when he was hurt. He left very reluctantly, looking back often at his father. When he knew that Apollo was conscious, he could hardly wait to see him again, begging me every day to take him.

When he was awake and more aware of his surroundings, Apollo didn't react very much to my suggestion that Boxey could come for visit, seemingly indifferent even to that. He'd been free for almost a secton before Salik thought he was well enough. We chose our time carefully, of course, and I had a long talk with Boxey beforehand. The child understood that he wasn't to worry if his father didn't seem quite his old self. He'd promised to be good and quiet, but all the way to the Life Centre he was bubbling over with suppressed excitement. The micron he'd seen Apollo lying there, Boxey had forgotten all his promises, pulled free of my hand and flung himself on Apollo with a shriek of delight that could probably have been heard halfway across the universe.

To my relief, Apollo had made a huge effort, and had allowed his son to clamber onto the bed to hug him and hold him. I didn't like to think of the effect on an already insecure child if his father had rejected him. But Apollo had tired very quickly and I had soon taken Boxey away. So far, Apollo hadn't asked for him to come back, but I made a point of bringing him anyway for a few centons every day after school. Something had to bring Apollo back to us, and Boxey might be the catalyst we needed. At least when he was there, Apollo tried a little harder to rouse himself from the lethargy that gripped him.

Now I looked down at Apollo's pale face, waiting to be noticed. Starbuck had said that Apollo seemed very withdrawn that day, more even than usual. I thought he was right. In the end, I sat down on the edge of the bed and pulled his unresisting body into my arms.

“We know, Apollo,” I said quietly

It took a moment for Apollo to respond, to realise that I was there. “Know what?” he asked, indifferently.

“About Reese.” I spoke very gently.

Apollo said nothing, but he started shaking. I held him very close, cradling him in my arms, the way I'd held him to comfort him when he was a child, and ill or upset. He was so thin it was frightening. He turned his face into my shoulder, one hand around my neck as he clung to me. That frightened me too. It was a long time since my son had felt the need to cling to me like that.

“It's all right,” I said in the most loving tone I could manage. “It's all right, Apollo. I'm here.”

Apollo shook in my arms for what seemed centars, not reacting except for the uncontrollable trembling. It was a long time before he spoke. “Is he boasting about it?” he asked wearily, at last.

“I doubt it.” I decided to tell Apollo what had happened. It might help. “He vanished within centars of your release. If Starbuck hadn't been in here non-stop for about five days, he'd have been under suspicion, I think.”

For the first time Apollo showed a flicker of interest. “Vanished?”

“He seems to have fallen out of a shuttle.” Normally I'm the most law abiding of men, but I think I sounded positively gleeful. “Anton called him over to the Galactica and sent a shuttle for him. No-one knows who was piloting it, and it came back empty. There's lots of rumours. I suspect that if I asked Commander Croft questions about it, I might get answers that as President, I ought to take action about. So I won't ask him.” I held Apollo with one arm, using my free hand to stroke back the tumbled black hair from his forehead. “He's dead, Apollo. He can't do you any more damage.”

“He's done enough,” Apollo said bitterly. After a moment he asked: “How did you know?”

“There was a great deal of physical evidence,” I said as gently as I could, and felt Apollo shudder again.

“I didn't want to have to tell you,” Apollo said in a hurt voice, and I was reminded sharply of the sensitive child he'd been, the sensitive adult he'd grown into. This had hurt him badly.

“You know you could trust me,” I started.

Apollo made some helpless gesture. “It's not that…I know…It's just that…” his voice trailed away and then he said, almost inaudibly: “I always wanted you to be proud of me.”

I pulled him closer. My poor Apollo! Did he really think it could affect how I felt about him? “I've always been very proud of you, little son, and I love you very much. Why should I feel any differently because half a dozen guards beat you unconscious then tied you so that Reese could get at you when you couldn't fight back? Or because he had you so drugged you didn't even know what was happening? Is that what's been bothering you?”

“That and a few million other things,“ said Apollo wryly

I sighed quietly with relief. Apollo hadn't talked this much since he'd got back. “Well put that out of your mind, Apollo. We love you. Nothing Reese did changes that, changes how anyone feels about you.”

Apollo didn't react to that as I had hoped. “That's why he got me onto the Shadow, you know.”

“I know,” I said. “I expect that he tired of having to fight you down each time.”

There was a bitter little smile on Apollo's lips, but I hope it had got through to him that I realised that he hadn't been a willing participant, that Reese had raped and taken, that he'd been forcibly addicted.

“Well, the Shadow certainly made me more co-operative,” he acknowledged. He sighed. “Not that it stopped them beating the hell out of me, though, whenever they felt like it.”

“I know,” I said, again. “They left a lot of physical evidence of that, too, although Salik thinks you're making a good recovery.”

“I suppose so,” Apollo said. “I don't hurt anywhere.”

“No?” I said dubiously, thinking Apollo hurt badly in places mere medicine couldn't reach. “So do you feel up to talking about what we do next? About the Shadow”

Apollo went very still. “You want me off it,” he said flatly.

I didn't like the sound of that. I didn't like the sound of that at all. “You must want to be off it yourself!”

Apollo looked away and the shaking started again. My hold on him tightened. Dear Lords, but I wanted to comfort him and protect him, and I didn't know how. He was my eldest child, and I don't think you ever lose the protective urge, no matter how old they get.

“It's killing you, Apollo.” I was increasingly worried at his silence. He was breathing heavier now, almost hyperventilating. I was genuinely puzzled. Apollo had never been tempted to use drugs; not even smoking the fumarillos Starbuck was so fond of. I had expected him to be desperate to be free of the Shadow. I didn't understand his evident reluctance.

“I know,” he managed after a centon, the shaking worse. “It's just…”he hesitated, then said very quietly. “No. I can't”

That shocked me profoundly. He had to give up injecting himself with Shadow. There wasn't any choice. “Apollo..” I began, marshalling all the arguments in my mind. I hadn't expected to have to try and persuade him, but he didn't give me time to say any more..

He shook his head and there was an edge of panic to his voice. “I can't. I need it.” The frightened green eyes met mine. “No. I won't do it”

Salik and Starbuck were waiting outside. I had agreed with them that I would broach the subject of detox with Apollo then call them in to talk through the details with him: Salik to talk about the medical aspects, Starbuck because he'd volunteered to stay with Apollo throughout. Faced with Apollo's flat refusal even to consider the option, I realised that I needed their support at a rather earlier stage than I had anticipated. I would have had no difficulty if the only issue was a moral one, but moral arguments were beside the point. We had to wean Apollo off the Shadow before it killed him.

Apollo looked at them rather sourly when they came in. “What is this? A deputation?” he said. The panic he'd shown a few centons before seemed to have hardened into a kind of suspicious anger. I wasn't certain, though, who he was angry with.

“If you like.” I'd put him back down against the pillows when I'd gone to ask Salik and Starbuck to join us, and now I took his hand in mine. It was trembling. “Salik has told me of the consequences if you don't stop using Shadow. We have to talk to you about it.”

He looked both stubborn and weary. “I don't want to talk about it,” he said in that flat tone. “I know the consequences. I'm drugged up, not stupid.”

“It will kill you, Apollo,” Salik said bluntly.

“I know,” he said, and shrugged. “But it gives me something to do while I wait.”

That really frightened me. He couldn't really be that indifferent about dying. Oh, I understood that he'd been badly hurt by Reese and the Barge, but he had so much to live for, so many people who loved him and needed him, and who'd help him to come to terms with it. He couldn't be that depressed. I wouldn't let him be that depressed.

Starbuck raised an eyebrow. “I can think of easier ways to go,” he said, determinedly cheerful. “Boomer's elder brother was killed by Shadow. He says it wasn't at all pretty.”

“What difference does it make?” Apollo said wearily.

“It's the style of the thing,” Starbuck explained. “Dying while screaming and incontinent just doesn't do it for me. I've never had any inclination towards incontinence - except sexually, of course. I wouldn't have sexual continence as a gift.”

Despite himself, Apollo grinned at that, and I was relieved to see that Starbuck at least could occasionally break through and reach him. But he still shook his head.

“I can't,” he said again, and once more his fear was obvious.

“I don't think you've any choice, Apollo,” Starbuck said gently, sitting down on the other side of the bed and taking Apollo's free hand in his. “We won't let you die, you see. There's too many of us need you - your father and Thenie, me and Boomer. Not to mention a little boy who thinks the world of you and desperately needs you back to look after him. You've no choice at all, really”

Apollo had winced at the mention of Boxey. “He needs someone who can look after him, not someone who couldn't even look after themselves,” he said with a flash of bitterness.

“You did a pretty good job of both - off the Shadow,” Starbuck pointed out. He had obviously decided that there was only one way to deal with this, and that was just to smother any attempt of Apollo's to argue against detox.

“I can't,” Apollo said, and he was starting to shake again. “You don't know what it's like.” There was real fear in his voice.

“You can,” Starbuck said in the same flat tone that Apollo had used.

“I don't want to,” Apollo said, and that worried us all a great deal. “I don't want to.” He pulled his hands free.

“Why?” I asked.

He was hyperventilating again, agitated. “Because I need it,” he said with a sudden burst of energy. “Because with it, things don't matter any more. It ..it fills up the spaces.”

Salik nodded understandingly. “We do understand that will be hard, Apollo. We do realise that. But you can't use Shadow to stop thinking about things. You'll have to face up to what happened sometime - and we'll be here to help you do that.”

“I don't want to. Shadow means I don't have to,” Apollo retorted stubbornly. He was obviously trying to force himself to be calm, trying to calm his breathing.

“Maybe,” Starbuck said, and he glanced at me anxiously. Like me, he'd expected that Apollo would be desperate to give up using the drug. “It also means dying, Apollo. And like I said, we aren't going to allow that.”

“I can't manage without it,” Apollo shot back.

At that point I decided that things had gone far enough. If Apollo couldn't see, or wouldn't accept, the medical need to give up Shadow, then I would make the decision for him on the grounds that he wasn't capable of making a rational choice for himself. He might find it hard to forgive me for that, but he'd be alive. I was sorry to over-rule him publicly, but it couldn't be helped. This was too important.

“The argument ends here, Apollo. If needs be, I'll authorise Doctor Salik to take you through detox.”

He looked shocked. “You wouldn't,” he said uncertainly. I just looked at him. I would, and he knew it. “You can't.” He sounded like a frightened child.

“I'm not prepared to lose you, Apollo,” I said gently, but I had to stay stern, making sure he realised that I wasn't prepared to argue any further, that he had to accept treatment. “We all love you very much and we're here to help. You can't give up on yourself like this. There's too much waiting for you here.”

“Like what?” he asked wearily. “What is there for me if I come off it? What's left?”

“Apart from all the people who love you?” I asked, and it brought him up short.

He looked uncomfortable at that.

I shrugged. “Well, there's your job, for a start. We never promoted Bojay permanently. We always knew we'd get you back. We need you back, Apollo. You know very well that all that stands between humanity and annihilation is this ship and its pilots. We need you to command the warriors.”

“A Shadow addict as Strike Leader?” he said disbelievingly.

Salik was calm, authoritative. “There's no reason why you shouldn't make a full recovery.”

“Just like that.”

“No, you'll have to work on it.“ Nothing ever shook Salik, certainly not Apollo's faint attempts at sarcasm. “But I think you can do it. You've not been addicted that long - we can get you off it.”

“We have every confidence in you, Apollo,” I said. “Once off the Shadow, you'll get back.”

Starbuck tried for a lighter note. “I could just get the Commander to order you well and back to work.”

“I was cashiered,” he said, bitterly. That awful ceremony at the end of the trial had burned into him. “I don't have to obey orders anymore.”

“That's a little childish,” I said. He gave me a resentful glance, but I was right and he knew it. “The Council has publicly apologised for what happened and restored your rank and honours. You're still in the military, Apollo.”

“And how will they restore all the other things I lost?” he demanded. “It wasn't the Council in that cell. And it's not the Council that'll be screaming their heads off in detox”

“We know..” I began, slightly heartened by what seemed to be some acceptance on his part, however reluctant, that detox was inevitable.

But he was in no mood to listen to comforting words. And in truth, I couldn't really understand how he felt. I could only try to.

“No you don't, Dad. You don't know at all.” He was silent for a centon. “I don't know if I can give it up.”

“You won't be on your own, ‘Pollo,” Starbuck said. “I'll be there.”

A -pollo,” he said automatically, and Starbuck grinned at him. He was wrestling with it, frowning as he thought about it. “I'm scared,” he admitted after a centon or two. “I'm scared to try, because I've been there, in withdrawal. How do you think he.. he got me to do what he wanted? I'll be screaming after an centar, out of my head completely after two… I'd do anything he wanted by then if he'd only give me a needle afterwards.”

“There's things I can give you to help with that,” Salik cut in. “There was a drug developed back in the Colonies to help with Shadow detox - remoxifen. It will help control some of the worst reaction to withdrawal. The biochemical lab is manufacturing it for us now.”

Apollo was silent for a long time. “What will you do?” he asked.

Starbuck and I forbore to cheer, but we exchanged triumphant looks. He'd do it. He wasn't happy about it, but he'd do it. I sat down on the side of the bed and took him in my arms comfortingly. It had been a hard thing for him to face up to. He didn't cling to me as he had when we were alone, but I think he was grateful for the comfort.

“We both know how hard this is going to be,” the doctor said gently. “You're going to have a hellish time to begin with. So I'm going to lock you up in here, with Starbuck, for a few days.”

“You want to lock me up again? I just got out prison two sectons ago.”

“Really?” Salik's tone was dry. “I don't think that you got out of prison at all, Apollo. Shadow's a much more effective prison than the Barge.”

“Very poetic." We could almost see the fight and energy draining out of Apollo as we watched him. This was the most conversation we'd had out of him since he'd woken up almost a secton before, and it was emotionally very draining. He was beginning to look and sound very weary. He was leaning against me now for support.

“Just very accurate,” Salik shot back. Apollo said nothing, just pulled a face, and the doctor went on: “I can't give you the remoxifen for about twenty-four centars, Apollo. We have to get as much Shadow out of you as possible first. But once you get it, it will help, I promise. I think we should count on about three days before you're through the first, acute phase, and maybe another three or four sectons after that while the Shadow leaches out of your system, when you won't be very well. But after that, we should be out of it.”

Apollo was quiet for a few centons. I just held him, comforting him, I hope; wishing I could take all this from him. Not for the first time, I wished I could take his place. And not for the last.

“I'm scared I won't be able to cope without it,” he said in a quiet tone. “You don't know what it's like. It really does makes things better..”

“No it doesn't. It just lets you hide everything away” Starbuck was very gentle, but very firm. “It's no good, Apollo. We're doing it.”

Another long silence, then he sighed. “When?”

“Not today, anyway,” Salik said, and I felt the tense body I was holding relax with relief. I think Apollo had thought he was going to be pushed straight into this, “But there's no point in holding off too long. You're well enough. We'll do it tomorrow.”

“Tomorrow!” Apollo protested.

“I'll be here,” Starbuck said. “I promise. I'll get you through it”

“Bring some ear protectors.” Apollo was gloomy. “You'll need them.”

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