Planet of the Eights
Kara stopped to stare at the view screen near the entrance to the landing bay. She couldn't get enough of the sight of the blue-and-white planet they'd found two weeks ago.
"Pretty, isn't it?" She felt Spike's hand on her shoulder.
"Beautiful." Now, her gaze was focused on him. After all, she had the rest of her life to look at Earth. "Are you sure you don't want to stay?"
"It's not my Earth, pet."
She frowned. "How can you be so sure? Maybe it's just a different time here. Maybe we're in your future, or your past."
He shook his head. "The stars would have moved on. But their positions tell me it's a couple of thousand years before my time. In those days, my Earth was already crawling with humans, and this one is almost deserted."
She nodded sadly. They'd hoped to find many more humans, but only a few hundred thousand had survived a wave of natural disasters that had struck the Thirteenth Colonists. Most of the survivors were living on the southern continents, holding on, but in need of technological assistance to rebuild and advance.
Still, the Earth population was significantly larger than that of the Fleet, and should ensure adequate genetic diversity in the new, merged race of humans that would make its home here. Alone, either group would most likely have died off; together, they had a good chance.
Spike took her hand and they walked towards the landing bay. Before they reached it, they were hailed by someone coming down the corridor behind them.
When they turned, Lee waved and smiled in a way Kara knew meant mischief. "Spike!" he said, so cheerfully that she was positive
his intentions were dishonorable. "I brought some very special guests to see you."
He stepped to one side, and a stout little girl came forward, her expression somber. She was clutching a leash, at the end of which waddled the ugliest dog Kara had ever seen. "Spike wanted to say goodbye to Spike," the child announced.
Spike glared at Lee. "Thought my exit was going to be a secret, Flash."
"It is. These two came over with her father for a meeting about changing the rationing system now that we're getting some food from the planet. I promised to take her for a little tour, and--" He looked down at the girl's determined face. "Somehow, she got it out of me."
Spike chuckled and bent down to very carefully pet the dog behind the ears. "Bye, mutt." The dog growled at him. "Bye, brat."
The girl frowned at him. "I'm not a brat. My name is Aurora," she said firmly. "I'm named after the goddess of the Dawn."
For some reason, this information sobered Spike, and he stared into the girl's eyes for a long minute. Then he grasped the dog under the chin, carefully keeping his fingers away from the snaggleteeth. "Listen up, mutt. You take care of our Dawn, now." The dog pulled away, its tongue lolling to one side as it yipped in annoyance. Spike turned to the girl. "Don't worry, Aurora. This fellow will look after you, and so will this lot." He gestured at Kara and Lee. "You're home now, all of you."
Lee took Aurora's hand. "Time to get back to the meeting."
Lee started to lead the girl away, but Spike called after him. "Flash?"
Lee turned, looking wary. Spike tossed something to him. Lee turned the object over in his hand. "This is my grandfather's lighter!"
"Yeah." Spike grinned, winked, and dragged Kara away.
"I can't believe you stole that from the Commander again!" This particular sin did manage to shock her. It had been one thing to play that game when the senior Adama was alive, but theft from the dead--
His smile mocked her look of horror. "Didn't. He asked me to hold it for luck and pass it on to Flash before I left. But I thought I'd let the boy have the fun of being royally pissed at me one last time."
She was still laughing when Billy ran up to them. Even after a prolonged recovery from his injuries, and all the stresses of the Fleet's long journey and the huge responsibilities he'd assumed without complaint, he looked ridiculously young. "I was afraid I'd missed you." He stopped in front of Spike. "I have a meeting, but wanted to say good-bye."
Spike held out a hand. "Good-bye, then, President-Elect Keikeya. Mind you keep this lot in line, and if Zarek gives you any guff about an orderly transition of authority, you kneecap him, just like I taught you."
Billy grinned. "I'm sure that will be my first choice of strategy." He pulled a package out of his breast pocket. "I got you something."
Spike nodded as he unwrapped it. "Fags. Ta." He sniffed one of the cigarettes. "Not the funny kind either. Did you roll these yourself?"
"Of course not." Billy's grin took another five years off his apparent age. "I don't like you that
much. I got one of my aides to buy the tobacco on the black market and another to roll them."
Spike slapped him on the back. "Breaking your own laws and making your staff run your private errands. You're starting off in the most venerable traditions of politics, mate." He held one of the amateurishly-made cigarettes in one hand, looking at it as he added, "I know you can handle your colonists and the military. But watch out for any Cylons and that wanker Baltar."
Billy blinked down at Spike, shocked. "But he's dead."
"I'm dead, and I don't let that stop me, do I? I don't trust evil menaces not to return. And that bloke was like a bloody cockroach. I always suspected that even if the Cylons and the rest of humanity were destroyed, he'd still be scuttling around, eating wallpaper paste and managing somehow to keep his own arse out of any fires he started."
Billy blinked again. "What's a cockroach?"
"Move down to the surface and you'll find out soon enough." Spike turned towards the landing bay, but looked back long enough to say, "And mind you have some fun now and again. Get drunk, and shag that pretty girl."
Either a lot of people had decided to visit the landing bay that day, or there had been plenty of loose lips in the Fleet. No one said anything, but all chatter and activity stopped as everyone turned to watch Spike and Kara walk to the waiting Raptor.
Spike stopped just before hauling himself into the passenger compartment of the small ship, and gazed from face to face. He was surprised to realize how many of them he knew by name.
Most of his Marine card-playing buddies were standing by a Viper as if they'd just happened to wander in. Kelso, the man he'd saved during his first battle with the Cylons, was in the lead.
The Chief was there, of course, with all his techs. Pilots milled together, watching somberly.
The Agathons were there. The toddler on Sharon's hip couldn't hide the swell of her stomach. Spike didn't meet her eyes, but he wondered how many little hybids she'd have, how many children with a trace of Cylon in them who would grow up and distribute their genes among the rest of the population. Planet of the Eights, that's what it will be,
he thought. And he was almost sure that wouldn't be a bad thing.
Spike was surprised to see quite a few civilians, including two of the bartenders from Cloud Nine,
who'd managed to get on the Galactica
and into the bay somehow. Probably called in a favor from someone with a big bar tab.
Spike tried to remember if he'd paid his own bar tab. He didn't think so, but the bartenders didn't seem to be there to collect.
Maybe he should make a speech. Maybe he should shake some hands. Maybe…
Bugger it. He gave a nod to the crowd and climbed into the Raptor, followed by Kara. Waiting for them inside was the boy Spike called "The Pilot Formerly Known as Basket Case." The kid seemed much happier in general with his new call sign of Head Case, but at the moment he looked positively woebegone.
Kara hopped out of the Raptor and drew a deep breath. The darkness was warm and velvety, and the smells of trees and flowers were everywhere. Even a space rat like her could appreciate it. "You picked a beautiful spot. This would be a good place to build a city. I wonder how many hills there are? I can't count them in the dark."
"Seven," Spike said confidently.
"I just wish that the Commander and the President could have seen this."
"Moses can’t enter the promised land." His voice grew softer. "Last time I saw her she wasn't far from here."
It took a moment for Kara to even guess at his train of thought. "The one you're going back for? The girl with the silly name?"
He snickered. "So says a lady named after an espresso bar."
Kara shook her head. "You do realize that none of us have ever managed to understand more than half the things you say?"
"Another reason why I have to go back, pet."
She watched as he ducked into a tunnel he'd found the previous night, then looked over her shoulder at the faint rosy hue in the eastern sky. "Even though the sun there may kill you?"
"The sun here's not my best friend either, pet. You saw that."
She shuddered, remembering the day they'd finally landed on Earth. He'd stood in the shadow of a Raptor and held a tentative hand out into the sunlight. The man she'd thought of as indestructible had nearly burst into flames. "But what if that thing does take you back to your Earth, but right out in the sun? You'll die."
"That's why I scouted out this spot. Your Thirteenth Tribe didn't build as big a network of catacombs as the ones I remember on my Earth, but they made a start before they abandoned this site. Looks like they used them for storage, though, not burials." He kicked over a dusty mound, revealing a pile of broken pots.
"It looks like a lot of digging to me." She sniffed the cold, damp air.
"Volcanic rock. Easy to tunnel through."
Kara shivered. "Not active volcanoes, I hope."
"Not in this neighborhood. But you know how this bit of land looks like a boot from space? Don't buy a summer home just north of the instep."
He stepped further into the tunnel, apparently having no need of a flashlight. Kara pulled her own out of a pocket before following. When he stopped, she said. "There's one thing I haven't told you. Before she died, the President asked me to write down everything that's happened. Scrolls for future generations to read. Not something I ever thought I'd wind up doing."
"Needs to be done, though. And by the end you were the one person close to her who shared her beliefs."
She hadn't considered that. But she had been worrying about something else. "I don't know what to call you."
"Always said 'Spike' will do."
She snorted, but asked seriously, "I mean, what should I say you are? A demon? A god?"
He patted the pocket where he kept the amulet. "A champion, love. I'd like that best."
"Then I'll write about Spike, Champion of Humanity and our Guide to Earth." Kara heard her voice shake. Speaking about him in those terms made her feel as if he'd already faded into some historical figure who only lived in the pages of old books and scrolls, words on paper that couldn't possibly describe his immense vitality. Maybe they'd even picture him as Hermes, complete with little winged hat and sandals and an absence of any other clothing. The image didn't make her smile. She wanted those future generations to know him as he really was. I'll do it somehow. I'll put in everything, including the drunken card games, the stealing, and I'll even mention the sex. No one is turning my Spike into a marble statue striking a noble pose.
After an awkward pause, it was his turn to change the subject, "By the way, pet, I had a talk with Flash before we left. Told him that you and me, it was just about us needing each other to get over someone we'd lost. That it was too soon then for you and him, and Lady Laura needed him in any case, but now things are changed, and he wasn't to think you'd be missing me as anything except a friend."
For the first time, she shivered in the darkness. "Why did you tell him all that?"
"Dunno. Maybe because it's true? I don't always lie, love. Be useless as a messenger if I did."
"I…" She stopped, pushing thoughts of Lee aside for the moment. "I have something for you." She pulled out a package and unwrapped it carefully. "Household gods. I'm not sure if you have a household, but neither do I, and these always helped me." She shoved them into his hands.
"My own Lares and Penates." He stared down at them, his fingers brushing the wooden surfaces. "Ta." He reached in his pocket, stowing away the small statues and pulling out his medallion. "Time to put on my bling."
She swallowed hard as he pulled out the medallion. "What if it doesn't work?"
"Then I'll try again, the place I last used it, on one of the other continents. And if that doesn't work, I'll go back to the spot where I was standing before something dropped me on your windscreen." He pulled something else out of his pocket. "Share a last cigarette?"
They did, the tips glowing red in the darkness as they reminisced a little. She was smiling when he ground the last of his cigarette into the earth, thinking resolutely of the good times they'd shared. "I don't know where I'll find someone else I can tie to the top of a glider," she said at last.
"Tell Flash he has to put it in his wedding vows," he said, and stopped her burst of indignant laughter with a last kiss.
Then he stepped away, pausing just before slipping the chain over his head. "Safest place for you is outside, love."
She was following his advice to leave, but couldn't resist a glace back. The medallion had begun to glow, brighter and brighter, until it was like a small, burning sun.
"Spike!" Involuntarily, she ran back to him, grasped his hand. It was burning hot.
"No, love." Amazingly, he was laughing. "This is right, I can feel it. Now, you go. Live."
She backed away until she was near the entrance to the cave, half-awed, half-horrified as the heat from the medallion seemed to be consuming his whole body. But he continued to laugh joyously, even as a huge flash of light from the medallion blinded her for a minute.
When she could see again, he was gone. She was not surprised when she could find no trace of him or a fire when she searched the cave with her flashlight. She was very sure the gods had protected him.
Kara emerged from the cave into bright sunlight. It was a gorgeous spring day, and everything was green and fresh, with plenty of strange and not-so-strange plants and flowers to admire. Starbuck rubbed her eyes and tried to concentrate on the miracle that was her new home.
She could see the hills more clearly now. There were some animals grazing on one. Could those really be sheep? The survey crew had reported herds of animals that must have been imported by the Thirteenth Tribe and left behind when this settlement had been abandoned.
She looked for the Raptor and frowned. Had it moved? As she got closer, she realized it wasn't the same one that she and Spike had ridden to the surface, and that the man standing next to it wasn't Head Case.
The man waiting for her had obviously followed them down and sent Head Case back to the Galactica
Kara looked over her shoulder. She'd come too far, and now she couldn't see the entrance to the tunnel where Spike had disappeared from her world. "Goodbye, Champion, Messenger -- and friend," she whispered.
Then she made her way to the Raptor where Lee Adama was waiting.
The smell was almost the same as before he'd put on the medallion. Cold, damp earth, like the kind you found in graveyards. But one scent was missing. Kara's. She wasn't just gone; she'd never been here. The medallion had gone too. He stuck a hand into the pocket of the jacket he'd won from a Colonial Marine in a game of Triad and touched the tiny statues Kara had given him. It had all happened, then. The Fleet, the Cylons, and everything.
He staggered to his feet and looked around, supporting himself with a hand on one slick wall. At least he wasn't a ghost.
It was black as pitch, but he could make out niches in the walls around him. This was a gravesite, all right. One of the catacombs that wasn't open for public tours, probably. Was it possible his plan had worked and he'd landed exactly where he'd intended?
That seemed so unlikely for any plan hatched by William the Bloody that Spike told himself not to hope as he made his way down the tunnel. He could hear faint sounds in the distance.
As he got closer, he realized that he was listening to some kind of fight and started to run. A few hundred feet further on, he navigated a bend in the tunnel and saw a blonde girl fighting with two much larger creatures.
One of the men turned around to face him. Spike gave a yell of joy. Those were definitely vampire eyes and fangs. The possibility that he was home grew stronger.
Spike threw himself into the fight, grappling with the nearest vamp. He was stakeless, so he had to break its neck and then yank off its head. As it turned to dust, he saw the other vamp had cornered the girl, but before he could rush to her rescue, she managed to stake her attacker.
"Buffy -- " He stepped forward, grabbing her arm to help her to her feet, but when she turned, he released her, blinking in confusion.
The face was wrong. The eyes were brown, the nose not pert enough, and the expression scared instead of royally pissed off.
He backed up a step. "Bloody hell! Not another alternate dimension!"
"Ow!" yelled another female voice.
Spike realized he'd stepped on something and turned around to discover it was the toe of a fashionable leather boot, footgear wholly unsuitable for fighting vampires in catacombs. His gaze moved northward, over gorgeous legs, a short skirt, a nicely skimpy blouse, to--
"Damn it, Spike, where the hell
have you been?"
"Where--?" He stared at Buffy, and instead of answering, pointed at the girl behind him. "Who's that?"
"My double. The one who was dating the Immortal while I was dealing with the Kobold Cartel. Geez, Spike, Angel and some scary Smurfette have been looking for you for weeks, ever since they got back from some weird other dimension! Not to mention that I'd like a word, now that someone finally decided to tell me you were alive again, except they'd lost you. Though how Angel could manage that, when I never could after years of trying--"
Even though years of experience told him it was a hopeless task, he tried to interrupt her. "Your double? The Immortal? Do you mean--"
She rolled her eyes and stamped her foot. "Never mind that now. Make yourself useful."
He grabbed the stake she tossed him and followed her around a bend in the tunnel, where he found himself facing a dozen or so vampires.
With a snarl, he leapt into the battle. Bugger this for a welcome home.
(Unless, of course, I decide that it would be just Spike's luck that the Cylons made it through that wormhole into his