Joined: 12 Jul 2006
|Posted: Fri Aug 25, 2006 7:35 am Post subject: "Distant Memories"-Pt. 3
|The morning sunlight streamed through the windows of Cain's bachelor apartment on the outskirts of Caprica City, which he shared with a member of Green Squadron who had just gone back to duty aboard the Pegasus. Lying on the bed, Cain scarcely noticed. He had spent the entire night brooding about what had happened. Too embarrassed to even think of trying to sleep.
Why? he kept asking over and over. Why did it have to come out like that?
Several times, he'd heard the chime of his telecom sound, knowing that it was probably Adama calling to try and cheer him up. He didn't bother answering it. The last thing he wanted to do was talk to anyone about what had happened.
Damn you Commander, he suddenly started to curse at Summner for no better reason, you just had to make me take a six sectar furlon? So I could make a fool of myself in front of a woman like Bethany?
As the glow of morning intensified into the brightness of midday, Cain finally forced himself to get up, finally remove his dress uniform, and take a long soak in his turbowash.
When he emerged ten centons later, he heard his telecom chiming again. Feeling more refreshed after his time in the turbowash, he reluctantly decided to answer it.
"Yes?" his tone was flat, as he waited for the sound of Adama's voice.
"Lieutenant Cain?" right away, he knew this wasn't Adama. This was a high-pitched squeaky male voice.
"Yes, this is Cain," he frowned.
"It's about time you answered your telecom," the voice snapped, "Unless you've been out causing more public relations disasters elsewhere."
"Look who---" Cain started angrily.
"This is Colonel Hengist, Caprica City District Commander," the voice said sternly, "In case you've forgotten Lieutenant, all warriors on furlon in the Caprican western hemisphere are answerable to my authority when their commanding officers are absent."
"Yes, I'm well-aware of that, sir," Cain's voice dropped to an obedient tone as he wiped a towel over his forehead, "Do you need me to report to District Headquarters for any reason?"
"Do you understand why I'm calling, Lieutenant?" the squeaky voice of Hengist rose.
"Not really sir," he kept his tone deferential.
"Well in case you didn't know it Lieutenant, your little escapade at the Pyramid Towers last night is not only on the front page of the entertainment section of every Caprica City news journal, it also made the lead story on the BNC Evening Report! And at least two other colonies will be running it on their news broadcasts too."
Cain tightened his grip on the telecom. He had noticed the reporters capturing the scene of his fiasco, but had never dreamed it would get this much publicity.
"Needless to say," Hengist went on, "This is not the sort of thing we expect from a warrior we've done a great deal to build-up as a military hero."
What do you mean 'we've' and what do you mean 'build-up', Cain thought with disgust. Even though he'd never met Hengist before, he knew right away that he was the kind of officer in the military he despised the most. A deskbound bureaucrat who'd probably never seen a micron of combat since Academy training.
Still, he had no desire to make things worse, so he kept his voice level, "Sir, I apologize for any embarrassment I've caused the Service. It won't happen again."
"It better not," Hengist snapped, "The Colonial Service prides itself on having its warriors have totally impeccable public images. If this sort of thing happens again, Lieutenant, your next assignment won't be on the Pegasus, but as maintenance officer on a sanitation ship!"
And I'll bet you know what that's like, you pathetic snitrod, Cain said to himself as heard the click indicating that the District Commander had terminated the call.
Cain's embarrassment was rapidly replaced by a boiling sense of anger. Hearing himself talked down to by someone like Hengist struck him as a far greater indignity than what he'd gone through the previous night at the reception.
But there was nothing he could do about that indignity. His past experience with Commander Kronus already told him that an incompetent superior could get away with just about anything, and the only thing he could do was let it pass.
On the other hand though, he reflected further, it was possible for him to do something about the indignity at the reception. But only if he took some prompt initiative.
Well Colonel Hengist, Cain said to himself, maybe your call wasn't such a bad thing for me after all.
A renewed sense of determination went through the Juggernaut as he took out his regulation warrior's uniform and began to quickly dress.
A centar later, Cain was standing in front of the rear entrance door to the Caprican National Teater. He could still feel a lot of nervous tension inside him, but this time he was determined not to fail no matter what, and that determination was the only thing preventing him from being a quivering wreck once again.
He calmly straightened himself and then gave a firm rap on the door. A centon passed before it opened and the middle-aged stage doorman peered out at him, "Can I help you?"
"I need to see Bethany," Cain said calmly, "Is she here?"
"Yeah, she's on the backstage. Who are you anyway?"
"I'm the one who acted like an equinian astrum last night," Cain said, "I came to apologize to her."
The doorman's eyes widened, "Oh yeah, Lieutenant Cain. Hey, I read all about you in the Review. Couldn't believe it when the BNC said it was you last night."
"Never mind that," a note of impatience entered his voice, "Just tell her I need to see her."
"Sure thing," the doorman disappeared back inside, and for the next five centons, Cain found himself nervously tapping his foot against the sidewalk, waiting for him to return.
Finally, the doorman reemerged, "You're in luck, Lieutenant. Come right in."
"Thank the Lords," Cain whispered aloud in relief as he followed him in. The doorman led him through the dimly lit backstage corridors and finally out onto the cavernous backstage region located behind the set designs that faced the audience.
Bethany was sitting in a chair in front of a make-up table at the far side of the stage. She was wearing a simple brown dress and robe that while conservative, still enhanced her femininity. Her right boot was off and she was massaging the spot on her foot that Cain knew right away was where the glass had landed and caused a medium-sized cut.
Cain felt his stomach knot up again. He had mentally prepared his first words for more than a centar, and now they weren't coming out again.
To his relief, the doorman spoke up first, "Lieutenant Cain, miss," he said and then walked away.
Bethany looked up and when she saw Cain standing there, she smiled warmly at him, "Good afternoon, Lieutenant."
Cain sucked in his breath, "Good afternoon." his words weren't as strong as he'd hoped, but at least he wasn't a stammering idiot, "I ah, are you feeling all right?"
"This?" she kept smiling as she finished rubbing her foot, "This wasn't much. I finally took the bandage off a centar ago. Still a little tender, but no big deal. Thankfully, they don't make chalices out of pure Kobollian glass any longer. They used to say that had the sharpness of a razor."
"I'm glad. Look Bethany, I ah," Cain took a step forward and found himself taking another breath, "I can't begin to tell you how sorry I am for what happened last night. I ah, I only wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed you in the play, and that I thought you were absolutely magnificent."
"Thank you," she was looking him over with interest, "You're very kind."
"Well, I," Cain awkwardly looked away and tried to figure out where he was going next, "I um...felt you really deserved it. I mean, I don't know what the critics had to say, but...."
"They were relatively charitable on the whole," Bethany put a hand under her chin and seemed fascinated by him, "The play of course, received the trashing it so richly deserves for its silly plot, but they were gentler on me."
He managed to look back at her, "How gentle?"
She let out light, hearty laugh, "The eminently respectable Shalit of the BNC said last night, and I quote, 'Amidst the disaster of this turgid affair, there is a very credible performance by Bethany as the older sister. One hopes that stronger material is found for her in the future so that the full extent of her acting potential can be really appreciated.'"
"That's an understatement," Cain said, "You were brilliant."
Bethany shrugged as she put her boot back on and zipped it up, "I can just be secure in the knowledge that I did my best, and that some people felt it was a good effort."
"Yeah, well," he drew himself up, "That was all I was anxious to tell you last night, and in my haste, I got all silly and clumsy, and...the last thing I wanted to do was humiliate you."
"It could have happened to anyone," her voice grew gentle and reassuring, "I'm not angry at you, Cain. My white stola may be shot to Hades forever thanks to your brandy and your pastry, but it was only rented for the occasion anyway, and the bill goes to Sire Uri. Don't let it bother you anymore."
"It's...not an easy thing to put out of my mind."
"Why?" her tone stayed gentle, "Because it's so unlike you?"
Cain frowned slightly, "What do you mean?"
"I know all about you," Bethany said, "Even before Adama and Ila filled me in last night. I read the Soldier's Review too and I recognized you right away because I read that article quite a few times. And I know that last night, wasn't anything one would expect of the proud, boastful warrior reputed to have such an easy way with young women."
Cain didn't say anything and began to look down at the floor.
"I think that's why I couldn't possibly be mad at you," Bethany's voice grew softer and more gentle, "I almost consider it a compliment that you acted like a klutz for the first time in your life, just because of your determination to meet me." she then paused for effect, "And I didn't get that realization because Adama and Ila did all kinds of explaining and apologizing for you, I came to it myself. And I've been hanging around the theater all day long, because I just knew that sooner or later, you'd want to come back here."
Cain wondered if he was locking up inside. He found himself unable to move from his position, and unable to look up at her.
Bethany got to her feet and walked up to him. When Cain didn't look up from the floor, she placed her hand under his chin and tilted it up so that he was now looking her in the eye.
"You do want to know me better, do you?" her voice became a lilting whisper.
Cain found the strength to slowly nod his head, "Yes."
"Good," she smiled, "Now quit blushing like a little boy who just caught stealing a mushie, and take me across the street to Joho's Restaurant for an early dinner. Let's start afresh and have a real conversation."
For the first time, Cain managed to relax, "Okay," he said, "I'd love that very much."
"Then let's go," she said as she locked her arm into his and they walked out.
As they settled down to their sumptuous meal, Cain was fast discovering to his relief that the tension he'd felt was dissipating with each passing moment that he talked with Bethany.
"So your parents were actors?"
"Yes," she nodded, "But my grandfather was the first real actor in my family. He sort of pushed my father into the business, and that's how he met my mother. But it was a rough life for them because they never made a comfortable living from it, so that's why they tried to discourage me from doing it."
"But you chose otherwise."
"I couldn't help it," Bethany sighed as she picked at her meal of fried sea clams. "I spent too many centars in front of my video-com watching all kinds of productions. I'd start to mimic the actors on the screen, and when I finally started reciting whole passages of dialogue, I then realized that this was what I wanted to do for a living. Even if I hadn't come from an acting family, I think that's what I would have wanted to do."
"Ila mentioned that the two of you did school pageants together."
"We did," she chuckled, "Silly kids stuff. Holiday celebrations and those kinds of things. It made me learn how to be comfortable in front of an audience. Once you've conquered your fear of performing in front of people at an early age, it's a lot easier to concentrate on the finer points of performing."
"Your parents must be proud of you."
"They never got a chance to see me perform as an adult," her tone grew somber. "They were killed in a Cylon raid when I was sixteen."
"It's okay," she waved her hand, "That's....the sort of thing you have to be prepared to face in the age we live in. My mother's father was a warrior who was killed in action, so that taught her all the things she had to pass on to me as far as being prepared for that went."
"Where did he serve?" Cain's curiosity was piqued.
"He was a bridge officer on the Pacifica. He got killed during a suicide attack at the Battle of Antioch."
They taught a whole class on that battle at the Academy," Cain said, "That wasn't one of our finer moments."
"I know. But at least my grandfather did his job. I've always had a lot of respect for his profession." she smiled faintly, "That's why I make it my business to read the Soldier's Review and learn all about people like you."
"Ever think for a micron that you could have been a warrior yourself?" he matched her smile.
"No," Bethany said, "Although it wouldn't have been as much of a struggle."
"Wouldn't have been much of a struggle?" Cain lifted an eyebrow.
"Not from my perspective. Leaving aside the obvious difference that warriors face the prospect of having to die for the Colonial nation, I think they still have it easy when it comes to letting people fulfill their potential."
"Really," Cain put a hand under his chin in amused fascination, "Actresses have it tougher than warriors?"
"I think so," she said, "Look at it this way. We both belong to professions where you attend a specialized institute for four yahrens. At these institutions of learning, they train you vigorously in all the fine points of what it takes to be the best in the trade. And inevitably, there are students who display more natural talent and ability than the others. Like you, for instance."
"Okay," Cain was fascinated with her thinking, "But when does it get easier for us?"
"At graduation time, naturally," Bethany took a sip of ambrosia, "On the day you are handed your commission as an Ensign in the Colonial Service, you automatically know you'll be getting an assignment in the place you're best qualified for. In your line of work, the best combat flyer who graduates from the Academy will get an assignment to a battlestar squadron. With us, the most naturally gifted actor can graduate from the Institute and still end up making his or her living flying a downtown skytaxi ten yahrens later without ever having a real chance to do what he's best at. My parents had to spend many yahrens doing that kind of felgercarb before I was born."
"But that's never happened to you, has it?" he asked wryly.
"Not yet, thank the Lords of Kobol," she said, "But spending the last eight yahrens since I graduated doing regional theater in the warm seasons is only a few steps above that. Just enough to keep me from working part-time as a barmaid, but not what I'd been hoping for. And you also have to confront the fact that not only are there so few good acting jobs to go around, you also face the obstacle of having to deal with no-talent 'proteges' of all the important people in the business getting special treatment ahead of you."
Bethany smiled coyly, "No names please. Especially since I have to keep working with her for however long Sire Uri's ego dictates that this lousy play stays open."
"Okay," Cain leaned back in his chair, "I see your point. But that kind of dirty politics can also come up in the military. That's what got me suspended for two semesters from the Academy."
"You? Suspended?" she set her glass down, "How did that happen?"
"Because I put my natural talent to use at the wrong time, according to Commander Kronus," he said with less bitterness than he ordinarily injected when he told the story to other people, "It was part of what we call the Baptism of Fire ritual. That's when a cadet is given his first combat mission, by being assigned to fly one mission with a battlestar squadron."
"I'm familiar with that," she nodded.
"In my case, I got assigned to the Rycon. We were supposed to take care of some Cylons that were harassing civilian transport ships. As it turned out, it only took me five microns to realize that the commander of our squadron was an unimaginative dunce. My instincts told me that the Cylons were hiding in back of the tenth moon orbiting Sagitara, but our commander wouldn't listen to what I had to say. Well I decided to take matters into my own hands, and starting talking him down, until finally the rest of the squadron began to see things my way, and I organized us into a run on the Sagitarian moon. Sure enough, that's where they were. And because we got the jump on them, we wiped them out in a micron's time with no losses."
"And you got into trouble for that?" her blue eyes widened.
"I wouldn't have, if it had been a decent commander like Summner or Odysseus," Cain said, "Kronus however, is of the old fuddy-duddy school of thinking that believes fidelity to regulations is more important than getting the job done at any cost. To his stuffy way of thinking, a cadet speaking up and challenging the authority of a squadron leader is such an unpardonable sin, that it must be punished even though it ended up saving lives. Because of that, he used his influence with the Academy Commandant to get me suspended for two semesters, so I could be 'taught a lesson about the importance of the chain of command.' Now, every warrior I entered the Academy with, is technically my senior and has the right to give me orders if we're ever equal in rank."
"I stand partially corrected then," Bethany said, "We both seem to have more in common than I realized."
"Our professions, or you and me?" he smiled.
"What do you think?" she smiled back and took another sip of ambrosia. The look in her eye instantly told Cain that she meant both, but was putting an emphasis on the latter.
After several more centons of conversing, Cain felt comfortable enough to probe a little further, "I ah, take it I'm not the first lucky man who's had a dinner date with you?"
"No," the coy expression returned to her face, "Just like I know I'm not the first lucky woman you've had dinner with."
"Okay, okay," he chuckled and lowered his head sheepishly, "I should know better than to ask that. It's none of my business."
"Except for the fact that I am not, and never have been attached to any of my former dates."
"That surprises me," he said, "You're a beautiful woman, Bethany."
"You're making the faulty, male-centered assumption that none of them wanted to become attached," Bethany smiled, "A few did. I've just never had the time to be interested. Trying to claw my way to the top in this business has come first for the last eight yahrens. Just like I know you've been too busy clawing your way through the ranks with your devotion to combat to be interested in any attachments to your former dates."
Cain shook his head in amazement, "You're the first person I've ever met who can see right through me in an instant."
"Maybe it's because we seem to think so much alike," she folded her hands, "We both have pride in our own natural talent at what we do. We both want to be the best at our trade. We've both had to work against people blocking our roads to success. I wouldn't be surprised if it turned out we have other things in common."
"For instance?" he leaned forward.
"I'm an only child, and so are you. Right?"
"Right." he smiled back.
"Orphaned like me, and no other living family to go see?"
"And I would also surmise that you have the look of someone who enjoys watching a triad match."
"You're right," he admitted, "I love the competition of a team of great warriors battling it out for a full centar with no rest. That's like experiencing hand-to-hand combat in the old days."
"I love watching them too. And not just because the warriors look cute in those uniforms," she smirked, "It just so happens that there's an afternoon match at the Maximus Arena tomorrow that I'd love to see."
Cain smiled and found himself reaching out and taking her hand, "My dear Bethany, it would be an honor."