Joined: 12 Jul 2006
|Posted: Fri Aug 25, 2006 7:16 am Post subject: "Distant Memories"-Pt. 1
|Battlestar Galactica: Distant Memories
The telecom chime next to his bunk was always the first sound Cain heard each morning, when it was time for him to begin a new daily cycle. Always at precisely 0540 according to Colonial Military Time, not a centon sooner or later. That would always give him the twenty centons he routinely needed to wash himself in his private turbowash (a luxury aboard a battlestar granted only to commanders), dress and be on the Pegasus bridge by 0600. And from there, he would plot the venerable battlestar's next move.
As he acknowledged Colonel Tolen's telecom chime, he swung his legs out of his bunk, rubbed the stiffness in the back of his neck, and as his eyes wandered about the interior of his quarters, he suddenly caught sight of the digital chronometer on the wall. One that not only accurately told him the time of the cycle, but also flashed the readout of what date it was. As his eyes fell upon the device, he saw that the readout had just changed from the time to the date.
And then, he suddenly froze in his position as he saw what the date was.
The 238th day in the standard Colonial yahren.
"My God," he whispered. "How could I have lost track?"
For everyone else aboard the Pegasus, the 238th day of the yahren held little meaning. No one in the crew had been born on that day, so it would not be the occasion for a Natal Day celebration. Nor was it remotely close to any of the days of celebration and remembrance in the traditional Colonial calendar, or even to any of the dates deemed significant in traditional Colonial religion.
But for Commander Cain, today was a day that did have significance. A day that he had always found time to remember for so many yahrens because for him, the 238th day of the yahren always held special meaning for him.
Slowly, he made his way over to his desk, and gently sat down in his chair. And then, with some hesitation, he turned on the switch that would activate the holograms. Messages sent to him that he'd kept stored in his data base, because they gave him a permanent visual link to the people who'd sent them. People he was now parted from, and in all likelihood irrevocably.
He glanced down at the monitor, and frowned as he realized he'd forgotten the right sequence for the holograms. He would have to take a guess on which one was the right one, because it had been so long since he'd last looked at the one he was looking for.
He pressed the buttons and an instant later, the face of a beautiful woman with an impish smile formed.
"I'll never forget you, you old war daggit. Hurry back."
"Frack," Cain clenched his teeth. On this of all days, the last thing he wanted to see was Cassiopeia's image. Not that he'd lost sight of the special place she would always hold in his heart, but because it was so inappropriate. He looked back down at the monitor and pressed another set of digits, and waited for the next image to come up, hoping it would be the right one.
The next image came up. The smiling, adoring expression of his daughter.
"Happy Birthday, Father. I love you."
Cain allowed himself a half-smile. Sheba had sent that to him when she was a senior at the Academy, and he'd gone off on his latest routine patrol with the Fifth Fleet. To Cain, that greeting was the last thing that captured the innocent quality of his daughter as a child. When he'd returned, and she was an Academy graduate, the child was gone, and the young woman with the tough-as-nails determination to duplicate his greatness was all there was now.
But even though seeing Sheba's greeting could produce a warm feeling in him, it still wasn't what he was looking for. He looked back down, and realized that the third set of digits had to be it, and he pressed them.
This time, the face that formed was a face nearly identical to Sheba's, except for the eyes. The resemblance was so great, and so powerful, that Cain could understand why he'd never been able to lean on his daughter for support during those terrible, difficult, times for him. The very sight of Sheba could only make him think sadly of all the many yahrens of waste, and all the yahrens of guilt he carried in his heart.
"Goodbye, Cain," there was a faint, pleading edge in the soft voice that belonged to a woman named Bethany. "I'll be thinking of you every night.....like I always do."
He pressed the button that would freeze the image, allowing him to look at her face and study it.
My God, he thought with horror. How could I have missed it? The sad loneliness she had to be feeling those last yahrens as the furlons became shorter, and the time we spent together was even less than it had ever been. And the fact that Sheba wasn't going to be around for her any longer, and was going to follow in my footsteps. God, what kind of torture did I put her through those last yahrens?
As Cain reached down to press the button that would let the hologram message continue, he found that his hand was shaking.
"And Cain," Bethany went on, her voice almost quivering with longing, "I....hope you know that.....being your wife all these yahrens, has been the greatest joy of my life. More meaningful than any award I ever received. And....I love you with all my heart. Always."
And then, the message ended. And Commander Cain, the Juggernaut who'd stood unflinching in the face of battle for so many yahrens, lowered his head and cried.
So lost was he in his sense of guilt and grief, that he didn't hear the telecom on his desk chiming for what might have been centons. When he finally noticed it, he abruptly snapped himself back
to attention and picked it.
"Yes?" he tried to put all of the Juggernaut in his voice, but he knew he'd fallen short, just a bit.
"Commander, it's past 0600----," Colonel Tolen sounded slightly concerned.
"Yes, yes, I'm sorry. I'll be down in about fifteen centons, I had to attend to some....business."
He then hung up the telecom without waiting for a response from his executive officer. And then, he let out a long, slow exhale, to try and collect himself. When he'd done that, he found that he couldn't avoid the temptation to play back the hologram again. Listening to the voice of his wife in the last message he'd ever received from her. The last image of her that he'd ever seen alive.
"Bethany," Cain whispered, "Forgive me. By all the Lords of Kobol, forgive me for not being there. You were always the one I ended up hurting most."
At that moment, the only things Cain could think of was how many times he had never been there for her, and how he had done her so many injustices. How his obsessive lust for battle had kept him away from home for more than two-thirds the length of their thirty yahren marriage, and how he'd missed all the important things in her life. He hadn't been there when Bethany went through a difficult pregnancy that resulted in her being unable to have children again after Sheba was born. He hadn't been there to share in any of her triumphs as one of the finest, no damn it, he thought *the* finest stage actresses in the history of Caprican theater. Never being there for any of the opening nights, or the awards ceremonies that had allowed her to enjoy fame and glory of her own, independent of her identity as Commander Cain's wife.
And the cruelest cut of all. He hadn't been there when she needed him most. When she was suddenly stricken with an incurable disease called Gamma Syndrome, that resulted in horrible suffering for more than a sectan, with steady deterioration of the brain, producing wild, feverish delirium before the release of death finally came. He had been on deep patrol with the Pegasus at the time, far removed from an outpost where a message could have been relayed to him. By the time he'd received the news that his wife was dying, he'd frantically tried to return in time, only to arrive eighteen centars after she'd slipped away for good. Her last words, the delirious cries of pleading and longing for her husband to take her hand and talk to her, and give her some support and relief at that terrible instant.
And the more he thought about it, the more he could understand why Sheba had initially hated Cassiopeia so much. After all the yahrens of not showing enough attention to his wife, Cain had scarcely wept more than two sectars for her when he suddenly found relief in the arms of another socialator. Though he never would have put Cassiopeia in the same category as all the socialators he'd known in his younger days, he could now see why it had seemed so selfish of him to seek someone like Cassiopeia out. Even though the deeper reason for why he'd turned to someone like Cassiopeia had been his inability to confront the guilt by leaning on his daughter, who ultimately had too much of her mother in her to let him do that and not feel the guilt only grow worse.
The end result had been an ugly situation with Sheba and Cassiopeia that he had failed to take action on, to try and put an end to. All part of his desire to avoid confronting the painful realites of what troubled him deep inside. And Cassiopeia had also sensed that he'd not been able to come to terms properly with his wife's death, which had prevented their relationship from going further than it had gone.
Even though he had seen things mercifully resolved between Sheba and Cassiopeia before he had been parted from them nine sectars ago, Cain knew he still hadn't settled all of the terrible matters in his heart that troubled him still. Especially the way he had left things so unfinished with Bethany. But unlike the situation with Sheba and Cassiopeia, he knew there was no hope ever of seeing those matters resolved. Bethany was gone forever, without any chance for him to have made the amends he knew he should have made with her.
And on this, the anniversary of the day he had met his wife, and on a day when he had forgotten it was approaching, he could only feel that sensation of guilt and shame he carried inside him open up anew.
As he finally headed for the turbowash, he cast another glance at the calendar and let out a said sigh.
"The 238th day," he said aloud. "Oh God, I wish it was thirty-three yahrens ago."
He stepped into the turbowash and as he felt the soothing jets of hot water hit his body, his mind was far away from the responsibilities he and the crew of the Pegasus were facing that day. Instead, he found himself closing his eyes, trying to summon a picture of what it had been like back then. He was five yahrens out of the Academy, and as a lieutenant had already caught everyone's attention as the finest young warrior of his generation.....
"Lieutenant Cain, reporting sir!"
"At ease," there was an edge of distaste in the voice of Commander Summner, the Pegasus' commanding officer for more than thirty-five yahrens, as he looked at the rigid, attentive form of the young warrior who had distinguished himself so many times since he'd been assigned to the venerable battlestar, four yahrens earlier, after a tour of duty on the Cerberus. In that time, Summner had come to admire Cain as the best warrior he'd ever seen in more than sixty yahrens of active duty in the military, but on this occasion, he was anything but pleased.
"Lieutenant," the commander rose from his chair, "Do you know why I summoned you?"
"No sir," Cain remained at attention. Although he had a brash streak within him when it came to his assessment of superior officers that he held a dislike for, Summner was a definite exception. One of the reasons why he'd stayed with the Pegasus was because he admired Summner's tenacity for battle, and disdain for following the letter of tactical warfare guides. Unlike other commanders he knew, Summner just allowed a warrior's instincts to carry the day to victory, and the end results always bore that judgment out, as far as Cain was concerned. Because of that, Cain literally idolized his commander and loved him like a father.
"You ought to know why," Summner looked him in the eye, "Your squadron is scheduled for a six sectar furlon. But according to the reports I'm getting from Captain Janos and Colonel Arius, you plan on staying with the Pegasus for the next combat tour."
"That's true, sir."
The Pegasus commander shook his head, "Now why in the name of Hades after more than three yahrens of continuous combat duty, with only short liberties amounting to one sectar in all that time, would you want to stay aboard for another combat tour?"
"A practical reason, sir. I've been studying the situation in the Tarsus Nebulae, which you indicated is where our next assignment will be."
"Yes, I can just imagine you spent the whole last sectan reading everything about the Tarsus Nebulae, and all the intelligence reports on Cylon strength in that area." Summner's voice had an edge of sarcasm. "Well, Cain, you can forget it, because you're not going on this combat tour, and that decision of mine is irrevocable."
"But sir!" Cain protested, "I----,"
"Don't speak, unless I grant you permission!" the Commander interrupted sharply. "Now listen to me, Lieutenant, and listen good! According to regulations, when one squadron has been on continuous duty for more than two yahrens, that means they *must* take an extended furlon of six sectars and rotate with another squadron that has also been on similar furlon. Your squadron was due for that six sectars ago, but because of the problems we encountered in the Antiochean Cluster, I went against the rules and decided your group needed to stay because it was more up to the combat challenge. But this time, I'm not going to push you, or your group any further. Silver Spar Squadron is taking a six sectar furlon, and Green Squadron is returning for this combat engagement."
"Sir, I understand the need for the rest of the men in Silver Spar to take their extended furlon, butó,"
"Lieutenant, I told you not to speak!" Summner's voice grew more harsh. "When Silver Spar takes a furlon, that means all of you, not just the ones deemed less important in your eyes. Tomorrow morning, you and your men are going home, and that is final."
Cain stiffened slightly in disappointment.
"Request permission to speak, sir?" he didn't conceal the hurt he felt.
"Granted," Summner leaned back and relaxed.
"Sir," the young lieutenant kept his tone respectful, "I appreciate your perspective, but I see little practical value in my taking such an extended absence. If it's possible, could I rejoin the Pegasus after a shorter duration----."
"No," Summner cut him off. "Since we'll be out of range of the Colonies by then, there is no way of accomodating you. You ought to know better than to ask a foolish question like that, Lieutenant."
Cain shook his head in frustration, "Whose idea was it that such a long furlon was needed for anyone? Hades Hole, six sectars is long enough for one's skills to grow rusty so that by the time he returns, he's totally off kilter when it comes to doing the job right!"
"A valid point, Lieutenant, but what you leave out is the fact that a long furlon under the rotation system, is what's needed to keep morale high in a squadron that spends so much extended time away from home. The last two sectans before you return to duty, you'll be taking refresher courses out of District Headquarters on your particular home colony, and you'll need to make a once a sectar check-in in the earlier periods, but giving the warriors free rein to do as they please for the bulk of that time has never hurt warrior efficiency in all the yahrens I've been in the service. It's a good system, and that means even warriors who think themself to be indispensable should partake in it as well."
Cain again shook his head, "One night of liberty in a spaceport I can handle. A six sectar furlon is another matter. I don't have any family to visit. How do I keep myself occupied without going mad?"
"Try to enjoy the things in life that matter more than being a combat flyer," Summner said, "There's a lot of stuff going on in Caprica City . Take your girlfriend out and have some fun."
The young lieutenant glanced oddly at him, "Sir, do you honestly think I have a girl waiting at home for me, in light of what I do during liberties in a spaceport?"
"Yes, yes, I'm sorry I said that. In that case, Lieutenant, do the honorable thing and find a steady girl while you're home. The last thing I'd want to know is that you spent six sectars doing the kind of things you do on one-night liberties."
"That's precisely my point, sir," Cain said, "That's why I'm not cut out to have such an extended leave. Liberty breaks are great as a safety valve for a warrior, but they should come only in short intervals, spaced widely apart. Back home, I won't have a disciplined routine to keep me out of trouble."
"Well, consider this a new experience in military discipline for you, Cain," Summner folded his arms, "You're going to learn for yourself how a warrior handles a long period of idleness, and learns to develop an orderly routine on his own. That's another reason why these long furlons are thought of highly, because they make a warrior think more on his feet when he doesn't have a hovering presence of superiors constantly about him."
Summer paused for effect and then went on, "And there's another reason why I want you to take this now, Cain. No matter how good I think you are, if you didn't get away for an extended period, you'd burn yourself out eventually, even if you did get a night's liberty somewhere. And if that were to happen to my best warrior in a critical mission, the results would be disastrous."
Cain lowered his head slightly, which caused Summner to get to his feet, come over to him and place a hand on his shoulder.
"Listen Cain," a paternal edge entered his voice, "I think the universe of your abilities. I really think you have a chance to keep rising through the ranks so fast, that you could end up with a command of your own in literally no time at all. You might even be the one who ends up taking over this old girl when I finally retire."
The young lieutenant's head perked up slightly.
"But take it from someone older and wiser than you. If none of us took the time to relax and get away from the war for a while, we'd all be burnt out automatons sooner or later. The Cylons would be able to march right through without a fight until they reached the gates of the Caprican Presidium. By taking this furlon, you'll be making yourself a better combat tactician in the long-run."
Cain smiled slightly and seemed more at ease, "I guess when it's put to me in those terms, how could I possibly refuse?"
"Good," the commander patted him on the back, "Now pack your bag and get on the Caprica Skybus as soon as it rendezvouses with us in two centars. Because if you're still here, you won't spend the next six sectars flying a viper, it'll be turboflush cleaning detail the whole time."
Several centars later, Cain was sitting in a cramped skybus bound for the Caprica City aerodrome. The Pegasus was the last of five battlestars that the passenger transport had picked up Caprican warriors from, and as a result, the young lieutenant found himself hoping that the trip would be over soon. The deafening whoops of anxious warriors waiting to savor a six sectar furlon was not the kind of atmosphere he liked.
"Cain?" he heard a voice call out above the raucous din.
Cain craned his head toward the other side of the skybus and was pleasantly surprised to see an old, familiar face.
"Adama!" Cain exclaimed, "What are you doing on this rickety spacetrap?"
The dark-haired lieutenant who had attended the Academy with Cain, served with him on the Cerberus and become one of his closer friends, eased himself out of his seat, toward where Cain was seated. After a centon's delay in convincing the warrior next to Cain to change seats, Adama settled down next to his old friend and clapped his hand on Cain's shoulder.
"It's so good to see you," Adama said, "How long has it been? Four yahrens?"
"I think so," Cain nodded and smiled, "Not since before I was assigned to the Pegasus."
"And I've heard all about your exploits," Adama smiled back, "Soldier's Review did some very interesting profiles of you after your little triumph at the Battle of Tirania became known. You're already a hero of the first order on Caprica."
"Well, I'd like to be modest and say that the Review exaggerated things about my ability in the interests of hype, but I'd be lying if I said they did."
"You haven't changed a bit," Adama gave him a fraternal tap, "Still the same proud, ego-centric Juggernaut who put all of his Academy classmates to shame."
"And doing the same thing on the Pegasus," Cain said, "Right now, I'm only deputy leader of our Silver Spar group, but it's only a matter of time before Summner gives me a squadron command of my own. Anyway, what about you? Still serving on the Cerberus with old Odysseus?"
"Not anymore," Adama said, "I was transferred to the Rycon a yahren ago."
"The Rycon?" Cain snorted in disgust, "You mean you have to suffer working for that snitrod Kronus?"
Adama hesitated for an instant before replying. Cain had been through an unpleasant experience with Commander Kronus while he was still an Academy cadet, and he'd never forgotten how it resulted in Cain getting suspended for two semesters from the Academy, which had delayed his commission and formally placed him as junior to Adama and all others of equal rank to him.
"Kronus isn't the easiest person to work for," Adama chose his words carefully, "But I'm getting some good points on the administrative side of command responsibilities from him. As a matter of fact, as soon as I'm back from my furlon, he plans on promoting me to captain and making me his chief aide."
"I can't say I envy you," Cain said, "But then again, you always seemed to have a bigger interest in things other than combat flying. Becoming a commander's chief aide is more the mark of someone who wants to be a politician some day."
"I prefer to think that my interests in politics and combat tactics is equal," Adama said, "It might come in handy in the long-term."
"You still have dreams of being on the Council some day?" Cain looked at him wryly, "Good luck with it. I'll just settle for a command of my own and leave politics to the lesser lights of humanity. Present company excepted of course."
"Of course," Adama returned it.
"So you're on your way back to Caprical, too."
"Yes," the black-haired warrior settled back in his chair, "For a long overdue reunion with my wife."
Cain raised an eyebrow, "When did you become sealed?"
"Two and a half yahrens, ago. I tried sending you an invitation to the wedding, but the Pegasus was well beyond range at the time to receive personal messages for anyone below the rank of Colonel."
"Too bad," Cain shook his head, "I would have loved to have given you a toast at your send-off. Anyway, belated congratulations to you, and is the lucky woman anyone I know?"
"I doubt you know her. Her name's Ila. She's a drama and music instructor at the Caprican Fine Arts Institute."
The brown-haired lieutenant nodded, "When it comes to high culture, I plead guilty to being a fundamental illiterate. But I'm sure she's a fine woman, if she was able to snare you."
"She is," Adama nodded, "As a matter of fact Cain, why don't you get a chance to meet her and have dinner at our apartment tonight? If you don't have any other plans, I know she'd love meeting you."
"Thanks Adama, I appreciate that," Cain said, "I don't have a single thing planned for my furlon, except maybe seeing if I can use the Academy war games simulator, after I pay a visit to the Red Light District."
"Always thinking of combat tactics and liberty port indulgences," Adama chuckled, "Cain, I think by the time Ila and I get through with you, you're going to learn what it means to really have fun on a furlon."