Politics. As exiting as war. Definitely as dangerous.
Doctor Tara Maclay, Secretary of Education looked bored out of the window of Colonial One, trying to spot the Galactica flying several miles behind them and asking herself with every Viper flying by, if it might have her girlfriend with it.
How much she yearned for laying in Willow's soft arms right now, instead of sitting through yet another boring meeting.
Ever since she'd arrived from the Galactica two days ago, she'd spent endless hours in meetings with President Rosin; her political spin doctor Wallace Gray, Billy Keikeya and countless representatives from various colonial groups around the fleet.
They'd spent less then three hours on matters actually concerning the Secretary of Education. For most of the time they talked about subjects, that in no way needed Tara's presence at all. Making her wonder why she'd been ordered in so early, when she could've stayed another day aboard Galactica, and gotten some real work done.
Nevertheless she was here and so for most of the time Tara kept sitting quietly by herself working at her laptop, or daydreaming of Willow; and trying not to continue pondering about whether or not they had been seen kissing in the hallway.
Of course that didn't exactly work out and so eventually her thoughts did return to that very moment, though the bigger part of herself - the out and proud one - refused to be worried at all.
Someone might have seen two grown woman kissing.
After all it wasn't like she was ashamed for loving Willow or for being gay, now was she?
Of course she was not.
Even as a still closeted lesbian back on Gemenon, there had never been a time that she'd been ashamed because she was gay, so why should she start now?
So she thought, but at the same time, some other part of her actually started pondering about what coming out again would mean for the upcoming Colonial Day. Especially with the more conservative fractions among the Twelve Colonies.
Gemenon as it was, already caused much trouble, by demanding an ever bigger share in food supplies and fuel quota. So this group within the fleet already posed a considerable threat to Laura's authority as President of the Colonies.
'Tara Maclay, since when are you thinking like an politician, rather then as a human being!' Tara scolded herself harshly.
Granted, being on the run from the Cylons, they more then ever needed the governmental system to maintain order and their civilization.
But shouldn't love always be more important than mere political considerations?
Well if this wasn't a truly philosophical question.
'But what ever you do', Tara advised herself, 'better not ask a full blooded politician like Laura Roslin for advice. Better dream of Willow instead.'
And so Tara closed her eyes for a bit, to remember the last night that she spent together with Willow. A night though in which they didn't get much sleep.
"Madam President, excuse me", Billy Keikeya interrupted the meeting between Laura and Wallace Gray, "you're going to want to hear this." He keyed on the speaker upon Laura's desk and stepping back he turned to Tara and said quietly, "Oh and Tara - you're snoring."
Snoring?! That couldn't be true, after all she only closed her eyes for - Tara glanced upon her watch and her eyes went wide - half an hour? Unbelievingly Tara shook her head and then turned her attention to the speaker and the fleet wide news service reporting: "...Saggitaron have chosen their delegate for the Quorum Twelve, who would've guessed it? Tom Zarek."
That of course was news meant to provoke some pretty diverse reactions throughout the entire fleet, but especially here aboard Colonial One.
Ever since he'd led a prisoner revolt about the prison ship Astral Queen, Tom Zarek had become an enormous political factor again.
Not bad for a man who had spent twenty years locked away in a prison for blowing up a government building on Saggitaron. Not that Tara agreed with his methods at all, she had to admit that some of his political theories and goals had been intriguing and provocative, that was until he resorted to violence to enforce them.
As for the political thesis Tom Zarek was promoting nowadays, even though some made sense, others were quite too radical for Tara. Tara also had trouble imagining that Tom Zarek; coming from Saggitaron, a colonial planet almost as conservative as Gemenon; would take much liking into her way of living - and loving.
In the mean time Laura was conferencing with Commander Adama on the phone, who of course didn't warm to the idea of an convicted terrorist attending the quorum at all, and thus offered to ban Tom Zarek from travelling within the fleet, because in his opinion he represented a threat to the entire fleet.
That started a heated discussion between Laura Roslin, Wallace Gray, Commander Adama and even Billy Keikeya.
But as so often before, the others simply seemed to forget that Tara was still in the room and so nobody bothered to ask Tara for her opinion. And when she tried to voice her thoughts anyway, she got dismissed right away.
All in all it made Tara once again wonder why she hadn't quit this job all together. She could be working as a teacher aboard the Galactica instead, so why was she still here?
The answer of course always came down to the same thing: her sense of duty.
Tara hadn't taken on the position as Secretary of Education (Sec Ed for short) for the sake of later prestige of having restored the educational system.
No, the one and only reason she had taken on the task was, because it had to be done and she had been and still was the most qualified person to do it.
Everything the Colonies once had been was gone, destroyed by the Cylons or left behind. And now more then ever they needed to build a foundation for the survival of their civilization, by preserving the past, as well as by preparing for the future. For Tara that meant more than to simply teach children how to read, to write and so on.
For example, throughout the fleet there were less then eighty physicians - two of them aboard the Galactica, and all in all only ten dentists.
And so as her next project, Tara wanted to bring the medical students they had within the fleets population to the attending physicians, so they could learn the practical side of their profession, and thus might one day be qualified to further secure the medical care within the fleet. Now that was a goal worth taking up with all the fracking politics that came with the job.
In the mean time a young woman entered the room, a communication technician from the Galactica, now stationed aboard Colonial One, Tara knew and tried to remember her name.
'Specialist Jordan' she thought, 'no that would be her given name. Merklinger! That's it, Specialist Jordan Merklinger.'
Quite pleased with herself, Tara watched the specialist hand Billy a sheet of paper, then leave the room again.
After having scanned over it briefly, Billy handed the message to the president. He did so while casting an odd look at Tara, making her wonder what this message was all about.
'Probably has something to do with the Secretary of Education', she thought and considered that maybe the people of the passenger liner White Star had come up with a way to cause some additional trouble about Delenn Sheridan after all.
Concerning the Sec Ed the message was, but about the White Star or Delenn? Far from it.
Tara found that out the moment Laura Roslin had finished reading.
"Well isn't that great", President Roslin muttered under her breath, and with a louder voice asked everybody except Billy and Tara to leave the room.
After Billy had closed the door, Laura Roslin turned around and waving the sheet of paper in her hand angrily in front of Tara's face she said: "this will be all over the fleet within the next hours." Obviously the President was quite furious over whatever was in this news bulletin.
"So what's the matter ?" Tara asked bewildered.
"What's the matter?" Laura literally exploded. "You ask me what's the matter!"
In all the years that she'd worked with the then Secretary of Education, Tara had never seen her this angry. And since she now even more wanted to know what was making Laura so furious, Tara grasped the piece of paper, the president was still waving in front of her face.
But Laura Roslin snatched it right back again and handed it to Billy. "Here, you read it", she said and took a step behind, looking out of the window - not at Tara, while Billy started to read the bulletin.
"According to a well informed source; a high-ranking person within Laura Rosin's illegitimate regime, is currently involved in a homosexual affair with a member of Galactica's military personnel.
'So someone really did see Willow and me kissing', Tara thought and another voice inside her head said, 'probably it's better this way, cause now the hiding is over.'
'Maybe it is,' Tara answered herself. But that was as far as she got, for in that moment Laura furiously ripped the paper from Billy's hands, almost tearing it apart in the process.
"Do you know what this means?" she asked Tara brusquely and accusingly pointed at her with the paper.
"That you have a gay person working for you?" Tara returned the question helpfully.
"Don't you get funny with me Lady!" the President yelled. "This is serious. They know exactly that it is you. First of all, I don't have that many women working in my administration", she paused dramatically for the moment. "And secondly you are the only high-ranking woman I've employed. Besides, if it were just on of the secretaries they certainly wouldn't even bother spreading that rumour in the first place!"
She paused again and taking off her glasses, started rubbing the bridge of her nose.
"This is a catastrophe", she eventually went on. "First Tom Zarek and now my Sec Ed is not only close to being denounced, but she's also having an affair with someone within Galactica's military personnel."
"Affair?" Tara said agitated, "who's having an affair? I'm not! I'm in a devoted relationship with the woman I love, and we..."
"That's not the point!" Laura viciously cut her off. "In case you haven't noticed, this administration is under considerable pressure. Even before Tom Zarek and his little prison revolt, people have been questioning the legitimacy of my presidency."
"So?" Tara asked defiantly, not just now did she see where this discussion - if you wanted to call it that - was heading.
But she refused to give the enraged president any avoidable help.
"Can you imagine what Tom Zarek will make of this, when word comes out that I appointed a... appointed you Secretary of Education?" Laura asked.
'Nicely saved', Tara thought sarcastically, 'you were just about to call the matter by name.'
She remained silent though, since it was obviously that this was more of an rhetorical question and Laura was far from over and indeed without waiting for an answer she went on.
"Now that Tom Zarek is representing Saggitaron he's become even more dangerous. Not to mention other planets that are as conservative as Saggitaron. Gemenon for one, they've been acting up for sometime already with their ever increasing demands and... Well great", Laura stopped, suddenly remembering something else.
"And there's of course this ship full of people from Gemenon, whom, you had to bully into getting this precious teacher of yours!"
"Now wait a minute!" Tara cried out, clearly she had allowed this to go much too long already, but she certainly wasn't about to let Laura Roslin trash her work too.
"Who's this playmate of yours anyway?" the president asked rather crossly. Ignoring what Tara had said completely. "Perhaps this communication gal - this Merklinger?"
"Not my type", Tara replied sarcastically. "And I won't tell you who she is anyway. Lest you should attack her too, like you attacking me!"
"I am not attacking anyone! I'm just trying to... - what?" she snapped at Billy who, in the meantime, had answered a phone call.
"Excuse me Madam President", Billy said, "but your transport to Cloud Nine is ready to depart."
Laura Roslin took a deep breath before she spoke to Tara again. "Okay", she said. "We will talk about this later. I will discuss it with Wally. See if we can manage some sort of damage control, before things come out."
She took the suitcase Billy was handing her and started to make her way to the door, when she casually added: "In the meantime I would advise you to keep your hormones under control - you Lezzy."
With that last verbal punch President Roslin hit home hard and a single tear ran down Tara's cheek. Luckily the president didn't see it as she stormed out of the room.
Billy however had seen it and not agreeing with his boss attacking Tara for her sexual orientation, he stood there clearly torn in his divided loyalties between his boss and his colleague and friend.
"It is okay", Tara lied and they both knew it, "I'll manage, Laura is waiting for you anyway. See you tomorrow."
Thus excused, Billy said his goodbyes and hurried after his enraged boss.
Finally alone, Tara no longer resisted and the tears ran freely down her face, 'til she was all weeping in misery and disappointment. She couldn't believe what just had happened.
That of all people, Laura Roslin, with whom she'd worked for so many years should be the one to turn against her and above all call her names, hurt beyond belief.
It hurt her as much as it had hurt when her father had rejected her for being gay; or Rene's unfaithfulness, or when Faith...
Actually it hurt even more. Because Laura hadn't just suddenly turned from understanding to homophobic, no. Her bad reaction had strictly been prompted by political circumstances.
Obviously Tara's premature coming out (again) was simply one big inconvenience, that Laura considered a danger to her presidency.
All those years that Tara had watched Laura work with Adar. She'd been so quiet, polite and dignified. And never seamed to fit in with the bare-knuckled, backstabbing politicians.
"Guess I was wrong", Tara whispered to herself as she fetched a handkerchief to wipe away her tears. "But let's not lose faith in her just now", Tara advised herself. Maybe when she calmed down, Laura would see that Tara's outing wasn't the end of the world.
Tomorrow Tara would be travelling from Colonial One to the White Star to get Delenn Sheridan and from there they would go to the Cloud Nine. And then she would know if the President really had calmed down.
"Dr Tara Maclay, Secretary of Education, pleasure to meet you", Tara said for what felt the thousandth time, as she greeted yet another of the delegates to the Quorum of the Twelve. Standing under the open simulated sky in front of the Congress Centre where the quorum was to be held, Tara knew she ought to feel good about having the bogus sun shine upon her, but instead she felt as miserable as ever.
She'd been aboard the Cloud Nine, for half a day now, but despite Tara's hopes, Laura Roslin had neither calmed down, nor was she even willing to talk more then absolutely necessary with her secretary of education.
As a matter of fact, following one very short briefing about today's agenda, Laura had gone to considerable trouble of not being seen with Tara at all - without making it look like she was avoiding her on purpose, of course.
Tara now stood some places down the line from the president, greeting the arriving delegates. 'Politics' all over again', Tara thought bitterly, as she greeted the next delegate that came down the long line, that began with Col. Tigh representing the Galactica.
Suddenly there was some commotion further up the line and Tara could see strait away who was causing it - Tom Zarek the representative for Saggitaron.
Some people like Col. Tigh ignored the hand Zarek offered for greeting. The President, Tara could see, not only shook his hand, but kissed him on the cheeks in greeting too.
Not having made up her mind whether or not to except Zarek's hand, Tara found herself caught off guard as he suddenly stood in front of her.
"Secretary of Education", she began mixing up what she'd said for the past half hour.
"Dr. Tara Maclay", Tom Zarek completed her greeting. "Pleasure to meet you at last. I've heard so much about you", he added with a charismatic smile.
Tara's own smile froze. Would Laura be right, would he now try to make a scene? Try to win some political advantage over the President, by publicly attacking the Sec Ed?
"You have?" she asked, keeping her voice level.
"Of course", Zarek said friendly, "I followed your fight with the board of governors of your university as closely as I could."
Tara found herself quiet startled. She would never have thought that anyone would remember her from that time, least of all a man like Tom Zarek.
"So you don't object to me as the Secretary of Education?" Tara asked openly, knowing very well that she might be pushing the envelope to far.
"Of course not", Zarek answered dismissively, "from what I remember you already did an excellent job, as staff member in the ministry of education. And from what I can see now, you're doing a rather outstanding job in creating an working educational system from scrap. So why should I have anything against you?"
To be honest, after all he said, Tara could not think of anything to respond to this.
"Besides", Tom Zarek went on, and lowered his voice. "I think that humanity has more important issues to deal with, then to worry about the sexual orientation of any particular secretary, wouldn't you agree?"
"I suppose so", Tara said thoughtfully.
"I better move on, lest I should be holding up the line too long", Tom Zarek said and with one finale squeeze let go of Tara's hand.
'Well that was unexpected. Who would've thought that Tom Zarek would be rendering the sexual orientation of the Sec Ed as non important', Tara thought while she greeted the next delegate and ignored Laura's questioning look form above the line.
Better to remain cautious though, she knew. Even though probably sincere on his opinion, Tom Zarek could still be tempted to use his knowledge against her, and the president.
Still Tara knew, that if this was all that would come out of the spreading rumours, she could call herself lucky. Plus there ought to be more important issues for the press to cover, she hoped.
In the following Quorum it then really became apparent that the press indeed would have more important things to report about.
Especially since, right at the beginning of the Quorum, Tom Zarek made good on his promise that there would be far more important issues, when he moved to put on the agenda the election of a Vice-President!
With Tom Zarek promptly being nominated, and Laura nominating her dear friend and political adviser Wallace Gray hours later, the various campaigns got right under way.
And Tara was quite sure that the press would no longer be interested in investigating the sexual orientation of the "high-ranking cabinet member".
Or at least Tara believed it 'til the first press conference of the Quorum, when Laura and her cabinet answered the questions of the gathered press.
For the first hour things went well. Most of the questions were directed to Laura and her candidate for vice presidency Wallace Gray, and of course mostly concerned his campaign.
The few questions Tara was asked, actually concerned her work, and thus really gave her the opportunity to talk about what she had accomplished so far and she even managed to outline her plans for the future.
However the press conference was just about to come to a close, when somewhat unexpectedly, one of the more Roslin critical reporters from Saggitaron popped "the question".
"Secretary Maclay, what do you say to the rumours concerning a homosexual affair between a member of the Roslin administration and a member of Galactica's military personnel?"
From the very way the question was presented, Tara could see that he had no doubt about asking one of the persons involved in that 'affair'. She also was sure, that at least for now, it still hadn't been figured out who the military was. Otherwise he surely would have spoken of an officer or right away a Viper pilot.
Even though Tara was immediately agitated by the way this guy had managed to make the 'homosexual affair' (That word again!) sound like the most disgusting thing possible, she had been ready the answer this, with a well prepared statement.
But before she could even say a word, Laura cut her of by announcing: "This administration will not comment on rumours of any kind."
Having been prepared to handle such inquires herself, Tara found herself annoyed by the President cutting her off.
Apparently with no success, since another reporter, formerly of some cheesy tabloid back on Gemenon Tara remembered, repeated the question once again, getting more clear on what he meant and wanted to know:
"Secretary Maclay, do you think a gay person is qualified for any position within the colonial government?"
Again Tara wanted to answer him accordingly, without confirming or denying the rumours, but again Laura cut her off.
"Ladies and Gentlemen", she said, "I think we are getting off topic here. Time is of the essence and I think we should concentrate on the more important subjects."
Feeling completely embarrassed by the President's behaviour; but not wanting to create a huge scene, Tara decided for the small one. "Would you please excuse me", she said and left the podium right away.
"Thank you Lt. de Monti, I will be down in the hangar bay at fifteen hundred hours", Tara replaced the receiver of the phone. She had just arranged for an early return to the Galactica, though she still would have to spend the rest of the day aboard this luxury liner.
Besides, as far as the Sec Ed was concerned the Quorum was over anyway. Except for more of the usually boring administration points of the agenda, all that was left was the election of the Vice President in two days and the closing banquet on the following evening.
And since Tara was neither in the mood for hanging around another day with Laura Roslin, nor for dancing - not without Willow anyway, she'd called the Galactica and soon one of their Raptors would be on the way to pick her up.
"Would you mind telling me, what the hell this exit of yours was supposed to be?" The very angry voice of Laura Roslin demanded to know, as the President stood in the door of the little office at the Congress Centre, that Tara had been using during her stay at Cloud Nine. Without turning around Tara continued packing some documents into her suitcase. "It became absolutely clear to me", she answered, "that I was neither needed nor wanted anymore and that's why I left. I think you will be glad to know that I'll be leaving for the Galactica before the end of the day. And I will be staying at my quarters until the Raptor arrives, so you no longer need to worry about me getting into contact with any other member of the press."
"Don't you get smart with me!" Laura now literally exploded, as she slammed the door behind her shut. "You..." Again she stopped herself in time, or so she thought
"I think the word you are searching for", Tara said, hurrying around facing her boss, "is Dyke. Although the name you ought to be looking for is Doctor Maclay!" She took a step closer, "You know I worked hard to earn this title. And unlike with some other people, my Doctor title is not an honorary one. Furthermore I have done a good job and you owe me some goddamned respect! And by shutting me up like a child in front of the press, you showed no respect at all."
"You were just about to confirm your affair with that woman to the press", Laura insisted. "In case you've forgotten, we're in the middle of an election campaign and Tom Zarek is winning ground as we speak."
Tara took another step forward and fixated on her boss with her eyes as she slowly explained it one more time: "it's not an affair it's a relationship. And she's not 'that woman', she's my girlfriend. And even if I were to come out - again, it would be my and only my decision. Cause if your government is truly based upon the article of colonization, as you claim, then you know that it's illegal to discriminate against me for being gay. And by trying to force me to stay closeted you're doing just that."
"I don't want to keep you in the closet", Laura insisted, "it's just, now would be an inconvenient time for you to come out, don't you see?"
A short and bitter laugh escaped Tara lips, Laura just wasn't getting it she could see. "Inconvenient time? Do you really want me to believe that there would ever be a convenient time?"
"Yes!" Laura answered almost sounding it. "after we defeated Tom Zarek."
"Or maybe once you've been re-elected in six month's time?" Tara offered helpfully.
"It's not just about my election", Laura said, "I'm also afraid that the press might turn against you if you came out right now."
"Of course", Tara said not even trying to hide her disappointment, that her boss would now try to present herself as a protector of the poor lesbian. "You know I'm quite sure that they wouldn't all turn against me. Certainly not Cordelia Chase from 'Caprica Today'."
"What makes you so sure?"
"Because I know for a fact that she's gay herself! She used to work as an editor for 'Cure' the bestselling lesbian magazine on Caprica. I think I even dated her once. Or was it for an interview" Tara added jokingly.
Laura Roslin however was not amused. She slowly shook her head and said, "I don't believe this is working. I'm afraid Dr. Maclay, I will have to ask you for your resignation as Secretary of Education, as well as my liaison to the Galactica."
Tara swallowed hard upon the president making this unexpected suggestion. No, not entirely unexpected. Deep down Tara had to admit that she knew Laura Roslin could been tempted to simply avoid the problem by making her step down.
However, if Laura Roslin actually believed that Tara would simply lay down and obey, especially after all she'd been through back on Gemenon, then she didn't really know her Sec Ed at all.
"Hold it right there Madam President", Tara said in her no-nonsense voice, "you know it takes two to tango, and if you really believe that I'm going to commit political suicide on your behalf then you are greatly mistaken."
"Now what's that supposed to mean?"
"It means Madam President", Tara went on, her voice as cold as ice, "that you can have the 'Liaison to Galactica'. You hardly ever needed me in this capacity - not since you made Captain Adama your military adviser anyway."
She made her voice even sharper as she cut to the chase. "But if you think, that I'm going to hand you my resignation on a silver tablet, then you are a fool! I have done exemplary work rebuilding a working school system out of nothing. Not to mention that it was I who had all these teaching material transferred to the Galactica well in advance; thus laying the foundation for what we now can work with."
Tara paused for a moment giving her words time to sink in, before she continued: "This is what I'm going to do. I will not resign my position, but will return to the Galactica and continue with my work. And if you want me out of my job, then I'm afraid you will have to fire me. And we both know that you will not do that."
"Shall I not?" Laura asked calmly, though quietly surprised by Tara's unexpectedly and forcefully displayed strength.
"Because you know", Tara coolly explained, "that in the moment you fire me, I will be giving a press conference myself and tell them, in detail about your true motives. And this truce would be more damaging to your position then a hundred Tom Zarek's.
"But if you let me go on doing the job you hired me for, I will be doing just that. Since I'm doing most of my work from aboard the Galactica, I will not meet with any reporters there for at least another two weeks. Also, once these elections are over, I'm sure the interest in my sexual orientation will be subsiding as well. So either way, I'm sure you can see that firing me will be creating more problems for you that it seemingly would solve."
"Are you threatening me?" Laura Roslin asked.
"I don't have to," Tara answered, closed her suitcase and started to walk toward the office doors, where the president's bodyguards were standing guard.
But just before she reached the door, Tara turned around once again and said: "Anyway, just that we understand each other. If anybody should ask me, be it press or anybody else, I will not lie about my gay type lesbian relationship."
With that Tara Maclay left the room and a rather baffled President Laura Roslin.
However on her way to her quarters, Tara did ask herself if she might have overplayed her hand.