Chapter Twenty-One: Paint and Colors
As far back as Dawn could remember, Lee had been a neat freak. As far as her brother was concerned, things were supposed to go in a certain place and look a certain way. Beds should always be made right after one woke up in the morning. Toys, tools, and sports equipment had to be put away as soon as they were done being played with or used. Clothes were too be neatly folded and hung in closets so they could always be easily reached when needed. Really, his little ‘compulsion’ bordered on obsession and was really a pain for someone like Dawn, who was the complete and total opposite of her older brother.
As far as Dawn was concerned, beds didn’t have be made because she was just going to mess them up again in a few hours; toys, tools, and sports equipment was easier to find if you just left it out in plain sight; and clothes didn’t necessarily need to be folded or hung up because all you had to do to get those wrinkles out was throw it back in the drier for ten minutes and they would be as good as new.
When Dawn was older, though, she began to appreciate Lee’s freakish need to be neat. If for no other reason than because it gave her something that little sisters all over the universe treasured more than then their most prized possession: a surefire way to completely and totally annoy her older sibling. If she was irked with Lee, all she had to do was pull loose his comforter or even leave a lone sock in the middle of his bedroom floor and then wait. It wouldn’t be long before he would stomp down the stairs from his bedroom just as annoyed (or even more so) than she had been. Usually, if she left the sock in the middle the floor, it took him a little longer because Lee would have to find it’s mate before putting it away. Of course, he’d would then be even more agitated, which suited Dawn just fine. Zak had showed her that trick, and it worked every time.
Sitting at Lee’s desk in his tiny CAG office, Dawn eyed a set of pens he had left lined up neatly. Her fingers twitched to move them. After the stunt he had pulled the day before, he would totally deserve it, but Dawn refrained from actually moving them.
Only her family could be taken hostage by some fanatic, psycho anarchist who wanted to get rid of the president and shake up the Fleet. Only her brother could do it and then come to a ‘diplomatic’ solution that insures that democracy stays in place all while Marines -- and Starbuck -- were storming the ship to rescue them. Add the fact that most everyone hadn’t had but maybe a glass full of water that day (since they were all still on restriction after whoever had blown up the water reserve a few days before) and Dawn would say that took some skill on everyone’s part.
And where was she during this very eventful week? Stuck in the infirmary, of course, because she was a weak little kid who needed to be handled with kid-glove. Just because she got dehydrated and went a little loopy didn’t mean that she should be treated like she was six and be stuck in the infirmary for way longer than she should. But did her father and brother see it that way? Of course not. So was she told about anything that was going on? That would be another big no.
The pens were still nicely lined except for the one on the far right, which was now slightly skewed.
Satisfied that would annoy Lee thoroughly, Dawn sat back in his chair and picked up the roster that he had left sitting on top of his desk.
She was nearly halfway through it when he came through the hatch. Lee jumped slightly when he saw her sitting there, but she smiled brightly and waved her fingers before returning to the roster.
“Dawn?” he asked, closing the hatch behind him. “What are you doing here? I thought you were supposed to be resting?”
By resting, he meant that he thought that she was supposed to be locked up tight in Dad’s quarters. After Cottle had released her, she had been ‘transferred’ there and given strict orders to rest up. That was a days ago, and she was ready to climb the walls. So after Dad left for the morning shift, she had conned her way past the two Marines he always had stationed at his door and had been wondering since.
Not that Lee needed to know that.
“I’m totally and completely rested,” Dawn said. Before he could question that, she asked, “What’s with the outfit? Is it casual day on Galactica
He was dressed rather odd for the morning shift. Instead of his blue military uniform, he had on a pair of jeans and his Atlantic
sweatshirt. Lee had even found a pair of sneakers somewhere. Every time she saw Lee in a military setting he always had his uniform on, so to see him like this on the Galactica
“I was off this shift,” he said. “I went down to the gym.”
“Oh,” Dawn said, returning her attention to the roster. “I thought that you were like, getting ready, or something.”
Lee frowned. “Getting ready?”
“Yeah, for the end of the CAP.”
At his blank look, she held his roster and pointed to a name that he had made a notation next to.
“Some guy named Flattop’s thousand landing?”
Dawn wasn’t really sure, but she didn’t think she ever remembered seeing the coloring draining from her brother’s like that before. Well, except the time she asked him what a virgin was (which was followed by the even more dreaded question of whether he was a virgin).
Snatching the paper from her grasp, Lee swore, “Frak.”
A grin grew on Dawn’s face as she asked, “You forgot. Didn’t you? Gods, Kara’s right. You really are the worst CAG ever.”
“Yeah,” he absently agreed. “Why don’t you make yourself useful and find a helmet. Get Kara. She’ll help you.”
“And what will you be doing, Greatest CAG Ever?” Dawn asked sweetly.
“Finding some paint,” he said, heading towards the hatch. Lee added, “And Dawn. Put my pens back where their supposed to be.”
Dawn stuck her tongue out at him, but he was gone by then. All well, at least she had something to do. Besides mess with Lee’s stuff, that is.
Speaking of which.
After she nudged the pen back into place, Dawn picked up his paperclip holder and empty its contents onto the top of his neat desk. For added measure, she then loosened the light bulb in his desk lamp and hid his coffee cup. The pens, however, stayed right where they were supposed to be and were neatly lined.
Childish, yes. Fun for a little sister, most definitely.
Satisfied with her work, she got up and trotted out to find Starbuck.
The first time Buffy ever went to Delphi was to visit Zak. It was about six months after she and Dawn had arrived in this dimension and suddenly found themselves part of the Adama family. Buffy had just been released from Millingtons, and Carolanne and the family had been trying everything they could to jog her memory. Apparently, Delphi had been one of her favorite cities when they had first moved to Caprica, and she always liked spending time there. Buffy, of course, didn’t remember any of this (since it didn’t really happen), but did find that she rather enjoyed the city. It was big and noisy and dirty and had lots of places to shop and had many clubs.
In some ways, it reminded her of Los Angeles from when she was young. Before she knew about the evils that lurked in the night, and the worst thing that she had to worry about was whether her tan was even or if her outfit was current season or lasts. It was just a city. It was safe. It was full of nothing but human beings with human problems. The things that were supernatural only existed in books and fairytales, and she was nothing but a normal girl.
Like LA, Delphi wasn’t like that any more. Now, the city was overrun with giant metal men and rejects from Blade Runner
God, why couldn’t she find a place that to live that at some point didn’t become a combat zone?
Laying flat on her stomach, Buffy peered down through a large hole in the floor of a walkway between a high rise and its parking garage. All of the walkways glass windows had been shattered, and the structure was cracked in several keys places with large holes in the floor. Anyone with common sense wouldn’t have climbed out onto it, but Buffy had never been accused of being overly sensible.
Four stories below her, she watched as a group of Cylon clunkers marked uniformly down the street. They were escorting a covered truck that was a lot like the one that Buffy had escaped from. A strong stench wafted up to her as it passed. It was even stronger than the one that had permeated the city since she and Ben had arrived. Death and rot.
Buffy ducked her head for a moment but then turned her attention back to the convoy to be sure that they left.
They were nearly all the way down the street when a pebble clicked and rolled towards her from behind. Not even thinking about it, Buffy rolled onto her back and pulled the handgun that Ben had given her earlier when she went on watch. In a single, swift move, she unlocked the safety and had it lined up on the target before she even registered who it was standing at the end of the walkway.
From the shadow of the building, Ben was frowning at her. It amazed her that someone who had no kids could master a look that said ‘don’t make me come out there and get you, young lady, or you’re going to regret it.’ But, you know, in a totally non-perv kind of way.
When he nudged his head back towards the inside of the building, Buffy rolled her eyes as she moved back onto her stomach, holstered her gun, and started the slow crawl back. The floor creaked slightly as she did so, but Buffy wasn’t really worried about it collapsing. Being so skinny wasn’t just good for fooling bad guys into thinking she wasn’t a threat, you know.
She was halfway back when the floor creaked perilously beneath her. Her body froze from the sound, and she didn’t even breath for a heartbeat or two. Okay, so maybe this wasn’t such a good idea. Finally satisfied that she wasn’t about to fall, Buffy crawled the last few paces safety.
“Are you insane?” Ben hissed as he pulled her to her feet.
“According to a nice little certificate from Millington,” Buffy said as she pulled her arm free from his grip, “not anymore.”
Ben raised an eyebrow as if he couldn’t decide whether she was kidding or not. Buffy liked to make it hard for him to tell mainly because he had his own very dry sense of humor that made it difficult for Buffy to know if he was pulling her leg or not.
Of course, what Buffy had said was nearly true. They didn’t give her a certificate, but she did have a file somewhere that said that she wasn’t crazy anymore and fit for duty. Ben didn’t need to know that though.
Scratching at his jaw line, Buffy noticed that Ben had taken the time to shave before he came and found her. That was the one really good thing about this district in Delphi: most of the buildings still had running water. Sure, she found that a little weird, but she supposed that even psychotic robots still had to bath (or run through a car wash) every so often. Dead body disposal tends to make one ripe after awhile after all.
Brushing some plaster dust and dirt off herself, Buffy walked further into the building. Even though it was the middle of the day, the interior was mostly dark except for an odd few beams of sunlight. A cool breeze blew in through the multiple broken windows as she navigated her way through a seeming maze of abandoned offices, cubicles, and hallways. She ran her fingers along the top of an abandoned desk that still half a can of soda on top of it and important looking papers fluttering from the place caught under a stapler. In the two weeks since the worlds ended, a surprising amount of dirt had gathered in the office building.
In the center most part of the floor, Buffy came upon their ‘nest’ that was hidden in the middle of a maze of cubicles. Like the other desk, this one had things that the pervious occupant had left scattered about. Most of it was stuff that one expected to find: hole puncher, pens, folders. Other things were more personalized: a mug that declared this person to be ‘Worlds' Greatest Mom’, a picture of a dark-haired woman smiling at the camera with two similar looking boys laughing in her arms, a beat-up leather purse that had been left open, and a pair of running shoes that looked as if they had seen better days.
Buffy had felt slightly guilty about going through this woman’s things (particularly when she took the contents out of her purse), but she doubted that the woman would mind at this point. It wasn’t as if she were going to need any of it; not even the dark brown hair-dye Buffy had found in a shopping bag in the bottom desk drawer.
Flopping down next to her own bag, Buffy opened the top and pulled out a half-drunk bottle of water. While she took a drink, Ben sat down across from her and began to go through their things.
They had come to the building earlier that morning and would need to leave soon. Ben was insistent that they not stay anywhere too long, and Buffy couldn’t disagree. Once night settled in, they would go somewhere where maybe they could travel along the streets; otherwise, it would be sewer bound for them again. Thanks to the vamps back in Sunnydale, at least she wasn’t squeamish about traveling down there, but she really hoped she wouldn’t have too. She really wanted to put off ruining her new shoes for just a few more days.
They had no real clear destination in Delphi. They mostly just hid in the business district in the high rises and parking garages, which the Cylons had already cleared out before they got there. That was what they figured, anyway, since they hadn’t come across any bodies or survivors. If fact except for the few roaming patrols, they hadn’t really come across anyone. Not that Buffy was complaining, but it just seemed weird.
“Here,” Ben said as he reached into his bag and tossed a bag of chips to her.
Buffy easily caught it with one hand, dropped the bag into her lap, and grabbed the small metal container that he threw after it.
“You need to eat and then take your medicine,” he said as he opened a granola bar and took a bite.
Buffy gently bounced the anti-radiation meds container in her hand and then set it down next to her drink.
Tearing open her chips, she said, “Wow, dinner and drugs. You sure know how to show a girl a good time.”
“I try,” he added dryly.
They sat in silence for a few moments. Each of them listened closely for any sort of movement around and the telltale sound of whirling metal or stomping feet. Those big metal guys might be hard as hell to kill, but they hadn’t been made to be stealthy in any real way. It made it easy to run when you can hear the bad guy coming, and especially when you had Slayer senses working for you.
That was why Buffy had left when she was keeping watch while Ben slept earlier. She had heard them marching and had to go be sure that they weren’t coming here. So far, they’d been lucky when it came to avoiding snoopy robots. They might get close like today, but they generally walked right on by without too much investigation. They probably thought that no one would be dumb enough to stick around in a city that had become a resort for Cylons. That just went to show how well they knew her.
“We need some more meds,” Ben said as he crumpled up the bar’s wrapping and tossed it into the waste basket out of habit. “Soon.”
Chewing thoroughly on a chip, Buffy said, “It’s not my fault those hospitals and the medial center were a bust. How was I supposed to know they’d been cleaned out?”
“I didn’t say it was,” he replied.
“What would Cylons need with a bunch of anti-radiation meds for anyway?” Buffy mused to herself. “I mean, they don’t seem to need them, and they didn’t seem to concerned about keeping those people from being sick since they were killing them and all.”
With a sigh, Ben laid his head back against the cubicle wall. “I know one other place we can try, but it’s not going to be fun trying to get to it.”
Buffy raised an eyebrow.
“There’s a place in the middle of Delphi that was actually built to conceal a massive bomb shelter. It was supposed to be the place that the city officials would go in case something like this happened during the Cylon War,” he explained. “Not a lot of people know about it. I only know about it because I had to work security there about ten years ago, and the curator had to tell us about it. It was built for people to live in it for years, so we should be able to find the meds there. It’s just getting to it and inside that’s going to be the problem.”
“Where?” Buffy asked.
He paused for a moment as if he were actually considering not telling Buffy but finally decided that he didn’t have a choice.
Sighing, he said, “The Delphi Museum downtown.”
When Gaius Baltar began his career as a scientist, he had once been offered a job at a privately owned company called Elgin Company. He couldn’t remember the details of what the job offer had entailed -- he had been considering several offers at the time -- but he did remember that theirs was hardly impressive, and the work had sounded tedious and boring. They had tried to impress him, of course. They had been proud of what they had and had boasted to him to him that their company was less about making money and more about helping their fellow man.
Of course he turned them down. Who in their right mind wouldn’t?
He did remember when he went to meet them, though. They had brought him to their headquarters and showed him around. Nothing out of the ordinary about that, but again there was nothing really noteworthy about the place. The lab they showed him, however, had stuck in his mind. Not because of it’s opulence, mind you, because it was as far as opposite from that as it could be. He remembered how he thought it was tiny, crowded, and certainly not a place worthy for him to work in.
That lab was twice the size of the one that he had now, and it had been state of the art, unlike the computers and equipment he had been given on Galactica
. Really, he wondered if anything on this ship aside from the crew was younger than him.
“Now, now, Gaius,” her silky voice suddenly whispered in his ear. “What’s that you say about beggars not being choosers?”
Six grinned at him as she stalked from beside him. Her perfectly shaped nails skidded along the surface of the center table as if she were reaching towards him.
Over the past few weeks he had grown used to her infrequent visits. During the near constant jumps made during those first few days, she had become somewhat of an oasis for his very tired mind. Just when he felt he was reaching his breaking point, he would close his eyes only to find himself with her back in his home on Caprica and for a few blessed moments, things would be right with the world again. True, her conversations were odd and preachy, but the smell of the lake and the feel of warm sunlight were a fair trade for a few minutes of listening to her go on about her god and his plan. Her company could also be very pleasant when she wanted to be.
After the destruction of the Olympic Carrier
and thus the end of the Cylon’s constant pursuit, part of him had believed that his hallucinations would end. Another, larger part of him had grown so accustomed to her visits that he hardly considered that she would not come to him. It was still jarring when Six would just pop out of thin air and lords know she could be frightening when she wished, but having here there was becoming oddly normal.
What did that really say about him?
Gaius remembered once reading in a book that one had to be mad in order to survive a mad world. He hardly thought that this was what the author had in mind.
Rubbing his tired eyes, he peered back down into his microscope.
“Yes, but most beggars are not asked to construct a Cylon detector from fifty-year-old, out-of-date equipment and,” he nervously swallowed as he looked over to the device that had been delivered that morning, “a nuclear warhead.”
The warhead sat on a table on the other side of the room. The Marines who brought the bomb in had set it there, and Gaius had not yet bothered to do much with it. He knew he had asked for it (thanks to some prodding from her), and he knew he could make a workable Cylon detector from it; but actually doing so was not going to be the easiest task.
“It can be done, Gaius,” Six said as she leaned against his work station. “You know as well as I that your ego won’t let you fail.”
“My ego? I thought that it was part of God’s plan that I be the one to do this,” he said. “If that’s really true, than perhaps I should just pray for new equipment.”
There was a considerable pause, and Gaius could practically feel her frowning at him. However, it wasn’t her voice who answered him.
“Well, I guess you could try it. I know a pretty good priestess if you want her to come pray with you.”
Standing in the doorway -- sorry, hatch -- was Dawn Adama. She had a very similar frown on her face like the one her brother had wore when he had asked Gaius if he had seen the girl back on Colonial One
that first day they fled from the Cylons. Her frown, however, more clearly said that she thought that he was a little mad, while Captain Adama’s had only hinted at the thought.
Even though he dealt regularly with her father and brother, Gaius had not had many dealing with the girl. He had only spoken to her once or twice, and those times had been limited to when she was either coming into her father’s quarters from the infirmery or leaving them so that they could speak. He did know that she had been confined to them for the past few days due to some medical problems she had after their days of constantly jumping every thirty-three minutes, which was why the Commander had insisted on meeting Gaius in his lab a few days ago to discuss the construction of the Cylon detector that had lead to his receiving the warhead. He hadn’t wanted to disturb the girls rest was the excuse he had given for meet there.
In fact now that Gaius thought of it, aside from a few curt hellos, he didn’t think he had ever actually spoken directly to Dawn; so why had she come to his lab?
Better still, why was Six circling her like a cat about to pounce on a rather dimwitted mouse?
“My, my, little sister is looking much better, isn’t she?” Six asked. “One would never know that only a few days ago she was going mad in the infirmary.”
An idea struck her. “Perhaps you two could start a club.”
Ignoring her, Gaius cleared his throat and said, “Miss Adama. To what do I owe the pleasure?”
“Oh, don’t fool yourself Gaius,” Six laughed. “The pleasure is all yours.”
Shifting on her feet, Dawn said, “Kara said I should come ask you if you still have that paint that you won off of Tarn last week.”
Gaius frowned as he thought. Her certainly didn’t remember winning any paint off of anyone.
While he was thinking, Six slid past her. For an instant, Gaius thought her saw the girl jump. However, before he had really registered the thought, the ship violently rocked. Dawn was thrown forward and nearly crashed into the table in the center of the lab, while Gaius himself was thrown from his chair.
“What the frak was that?” Dawn exclaimed before he heard her footsteps echoing running away from the lab.
From his place on the floor, Gaius raised his hand and said mainly to himself, “No, I’m fine. Thank you.”
Of course, no one answered him. Not even his beautiful Six.
The rain had settled in again by late that afternoon. It was something that they had gotten used to over the past two weeks. Caprica had never been the type of planet that had lots of it, but the bombs had kicked up so much dirt that it couldn’t help but rain. From what Ben knew about bomb from high school science class, he guessed it would probably continue to do so for quiet some time. He was just glad that they hadn’t dropped so many as to cause a nuclear winter.
Sitting on the desk in their cubicle, Ben watched the rain fall through the broken windows. The building across the street still had most of its glass intact and was reflecting the golden-red light that bathed the world. Ben thought that it made the rain drops look like gold.
As soon as Buffy was done cleaning up and it was dark enough, they would be heading towards the Delphi Museum. It was across town and getting there before sunrise (or the Cylons catching them) was going to be a real trick, but they needed those meds. As of that moment, they had enough to last another three days, but that was it. After that…He didn’t want to think about after that.
He knew that Buffy didn’t really believe him about the Museum, but it was true. They really did have anti-radiation meds. The ‘new’ museum had been constructed during the Cylon War -- the First Cylon War. What most people didn’t know was that it had been constructed on top of a massive bomb shelter. The shelter had been a secret during the first war from the general public and very few people knew of its existence. After the war ended, there wasn’t a whole lot of use for it anymore and over the years those who did know of it forgot or died.
Ben had only known of it by accident. When the Tauron government had allowed certain artifacts to be loaned to the Delphi Museum, they had been worried about protest or members of the Ha’la’tha trying to steal them -- particularly the Sword of Ares. (Ben wasn’t sure why they called it that because it was definitely not a sword.) They had to check over the entire building for entrance and exit points and be sure the it was secure, and Ben and his partner had accidentally come across the hidden entrance to the bunker. The curator had explained to them what it was. Apparently, it was now where they hid the most valuable artifacts when they were not on display. He just hoped it still was stocked, else they were truly frakked.
Getting there was going to be fun as well. He and Buffy had gotten rather good at traveling in the dark, and she was scarily good at sewer travel (which she refused to explain to him), but Ben knew the entrances and exits to the museum. There were no sewer entrances in the basement, mostly thanks to the bunker, and for some reason he felt that the building would be guarded. If they wanted to get in and out undetected, than they were going to have to use as much stealth as they could in the dark. He knew they could do it, but it would be easier if they both took care of something first.
He also knew that Buffy wasn’t going to like it.
Getting off the desk, Ben picked up the bag and headed to the women’s bathroom down the hall that Buffy had disappeared into earlier. The door was opened to let in some light, and he could hear water running.
She was standing in front of a sink and had stripped off her shirt to where she was only wearing a bra while she washed herself off with a paper towel. Her long blond hair was pulled up messily into a ponytail to keep out of the way as she rinsed off, and it looked like she had tried to clean it as well before ‘bathing’. Her eyes widened when she saw him there.
As she grabbed her disregarded shirt to cover herself, she snapped, “God, Ben!”
He kept his lip from twitching. Singular again. That was something he had wanted to speak to her about, but the opportunity had not really presented itself. Unfortunately, it still hadn’t.
“Here,” he said and tossed her the box with a picture of a dark-haired woman on the front. She caught it easily. “You’ll need to use that before we leave.”
Buffy sneered at the box of hair dye.
“I’m not dying my hair,” she said in a tone he was sure that she knew most people found intimidating.
He didn’t at the moment.
“Dark hair is harder to see at night than blond,” he reasoned. “And since neither of us have any mask or hoods, we’re going to need the extra cover to get into the museum.”
She continued to frown. He wasn’t sure if she was going to go for it not, but if he had to hold her down and pour it on her head, he would because he wasn’t about to let her get herself killed for some stupid girl vanity.
Not giving her a chance to argue, he said, “Use what you can but leave a little for me.”
She glared at him.
He stubbornly glared back.
Yes, this was going to be a fun afternoon.
: Disclaimer and summary found with the prologue.
Again, sorry it's been so long on this. Thank you for those who are still following the story, and a big thanks to those of you who left reviews for the last chapter. And please forgive the typos.