The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galactica
Commander Adama stared at the blonde Cylon through the cell bars.
"Do we have to keep her in there?" Gaius hovered a few inches behind him. "It reminds her of what happened on the Pegasus. It—it's going to make it more difficult to get information from her if she's feeling traumatized."
Adama's voice was an ironic rumble. "I would feel traumatized if she was wandering around free."
"You and everyone else." The two men turned as President Roslin stepped in, sparing barely a glance for the two men before stepping up to the bars that separated her from the new prisoner. The Cylon raised her head and stared back at Roslin, expressionlessly.
"Madam President." Gaius stepped forward, babbling. "Gina needs medical care. She's been beaten and abused and—"
"That's her name. I spent some time with her on the Pegasus, you know, at Admiral Cain's request, trying to, to gain her confidence and, and to—"
Roslin raised her hand, and Gaius fell silent.
At Roslin's words, Kara stepped forward from where she had been standing by Lee's side. "Yes, ma'am."
Roslin was still watching the prisoner. "I understand that you found a hitchhiker who may also be a Cylon, and yet he wasn't brought in here, at your insistence."
Kara continued to stand rigidly to attention. "I don't think he's a Cylon, ma'am. And he was seriously injured. It seemed like his leg was broken, so I escorted him to sick bay."
There was a low murmur that might have been Lee muttering, "Let him lean all over you all the way to sick bay, you mean."
Roslin ignored it, at last tearing her fascinated gaze from Gina to look at Kara. Kara didn't find this much of an improvement, and she stared straight ahead.
"Lieutenant, it is my understanding that you picked this creature up outside your ship."
Gaius bumbled in. "Actually, I did that. I went outside and pulled him in. I had to rip him off the side of the ship and drag him in through the airlock, and—"
Adama's gruff voice cut off this babble. "There are already ridiculous rumors running through the ship about that incident. I've heard that this man was outside without a suit."
"He was, sir." Kara turned, finding it much easier to meet Adama's eyes than Roslin's. "I didn't see where he came from, but he landed against the view screen. He was frozen by the time Gaius pulled him in, but—" She faltered.
Adama's tone was much gentler with Kara than with Gaius, but she still found it hard to explain the extraordinary circumstances. "He, uh, warmed up. And seemed just fine, but when he stood up, his leg gave out, and I thought he might need a doctor. Sir."
Roslin was behind her now, but Kara didn't need to see the incredulity in her face; it was apparent in her tone. "He had been spaced, and you thought he might need a doctor?"
Adama hit a communicator. "Doc?"
A few seconds later, Doc Cottle's voice grumbled back. "I thought you'd be wanting to know about my latest patient."
"I do. How is he?"
"Other than being dead, he's fine."
Kara started forward. "Dead? He was just limping when I left him there!"
"Yeah, the leg may need a brace for a while. Several ribs broken as well, but he seems to be managing. Most of his internal organs seem to be in good shape, although it's hard to tell about the heart."
The group huddled around the communicator relaxed, convinced they must have misheard Cottle's earlier diagnosis. "What's wrong with his heart, doctor?" asked Roslin.
"It's not beating. Lungs seem okay, since he hasn't shut up since he got here. This is quite a specimen you've got here, Starbuck. Where did you say you found him again?"
"Can he leave sick bay?" Adama snapped.
"I wish he would. He keeps stealing my cigarettes."
Lee was watching the hitchhiker though a gap in the curtains surrounding a cot. The man with the absurdly dyed blond hair was smoking a cigarette and talking to Both Paramedic Ishay and someone else just out of Apollo's line of vision. The presence of the someone else was signaled by an occasional giggle.
Lee had never considered Ishay the giggly type, but he saw her put her fingers to her lips, which were curling up in a smile. "What kind of treatment did he need?"
Doc Cottle's response struck Lee as evasive. "I took some samples of his blood and gave him a pint in return."
"He needed a transfusion?" The hitchhiker had cocked his head to one side and was grinding the cigarette out in a bedpan as he said something to his admirers. Judging by the laughter behind the curtain, it was quite a joke.
"The first test came back a bit anemic," Cottle was droning on, "and he said he needed blood, so we got some O positive, not being sure of his blood group. He yanked the bag off the IV pole, ripped it open, and poured the blood into his water Bottle. Then he drank it."
That tore Lee's glance away from the hitchhiker. "He drank it?"
Doc Cottle shrugged so hard it started a coughing fit. At last he said, "Seemed to cure the anemia. About then, I was going to strap his ribs, but I found they weren't broken any more. The leg was getting better too, so I put a brace on it instead of a cast. And told the lab techs to speed up the analysis of his blood."
"Any results yet?"
"It's—not Cylon, as far as we can tell. Just—"
"Seems to be from more than one human. And there are some elements that seem more animal than human. One of the techs used to be a vet, and she swears there's pig and rodent there."
Apollo shook his head as if to clear it. "Did you ask him about any of this?"
"Yeah. He said the rodent was vole, and that he doesn't eat rat unless he's desperate. Wanted to know if we had any otters on board."
Lee snapped at the doctor, "Report to Commander Adama as soon as you have some conclusive results," and shoved the curtain aside. He was mildly relieved to see that the annoying hitchhiker wasn't actually touching the Paramedic, who moved a few steps away from her patient at the interruption.
Lee ignored her and the nurse who was standing on the other side of the hitchhiker. "Come with me," he barked.
The blond man slipped off his cot, landing on one leg and favoring the other, and dropping a hand on one outthrust hip. "Well, since you ask so nicely, mate—"
Lee knew that his rank and reputation made most civilians uneasy, and he tried to make sure his bearing and manner were no more threatening than necessary. He had cultivated a near-smile that he knew was reassuring, and he forced himself to use it now.
He was looking down on the slouching hitchhiker, his spine rigid and his stance military, but the bright blue gaze cast up at him was so wholly free from any hint of intimidation that Lee was disconcerted. He expected those who knew him, like Starbuck, to be at ease in his company, but this man—
But this man acted as if their positions were reversed; as if he were looking down on Apollo, as if he were in the uniform of an officer of the Colonial Fleet and Lee were wearing shabby boots and the rags of blood-smeared black pants and shirt. There was no sense that he had been put at his ease by Lee's carefully controlled posture; he was managing to swagger in spite of his limp.
"So, where are we off to? Dinner, a movie—"
"Commander Adama and President Roslin wish to see you." Lee made his voice as repressive as possible.
"Of course. You're taking me to your leaders. I should have realized." They were making their way down a corridor, maintaining a pretty good speed in spite of the hitchhiker's limp. He didn't seem very bothered by that supposedly broken leg, or by the half-dozen armed guards who had fallen in step behind them. "I don't suppose I'll have a chance to freshen up first? Not that it would do me much good, since the airline seems to have lost my luggage again." He looked down at the torn t-shirt. "Still, better than a bathrobe. Do you think I can convince them I'm a froopy dude even though I don't have a towel?"
Lee tried so hard to make sense of this that he almost stopped in his tracks.
The hitchhiker didn't seem to mind their slowed pace. He kept talking as he peered at the people they passed with immense interest. "So, Flash Gordon, tell me more about these Bots you're fighting. From the way everyone who mentions them looks ready to piss their pants it's even odds that these Vogons don't just read poetry at you?"
'My name is Adama. And my call sign is Apollo, not—not whatever you said. Cylons don't read poetry that I've ever heard of, but they're very religious."
"Apollo, eh?" The blond man seemed to find this very funny. "So I've been dropped on the Death Star, among Greek gods and homicidal Bots, with not a Slayer in sight. I'm not even wearing an amulet. Not my usual hallucination. Too bad about the poetry, though. Might have been an extra weapon in my arsenal."
Lee decided that their strange visitor's language must not be precisely the same as the Colonials'. Perhaps this was some strange dialect? He used some unfamiliar words, and others must have very different meanings wherever he came from. Lee determined to speak very plainly and clearly to this odd man in order to avoid any misunderstandings.
"Cylons are evil robots. Some of them look like humans. They're trying to kill all humans."
"That's it. Simple sentences from a simple military man. Cylons bad, humans good. Black hats and white hats." The gleam in the blue eyes hinted that the hitchhiker didn't believe the situation was that simple, whatever he thought of Apollo. But he clapped Lee on the shoulder in a companionable way.
Lee flinched away from the casual touch. "You asked me about them."
"Appreciated. Although I suspect there's a detail or two left out of your admirable précis." He shook his head. "Of course, I'm buggered if I know how I can even understand what you're saying. No one has as much as slipped a fish in my ear."
Lee was very grateful to realize they were outside the conference room where Roslin and his father were waiting.