Categories > TV > Battlestar Galactica

Battlestar Galactica: The Omaha Chronicles

by Treadstone17 0 reviews

In this Frame Story to "Battlestar Galactica: Collision", we chronicle the struggles and triumphs of Kara "Starbuck" Thrace as she not only has to fight the Cylons but old demons from her past that...

Category: Battlestar Galactica - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Sci-fi - Warnings: [V] - Published: 2017-05-28 - 25146 words - Complete

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BATTLESTAR GALACTICA

THE OMAHA CHRONICLES


AUTHOR'S NOTE

Please read "Battlestar Galactica: Collision" before reading this story.

PROLOGUE

Winter, 2023

It has been nine months since Galactica and her rag-tag, fugitive fleet had arrived at Earth. It was a gift from the Heavens that, after what looked to be a suicide run against The Colony, they had somehow ended up on the doorstep of a world that was filled with human beings, just as they were.

Admiral William Adama was sitting in the Oval Office of The President Of The United States. He and the President could converse in English these days. The speed with which the linguists from both the fleet and here on Earth had been able to teach both sides how to speak the others' language had amazed Bill. He still wasn't completely fluid in the language, but he could get by easily enough.

He knew President Justin Bond was learning the Caprican language but protocol dictated that when you were in the Oval Office, English was spoken. Besides, he enjoyed practicing the language that had been chosen as the official diplomatic language between Earthlings and the Colonists.

There were two other people in the room with him besides the President. Even though he was speaking English better, he always brought a translator just in case. He had also invited Captain Kara Thrace along. Kara wasn't sure why she had been invited. She hadn't begun learning much of the English language, and she knew she'd feel a little dumb just sitting there while the two leaders talked. But Adama had insisted she go.

"Boss, I can't even understand the language. I've been out on Patrol so often that I haven't even had the chance." She was more than a little confused by the invitation.

"I know that Starbuck. But I want you to come along. Maybe you can't understand the language, but you're pretty good at studying body language and voice inflection. I want you to study the President closely while we're meeting. Once we've left his office, I'll fill you in on what was discussed, and get your views on him."

"OK", she said somewhat doubtfully, "You're The Boss. I still don't understand all of this, but I'll play along. He probably doesn't even remember that I flew him up to Galactica when you first met."

There was a very specific reason he wanted Kara to tag along but wasn't quite ready to divulge it yet.

"Mr. President, it's good to see you again", smiled the Admiral. "I know you've been quite busy working with your Congress and the United Nations to establish how we will deal with each other militarily and diplomatically." He grasped the President's extended hand.

"Well, I extend to you my apologies, Bill. I've been wanted to get back together with you for some time, but events have been moving too damned fast lately. Politics is a hectic game these days". Justin Bond took a seat on an overstuffed chair across from Adama and Kara.

"By the way, Mr. President, this is Captain Kara Thrace. She is one of the best fighter pilots we have. I mentioned that I'd bring her along. She doesn't speak the language yet. But I wanted her along to just observe."

"Kara", the President smiled and extended his hand. She took the offered hand, smiled and nervously nodded her head. Not knowing what was being said was a bit disconcerting. "We've met before, haven't we? You were the pilot that flew me from Andrews to Galactica." The translator turned the words into the Caprican language. Kara momentarily looked startled that he did remember her. Maybe The Old Man is right. This guy is sharp.


The President and the Admiral spent the better part of ninety minutes discussing the issues of protocols between the Fleet and Earth, as well as what progress was being made in regards to cooperation between Galactica and the nations on Earth with regards to military matters, possible joint training, the proposal before the U.N to build Raptors the new Falcon fighters, and other sundry issues.

Kara did as Adama instructed her. She watched the President closely, although she made sure she wasn't simply staring at him. Despite no commonality in language, she could tell he was a formidable individual. He wasn't imposing physically, but he commanded respect. She had been advised he was a former fighter pilot himself, and she recognized that air of military discipline that was prevalent on Galactica, which, she reminded herself, she had sorely lacked quite often during her years as a pilot.

Kara was so focused on her observations that she hadn't caught on that the President had been studying her as well. He was a consummate politician, brought up in the rough-and-tumble world of politics in a democracy, and good politicians didn't tip their hands too often. But he knew the Admiral had brought her here for some reason so he had let his instincts loose.

When the meeting had concluded, Adama asked Kara to wait in the outer office for a few moments.

"Mr. President, what did you think of Captain Thrace?" Adama knew the president was a sharp guy, and he knew that he had been studying Kara.

"From what I can gather, she's a very headstrong young woman. I already was acquainted with her piloting skills. I sense she is very committed to you. But I also got the sense she's a bit on the undisciplined side. I recognize the look of a fighter pilot and I can figure out pretty quickly what makes a pilot tick."

"You're a good judge of character, sir." Adama smiled. "You've described Captain Thrace quite well. She's a great pilot, but she's also had her problems with the crew and with her superior officers from time to time. She even slugged Tigh one time. I had to put her in the brig for that."

"I like Tigh, but I'd have given a month's salary to see that." He chuckled. "Yes, I had a few like that during my days as a CAG, so I get it. But still, she has an impressiveness about her. The question of the moment is why did you bring her along?"

Bill Adama grinned and then told President Bond what he had in mind. President Bond didn't commit to his idea, but he didn't say no.

"She has to learn the language first, Bill." The President pointed out.

"I know, sir, but she won't have a problem with that.", he said reasonably, "but also in fairness to you, you need to read her entire military file."

"I had planned to, Admiral, but do you think it will suddenly make me reconsider what I'm thinking?" Bill Adama had mentioned Kara Thrace's Military dossier with something less than complete enthusiasm.

"Sir, Kara's like a daughter to me, always has been", he began, "but her history is very complicated and very contradictory. I know you wouldn't hire her for the job without researching her, but I urge you to read her file and carefully."
___________________________________________________________________________________________

OK, Boss, what exactly did you have in mind by having me here?" She didn't say it as a challenge, but simply because she was dying to know the why of the thing.

"First of all, Captain, what do you think of the President?"

"I think he's an impressive guy. He's very sure of himself. He doesn't seem to waste any motion. I can tell he commands respect from those who are around him. I couldn't believe he remembered me. I see a lot of you and Lee in him-maybe that's because he was a jock as well. I think I'd want him on my side in a fight."

"Not bad, Starbuck", Bill said approvingly, "I came to those same conclusions quite a while ago myself. Even other world leaders seem to defer to him, which is interesting because he's only been President for a relatively short time. Part of that is the man himself, and part is because he owns the most formidable military on the planet."

"He seems like the kind of guy I could easily work for, Boss. As I said, I see a lot of you in him. But you're right, having the biggest toys that can go 'boom' also has to help."

"He was studying you as well Captain, and he came away pretty impressed", Bill Adama caught the surprise on her face and smiled, "You didn't know he was doing that, did you?"

"He was? I didn't even notice, Admiral", she said rather sheepishly, "How could he really study me when I was pretty much sitting there like a dummy watching him?"

"He's been around probably more blocks, in his own way than I have. Any politician who has climbed to the top to lead his own country, and in many ways a planet, has to be a very observant and shrewd person, wouldn't you think?"

"Yeah, I guess so", she said, slightly taken aback. "Makes him even more impressive."

"I did bring you here for a reason. I wanted the two of you to size each other up. You are aware that we are in the process of having Fleet Military Liaison Officers that will be at the service of every Head of State throughout the planet?"

"Yes, sir. Lee was filling me in on that last week. I think it's a good idea. It's a way for us to get to know each other on an official level." Kara could be headstrong Adama thought, but she was sharp as a razor as well.

Kara thought about It another few seconds, then it dawned on her. "Wait, you want me to be his Fleet Liaison? You want me assigned here?" Part of her was aghast, but part of her was pretty impressed.

"Start learning English, Kara. You'll still have to go through an interview with him after you can speak the language, but he wants you as his Liaison, at least at this moment. That's an order, Captain."
___________________________________________________________________________________________

I

Nine Months Later

Kara Thrace thought English was a ungodsly fracked-up language compared to Caprican. She had been studying and studying the godsdamned language for nine months now and was preparing to hold a formal interview with the American President Justin Bond for the position of Fleet Military Attache to the White House. I almost would have preferred going through a battle with the Cylons than learning this language, she mused to herself. But she knew it pretty well now. She had better because the President had insisted that it just be the two of them.

Kara still wondered why the hell Admiral Adama had thought she would be good for this position. She wasn't a desk jock: she was a fighter jock. But when The Boss orders you to get ready for something, you get ready for it. And while she officially hadn't gotten the job, Admiral Adama had assured her that the American President did, indeed, want her as his Aide.

He hadn't told her that the President had her entire military career with him.

She was taking a Raptor down to Joint Base Andrews, where she had first landed to take the medical tests for the Fleet after arriving on Earth. Then she would take the President's helicopter, dubbed Marine One to The White House. She wasn't overly nervous. She had met the President twice now, but she hadn't been able to speak the language then. Now, she could.

President Justin Bond was reading Captain Thrace's Official Service Record that Admiral Bill Adama had sent down to him months ago. He had read it more than a dozen times. And while he had had a good first impression of Kara Thrace, reading her file had filled him with a lot of doubt and a lot of questions about the person that he thought he wanted.

To put it bluntly, Kara Thrace so far had had a long and tumultuous career. And that was putting it mildly. He had discussed that career with Adama. He had gone over everything: the commendations for bravery and her reports as perhaps the best fighter jock on Galactica, but also over her history of insubordination, her penchant for sleeping around, and her gift for, quite generally, pissing people off.

He wanted to give the Captain a chance to speak for herself on these matters, but he was going to be as blunt with her as her record was. And the fact that Kara didn't know how much he knew about her, would make her reactions even more instructive to him. Like everything involved with the Presidency, he took this with a dead seriousness. He wanted a certain type of person for the job, and he had to see if Captain Thrace would pass the litmus test.

"Please, take a seat, Captain Thrace", the President smiled broadly at the 28-year-old (as counted on Earth) pilot. "Can I get you something to drink?"

"Yes, thank you, sir. May I have some ice water?" She said politely.

"One ice water, coming up." He said again, with a polite bow. After getting her the drink, he handed it to her and made himself comfortable.

"Well, Kara, I'm glad that we can finally converse personally", he noted, "since our other two meetings we basically stared at each other", which made her laugh a little. And that's what he wanted.

"True, sir. I was ordered to study you when we met here the first time and had no idea you were studying me back. I was pretty astonished by that."

"That's quite alright, Captain. I've had a lot of experience in studying people without them knowing", he said with a twinkle in his eyes.

"I'm not used to not noticing things, sir." She commented back to the President.

"So, Kara, I want you to relax, and tell me a little bit about yourself in your own words. Don't worry about time. We have all of that that we need. I had my schedule cleared for this." And he sat back to see what information she would volunteer.

Kara went on for about twenty minutes, going over her career in the Colonial Fleet. As any job applicant would she highlighted the positives: Twenty-nine commendations for going above and beyond the call during combat; the best kill ratio of any pilot in the fleet; her experience training other pilots in both Raptors and Vipers; recounting her maneuver in saving Lee Adama when his Viper flamed out as the Cylons were bearing down on them. It was an impressive list. He saw a lot of the same qualities in himself at that age when it came to being a fighter jock.

The President asked more than a few questions about certain things she had brought up. After that, he took over the interview.

He got up for a moment, went over to his desk, opened the desk drawer, and pulled out a manila file, and brought it back to his seat across from Captain Thrace.

"Do you know what this is, Captain?", he said evenly.

"No sir, I don't." She responded with a little hesitation.

"This is your entire Military Record, from the time you began training until the time I received the file", he continued in a casual conversational tone, "I've had it in my possession for eight month's now, and I've studied it front to back".

Then his face turned much darker, flipped through the pages. "Passing a pilot through training who wasn't qualified, and the pilot was killed on his first mission; striking a superior Officer; six reprimands for being unable to fly due to impairment from alcohol; five for disobeying a superior Officer and Insubordination; flying privileges suspended on seven different occasions for various breaches of regulations; sat on a death-panel after departing New Caprica; torturing a Cylon prisoner; and what is referred to, on more than one occasion 'a history of questionable moral behavior while off-duty.'"

He stopped and continued to look down at the file. Kara had turned white as a sheet. She hadn't expected THIS from a job interview. And it had mentally thrown her. In fact, part of the litmus test for the President was to see how she recovered from something very unpleasant thrown at her unexpectedly.

After a minute or so, the President looked up at her. She was white as a sheet. She was trembling, and she was clearly in some distress. "So, Captain, is all of this true?"

"Mr. President, with all due respect, I can explain some of..."

"Captain", he cut her off in a deadly quiet tone, "I asked you a direct question. I expect a direct answer." His eyes were looking right through her at the moment.

"Sir. Yes, sir, it is true." and for the first time in her life, she felt a sense of intimidation that she had never experienced. She had never felt this much fear when the Old Man had ever dressed her down.

"Well, Captain, I will tell you what this indicates: a record like this indicates an Officer with little self-control, with little regard for her superiors, and with a chip on her shoulders that, quite frankly, makes me wonder why she hasn't been permanently grounded, stripped of her rank, and isn't sitting in the brig?"

She paused again, as Kara tried to recover from this broadside that seemed as terrifying as any the Cylons had ever launched. This one felt like a punch in the gut.

"M...Mr. President, if you think that poorly of me, then why am I even still..."

He cut her off again.

"You were going to ask why I haven't thrown your ass out of my office?" He said, with that edge still in his voice.

"Yes...sir", she gulped.

One again, he silently looked at her for a moment before continuing.

"What I also see, Captain Thrace, is an officer who has as much skill as any pilot that has ever flown for the Colonial Fleet, and who has, on more than one occasion, been decorated for valor in combat. I see an officer who has put her own ass on the line more than just about anyone since Galactica left the Colonies. What I see is a paradox that is hard to fathom. I see an Officer with great potential, but I also see an undisciplined often insubordinate brat."

"I know, sir. But in all fairness, I've grown a lot in the last few years. I'm not the same person I was through much of that." She said with some desperation.

"That is mentioned in your file as well.", he noted, not softening his voice quite yet. "But I have to balance your recent improvement in your attitude with your long-term record. I'm not sure I've been sold on that yet."

"Sir, if I may, why am I still here if you don't think very highly of me?" That came out as more of a challenge than she had wanted. Old habits would die hard.

Again, he paused, as was his style, to let her think upon her words. "You're still here young lady because I see a lot of potential in you as an Officer and a person. Everything you do, you do with passion. If a person doesn't have passion in what they do I don't want them working with or for me. I think Admiral Adama has done a marvelous job in trying to make you an Officer worthy of the uniform you wear, but that's tough when dealing with a pain in the ass, isn't it?"

She didn't quite know what to say at that rebuke, which really couldn't be challenged. The President continued, his voice softening in its cadence.

"Captain Thrace, I have high standards. Not only for the people who work for me but for myself. I want people to conduct themselves in a certain manner. I demand people who conduct themselves with honor, courage, respect for the chain of command, and who carry themselves with dignity for themselves and respect for others at all times. I want people who can think for themselves, but within a structure where the organization is clear. I do not tolerate people who personally or professionally compromise or disgrace themselves in any way, shape or form. Do I make myself clear?"

"Perfectly clear, sir." She said, the intimidation still coursing through her.

"Now, let me ask you one more thing: do you think you can live up to those standards that I have just laid out? I want you to be brutally honest with not just me but with yourself. I demand these things, and I need to know that the person in this position will conduct themselves personally and professionally with the highest standards. If you don't think you can consistently live up to these high standards I will continue to search for my Attache." The hurricane that had descended on her from the other chair was suddenly throwing her a life jacket.

No one, not even The Old Man, had challenged her in such a way before. She had taken some of what the President had said almost as a personal affront, except for the fact that...he was right. I have no frackin' argument against anything he just said, she said to herself in a stark moment of blinding honesty.

"Mr. President, I believe I can." She said, beginning to rise to the challenge that had been thrown down on her. "I haven't always lived up to such a standard but I know I can."

"I hope you're right, Captain. Because I also believe people should be given second and even third chances to become more than who they have been, and to grow not only as an Officer, but as a human being." He took a sip of water, then continued. "And if you think you are up to the challenge, not only of the duties of this job, which is to not only serve The Fleet but also serve the office of the President of the United States, then I still would like to make you my Fleet Attache."

Kara was stunned. Even on her worst behavior she had almost never had been given a dressing-down like that in her life. And the sheer conviction behind what the President had said could not be argued with. And then for him to say he still wanted her for the job was almost beyond her comprehension.

The President continued.

"Captain, I see someone who can achieve greatness, personally and professionally. I see someone, who, despite her past transgressions, which are many, has never shirked from putting her life on the line for her people. If your passion can be channeled consistently to your strengths, and if you will take the time to truly discipline yourself, I still want you here. Now, the question is: do want to be here, and do you accept this challenge?"

The President stood up, and she followed suit. She looked him straight in the eye. Kara realized that she was standing in the presence of a rare individual and wanted to emulate him. "Mr. President, I do accept the challenge. And I will promise you this. I won't let you down."

She felt like she would physically collapse, but she continued to stand at attention.

"That's good, Captain because this job is yours." He said, finally letting a warm smile come across his face as he extended his hand to hers.

"Thank you, sir", and she saluted him as well as she had ever saluted anyone.
___________________________________________________________________________________________

II

June 2027

Kara unpacked her belongings in her quarters deep below Offutt Air Force Base, near Omaha, Nebraska. She was in a good frame of mind, despite the approaching conflict. As years were counted on Earth, she was 33 years old and wasn't the wild child that she had been even five years ago, when Galactica had arrived at what, for them, was the second reincarnation of Earth.

She loved her job. She was the United Earth Defense Military Liaison Officer to the American President, Justin Bond. She had never thought that she could enjoy what was, quite often, a desk job, but she loved it. She held the President with a higher regard than almost she could remember, including The Old Man. He had given her the sternest dressing-down that she had ever endured four years ago, followed by the biggest challenge that she had ever been offered. And now she idolized the man. And so far she was living up to the challenge and the standards he had laid in front of her when he had given her the position.

She recalled Adama's stinging rebuke of her after they had left New Caprica when he told her to either learn to become a human being again or get off his ship. Nothing had ever hurt her more than that. And yet, even after that, she had still struggled with fitting in. Everyone accepted her as an Officer, but she never tried to get too close to anyone, save maybe Lee and then Sam. The one time her emotions had somewhat gotten the better of her in those days is when Kat succumbed to radiation poising after the Algae Planet mission. Despite the constant spats between the two, Kat's death had affected her deeply.

Leoben had hit the problem right on the head: having grown up without a father, and having a mother who did love her, but who was addicted to drugs and alcohol, it had made her wary of any close personal relationships. It was the reason that she had kept Kat at a distance, even though, deep down, she had really cared for and admired the young pilot. It's why she had even at times pushed away Lee and the Admiral. It was amazing to her even today that she had actually married Sam Anders. Sam was gone now, and she never thought she could be that close to anyone ever again.

And all that had made her into an emotional tsunami. She was capable of heroic feats in defense of her ship and humanity. But that emotional imbalance had also led her to be not only a malcontent but a person who defied all authority and even had led her to be sexually promiscuous to the point of it being a public embarrassment.

Justin Bond told her he didn't suffer malcontents or people who professionally and personally disgraced themselves. After he had read the humiliating list of her failures with the Fleet, he had still wanted her for the job. She had taken it as the greatest challenge of her life, and she wanted to keep her promise to the President. That day four years ago had altered her life.

Now, the Cylons were coming. They weren't "coming" yet; but were hanging out in the far reaches of the Solar System, just beyond the teal-colored sphere of Uranus. But since the Fleet (consisting of Galactica and the new, state-of-the-art Pegasus) and Earth could see the Baseships, it was a good bet the Baseships could see them. They just hadn't made the move to close on the planet that was now home.

As much as she loved her job, and idolized the man she worked for, both of them had realized that with a war on the horizon, there was no way to keep arguably the best pilot on and above the planet out of the fight. Kara had requested permission from the President to be put on active duty. He had checked with UED in San Diego, and she was now in charge of a large squad of Falcons that would fly out of Offutt Air Force Base. She would be part of the worldwide, Earth-based fighter force that would defend the planet when Cylon Raiders attacked the surface. Vipers, Falcons, and earth-bound fighters like the U.S. F-22's and F-35's, the Russian Sukhoi T-50 and the Chinese Chengdu J-20, and many others from many nations, were part of an intricate network of home defense.

She had wanted to be assigned to Galactica or Pegasus, but the officer rotations were already set on the Battlestars, so she had no choice but to accept the assignment out of Offutt. And since President Bond's wartime shelter would be at the American Air Force Base, it was a natural fit and could still be near her boss.

She had just come off of a training run involving Falcons, Vipers and some U.S and Canadian F-22's, and after cleaning up stopped to see the American Commander-In-Chief.

"So, Captain Thrace, beating up on the your squad again?" He arched his eyebrow in mock sternness.

Kara smiled broadly. "Would you expect anything else from me, Boss? I'm kicking asses and taking names. I'll have the best squadron on the planet when the Toasters arrive."

"About what I expected." He grinned. "Seriously, how are the forces that you're working with? Not just your Falcons, but the Vipers and the U.S and Canadian aircraft?"

"I've flown with some of the best pilots ever off of Galactica and the old Pegasus, and the truth is these people are as good as anyone I've seen. I've put in some stick time on the 22's and the 35's, and they're damn good aircraft. They're as good in their own right as any Viper. The Falcons might be a bit ahead of them, but those birds are mean and so are their jocks."

"Since they're my fighters, I like hearing such good reviews." He said evenly. "We've always had tough-as-nails jocks, and, remember, I was one of 'em, Captain Thrace."

"I think that's one reason they're so tough-even the Canadians. They want to live up to the kind of pilot you were, and still are."

"I don't want them comparing with me. I haven't been a regular jock in a decade. I just want them locked and cocked when those metal sons of bitches show up at our doorstep." He sounded all the part of a Commander-In-Chief.

"They will be, Boss. If I have anything to say about it and I do." She smiled at him and saluted him.

"Get outta here Thrace, before I get into a 22 and challenge you." He said with a twinkle in his eyes.

"Oh, I'll have to take you up on that challenge someday, sir!" She saluted and left the room.

Two days later, the Cylon Baseship's began moving toward Earth.
___________________________________________________________________________________________

The Cylons, by latest estimates, were still about nine days away from reaching Earth at their present speed. They were being cautious, and they didn't seem to be in a hurry. The Cylon humanoids had always been, for lack of a better word, immortal, being able to resurrect after "dying". That was until Galactica had destroyed The Resurrection Hub, the vessel that controlled all the other Resurrection ships. Now they were mortal, and being mortal made one much more cautious.

The leaders on Earth were using that time to prepare final battle plans and Rules of Engagement for their forces, both individually and collectively. Both Admirals Adama had cautioned that the Cylons could land forces on Earth, not so much to conquer the planet, as that was impossible, but to go after key targets like military bases, power grids, and even key world leaders. Each nation had strategically placed their forces in some key areas. And while one nation's ground forces were unlikely to work in concert with those of another, the different nations had to inform each other of their dispositions. The air campaign within the atmosphere would be different. United Earth Defense was in charge of all the air forces around the world for the air campaign.

There were thousands of ground-based Raptors, Vipers, and Falcons, as well as fighters from virtually every nation in the world. If needed, U.S. Air Force and Navy aircraft could be used to augment the Canadian Air Force or forces in Central and even South America. British aircraft could assist Russian aircraft over their country, and so on. It was the only way to coordinate against the inevitable Cylon Raider attacks on the planet's surface.

One exception to keeping national forces separate was near Offutt and Omaha. Virtually every nation had sent soldiers to the place to be part of a large defensive force for the President of the United States. Many leaders and people on the planet had demanded that the man who had first accepted the fleet and seen the need for having two Battlestars be protected if case the Cylons decided to concentrate there.

President Bond hadn't wanted the force, but he had no choice but to accept it. He was overwhelmed with this show of unity, and show of respect that the world was giving him. For many around the world, he had become the voice and the face of a united humanity, both Colonist, and Earthling. And they wanted him to know they would protect him with their lives.

Four days before the Cylons would be in place to hit the planet, President Bond went out to inspect the forces that had been arrayed around Omaha. He wanted to visit the men and women from around the world who had come to defend Omaha, and, by extension, he and his family. He naturally started with the 2 American Army Groups that made up almost half of the forces that would supply ground defense if it was needed. But he was determined over the next three days to at least see face-to-face the troops from every nation and to thank them for their service. If the Cylons came faster than expected, he could easily get back to Omaha. But this was a mission that he wanted to complete.

And so he had breakfast and lunch with his own forces that the first day, and spoke to them in large numbers and with individuals as well. He dined that night with a Russian mechanized brigade that had been sent. He wasn't a big drinker, but he had more than a few sips of Russian vodka, and more than a few toasts with those hearty souls.

He spent the night in a large field tent near the area of the European Union forces, having a late-night snack and drinks with the commanders of each nation that were part of the combined European force. The next morning, he met and talked to the European troops. One British Colonel, he found out, was a World War II buff like himself, and they spent their entire breakfast talking about the Invasion of Normandy in 1944.

That afternoon, he met with the Chinese regiment-an anti-aircraft unit that had been sent to honor the President. The combined forces of both Korea's was where he spent his lunch. He then honored the Japanese brigade that had started all the fuss, chiding them in a good natured way over the commotion they had caused. And they loved him for it.

Dinner was with the combined Middle Eastern forces. After decades of being the burning ground of the world, the arrival of their space-bound brethren had finally put an end to the constant warring in that region. This group was composed of Egyptians, Jordanians, Iranians, Israelis, Sudanese, Saudi's, and others, who had realized that, in the end, they all worshiped the same God, and had finally made peace with each other. He spent the second night with the Aussies and the Kiwi's, as tough a group of fighters as would be found in this conglomeration.

The final morning, he took breakfast with the African forces. They greeted him perhaps more enthusiastically as anyone, save his own troops, and the eagerly tried to get pictures taken with him.

After breakfast, he went through to inspect some individual units in the African forces. Many of them spoke English, with the accent of the continent he found so delightful. He was reviewing the company of soldiers from the small nation of Djibouti, with whom he had lunch with.

The rest of the day was spent with the South American and Central American units, who decided to start up a friendly game of Futbol for him. He wasn't an avid fan of what was known as Soccer in the United States, but they put on a great show, and he lustily cheered for both sides.

His grand tour had been completed. He was exhausted but filled with a sense of awe and gratitude for the men and women that had come to protect he and his family. It reinforced his belief, always closely held, of the basic goodness of the human race. He would need that faith in humanity to help sustain him through the coming storm.
__________________________________________________________________________________________

III

The war had finally commenced and it soon became apparent that it would be hideous. President Bond and those holed up in "The Bunker" had been able to hear sounds of warfare on the surface. Any active airbase was going to draw fire, he and UED knew that, yet the report of Cylon weapons and the bombs they dropped had an unearthly sound to them, sounds of warfare that were alien even to his ears. And he knew the fighters that were detailed out of Offutt and everywhere else in the world would have their hand's full dog fighting this enemy. And he worried that his Liaison was one of those in combat.

The first round lasted two days, and that had seemed like an eternity. Both sides had gotten some new, rude surprises. The Cylons had come up with electronic shields to help deflect incoming nukes. Since their armor was weaker than even the old line Battlestars, the shielding gave them a better measure of protection.

But the humans had improved the armor on the new class of Battlestars. Pegasus had taken some internal damage, but the outer hull, made of composites was barely scratched. Galactica's armor improvisation wasn't as detailed, but even there, the composites that had been added to her hull in space had lessened the damage that she would have received. The Cylons had jumped away to refine their battle plan.

Just before they Cylons jumped, Admiral Bill Adama had initiated Operation Bulldog. Using the Cylon Raider that his former subordinate Danny Novacek, Call Sign "Bulldog" had used to "escape" to the fleet and using a Six that had volunteered for the mission, he was trying to compromise the Cylon systems when the next round of fighting took place.

No one would know until the Cylons jumped back if the gambit had worked.

The Cylons had landed troops all over the planet, however. Usually in small numbers for hit-and-run actions against power grids, or military installations and the like. They wanted to be a nuisance and to tie down forces, especially airborne forces that could otherwise be used against Raiders. The one exception was near Omaha, where they had dropped a large force to ring that city and Offutt Air Force Base. Cylon intelligence gathering had obviously learned that someone very important was there, and they wanted to capture or kill whoever that important person was.

That meant that, while the two Battlestars got a breather, the earth-bound forces did not. Kara's squad of Falcons were running sorties up to six or seven times a day, against the Cylon invasion force near Omaha.

She commanded UED's Charlie Squadron, 20th Air Force, made up of the new Falcons. She owned about 50 of the souped-up Vipers and was responsible for coordinating their sorties. Often, they would go in together, as a unit, but a few times, she would split her forces to go after more than one target. And, no matter what the objective for a given sortie, she was picking the toughest missions being flown out of Offutt.

She had sold the idea to the Base Commander that, after all, the Falcons were the best ships they had, and that she was the best jock they had. He couldn't disagree with her logic to that point. She was right. He needed his best at the toughest places. On the 5th day of ground combat, she had already flown 37 sorties, far more than any other pilot on the base. She was pushing it hard.

"OK, boys and girls, course 232 mark 050, we're headed toward that large concentration of artillery just west of the city!" They were going after the Cylons just west of Avoca, New Caprica, where the Toasters were trying to push Westward toward Omaha. So far, the defense to the East was holding. But it was the largest concentration of Cylons in the attack on that area, and the fighting was fierce.

"Roger, Starbuck, 232 mark 050, tally ho!" That was her Squad's second in command, a twenty-six-year-old American named Chase Carrico, Call Sign "Rabbit". He was right out of the "Top Gun" mold, but Kara thought he had the best instincts she had ever seen.

"Rabbit, take your detach a little North of that path, and I'll come in from the center. Seems They're firing Southward right now, that'll keep us out of their flak."

"Wilco Captain. Flank A, follow me!" And Rabbit steered North of Kara's heading. They were closing fast on the enemy positions.

OK, you godsdamned bastards, bend over, here it comes, she said to herself. She brought her Falcon from 5000 feet to 2000 and made her approach. "Rabbit, I'm at Angels 02, starting my run."

"We no supposed to dive below Angels 3, Boss!"

"I know what I'm doing, Rabbit. Just get ready for your attack run!"

Kara was just about ready to let loose her ordinance when her cockpit warbled a warning to her. "Frack, Rabbit, they've hidden some Anti-Aircraft batteries in here!" Kara's Falcon was jolted on the left side, and her aircraft momentarily inverted from the force of the impact.

"Oh, no you don't, you metal bastards!". She was down to nine-hundred feet and could see the ground approaching her, but at the last instant she righted her aircraft and sped off toward the East to collect her senses.

"Rabbit, SitRep!" She called out to her wingman.

"Starbuck, they blew a hole right in our squad. We did not, repeat did not get any shots off. They had that Ack Ack camouflaged well. I say we RTB."

"I've got a problem here, Chase. I'm having trouble keeping the bird stable. She keeps yawing to the Starboard. Any chance you can get a visual on my ship?"

"I'll be there in 2 minutes, Boss. Just stay cool."

Great, a kid telling ME to stay cool, she fumed. But she had made an error and she knew it. She should have come in at a higher altitude, and she probably would have picked up the Cylon flak batteries.

"OK, Captain, I'm on your port wing. Look like you've lost about half of it, and you're definitely losing hydraulic fluids. Offutt is 43 miles to our rear. Think you can make it?"

"Yeah, Rabbit, I think she'll hold together til then. Let's swing South through that gap and then head north to Offutt."

"Gotcha, Boss. I'll take Squadron Point. I'll have Lambchop cover your wing."

"Sounds like a plan. Squad, this is Starbuck, RTB repeat RTB."
___________________________________________________________________________________________

Back at Offutt the Base Commander, American Air Force General Evander Lawson was not a happy camper at the blown sortie. Kara knew it was coming, and it wasn't the first dress-down she had ever had.

"Goddammit, Kara! The Op Plan called for going in no lower than 3000 from the deck, and you were at two! You know better than anyone that the Tin Cans sometimes hide their flak batteries next to their field pieces. You can't be playing hero every time you're up there, Captain!"

Something suddenly went off inside of Kara's head, almost like a switch being turned on. She responded in a way that wasn't like her these days.

"Sir, I don't know why you're busting my chops. I got back in one piece", she said challenging his anger. She hadn't done that in ages and really didn't notice that she had done it.

"Thrace you don't get a medal for getting back her, Goddammit. You're the Squad Commander and you're supposed to get them to the target and follow the ROE's so THEY follow them", he didn't like being challenged by one of his jocks.

"I thought I had a better angle on their big guns coming in at that angle, sir, and if those damn Triple-A guns hadn't been there, they'd be gone right now."

"And if the dog hadn't stopped to lick his balls he'd had caught the fox, Thrace!", his face as red as she'd ever seen it, "You're one of the best jocks I've ever seen, Captain, but you will follow the ROE's I set for my birds. Jesus Christ, I thought the President had taught you better about following orders!"

"Sir keep the President out of this, he didn't have a frackin' thing to do with this. He's out of your league, sir." She said in a tone she hadn't used on anyone in years.

General Lawson was momentarily taken aback by her directness, and let himself calm down a little before speaking. "Young lady, you do NOT address me in such a manner, do you understand", he ground out the last three words, "I am the Air Boss here. I set the Rules of Engagement for what I believe is best for all of my jocks. I'll let this slide this time, Thrace, but you come at me guns blazing like that again and I'll ground your ass. Dismissed!"

"Yes, sir", she said formally and snapped off a crisp, ironic salute and walked out.

That night, she didn't fall asleep for hours, but when she finally did, her dreams were more akin to nightmares, with images of Scar and Kat and Dee and Lee and every face of every guy she had a one-night stand with, and every bottle of booze she had drunk alone, in a blurry mosaic of sleep-induced self-flagellation. And the scenes looped over and over and over, like a continuous gag-real.

And then there was Kat's voice echoing from the grave, "Starbuck, you're an embarrassment."

Followed by the Old Man: "You're a cancer!"

And as the images faded, her voice, over and over: "I've got nothing to lose...nothing to lose...nothing to lose..."

She woke up bathed in sweat and her eyes filled with terror. The demons of her past had returned.
___________________________________________________________________________________________

IV

The President was having a late-morning lunch with his wife, Judith. They were, as usual talking about their children, Nicholas and Abby. Nicholas was just shy of twenty-two and had been ready to sign up with the Air Force when the Cylons were discovered. And although the opportunity for him to be a pilot had been delayed when the war started he was spending a lot of time with the fighter pilots, picking their brains, running errands for them, and doing what he could to see what it took to be a jock. Every now and then, he's seen Nicholas and Kara talking shop. Abby had just turned nineteen and had volunteered to work in the Communications Center, talking to other parts of the world, giving and receiving information on the latest in the conflict, and passing any pertinent information onto The Brass.

He and Judy hadn't had much of a chance to have any time alone, simply because his job demanded his attention about twenty hours a day. They were both too tired and too emotionally frayed to sneak away for any conjugal visits, but being able to sit down and have a lunch was like a gift from Heaven. And with this lull after the first round of fighting, it was even more pleasant.

"You should be getting a little more sleep if you can, Justin. The war won't be decided if you take another hour or two of shut-eye." She said as she put some ranch dressing on her salad.

"There's no way I can sleep more than I already am, or, maybe I should say any less than I already am. I know you're right, but putting in the long hours keeps morale up. I'm not going to ask anyone else to do more than I would do. Being an Air Force officer at one time makes that second nature Judy."

"True. But someone has got to look out for you," she said reproachfully, although with a hint of kindness to it.

"I'm fine, babe, I really am." Even at lunch, as he was eating his BLT, he had a few communique's from various points around the world, with the latest news. "I'll have time to sleep when the war's over. And I do take a few "power naps a couple times each day." He winked at her.

"I've never had much use for 20-minute naps. I just don't see how it helps. You just get to sleep and you have to wake up again. What fun is that?", her nose wrinkling in disapproval.

"I think they help me, I really do. I'm going to get another Pepsi, you want one?"

"I'm good, Justin, but thank you. Anything else on your mind."

That brought up a subject that he wanted to talk to her about. "Yeah, in fact, I'm getting worried about Kara. She IS the best pilot we have on the base, and she's been doing an incredible job the last two weeks as a Squadron Leader. But I wonder if I should have had more of a say on the missions she's taking."

"Why do you say that?"

"She's picking the most high-risk missions that we have. I know", he raised his hand, as she began to object. "They're all high-risk missions in wartime. No one knows that better than me. But she's always after the low-level missions where anti-aircraft has a better chance to take them down, and she's usually going after the biggest concentration of weapons or troops that are on the map. She's really driving herself and her wing hard. And Evander filled me in on the SNAFU on her mission the other day." He gave his wife the details on Kara's close call.

"You've always told me Kara was headstrong and liked pushing the envelope. I thought pilots like doing that."

"You've watched 'Top Gun' far too many times in your life, Mrs. Bond, that's for sure," he said with a sardonic wink. "There's some truth to that you have to be willing to push it, but you can overdo it, too. I've told you about the fear of God I put into her when I interviewed her to be my Aide? I had deliberately laid out all the crap that she had done with the Fleet as a way to challenge her and to get her to grow. Now, I'm wondering if some old habits are creeping back into her routine. She just doesn't quite seem, well, 'right'".

That made Judy sit up straight. "You don't think she's trying to harm herself, do you?" Judith adored her husband's Military Attache. She and Kara had a wonderful relationship, and Kara had asked her advice and views on many things since they met.

"Honestly, I don't think so, but something's bothering her." He sensed something but wasn't sure exactly what it was. "Something beyond simply the war and the pressures of battle."

"Well, you need to talk to her, honey. I love Kara to death, and I don't want her to intentionally do anything to hurt herself."

His wife was right, that warning in the back of his mind, instincts honed from years of studying people, told him something was up. He decided he would talk to his Attache.

But the Cylons jumped back the following day. The heart-to-heart would have to wait.
___________________________________________________________________________________________

The resumed Cylon attack began with the invaders trying to probe the underside of both Battlestars, to see if the armor was softer there. All they got for their trouble was the realization that the two Battlestars had installed a weapons array down there.

The Cylons were pounding Galactica hard, and Cavil had just ordered a spread of nukes to be launched on The Bucket. It was then that Operation Bulldog was sprung. The Cylon Raiders, Missiles, and Dradis had been infected by a virus designed by Gaius Baltar that made them see ships that weren't there, and not see the ships that were there. The missiles and Raiders began going haywire, and the Baseships were forced to retreat in disorder, without scoring the knockout blow on Galactica.

UED estimated that the Cylons would be gone for at least seven days, as they tried to undo the damage that the Six named Rebecca had wrought with Gaius' virus. That didn't stop the fighting on the planet's surface, but it boosted the moral of Earth's citizens.

The break was a Godsend for Galactica, and it also meant that they were closer to introducing Admiral Hoshi's brand-new Battlestar Victory into to the fray, which would, everyone thought, be decisive in this war for survival.

The President even put in a call to Bill Adama. He knew the Admiral would be busy, but he wanted to show support for his friend after the latest go-around. And he also wanted to use his friend as a sounding board about Kara's recent disturbing behavior.

"Congratulations, Bill, Bulldog was brilliant. From what I've read, the Cylons looked like a comedy show after it went online."

"It would have been funny, Mr. President, if it wasn't in a war", the Admiral opined. "I've never seen anything like it myself. Credit goes to Doctor Baltar for this one. Godsdamned if he didn't pull it off."

"Send him my approbations as well. And let's not forget the young lady who initiated the virus?" The President had been fully briefed about Rebecca, and the mission she had chosen to carry out.

"Oh, we won't, sir. She will have a place of honor in the history books, of that I'm certain. I don't know if I'd have had the balls to do what she did." he said in stark honesty.

"And, I'm assuming, from what we know, that she completed her mission?" The meaning was that Rebecca had ended her life after the planting of the virus.

"We'll never get confirmation of that, but, yes, she apparently is dead by now," Bill said with the experience of a Commander who had seen too many of his charges die over the years.

"I understand, Admiral. This business isn't pleasant." Justin Bond said ruefully.

"This business sucks more often than not, sir." And the President agreed with him.

Bill changed the subject. "So how is Kara performing with the 20th?"

The President sighed. "Bill, she's one of the best-damned pilots I've ever seen, but she's been picking the toughest missions coming down the pipeline, and she's pushing the envelope hard."

"That's our job, sir, as you're aware". Bill countered.

"Yes, but she seems to be trying to almost hurt herself. Evander told her as much after a botched mission." The President filled in Starbuck's old Commander on the events near Avoca that had almost seen her buy a plot. In the last several days, she had several other close calls. and his subconscious kept biting at him that something wasn't right with Captain Thrace. "And he says she's becoming more detached from her pilots."

The President heard an exasperated sigh escape the Admiral. "Godsdammit, I thought she was over that crap", the Admiral said aloud but had almost meant it for himself.

"What do you mean, Bill? Over what?", The President said with more than a little curiosity.

The Admiral recounted her constant struggle with the bouts of low self-esteem during the flight to Earth. He mentioned her relationship with Kat; her mindset just before she and Kat had destroyed Scar; went over her shattered upbringing, and even the visions she had received with the Leoben Avatar just before her ship blew up and...whatever happened to her had happened to her.

"She got to the point, Justin, that she felt she really had nothing personally to live for. She felt she was a misfit. It's like she was trying to martyr herself, and because of it Scar almost blew her out of the stars that day. It's what made her so bitter after New Caprica. She always seemed to be fighting both the Cylons and herself. And it sounds like those old demons are back."

"Jesus", muttered the President. "I didn't know those struggles were this deep, Bill. I mean, I told you I read her the riot act before offering her this job, and she has been stellar both as an Officer and a person ever since. I haven't had one complaint about here until now. I knew she had her personal and professional struggles, but Jesus Christ I couldn't have envisioned this. Do you think these current episodes are related to her past discipline problems?

"From what it sounds like, sir", the Admiral offered, "I think it might be. She's struggled with that all her life. She had it more than tough. Her childhood was a nightmare. And maybe the combat is bringing all this back to the forefront. Not being able to talk with her, I'm at a bit of a disadvantage, but what you described sounds like deja vu".

"Should I have Evander take her out of the rotation?" The President inquired.

"No", the Admiral said without hesitation. "Keep her flying. I think she'll figure it out like she did before. She did come around after Scar was destroyed, at least for a while. But I'd keep a close eye on her. If you like, I can send down a report to Evander about some of these instances, if you'd like, with my recommendations."

"I'd appreciate it, Bill. Judith and I are both worried about her. I hope this new info will let me help her out if I can. Like I said, she's been stellar in the job. I didn't see any of this coming. It has kind of just showed up since the war started."

"She idolizes you, Mr. President. The one thing she never wanted to do was let me down, and she feels the same way about you. War does strange things to people."

"No kidding, Bill", the President said with obvious worry.
___________________________________________________________________________________________

The lull stretched on past ten days. But the ground war continued. Kara was continuing to push herself almost to the breaking point. She hadn't made another spectacular error like she had done near Avoca, until the day before the picnic when she had again come in too low on a mission west of Omaha, had clipped the wing of a Viper, and she and the other pilot had ejected from their birds. When the General had again chewed her out, she had snapped back at him, which had astonished her Commanding Officer.

The General had informed the President of the exchange, and his concern grew even more acute. General Lawson also informed him that her pilots had let him know she was becoming more distant from her charges, and that he was worried about her state of mind. War was stressful on the most well-adjusted combatants, but even the best could lose their bearings from the stress of battle. He still hadn't had the chance to talk to his Aide, as the flow of events simply hadn't allowed for it. But it was becoming critical that he do so. He and General Lawson both considered pulling Kara from the pilot's seat but wanted to give it a little more time.

In the meantime, the President had made the decision that he wanted to hold a family "picnic" in the cavernous main mess hall underneath Offutt Air Base. He and Judy had discussed it, and he had reasoned that it would be a good time to get the extended brood into one setting for the first time. Everyone was keyed up, coming here to Omaha, and hearing the continuous sounds of battle above them. They hoped that, at least for one day, the war could be put on the back burner.

The President had requested a real picnic-type meal: fried chicken, corn on the cob, mashed potatoes and gravy, some Bar-B-Q pork ribs, and the like. And, as a bonus...BEER! And wine, of course. The President didn't mind a glass of Merlot every now and then with his wife, but at a picnic, one had to have an ice cold one handy, or it just wasn't an old-fashioned All-American picnic.

The day came, and the festivities began about 1 pm. The food was brought out shortly thereafter, along with all kinds of cold soft drinks and beers, and an assortment of wines as well, plus ice cream, cake, popcorn and other after-dinner goodies. It wasn't quite a State Dinner at the White House but damned if it didn't look and taste good.

The President and First Lady had invited Kara to attend, and she actually showed up with Abby Bond next to her. His daughter simply idolized Kara, and Kara had become very protective of the young lady. The President nodded in silent approval at seeing his Attache enjoying herself so far.

He was having a fantastic time himself at the picnic. He, like most politicians, tolerated the glad-handing during campaigns and when meeting the public, but this was different and much more pleasurable as everyone here was family. He and Judy could be more themselves than simply "The President and First Lady" among relatives, most who had known them long before politics. It was nice being a sort-of normal human being, even if they were in an underground bunker during a war.

Late in the afternoon, he was over at his Brother-in-Law Raymond's table. Ray was a former Navy jock (we all make mistakes, the president joked to himself), had a wife and 5 kids. He and Ray had always enjoyed talking shop, even though they had to stand up for their own branch of the Service, in a show of mock bravado and inter-service rivalry.

Ray had just asked the President if he wanted another beer, and, of course, Justin couldn't turn down his Brother-in-Law's hospitality. He was waiting for Ray to return, when he looked off to one side, and say Kara sitting there, by herself, looking a little forlorn. He kept an eye on Kara while waiting for Ray to return. When his brother-in-law returned the President asked Ray's forgiveness and said he would be back later, and, with a beer in hand, walked over to Kara who already had one of her own. Kara began to stand at attention, but the President waved her back in her seat.

"As you were, Captain. There's no rank here today. How's the beer?"

"I won't complain about a cold one, Mr. President." She said, but with a forced smile on her face.

"Good! It's nice to see everyone relaxing like this. I think this will do everyone a world of good."

"Yes, sir" Captain Thrace said in a detached tone.

Time to apply some Presidential charm, Jason Bond thought to himself. Something was definitely amiss. He knew Kara liked a good beer and a good party as much as anyone. Something was eating at her.

"OK, kiddo, this politician has been around the block a few times, and he knows when someone is masking something. What's bothering you, Kara?"

"Noting really sir, honest". But the normal conviction that the Captain had when she was damn sure she was right just wasn't there.

"Remember who you're talking to, Captain. You can't bullshit me, and you know it. So you better open up, 'cause I'm not leaving this spot til you do." And flashed a benign smile to let her know she was cornered.

Kara sat silent for a few moments, so the President continued. "Let me ask you something. You've been taking all the highest-risk missions on the board since the fighting started. Yes, I know", he held up his hand as she began to speak, "They're all high-risk in combat. I get that. I've been in combat and had an aircraft shot out from under me once. But you've been putting your squadron on the hottest jobs from the beginning. Why?"

"I AM the best pilot we have if you don't mind my saying", she said more defensively that she had ever addressed him. But he was right-she couldn't bullshit him. So she began to level with him. "OK, sir, it's like this: I have pilots going up with me who have mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, husbands, wives. Every day, they're putting their lives on the line, and when they don't come back, a family is forever ruined."

"Go on, Kara", the President said evenly.

"We all have something to fight for. We know the cost of losing is that humanity might just stop, and I'm willing to fight with everything I have to make sure we don't just stop."

"Continue, Captain".

"Those people have families who would be devastated if they were lost, have a lot to LIVE for. Me? I only have me", and the tide began to rise, "Hell, I've only ever had me. Why the hell is going to miss me if I'm gone", as the tide rose a little more and the demons began to well up in her consciousness. Kat's voice echoed in her mind again, Starbuck, you're an embarrassment...

That alarmed the President, although he didn't let on. "So, you're saying that you think no one will miss you, if, by chance, you end up KIA is that right?"

"I wouldn't mourn me in their shoes. All I do is frack up everything I touch." Starbuck, you're an embarrassment...

The President let that hang in the air for a minute. "Lee would mourn you; the Old Man would mourn you; your pilots would. I and my family would mourn for you. Your loss would create a huge hole in so many lives, young lady."

"That makes me feel all warm and fuzzy, Mr. President, but all I've ever done since I was a kid is push anyone who cares for me away. I've fucked up every relationship I've ever had; my mom, Lee, Sam, Kat, The Old Man. There's just me and I don't make a goddamned bit of difference." Starbuck, you're an embarrassment....

She looked at the President with a mixture of anger and regret, knowing she was taking it out on someone who cared greatly for her. But at the moment, she couldn't help herself. And even worse, she didn't care. Just like she didn't care when she pushed Lee or Sam or Kat away. Starbuck, you're an embarrassment...

The President studied her for a minute, even as he was in turmoil over his Attache's words. "You make a damned big difference, young lady, and don't you think otherwise", he said, with a cross between anger and affection for the Captain. "You save lives every day when you go up. Every day. But a pilot can't go up there with a death wish. We have a job to do, and that job requires that we remove emotion from the equation as much as we can. It isn't the human thing to do, but it's what a good pilot has to do. All I'm asking you is to give yourself a break, Captain. That isn't an order, but advice from someone who has seen a lot of crap in his own right."

Kara had never liked being put on the spot in such an uncomfortable way, and she finally snapped. "Well, I'm sorry Mr. President, but you haven't been through the shit I've been through, with all respect, sir. And I resent like hell being lectured like this. It's my frackin' life." She didn't even realize the line she had just crossed, so angry was she at that moment. You're a cancer...

"I think you need to take a step back, Captain. You're crossing a line, and we both know it. I won't have you show me disrespect when I'm trying to help you." He had dealt with his own pilot's, and too many politicians to show real anger, but he was stunned and hurt deeply by her words.

And the rising tide of the demons from her subconscious finally burst to the surface like a Tidal Wave.

"Maybe I don't want your help!", she practically yelled. Fortunately, there was so much noise in the hall that it simply got lost beyond the two of them. "No one gives a real shit about me because I'm not fucking worth it! So why don't you just find someone who cares, because I don't." She had slipped into the English vernacular, which was rare for her. The tidal wave had turned into a tsunami of bitterness and regret. Starbuck, you're an embarrassment...

The President couldn't remember being at a complete loss for words. He hadn't had anyone speak to him like that since his early flying days when he was just a snot-nosed kid. He was angry, as anyone would be. But he was also heartbroken at what he heard.

He simply couldn't, for the life of him, speak.

The relative silence had begun to bring Kara out of the self-loathing trance that she had been in. And she realized that she had crossed the line with someone she idolized. Yet even then, her mind didn't fully grasp what had happened. But it was beginning to crash through her brain with the force of a hurricane.

She stood up and gathered herself, her eyes filled with tears and a look of bewilderment cascading across her face. "If you'll excuse me, Mr. President. This is your family picnic. I don't have any fracking reason to be here."

She turned smartly and walked away without a second look. But the tears were stinging her eyes. She walked back to her quarters, and when she arrived, didn't even remember the short trip she had just made, so thoroughly lost had her mind become. But she now fully realized what had just transpired.

I've got nothing to lose...nothing to lose...nothing to lose.
___________________________________________________________________________________________

The expletive-laced outburst and sudden departure from his Aide had astonished the President and shaken him to his very core. He was also genuinely heartbroken over what he had heard and witnessed. Bill Adama was right; this had happened before. He was genuinely alarmed for her well-being now. He wanted to make damn sure it didn't happen again.

He turned back around after a few seconds and coaxed his "Happy President Face" to the fore. It was amazing that he could do that, but he had to keep up the pretense for his family. He made his way back to Ray's table, and they quickly got back into Jock Talk. But his heart was in pain.
___________________________________________________________________________________________

V

The following day he put in another call to Bill Adama. He didn't want to take much of his friends' time, as the Cylons could be back at any moment. But he knew he needed to talk to the Admiral about Kara and what had taken place the day before. Bill Adama was genuinely flabbergasted at what he had been told.

"Admiral, can I ask you a question?"

"Shoot, Mr. President", the Admiral responded.

"The Leoben who came with you. Where is he now, do you know?"

"Not at this moment. After we arrived, he left the fleet, and has been roaming the globe, studying the different religions of Earth", Adama wondered what this was about, "I've always thought he was kind of off his rocker, to be honest, but I have to say he has a deep faith in what the Cylons have always called 'The One True God', and that he believes that all men, whether Cylon or Human, are brothers." He paused for a moment. "Why do you ask, sir?"

"Didn't you tell me that he and Kara have a long and rather interesting history?" Justin Bond was trying to approach his Aide's problems from a different perspective.

"That's an understatement", he said with a touch of wryness. Kara had tortured him on the Gemenon Traveller; Leoben held her in that 'Doll House' on New Caprica for four months during the Cylon occupation where she 'killed' him about six times, and convinced her that she had a daughter. And it was the avatar of Leoben that appeared to her in a vision before she disappeared for two months; he's the one who sought her out in proposing an alliance between the Cylon Rebel Baseship and Galactica.

"Is there any way to contact him?" The President pressed a little further.

"Well, he didn't want to let us know where he was going, more because he just wanted to be left alone, and I don't really blame him, but he did tell me before he left that if we needed him in an emergency that we could contact him through Caprica", the Admiral continued on, " You think he can help you to figure out what is going on with Kara?"

"I don't think it can hurt, do you? Sounds like he has a unique perspective on Captain Thrace."

"Another massive understatement, sir", Adama said wryly, "But yes, he does. Would you like me to contact him through Lieutenant Baltar?"

"If you would, as a personal favor to me, Admiral", the President said gratefully. You've given me part of the puzzle to what the hell is going on, maybe Leoben can give me more."

"Consider it done, my friend. What would you like Caprica to tell him?"

"Have Lieutenant Baltar ask him that the President of The United States is requesting an audience with him here in Omaha out of my concern about Captain Kara Thrace." He paused after finishing the "invitation". "Think that will get his attention?"

"I believe it will, Justin. Mention Kara to him, and he is interested."

"If he agrees, Bill, please send a Raptor to wherever he is, and get him here ASAP. And advise me that he's coming."

"I will follow your instructions, Mr. President", Bill said, in parting, "I don't think you'll be waiting long.

The Admiral was correct with his prediction.

By the next morning, Caprica had found Leoben, who was currently in Tibet, where he had been studying the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Buddhists. The President was a great admirer of that spiritual leader and didn't want to keep Leoben away from his spiritual quests. But when Caprica contacted the President, she advised him that Leoben would help any way he could. By the following afternoon, a Raptor landed the Cylon at Offutt.

Caprica had told Leoben that he was being summoned about Kara, but had offered no specifics. The President wanted to save that for the meeting.

"Leoben, thank you very much for coming on short notice. It's amazing that you and I have never met.", he offered a seat to the man that he hoped would shed some light for him.

"I assure you, Mr. President, it wasn't personal. I made the decision to be a bit of a recluse after getting here. I simply wanted the time to myself. I was fed up with war and all the anger and hatred, so I sought some solitude."

"No offense taken, Leoben. You know what this meeting is about." He inquired, just to make sure he was up to speed.

"Yes, sir", Leoben nodded with no hint of overt emotion. "Kara and I have a long, complicated, and from both our points of view, not always a friendly relationship." That came out with more than a touch of regret.

"So Adama and Caprica have told me", he had been going over the dossier on Leoben again before he arrived, just as a refresher. "But I think you'll have a unique perspective on her."

The President offered Leoben some water, which was accepted, and then he continued.

"You are aware of Kara's current status, I gather?"

"Yes, sir. Even though I roam and stay out of the limelight, as it were, I keep up with current events. She is your Attache to UED, and she's currently heading a squadron from this base that is fighting the invasion."

"Very good. I like a person who is up-to-date on the subject matter." He said approvingly, which made Leoben smile. "That makes my job a little easier."

"Thank you, sir." He took a sip from the glass. "Now, if I may, why exactly do you want to pick my brain about regarding Captain Thrace?"

The President proceeded over the next twenty minutes to run through her history since he had met her: the introduction, the stressful interview that she went through for the position; how she had truly grown and become a first-rate officer in every detail, and finally her sudden change in attitude and personality since the war had commenced, culminating with the disastrous talk with her two days before that.

"Now, Admiral Adama told me that this all sounded familiar to him, and gave me a few anecdotes to back that up. Does it sound familiar to you?" He looked directly at the Cylon.

Leoben's face had begun to darken with concern when the President had brought up her recent behavior. "Yes, sir, it sounds very familiar. And, like I said while I've remained away from everything, I do have sources, and I thought she was finally past all that."

"Explain?", the President commanded, as he also took a sip of water. "And don't omit anything, if you can."

Leoben then proceeded to go over his history with Kara, which, as Adama had told him, was quite extraordinary. It took him a good half hour to go through the details. He finally got to the part where Kara had rescued him from the damaged Cylon Scout ship and brought her aboard the Demetrius. It was at that point that the President stopped him.

"Leoben, back up. What did you specifically say to her after you thought she was going to beat the snot out of you on the Demetrius?" Something had peaked his interest.

Leoben had a brief laugh at that. "She did beat the snot out of me once, sir, but she didn't on the Demetrius, that is true. She had been telling me that she was the same person, but clearly, she wasn't. To this day, I don't know really what happened when her Viper exploded, allegedly, and then she came back two months later. I do know we found a destroyed Viper on the other Earth. The occupant in the cockpit was a blond female. I've never been able to explain that, and neither has she. But the point is when she returned after that two-month hiatus, and whatever had happened to her, she was different."

"Exactly how was she different? Remember, I've read reports and logs, but you seem to know what that difference might be." He inquired, trying to get into Kara's mind.

"You've read her official file I would assume, Mr. President?"

"Of course I have. Adama gave it to me before I interviewed her for the position here." He said, making a mental note recalling that file.

"Kara was always an incredible pilot. And yet, like her file obviously shows, she has a long history of insubordination, disobeying orders, even striking officers. And I presume you know what kind of personal life she had been living; the booze, the casual sex, and all too often not seeming to care."

"I am aware of all that, Leoben", he informed the man, "but how was she different after that?"

"Those things didn't mean anything to her after she came back. I told her on the Demetrius that I didn't see the old Kara Thrace, but, how did I say it?", he stopped in an effort to recall the conversation, "I told her that the woman who was into getting drunk, mouthing off at officers, and having one-night stands all the time was no longer there. I told her that she appeared to me like an Angel of God who wanted to lead her people. And yet, when I hear about the higher-risk missions, and the way she treated you at that party, It sounds like those old demons are back again."

There's still something missing, the President stated to himself. "In your view, what caused her to be the way she was before the ship explosion and getting to the other Earth?"

"A lot of that was her upbringing. Her mother was a drug addict and an alcoholic; she didn't know her father much. I think that made her scared of getting close to people. There's no doubt Lee and the Admiral have always cared for her. And she married Sam. But it seems like that whenever she realized how attached she would get to someone, she'd suddenly rebel, sir."

The light finally went on. "Wait a minute. You're saying you feel that she's afraid to really let anyone in, is that right?", he thought he almost had it. "She keeps trying to get close to people but when she realizes how close they're getting, she suddenly shuts them out?"

"Exactly, sir", Leoben confirmed. "She wants to be loved. She wants to be accepted. She wants to, well, fit in. But the scars that have been left behind from her childhood, from the war, and from her own insecurities always appear and push those closest to her away. And what adds to it is that she doesn't think she deserves to be loved and accepted"

That last observation jolted Justin Bond hard. Jesus, the President thought with alarm, that's it. It's happened before, and was happening again!

"From what I've told you about her attitude since the war started, do you think she's doing that again?"

"It sure sounds like it, Mr. President. It just sounds all too familiar. She's frightened to death of being close to someone but frightened to death of being all alone, and it sounds like that war is still going on."

"So, she's fighting a war within, while also fighting a live shooting war", he said, almost to himself. "What do you think, in the end, she wants."

"She wants something that she feels has been missing all her life and has felt she's never come close to having it."

"What is she missing, Leoben?" He asked, thinking that he knew the answer.

"She's had friends, lovers, drinking buddies, fellow pilots, but never anything that she felt was uniquely hers, that no one could take away. As I said she wants to be loved and accepted for simply who she is, without any conditions, despite all her flaws. And she's always felt whether it's true or not, that no one has ever given her that unconditional acceptance. She's always felt there were strings attached, and when things got too emotional, she'd cut the strings. And most importantly, she's never accepted her flaws."

At that moment, the President had an Epiphany of sorts. Out of nowhere, a thought blossomed in his mind that hadn't even been hinted at, and he felt that, now, he might have a way to help his Attache rid herself of these demons once and for all.

"Leoben", he concluded, ending the interview, "I thank you very much for coming all this way to meet with me and discuss this. I know it was an inconvenience, and I truly appreciate it", he stood up and shook the Cylon's hand.

"It is my pleasure, Mr. President. I will keep her in my thoughts and prayers. She is a good person but she's still searching for that light of salvation that will save her. I thought it had happened after..whatever happened to her and that Viper. But I believe she still hasn't found what she was meant to be."

Now he needed to talk to Judy. The conversations with Adama and Leoben, plus the revelation that had come to mind, meant that they needed to talk.
___________________________________________________________________________________________

VI

Two days later, the President and First Lady had been relaxing after dinner. The Cylon Fleet had still not returned, so there were moments when the couple could just enjoy each others' company. The party had been a wonderful success, and they had talked about that animatedly. The picnic had formed a new, closer bond, between everyone in the President's extended family, and the President had felt a renewed sense of support that this brood had given him this day. The war would go on, but everyone would remember this day for the rest of their lives.

He needed to talk to his wife after his audience with Leoben, but he gave himself the two extra days, as he was still trying to work things out in his own mind and his own heart. He had needed the time to, for lack of a better word, meditate over everything that had happened. He needed to understand what he was thinking before sharing it with his wife.

Judith had known for a few days that something was troubling her husband deeply. Something beyond simply the war. From all her accounts, he had seemed to have a wonderful day and enjoyed the company of his family members. But after twenty-six years of marriage, he couldn't hide his consternation from her.

They both sat down in the living room, Judith with a final glass of wine in her hand, the President with a Pepsi. After some small talk about the festivities, the First Lady broached the subject.

"OK, Justin, I know you had a great time, but something's gnawing at you. And it was gnawing at you during the picnic. You can't hide it from me. What's on your mind?"

At first, like any person would do, he denied it, but he couldn't pull one over on his wife.

"Come on, Mr. President. Out with it. It isn't going to help you keeping it all inside."

He put down his Pepsi on the table, looked down, and gathered his thoughts, then he continued. "Remember the talk we had about Kara, and her taking the tough missions and all that?"

"Yes, of course, I do. I said you needed to talk to her." She put her glass down as well.

"Well, I did talk to her at the picnic. It was a disaster. I've never seen her so angry towards me. I can handle that, but I'm damned concerned about her mental state right now." And he went on to recount the conversation with Kara. He also went over the conversations with Evander Lawson, Admiral Adama, and Leoben. Judy Bond's instincts were an equal, if not better, than her husband's, and what she heard had truly frightened her.

"Good God, Justin, you don't think she's really trying to hurt or even kill herself, that's crazy! I thought you were just playing on words!" She got up from her chair and looked down at her husband, a look of sheer terror on her face, "Why would she think that makes any sense?"

"Because she really feels that she doesn't matter. She's never felt really connected to all but a few people, and even then, she seems to find a way to alienate them, out of sheer self-spite. What she said to me at the picnic fits right into that stereotype, Judy. That's all I can think of. She just doesn't think she's important."

"For God's sake, Justin, that's simply not true! Nick and Abby both adore her! I adore her! And she idolizes you! What about her squadron? She's got so much to live for. Why can't she see that?" He hadn't seen her this upset in...forever.

"To be fair", her husband countered, trying to calmly reason with her, "you and I can't even comprehend what she's been through. She never really knew her father; her mother had drug and alcohol issues, and literally after that, she was fighting in a war against annihilation. I'm not agreeing with her or justifying her behavior, but in her 33 years, she's seen more horror and bloodshed that I can even comprehend."

"How the hell can you be so calm about this, Justin? She's never raised her voice to you, or rebuked you like that! This is someone I care a lot about. How can you be so cavalier about this?" The First Lady seemed as furious at him as Kara was earlier. But she had tears coming down her face.

"Honey, calm down", he soothingly tried to reassure her, "I am extremely upset about all this, believe me. I couldn't believe she lashed out at me the way she did, but I'm also trying to understand what is driving this in her. It's the only way I can help her. It's the only way WE can help her."

Judy Bond quietly scolded herself. Yes, she could see the hurt on her husband's face. He was Kara's Boss, but she knew he also cared about her very much. He was as bewildered as she was.

"Christ, I'm sorry Justin", she said, calming down a little, "I know you are worried sick about this and I know that you are very protective of Kara, but this just makes no sense to me. I don't even know where to start! She's grown up so much since we first met her. This scares me to death about her, and I'm just lost as to what we can do for her."

"I've been feeling the same way, babe." He said gently. "And I've been struggling with it too."

"I hope to hell you have some idea, Mr. President", she said starkly, "because this is not acceptable to me. I can't just sit by and see someone I care about try to destroy herself like this."

He walked over to his wife. She was the kindest person he had ever known. She would help anyone through difficulties, whether she knew them or not. And she knew she would do anything to help Kara. "Come back and sit down with me for a minute, honey. I've been thinking about something, so let's take a step back."

They walked back to the chairs, and for a minute or so they were both silent. The President wanted his wife to simply take a few deep breaths, step back, and relax for a moment.

She finally calmed herself and took a sip of her wine. Then she looked directly at him, the alarm still in her voice. "So what is this great idea that you allegedly have?"

"It might sound a little crazy at first, but hear me out on this." He laid out the Epiphany that had come to him. At first, Judy thought that what he had told herwas crazy, but the more she listened the more she knew that this was the answer, and whe wanted to do what he proposed with every fiber of her being.
___________________________________________________________________________________________

After a sixteen-day break, the Cylons finally came back. Another two and a half days of heavy battle in the space above the planet erupted. Galactica was pulled back from the fray, letting Pegasus take the lead. Gaius Baltar was feverishly working on another magician's trick to pull on the Cylons, and he pleaded with both Adama's to give him the time to make it happen. Despite Pegasus in the lead, Galactica continued to take damage.

And the countdown to Victory going airborne moved ever closer.

Around Omaha, the Cylons were squeezing the defensive perimeter even tighter. To the Southeast, they were within 15 miles of Offutt Air Force Base. The Cylons weren't quite in range to hit the base with artillery, but they were getting close.

The air and ground campaign had never stopped, even during the lull above. The Allied forces determined not to let Omaha or Offut fall, and they were throwing everything at the Cylons that they could think of. Suggestions were made to the President by General Lawson to consider using tactical nuclear weapons, fired from F-22's and F-35's at the Cylons. For the moment he rejected that suggestion, although he knew the time could come when it might be necessary. The President wasn't quite ready to take that step yet.

The President had considered asking General Lawson to ground Kara but then thought twice about it. Kara's Charlie of the 20th continued their assaults on Cylon positions. They were reassigned Northward for sorties between Omaha and Sioux City. They were able to take out a large concentration of parked Raiders and some AA batteries, which allowed the ground forces in that direction to reclaim about 8 miles of territory from the Toasters. She continued to push the attacks to their very limit.

Gaius Baltar finally was able to come up with a radio receiver and transmitter, when mounted on a Raptor-carried missile would detect the Cylons new shield frequency. It was a turning point in the space war, as Galactica was able to launch a spread of 8 nukes that destroyed one of the four Baseships opposed to the two Battlestars. And, as before, the Cylons limped away to regroup.

By this time Battlestar Victory was just a few days from entering service. The war was reaching a point of no return, one way or another.
__________________________________________________________________________________________

VII

The day after the Cylons again jumped away, Kara's Charlie Squadron of the UED's 20th Air Force had just come back from a mission around Nebraska City. Pushing the Cylon forces back there would give the Omaha defenses even more breathing room, loosening the encirclement even more. They had inflicted heavy damage to Cylon long-range artillery. It was another low-level assault, which meant that enemy flak had been murderous. Out of the forty Falcons in her wing, she had lost thirteen on this run. She had, once again, suffered damage to her bird, but made it home in one piece.

It was about 6:30 in the evening when she climbed out of her cockpit, and, like after every mission, immediately went to de-brief. That normally took about a half hour. As she was walking out of the after-battle skull session, a young Air Force Ensign approached her.

"Captain, the President and First Lady have requested your presence in their quarters as soon as you can make it." She nodded at the young lady.

"Can you inform them I'll be about 45 minutes? I have to shower and change. Thank you, Ensign".

She headed to the woman's showers with a sense of overwhelming dread and sadness. She knew what was coming next, which would be the worst moment of her life. There was no way she could reconcile what she had done to the President. And, once again, she had alienated someone who truly cared about her.

She stepped in the shower, and let the steaming water fall on her, but her mind was in turmoil. The hot water felt wonderful on her skin. The steady beat of the water made her close her eyes, where she hoped to shut the world out, even if for a few moments.

But when her eyes did close, those distant echoes of the past that had started in that first dream can pounding back into her mind.

Starbuck, you're an embarrassment...You're a cancer...I've got nothing to lose...nothing to lose...nothing to lose.......

It was like she had traveled back in time, where the self-doubt and the self-pity had piled on her day after day, week after week, month after month, like an incessant drumbeat of shame. And she couldn't turn it off. It kept beating down on her as sure as the water from the showerhead was pulsating down on her at that moment.

She was lost deep in an almost catatonic state when she was startled back to reality. Another woman had just entered the shower across from her and had turned on the water. Seeing another woman naked in the shower had never bothered Kara, but she had been so lost in another world that she hadn't even noticed someone else there.

After finishing the shower and drying off, she returned to her quarters and got dressed. She sat down at her desk, and took several big breaths to calm herself, then pulled out a piece of paper, and quickly began to write. She finished writing and stared absently straight ahead. She knew she would be dismissed.
___________________________________________________________________________________________

It had taken forty-five minutes to shower, dress and write her note. Even as mortified as she was, she knew you didn't keep The Boss waiting.

She gained her composure before knocking. The First Lady answered the door.

"Hello, Kara!", she said pleasantly as she opened the door, "Please, come on in."

Kara timidly walked in. She couldn't remember doing anything timidly in her entire life. "Thank you, Mrs. Bond. I didn't a chance to talk to you at the picnic. I'm sorry about that."

"Don't worry about it, Captain. It's the way of life, sometimes. Can I get you a glass of wine? We both like to have a glass or two late in the evening when we can." Judy headed toward the wine rack.

"Thank you, Mrs. Bond. What are you having?"

"Merlot, as usual." The First Lady grinned.

"Well, then Merlot it is", Captain Thrace tentatively smiled at the First Lady. Judith Bond could practically feel the fear and remorse from Kara as she handed the Captain her wine. It broke The First Lady's heart.

Kara and Judy entered the Living Room, or what passed as a Living Room. The President rose from his chair, and both women sat down. One thing Kara admired about the President is that he was always the gentlemen. But she dreaded what was coming next. She prepared herself for the storm that was about to descend upon her.

The President asked Kara to go over her mission for the day. They liked to Talk Shop, as his wife thought of it. After all, they were both fighter pilots, and always would be. Judy understood the bond of shared experience that they had, but she had learned to tune out "Jock Talk" as easily as she tuned out when her husband would watch College Football on Saturday's in the Fall. It was simply "Wife 101".

After about ten minutes of small talk, the President turned the conversation to what he had called her in for.

"You know, Kara", the President said with some sternness, you threw me for a loop at the party a few days back. You really did. I'm not used to being talked to like that." Kara's eyes went wide at that stern rebuke. She remembered how petrified she had been four years ago at their first interview. That same feeling was enveloping her at that moment.

"I'm sorry, sir. I don't know why in Heaven I did that to you. I just suddenly flipped out." I might as well try to save my ass, she said to herself, not trying to reveal the dread she was feeling.

"Do you remember what you told me at the party?" He was being direct but wanted her to open up to both of them.

She looked over at The First Lady, and hesitated, suddenly feeling even more uncomfortable. "Well, I told you that I was taking those missions because I'm the best pilot you have and that I would fight until I couldn't fight anymore."

"That was part of it, but you're leaving something out, aren't you?" The President intoned quietly. Kara glanced over at Judy Bond.

"It's OK, Kara", The First Lady interjected, "everything you say in here is confidential. Tell me what else you said." Judith knew the whole story now, although Kara didn't know that. When her husband told her of his Epiphany, she had first been floored but knew now that it made sense.

"Well, the President asked why I was taking those missions, and I explained to him that, having no family here, I thought I could save some of the pilots who did have a family. I wanted them to make it because they did have a family to live for. And I didn't have anyone to leave behind". She looked down, feeling as naked as she had been a few minutes ago in the shower.

"And what did I tell you?" The President inquired softly.

"Well, you said you thought I had a lot to live for. But honestly, sir, I've never had a family or any real close friends. I'll fight for you, for New Caprica, for America, for Earth, but I would leave no one behind if I'm gone." She could feel the pool of tears in her eyes as she put on that stone face that she used when trying to conceal her emotions. The same one that she had used when Kat was dying; the one when Kacey's mom had taken her out of her arms; the same one whenever she always got when she couldn't cope with her emotions.

"You were a wee bit lot more animated than that, Captain. You stepped way over a line", the President said evenly, without rancor. "I'm not a hard person to work for but I do think I deserve the respect of my office."

Kara blushed, and stammered, knowing he was completely right. "I...I know, Mr. President. I'm ashamed of how I acted and how I treated you I know better. You didn't deserve that." She said, waiting for the other shoe to drop.

When she glanced up, however, the President didn't look cross. He had a small smile on his face. That made Kara even feel more off-balance.

"Kara", the President began with a quietness that was anything but angry, "One thing war and combat does is to put pressure on everyone, whether fighting it or simply living through it. It's stress that can play with your emotions. Like you, I've been in combat so I know. War is a nasty, brutal business, and it sucks."

"I know, sir, and again, you didn't deserve that. I wish I could take all of it back". And she coudldn't, which is what hurt her more deeply than anything she had ever done in her life.

"I also have learned a lot more about your past in the last few days, things that aren't in your official records. I talked to The Admiral, and he filled me in on some of your personal history. Your upbringing; your issues around the time you and Kat took Scar out; your hot and cold relationship with Lee; the bitterness you had after leaving New Caprica; even the problems you and Sam had. I even summoned Leoben here a few days ago to talk to him."

"Leoben", she said almost to herself. It wasn't a question or an indictment, but simply recalling their tumultuous relationship, vacillating between hatred on one hand and an almost spiritual bond with him the other.

"Yes, Leoben. And he filled in some of the gaps for me as well." He recounted both conversations, and what he had learned.

"Well, I guess you know why I'm such a fuck-up, then", she said reverting to the English word that she actually abhorred. "But I was way out of line, and I deserve whatever punishment you might deem appropriate."

"I forgive you, Kara", he said in a mild tone that was the last thing she had been expecting, "and I'm not here to scold you or reprimand you. This is about helping you. This is about getting you over this. Do you understand that?"

She looked at him, stunned beyond belief that he had forgiven her so easily for her vileness towards him. Her esteem for him rose again. She hadn't thought that possible.

"Yes, sir, I do, but it doesn't change what I said. I've really got nothing here to tether me. Maybe it's because I'm too much of a pain in the ass; maybe it's because of how I was brought up, I have trouble getting along with others, but the fact is, no one would give a frack...if I were gone." The anger had begun to rise in her again, but she had caught herself this time.

It was the First Lady's turn. "Well, Kara, you're wrong. You are very important to a lot of people-us included. Let me ask you something, if I may: what do you think of our family: me, the President, Nicholas, and Abby?"

"Gods, I think the Universe of all of you! You have been nothing but kind and generous, and patient with me. Ma'am", she said looking at Judy Bond, "you took me under your wing by helping me to adjust to life on Earth, and taught me so much about being a woman, how to be more gracious as a person, and how to give of myself in ways I never had ever considered. Nick and Abby are like a brother and sister that I've never had. I'd do anything for them. I sure as hell don't deserve all you've given me", the self-doubt once again surfacing.

She continued, her face crestfallen at what she had done to this amazing person. "And, Mr. President, maybe I don't let it on, but I respect and admire you more than any person I've ever known, even the Old Man. Even Lee. You have taught me so much about being not just a good Officer, but an even better person.You believed in me and took a chance on me, even knowing my history on Galactica. You don't know how grateful I have been that you chose me as your Liaison Officer. But obviously, I'm not as good as I thought I was." She was devastated at how she had talked to the President but knew she couldn't take the hurt back.

"I've tried to be a good mentor to you, Captain. I'm proud of you and how, up to now, you've risen to the challenge that I issued to you. But you've hit a wall, and you've had some old problems resurface, and it is destroying you on the inside", he paused for a moment, "But what you just said to me tells me that you don't just have a lot to fight for but to live for. Your words, in my mind, belie your belief that you don't have anything to live for. And The First Lady and I care deeply about you, and want to help you punch through that wall."

"I don't understand, sir?" She wasn't sure where this was going. Wherever it was going, it was going somewhere completely unexpected. "It doesn't change the facts of who I am and what I did to you. And you're sure as hell are not at fault for my shortcomings."

"No, it doesn't change that fact. We are who God made us, Kara. But I don't think you give yourself enough credit insofar of what others' think about you, and how your death would affect so many people. I don't think you realize just how important you are."

Kara still felt off balance.

Judith Bond took the lead now. She had insisted that the President allow her to take the lead. "Kara, the President and I have been talking for the last few days and we've thought of a way to not just give you a cause to fight for, but to give you a reason to live for. We don't want you to fight this alone. We want to help you fight through it with you."

"I don't understand, ma'am".

"It's like you said, Kara", The First Lady observed, "It isn't enough just to have something to fight for and die for. You need something to live for when the shooting ceases, and the President and I think we can do that for you."

The President chimed in again, "I am a man of Faith, Kara. I don't wear it on my sleeve or hold it over others, but I do believe devoutly in God. But I also believe that Fate is a real, tangible thing. I believe that you were meant to find us and that we were meant to find you. It's more than chance that brought us together. I believe from the moment you were born, you were meant to find us; and that from the beginning, we were meant to find you."

"Again, I don't understand, sir?" Where was this leading?

"What we're trying to say, Kara", it was the First Lady this time, her eyes beginning to well up with tears as the emotion of the approaching moment began to hit her, "is we are offering you something to live for. Something that no one can ever take away from you. You are part of this family, whether you realize it or not. And we adore you. But we want to take it a step further. If you accept, the President and I want to adopt you and make you a member of this family."

The room went still.

Kara wasn't sure what she had heard. It didn't register at first. "Adopt?" She said the word, but it wasn't computing. She just couldn't process it. "You mean...you want to..."

"We want to legally make you our daughter. We want to be your parents if you would accept." The First Lady smiled, with tears falling down her cheeks.

"Your daught...", Kara paused, the words again not really registering for a few moments. "You would be...my parents", she said softly, as if it were a dream, "and I...I would be your daughter?" as the words tried to sink through. Then the enormity of what had been said hit her like a bolt of lightning, "My Gods!", she burst out, with tears suddenly in her eyes.

"Well, that's usually how it works, Kara", The President said sardonically to try and lighten the moment, "You have to accept first you know, Kara, will you acce..."

Before he finished, Kara rushed forward to the couch that they were sitting in, and put her arms around both of them, instantly breaking down in tears with years of pain, bitterness and lost opportunities pouring out of her, but in a wave of joy.

"Yes! Of course, I agree!", she was crying harder than she ever had. Harder than when Leoben's Avatar had taken her back to her mother's deathbed. Harder than in her private moments when Kat had died. Harder than when she had lost Sam. But they were tears of a different sort, of a kind and with an emotion she had never truly experienced before.

"Oh, my gods!", she said, barely able to take a breath. She let go of the President for a moment and turned to face the woman that wanted to be her mother. She fell into Judith Bond's arm. They were both crying almost uncontrollably and neither wanted the embrace to end. Kara had never felt such joy in her life. And the President was right: she finally realized that this is who she was meant to be all along. This was her destiny.

After a few minutes, she backed off and wiped her eyes while she and The First Lady...while she and her mother she corrected herself, shared a laugh. Then she looked up at the President.....

"Mr. President..."

"Uh, try again, Kara" He twinkled his eyes at her again, the emotion almost too much, even for him.

She could barely get the word out of her mouth. The word had never held any true meaning for her before. Now, for the first time in her life, it was real and tangible, and the very meaning of the word wasstanding right there in front of her.

"Dad..." She said the words almost as an echo. And with that, she embraced him with a fierceness that she had never felt for anyone, for the first time knowing what it meant to have a father. She began sobbing uncontrollably again. The President had tears streaming down his face as well.

Again, after a few minutes, Kara let go but still held both their hands. "I never imagined that I would, or could be part of a real family. I've never felt like this in all my life. I don't deserve something like this."

"We feel otherwise, dear", Judy Bond said, hugging her new daughter once again. "You deserve as much love and happiness as anyone, Kara. And we don't want you to face all of this by yourself. We want to help you conquer this, and we can do that as a family. We can do it together."

"I never felt I deserved it. I've always felt like a misfit.", she had the same smile on her face as when Leoben had let he see her real mother pass away. She looked up at her new father "But you're right-this feels right, as if it was always meant to be. I've seen Fate play out before, too, and I think you're right...dad", they laughed again, "I think this was always supposed to happen."

And for a few more moments, she lost control of the tears again and hugged both the President and First Lady even more desperately than she had before. It took her some time to regain her bearings. Everything she had been through now seemed as if it had been her penance to reach this moment, to where she felt she belonged to something bigger than just herself. The only other time she had felt such peace was before, well, whatever happened to her and her Viper so many years ago.

"You know what this means, Kara", said the First Lady, as she also collected herself, "It means you're now part of this nutty family", they all laughed. "But more than that. We love you. We've loved you for some time now. You have always meant a lot to us. But from now on we love you as our child, without any reservations, without any conditions, with all our hearts. We love you just as you are. We will be here for you as long as we're both alive. You are now, and always will be, our daughter."

They all knew what would happen next: everyone started crying and hugging again. And like before, after a few minutes, they all laughed again.

Finally, they sat down, not on different chairs, but on the same couch, the new daughter between her new parents.

"How do we make this legal?" It hadn't dawned on Kara at first that this was going to be a legal contract. It wouldn't have mattered to her if it hadn't been. "I mean, I don't want you to change your mind when you realize just how fracked up I am", more laughter broke out. "But what happens now?"

"Honey we've already begun that process", said her new mother. "You can't run a government even underground during a war without lawyers and judges", which started the laughter once again. "The President...your father has already requested that a lawyer write up the adoption papers and that a judge approves them once completed."

"You're lucky, Kara", her father-to-be added, "being in the middle of a war, and having your father as President means bypassing a process that probably more red tape than you can imagine. By tonight, it'll all be official. But there's one more thing you need to think of."

"What's that?", she said, wiping the tears from her red, puffy eyes.

"On the Adoption papers, you need to print out and sign what you want your full name to be. See, no pressure", he said, winking at her. "And whatever you want your name to be, it's OK with us."

"I don't even have to think about it", she said with a new-found pride in herself. "that's easy. Kara Thrace-Bond." She paused for a moment, letting that sink in. "Now, when do we tell my brother and sister!"
___________________________________________________________________________________________

Nick had been in one of the underground bunkers, assisting the deck crews in any way he could, and soaking in as much knowledge about what it would mean to be a fighter pilot. He was called away by a Captian who was overseeing his work, who told him his parents wanted to see him.

Abby was in Communications, where she had volunteered to help out when the war began, and she, too, was told her parents wanted to see her. Ten minutes later, they were both in their parents quarters. Kara was with them, and they both wondered what this could be about.

After everyone was seated, Judith Bond spoke up, "Nicholas, Abby, we wanted to see you because we have some news to share with you."

"Good news or bad news, mom?", Nick, always the sardonic one, spoke up first.

"We'll let you decide that", she smiled at the both, "You know how your father has been telling you about some of the struggles Kara has been going through since the war began?", both the Bond children nodded in the affirmative, "They've become quite serious. We haven't gone into detail with you about what is going on, but suffice to say Kara has been struggling the last few weeks."

Their father joined in the conversation, "At the picnic, I went up to talk to Kara about what was bothering her, and it didn't go very well.", he said evenly, "Kara, why don't you tell them what happened?"

Kara spent the better part of five minutes filling Nick and Abby in not only on her struggles but on what had transpired at the picnic. Both Nick and Abby idolized Kara, and they were stunned to learn about the conversation with their father.

"It was the worst mistake of my life, guys, and I'm so sorry for what I did", she said, with tears back in her eyes, "Your mom and dad called me in after my mission today to see me. I thought I was going to get fired, and your father certainly would have been justified in doing so." She paused.

"But they didn't", she said with the enormity of the events coming again to the surface, "they forgave me immediately. It shows, at least to me, just what special people your mother and father are.", and she looked over at her new mother, as a cue to pick up the conversation, "But that's not all. They've given me a gift I can't say no to, in trying to help me beat these demons." And Judith Bond took over from there.

"We don't want Kara to fight this alone. We don't want it to destroy her, as it almost did years ago. So last night, your father and I came to a conclusion in how we feel it's best to help Kara."

"We want to help, too, Kara", Abby said earnestly. From the moment she had met Starbuck, she had idolized her, and the two of them, when together, were almost inseparable, despite their age difference.

"Anything we can do to help, Starbuck", Nick confirmed, "we're here for you." Kara looked at the two, who didn't realize at that moment that she was now their sister, and beamed at them both.

"That's good", their father finally joined the conversation, "because we have asked, and Kara has accepted, to be adopted by us and become a member of this family."

Again, the room went quiet. When the import of what the words, Nick and Abby simultaneously rushed forward to their new sister, and, as before, tears were all around, but tears of joy.

"Kara!", Abby bawled, but with a look of sheer joy on her face, "this means you're my big sister?", the youngest Bond almost couldn't grasp what she just said.

"Yes, Abby", she said, embracing her new little sister, "I'm your sister, and I always will be. I love you more than life itself, munchkin!", and she didn't want to forget her "little brother". She turned to him, as he had a stunned look on her face, which made Kara laugh, "And you, young man, are now the brother I never had, and I couldn't be happier or prouder", and she embraced him, crying hard once more, as Nick also broke down into tears, hugging his new big sister with an intensity he had never felt possible.

After the tumult had subsided, Kara addressed them all. "What you've given me today is simply a miracle. I can't begin to tell you the gratitude and love I feel for all of you. There is nothing that I won't do for all of you, and I will always make you proud of me."

"Kara", her mom spoke up one more time, "we are going to help you through this. You now have a family to love, support and care for you, and we will work through this as a family."
___________________________________________________________________________________________

Kara was emotionally exhausted by the end of the night. She hadn't wanted to let go, even for a moment, the members of her new family, but sleep was required. There was a war on. That night she slept in her barracks. The next night, she would move into the Bond...into her family's residence. When she got to her room, she suddenly realized what was left in her pocket-the note she had written earlier. She fished it out, opened it up, read it, smiled broadly, and threw it in the trash.

No demons visited her in her dreams that night.

"Dear Mr. President. This letter is to inform you that, due to my unprofessional and unforgivable behavior recently, I am resigning my post as the United Earth Defense Military Liaison to the President Of The United States..."
___________________________________________________________________________________________

VIII

Despite all the apprehension and even fear that had descended on Offutt when the war had started, the news of the adoption spread quickly throughout the base. An almost festive atmosphere took hold. In the middle of this horrific war, something magical had happened and everyone on the base, from the janitors to the Base Commander wanted to revel in it and celebrate it. It gave everyone renewed determination to see the war through.

Then, two days later, the stalemate broke.

This time, after going into their usual formation of forming up one Baseship vs. one Battlestar, and the third one going after Earth, all three Cylon Baseships moved in on the two Battlestars, leaving earth, for the moment, undisturbed. The Cylons were forcing the cataclysmic showdown. Two of the Baseships occupied Pegasus while one went straight for Galactica.

Galactica was taking a terrific beating, despite Pegasus doing everything she could to protect her older sister. But they had stalled just long enough to change the game.

By the following day, Battlestar Victory was clearing moorings and jumping into battle.

She jumped in, next to Galactica, mere seconds after a spread of nukes had blasted the ancient warship. Battlestar Victory came in as thunderous explosions ripped at her sister ship, but, amazingly, the Old Girl held together. Admiral Hoshi had fired a pathfinder shot at the Baseship across from Pegasus, with Gaius' freq receiver/transmitter to penetrate the shields and cripple the ship. Pegasus had immediately followed with eight nukes of his own, that disintegrated the Baseship in a matter of seconds.

Within twenty minutes, it was over. The two remaining Baseships were no match for the two brand-new Battlestars, and the entire Cylon space force had been annihilated. Raiders continued to scurry about, but with nowhere to land, they were as good as dead.

On the surface, when the last Baseship had been destroyed the invasion forces went back to their protocol and abandoned the planet as quickly as they could. The Earth-bound defenders chased the fleeing Cylons as long as they could. Kara personally shot down 4 Raiders before they could leave the atmosphere.

As the jocks exited their aircraft, they were high-fiving each other and breaking out victory cigars. They had heard that the Baseships were gone, and the fleeing Raiders had confirmed that. The war was over, and now, all that pent-up emotion was letting loose. Her new parents and siblings were waiting for her when she returned and embraced them all with tears of happiness.

The mood changed when Kara entered the Command Center in The Bunker. Galactica was in her death throes and her legendary Admiral mortally wounded. Within 30 minutes, she was in a Raptor headed to Pegasus. She knew it would be the last time she got to see The Old Man. Admiral William Adama lay in the sick bay of that ship, mortally wounded.
___________________________________________________________________________________________

A week later, the President and other dignitaries were on board Pegasus. Galactica, now wounded beyond further repair was going to be scuttled by her two sisters. It was also a chance to pay their respect to Admiral Lee Adama for the loss of this father. A mixed set of emotions permeated The Beast. There was unrestrained joy at the end of the war, but unrestrained grief at losing Admiral William Adama on the last day of battle.

Lee invited President Bond, The First Lady, and Kara to his Private Quarters for drinks after the Galactica send-off. He hadn't seen both in over six months, and he thought this was the perfect moment to get together.

Lee", the President strode up to the Admiral, extended his hand, then grasped the younger man in a bear hug. "On behalf of myself, my family, and the American people, I want to give you our deepest condolences on the loss of your father. He was a great man and to me also a great friend. I wish I had more than words to give you, son."

"Thank you, Mr. President. That means more to me than you can ever imagine. Dad thought the Universe of you. I'm still stunned, but he died just how he would have wanted-defending his ship and his people-our people." He turned to his longtime friend. "Congratulations on a job well done, Captain. I'm glad you got to see the Admiral before he slipped away. And he was so happy for you Kara. For your new beginning."

"I'm glad I was able to see him, Lee. And I'm glad he found out about my news."

"He was overjoyed, Kara. He was happy for both of you", as he embraced the woman that had grown up with him on the flight across the Galaxy.

Judith Bond went up to Lee, gave him a hug and kissed him on the cheek. "I'm so sorry for your loss, Lee. Your father was such a great man. He meant a lot to Earth, and he meant a lot to this family." She hugged him again.

"Thank you, ma'am," Lee said warmly. "He was a big fan of yours. And so am I. Your family had a special place in his heart, and believe me, your family will always be special to me as well."

"That's very sweet of you, Admiral", Judith Bond added. "We will always keep him in our memory."

"If I may say, ma'am, Mr. President, I think he went to his rest much easier when he found out that you had adopted Kara. You should have seen the smile on his face when Kara was with him, and they shared the news. You not only gave Kara a special gift, you gave one to my father, and I think you for that."

"Lee", the President said softly, "you're always welcome in our home and in our lives. You mean a lot to our daughter, and you mean a lot to us."

Lee excused himself to head back to the reception and greet other guests who had come to pay their respects to his father. He welcomed the Bond's to rejoin the gathering when they were ready. The family waited a short while before accepting the offer.

The President was standing by the windows in Lee's quarters, staring out the window and looking at Earth. He was momentarily lost in the thoughts of what lay ahead, in the Herculean task of rebuilding his nation and the planet. It was an overwhelming, numbing, humbling moment. He didn't notice his wife and daughter joining him.

"Justin?", Judy Bond inquired softly, "what is it?"

The President suddenly looked startled, realizing he had been adrift in his thoughts. "Oh, I'm sorry, babe. I was just thinking about what lies ahead. It's going to take a long time to rebuild the planet. We've got tough times ahead."

"Justin", his wife said softly, "yes, there are. But as long as we stay strong, and keep the faith, we will make it. Humanity passed the test."

"Yes, but at a ghastly cost", the President shuddered, his voice barely audible as the emotion of what lay ahead hit him. Kara moved in beside him and grasped his hand.

"Dad...", she stopped herself for a second and smiled, "I still need time to get used to saying that, but I like the way it sounds." She continued. "We won't let you carry this burden alone. Just as you are standing by me, we will always stand by you.", she leaned forward to kiss him on his cheek, "Besides, we'll frack anyone up who tries to give you a hard time.", Kara said with a mockingly serious face, which made them laugh.

"Why thank you, Captain Thrace-Bond...I think?" He said sardonically, as the two ladies laughed. "although I'll have to get back to you on that one. And I thought giving you a family would suddenly make you meek and humble", he continued with a wink.

"Not a chance in Hell, Mr. President...I mean dad. And we've signed the papers, so you're stuck with me.", and beamed at both of them.

"What have I done?", Judith Bond said in mock despair. The laughter continued.

Then Kara became serious again. "I am a pain in the ass sometimes, but you both figured that out a long time ago, and yet you still accepted me. I am who I am, and yet you love me anyway."

"That's the whole idea of parenthood, Kara", The First Lady said with a broad smile.

"I love you both, with all my heart and all my being.", words she meant more sincerely than any she had ever spoken. "I never thought I could say that to anyone. I don't even know if I ever said those words to Sam." There were no tears this time, only pride. "Thank you for giving me this miracle."

The president bent down and kissed her on the forehead, "Thank you for being our miracle."

And they walked to the reception, arm-in-arm, the daughter between the parents, toward a new, unknown future.
___________________________________________________________________________________________

EPILOGUE

Kara had finally been granted vacation from her duties. It was six months after the war with the Cylons had concluded. She had been spending her time helping to design a brand-new Raptor that would be standard for UED in the coming years, flying both from Earth-based locations and from the Fleet. The Fleet still consisted of only Pegasus and the new Galactica at the moment, but the groundwork was being laid for the construction of well over one hundred new vessels of one type or another: Battlestars, food ships, hospital ships, Deep Space Explorers, and other sundry vessels.

She had been aboard Galactica flying CAPS, training new Nuggets and working on the new Raptor design. And she was no longer a Captain. Upon being selected for the position of designing this new bird, she had been promoted to the rank of Commander. She had worked her ass off to get to this level, and she was proud of that fact.

But she hadn't had a "vacation" since before the war. And Admiral Wheeler, the Commander-In-Chief had been rotating people in and out so they could get the deserved time off. Everyone had earned it. Kara had to wait her turn, but it was here now.

She had the next two months to be home.

"Home" was in Richmond, Virginia. It was, at least for the time being, the Capitol of the United States. Washington, Philadelphia, Boston, Atlanta and Los Angeles, among other cities, would lay in ruins for many years from the nuclear attack the Cylons had unleashed. So the President of the United States and the Congress had chosen Richmond to be the "temporary" Capitol.

And it just so happened that the President of the United States was the man who had laid the groundwork for the Fleet. And he was also her father now.

Commander Kara Thrace-Bond had driven her Raptor from Galactica to Norfolk Naval Air Station, and then from there Marine One, the President's helicopter, to Richmond and the "Grey House"-a mansion not far from Downtown Richmond that was serving as the residence of President Justin Bond and First Lady Judith Bond. It was about 9 pm Eastern time, and she knew the timing would be good, as both her parents as well as her brother Nick and her sister Abby would all be home.

She had spent ten days immediately after the war with her new family, as they decompressed in Omaha. They needed the time to officially bond. But since then, she had been on either Pegasus or Galactica or in Honolulu, getting up to speed on her new assignment. And while she had spent some short weekends in Richmond when she had the chance, it was never long enough to really become comfortable as part of the Bond family.

"Kara!", her mom sprang across the room when she entered the private area for the family. Kara did as she always did when seeing her mother, which was to break into tears and fiercely embrace her, not ever wanting to let go, and giving her a big kiss on the cheek. "Welcome home! It's so great to have you back honey!"

"Mom!", she said hugging Judith Bond with all her might, "you don't know how good it feels to be home", kissing her again on her cheek, "And I've got two months off! I may never want to go back!", mother and daughter laughed.

As she finished those words, a new and sarcastic voice joined the conversation, "Oh, yeah, right Starbuck, like you'll just stop flying. Sure." She turned around and there was her "little" brother Nick casually toward her.

"Nicholas!", she exclaimed, folding her brother in her arms, "You're right Nick, it's in my blood and always will be." The UED Commander then eyed him with astonishment. "Gods Nick, you've grown probably two inches since I saw you six months ago! Mom, what are you feeding this boy?" She and Nick exchanged mock punches, laughed and then hugged again.

Another pair of feet came bounding to her. "STARBUCK!", Abby Bond screamed like a schoolgirl at a rock concert as she went to envelop her big sister, whom she idolized more than anyone in the Universe, including her dad. "I've missed you so much!", as Kara whirled her around in a hug, "Welcome home, Kara!"

"Munchkin!", Kara yelled at Abby as if she were at the same rock concert, enveloping her in a joyous hug and not wanting to let her sister go. She had a very special bond with Abigail. Abby was the sister she never thought she would have and something she had wanted since Kat died. When together, they were practically inseparable, despite their age difference. "You don't know how much I've missed you, kiddo! We still going to the movies tomorrow night?"

"Heck yes, we are!", Abby said. She was almost 19 now but still felt self-conscious if she swore around her mom or dad. "Just you, me, and the Secret Service", which started the laughter anew. Kara grabbed the younger girl again and kissed her on the cheek.

They went into the kitchen that the Bond's used to make their own meals when they had family time. Judy Bond had a few left-over roast beef sandwiches that had been made earlier that night. Kara didn't even stop til she got to the fridge and pulled out a sandwich and a Dr. Pepper. Their animated family bantering when on for a while as they started to catch up. Kara had the next two months off, and she was looking forward to spending her first extended time with her new family This would truly be the time they bonded together. She had been anticipating this like nothing ever before in her entire life. She considered it the most important thing she would ever do.

After about fifteen minutes and being so wrapped up with her mom and siblings, Kara suddenly realized something. "Mom, where's dad? I figured he'd be down here?"

"He had a rough day today, Kara. Still a lot of wrangling going on about the UED Fleet and with the new Transportation Bill he's been pushing. And of course, the campaign is in full swing, and that doesn't help either." Even though it was only early January of 2028, Justin Bond was almost assured of a second, six-year term as President. Even after such a cataclysmic war, there would be an election. No calamity had every stopped the presidential vote, and this year would be no exception.

"I've read up on the U.N giving him grief with the fleet. So much for the post-war unity", she said crossly.

"It isn't that, babe. It's simply the world of politics. That will never change. Your dad loves it but there are days he wouldn't mind leaving it behind either." She said fondly. "Anyway, I think he's up in his study. He had a nasty headache earlier."

"I'm gonna go up and see him for a few. I'll be back!", she kissed her mother and headed up the stairs to the second floor of the family quarters.

She took the left-hand turn into her father's study. He was facing away in his office chair with headphones on his ears, the lights off except for one light in a far corner. Kara could hear the tones of Fleetwood Mac's "You Make Lovin'Fun" softly coming from the headphones. That made her smile. She knew if he was listening to Fleetwood Mac that he was feeling better.

She tapped him on his shoulder, which startled him slightly. He rotated around to see Kara's smiling face looking down at him. He tore the headphones off, stood up and embraced his oldest daughter in a long, warm hug and gave her a big kiss on her cheek. That hug was the most secure feeling in the world to Kara. It reminded her of what could never be taken away from her. She didn't let him go for several minutes.

"Welcome home, babe", he said in a quiet, happy tone, hugging her again. "I must have lost track of time listening to the music. I knew you would be here tonight. Old age", he added sardonically.

"Gods dad, it's so good to see you." She wrapped him up one more time, tears in her eyes. "Actually I see you about every day", she said playfully, "but the TV never does you justice, you know."

He laughed at the remark. "I thought I was always pretty photogenic on the tube", winking at his daughter and former Military Aide.

"You are, dad! But I like it better in person." And she hugged him one more time.

He had a small mini fridge in his den. He opened it and picked out a Pepsi, he sat down next to Kara on the couch and put his arm around her.

"I hear you had a tough day Mr. President", she inquired. She was fiercely protective of him, and had been since she had become his Liason to The Fleet.

"Seems like every day is a tough day lately, Kara", he said with mild irritation. "But ego still drives politics and always will. It's part of the territory, honey. And going through a campaign is never any fun."

"I know but I still get pissed off when I see someone criticize you. It bothers me. Hell, it bothered me when I was just your Aide."

"Don't let it, Kara," he said dismissively, "It's part of the process. You have to have a thick skin if you're a politician, especially in a democratic society like this one. I don't take it personally."

"That's easy for you dad", as she took another chug of Dr. Pepper, "But your daughter is a hothead, remember?", she said half-jokingly, "I'm damn protective of you."

"It's nice to have a daughter who can fly a Raptor and hit a dime from twenty miles. It really is", he deadpanned in wistful tones, whereupon Kara almost doubled over in laughter.

"You got it Mr. President!" and they clinked their bottles of pop together.

"You know, with the next two months off, maybe you want to come out with me a few times on the campaign trail? I would love to have you introduce me at a rally", he remarked with a big smile.

"Why do you even bother hitting the trail so often, dad?", she was still not versed on rough-and-tumble democratic politics, "you're so far ahead, you should take it easier."

"Nothing is a given, Kara", he reminded her, "The war certainly brought home that point."

Kara hadn't thought of it that way, "Well, you're right about that, but you are going to win", she smiled.

"When I hear anyone say 'take it easy', I remember my history, and the 1948 Presidential election, and the Chicago newspaper headline, 'Dewey Defeats Truman!'. That stops me from getting cocky."

"Dewey Defeats Truman?", she looked at him quizzically, not having an inkling what he was talking about.

The President chuckled, "You need to bone up more on your American history, sweetheart", he glanced down at her, "You should learn more about this office and about American history. Let's just say that in 1948, one candidate eased up at the end, and it cost him."

"Well, that's settled, I'll take up American history and the Presidency in my spare time", she said, meaning every word of it.

Her father shifted gears on the conversation.

"So, how's the Raptor re-design coming? Officially, I mean?" The President inquired. "I get the updates but not from the people who are actually doing the work."

Kara filled him in on the latest when it came to the new Raptors. He and his daughter were both fighter pilots and they always enjoyed talking shop.

"I'm glad to hear it's moving forward so well", the President said with some satisfaction, "And when the new birds come out, I'm gonna learn to drive one. Think you can teach your old man to fly an interstellar bird?"

"It would be my pleasure, 'Nugget'", she said with a mischievous smile and a wink. The President laughed.

"Hey, I've flown just under Mach 3, so I don't think I'd quite be a Nugget. I bet you would enjoy treating me like a newbie?"

"It would be the highlight of my life, Mr. President!", she laughed again.

"I'm serious about wanting to fly one. And it sounds like the new Raptor will make the old one look like a clay pigeon."

"It will if I have any say-so. And of course, I do. Lee demanded I be in on the design, and I bet now he wishes he'd never said that. Again, I can be a pain in the ass."

"I knew that when I took you as my Aide and when I signed up to be your father, Kara", he smiled. But the mention of Lee stopped him for a moment, and the passing notes of sadness came across his face. Kara picked up on it immediately. She put his hand in hers.

"I know, dad. I miss The Old Man too. I'd give anything to have him around."

"Yeah, me too," he said quietly. "I'm glad when he finally passed he was very content. You had a large part in that."

"I guess so", she said, looking down at her drink. "I loved him dearly, but I let him down so many times..." her voice trailed off.

"Enough of that, Commander. He was proud of you. Almost as proud of you as I am. I know that", he said graciously, "He would be very happy seeing the person you are today."

"I know he would. Gods I wish I could see him again and tell him how much he meant to me."

"I understand my dear, I wish I could make that happen", he paused for a moment, "but I suspect he always knew what he meant to you."

She looked unsettled when uttering her next words. "You know dad, this has been such a whirlwind. I almost lost you and mom before I even had you. I thought I had gotten rid of all that dead weight from the past, and it came right back again. It almost cost me you and mom. What I did to you the day of the picnic was just inexcusable." She tried to vocalize all the emotions that she was still adjusting to. "Lesser people would have tossed me out on my butt."

"We were always going to be there for you sweetheart, one way or another, adoption or no adoption. Nothing could have driven us away, ever", he said with a warm smile on his face.

"It's crazy" Starbuck stared straight ahead, as if lost in thought, "I don't even know what the frack I am. I still have never understood what happened with me and the Viper or what or who I saw on the other Earth. And yet here I am, and there isn't a soul in the Universe that is any happier than I am."

"Starbuck, I've thought about what happened to you back then a lot. I can't explain what you went through. It's beyond my small human mind to even comprehend such events, but I'll give it a try."

"What you think is very important to me, you know that.", Kara said with a smile. Her father rarely used her Call Sign, but it made her love him all the more when he did.

"What was it the Leoben Avatar said you were going to do in that vision with your mother, right before...uh, whatever happened to you in the Viper?"

"He said he was there to take me to learn about what hovers between life and death", she closed her eyes remembering that moment when she had made peace with her real mother.

"Perhaps what you saw on the planet-the cockpit, the person inside, was a reflection of what could become of you if you didn't find meaning in your life?", his look was far away, as he struggled to put his thoughts together more concisely, "Perhaps God was giving you a second chance to be more than you had become, and that was part of what Leoben showed you? And maybe, just perhaps, your destiny was to find us to help you fulfill who you can be? Maybe, who you are now, Kara Thrace-Bond, is who you were always meant to be?" He paused, kind of proud of himself for such deep thoughts, and then looked back at Kara, and putting his arm back around her in support. "I don't know if any of that makes a lick of sense, but it's what I can wrap my mind around."

Kara smiled warmly, "I think it makes more sense than anything I've tried to come up with. I don't know if I'll ever have the answers either dad. But I'm proud to be your daughter. Whatever else I am no one can ever take that away from me." She leaned over and kissed him on the cheek and hugged him again for all she was worth. "And whatever the frack I am, I believe that you're right: This person who I am right now-your daughter, it's what I was always destined to be."

They both went quiet after that for about ten minutes while finishing their drinks, with their arms around one another on the couch. Kara laid her head on her dad's shoulder, reveling in the overwhelming feeling of love and contentment that enveloped her at that moment. She had finished her Dr. Pepper. Noticing it the President took her empty bottle, got up and went to the fridge and pulled out another Pepper for his daughter.

"You know, Kara", the President said, looking at her, "We've known each other for more than five years, and there's still so much we have to learn about each other. This is when we will truly get to know each other and to bond as a family-uh, no pun intended" which made them both chuckle, "Your mom and I certainly want to know more about your life after the Holocaust and the voyage here."

"I would take me twice as long as the voyage to tell you all that, dad", she said with a wink. "But we have two months straight to get to know each other better. That's why this time with you, mom, Nick, and Abby is so incredibly important me. This is the time that we really will become a family."

"It's too bad I can't have the two months off to simply spend time with you and with our family getting closer to each other. But at least I have that ten-day break coming up.", he said winking at her. Knowing that Kara's leave was scheduled for those two months, he had worked out his schedule to have that week-and-a-half off, away from governing and campaigning.

"Is there something you'd like me to tell you about now?" She said with a sudden curiosity.

"As a matter of fact Kara, there is. It's a subject I've been wanting to talk to you about for a long time."

"What's that, dad?", she asked with a smile.

He looked at his drink again, looked into his daughter's eyes and then went on. "I want you to tell me about Louanne Katraine", he finished with a soft smile tinged with sadness.

Kara's eyes welled up for a moment, caught off guard from the question. She blinked back the tears and held her composure. The demons were gone now. She was free of the pain and the doubt. She had finally become who she was always meant to be.

A fond smile lit up her face, "I'd love to dad."

THE END

Coming Next: Battlestar Galactica-Of Droughts And Grudges
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