This is the Admiral.
A Call to Arms
"Reveille, morning stations aboard Battlestar Pegasus, all hands report to your stations," sounded the disembodied voice of Lt. Anastasia Dualla through the living room while the lights above Willow switched on by themselve. Opening her eyes slowly, Willow's glance drifted around the room and through the open bed room door and the bed on which Miss Kitty was quite busy cleaning her hind leg. Feeling her mistress glance at her the black feline looked up and gave a short meow, jumped off the bed and casually strolled over to where her mistress had spend the night sleeping uncomfortably in her uniform on the couch.
"Morning, Miss Kitty," Willow mumbled and patted the tiny cat's head. "I take it you slept well?" Raking the fingers over the cat, Miss Kitty looked up as if she wanted to say: "I did sleep well but I'm not sure the same could be said about you." Very carefully Willow sat herself up and looking down on herself concluded that she really needed to put on a new uniform jacket before reporting for duty. After all it would be highly inappropriate for the XO to come into the CIC looking as if she had slept in her uniform.
"I really should stop sleeping in my uniform jacket, wouldn't you agree?" she asked Miss Kitty who was still sitting in front of her on the floor and had returned to cleaning herself and was paying no attention to her whatsoever.
Groaning Willow got to her feet and rubbing her aching back she slowly limped towards the bathroom. One of the perks of being the executive officer of a Mercury Class Battlestar was, that unlike her counterpart aboard Galactica Karl Agathon, her accommodations had their very own bathroom, including a shower! Stripping off her clothes as she went Willow came past the mirror hanging near the doorway of the bedroom. She only briefly looked at her worn-out and tired face. Getting only a few hours of sleep every night for a month started to take its toll. It was the hour of the wolf again, all over again. But whereas the last time it had been merely a few days, now she was living in the hour of the wolf, ever since Tara had embarked on her "short delivery" to New Caprica and they all had been taken by surprise by the Cylons sudden return.
Willow took a short, hot shower and after blow drying her hair went back into the bedroom to get dressed. Pulling some clean shirts out of the drawer Willow's glance fell on a photo of herself with Tara, Buffy and Jessica Cally. Again there was the feeling of loss and pain seering through Willow because Jessica too was among those who had been left behind, in order to not let the whole of humanity fall into Cylon hands.
"Hope you don't mind me saying so Willow but you look like hell," Buffy Summers said as she joined Willow on her way to the officers' mess-hall for breakfast.
"Well good morning to you too, Captain," Major Rosenberg answered with a forced smile.
"Good morning Major," Buffy answered. "But honestly Willow, you look awful."
"I know," Willow admitted ruefully, "I do have a mirror in my quarter you know."
"Didn't get much sleep last night." It was a statement not a question, Willow knew. Because Buffy looked like Willow felt herself. They both suffered similar fates with them both having people they loved living under the rule of the Cylon occupation on New Caprica.
"Slept on the couch again didn't you?" Buffy asked as she watched her best friend and superior officer walk beside her with stiff legs, leaning heavily on her cane.
"Yeah," Willow admitted.
"Willow, you won't dishonour Tara by sleeping in your bed," Buffy pointed out. "And you won't accomplish anything either by living the life of a hermit."
"But I can't sleep in that bed all by myself!" Willow cried out.
"I can sleep with you," her best friend offered spontaneously and frowned. "You know that sounded a lot more lesbian than I indented it to be." That remark prompted them both to giggle but they soon covered their mouths with their hands.
"It's like a guilty pleasure, isn't it?" Willow said, putting into words what they both had been thinking in that moment.
"Tell me about it," Buffy agreed as they started walking again. "Yesterday I was listening to my player, it was set on shuffle and played something soothing from an old radio comedy; Old Harry's Game I believe, and before I knew it I was laughing out loud. For the rest of the night I felt horrible. Like I had betrayed Dawn or something like that."
"I'm sure they're all right," Willow said, knowing very well that she would die if anything would happen to Tara or Hope.
"Yeah, I'm sure they're fine," Buffy said, though not sounding like she meant it. "Well at least as fine as it could be, given the circumstances.
"Any news on when we will be commencing the rescue ops?" 'Slayer' now wanted to know.
"Not yet," Pegasus' XO told her CAG. "We're still trying to figure out a way to retrieve the launch keys for the grounded civilian ships from the Cylons."
Buffy nodded in understanding. The whole rescue operation could only succeed if they got the other ships off the planet's surface.
"But at least the Raptor that's been hiding in the nebular above New Caprica for twelve hours every day, ever since we had to abandon them, has finally made contact with the resistance down there," Willow then told her best friend.
Buffy stopped dead in her step, "Wait a minute, when did that happen?"
"Then why didn't you tell me yesterday?"
"Well," Willow said, "you looked so tired yesterday, after those eighteen hours of drills, I thought that you really needed the rest. And if I had told you then…"
"I wouldn't have slept at all," Buffy concluded. "Thanks for your consideration, Will."
"So how things are going on New Caprica?" Buffy asked Willow while entering the officers' mess-hall to grab a quick breakfast.
"Well, we're still analysing the data package they send us. But from what I've seen, I'll say they are fully organized and ready to start the necessary diversions, to keep the Cylons on the ground busy, while they evacuate the civilians to their ships. While you and the raptors lure away the Basestars and let the Battlestars finish the rest."
They finished their breakfast in silence, both knowing that for this plan succeed they first needed to get those launch keys. These were kept by the Cylons in the best secured building on the planet. They couldn't simply go down and try to take on this well protected facility by force. No, what they needed was somebody who could go in there unnoticed and get the keys out.
But who in the name of the lords could do that?
"I know Miss Kitty, I know," Willow said to the kitten who was looking up to her with an accusing look. "I slept on the couch again. But at least," she said, setting herself up, "this time I took off the jacket first."
Miss Kitty jumped on the couch and settled herself down into Willow's lap. Sitting up she raised a paw and gently put it on Willow's tummy.
"I know," Willow told the cat and took it into a carefully hug, "I miss her too and I too know that I can't go on like this for much longer." She held on to the tiny kitten for a while longer who was purring.
Slowly Willow got up and after she had prepared breakfast for Miss Kitty she got herself ready for breakfast with Buffy before she would head out for duty shift at the CIC and one last day of drills with the combined forces of Galactica and Pegasus. Finally every thing was in place for them to embark on rescuing the people of the Twelve Colonies of Kobol from New Caprica.
Ahead of the Battlestars one single Raptor would start out tomorrow morning with a colonial officer and a marine strike team. They where to make contact with the resistance and coordinate with them for the arrival of Pegasus and Galactica. Now this particular officer would also have the task of retrieving the launch keys, bring them to the resistance for them to distributing them to the civilian ships.
So all of their hopes lay with Lt. Agathon - Sharon Agathon. Only the Cylon could walk into the Cylon detention facility because the centurions were unable to distinguish between any copy of a particular model. In fact they were deliberately programmed that way, programmed from having any conscious thought, programmed to keep them from becoming self aware. 'Seems irony is kinda ironic that way,' Willow though. 'That the humanoid Cylons should be afraid of having their very own machine rebellion on their hand.
Her thoughts returned to Admiral Adama`s choice of sending the Cylon Sharon Vallerii, now Sharon Agathon, 'Boomer' - though Willow found it strange to connect her with her call sign, after all she was different from the 'Boomer' she once knew and which shoot William Adama.
Way back on Kobol, when she had refused to play along in the plan of Tom Zarek's chief of staff Meier to assassinate both William and Lee Adama, the Cylon had clearly chosen to side with humanity and on many occasions had proven her loyalty too. And that despite her baby having died so shortly after it had been born. So if the old man could trust Sharon enough to take her back into the colonial forces - only two days ago she had taken the oath - then Willow could too. Or at least she could try.
However with Tara's Cylon ex - Faith, still lurking in the back of her mind that wasn't so easy.
"Major! Galactica flight control reports, 'Pegasus Actual' is on his way."
"About bloody time," Willow uttered under her breath. Out loud she said: "Thank you Lieutenant. Acknowledge Galactica's signal and inform flight control that the commander is about to return."
It was late in the evening and less than twelve hours before a squadron of Raptor's were to jump to New Caprica. There they should simulate the Dradis signature of the Battlestars in order to lure the Cylon Basestars away. The real Battlestars would follow shortly with Galactica jumping directly into the planet's upper atmosphere to launch Vipers.
For the past hours Willow had waited impatiently for Lee Adama's return and brief her with the final details from the rescue operation. She still was miffed for having to stay behind at Pegasus to oversee the final drills.
'I'll be back,' Willow had promised and it was time for her to make good on her promise even though it meant to engage the Cylon Basestars with Pegasus.
"We are doing what?!" Willow shouted, not realising that she was indeed yelling at her commanding officer.
"You heard me Major," Lee Adama answered, ignoring Willow's quite inappropriate tone of voice. "We're staying behind with the fleet."
"While Galactica takes on the Basestars all on her own?"
"That's right," Lee said with such a calm voice that it made Willow want to punch a superior officer for the first time in her military career. Never before had she felt such a need and that despite her having served under Colonel Tigh.
Lee Adama had gone soft and lost his edge. But not only concerning his attitude but physically as well; in the past year he had gained weight considerably. Willow couldn't understand how an officer like him could have let himself go like that. Ever since she had overcome her own crisis Willow had worked hard to improve her physical condition. And for the past four monthes she had even intensified her workout. Willow was as fit as ever and even though she still relied on her cane it would never keep her from performing on top of her abilities. She even scored top notch at the firing range, impressing the master at arms with how well she shot even though she had to do it single handed.
So here she was, fit as a fiddle and there sat her commanding officer all relaxed and fat.
"Sir, you can't possibly believe that Galactica will stand a chance to return from this!" Willow pointed out, getting more agitated by the minute.
"You're right I don't believe it."
"So if they don't return to the rendezvous point…"
"I'm to take command of the fleet and continue the search for earth." Lee reached for a bowl with some snacks and Willow felt her blood reach boiling point.
"Sir how can you just sit there, when the admiral is obviously planning on not coming back!" Her voice got louder again.
"Because those are his orders!" Adama said, pointing at a piece of paper lying in front of him on the table.
"Then you have to go back and talk to the admiral!"
"One thing I've learned about my father," Lee said slowly, "is that once he made his decision, he's unlikely to go back on it."
"Sir we can't just let them go alone," Willow repeated.
"Major, must I remind you that it is not your place to tell me how to run my command?" Commander Adama said, his voice now dangerously calm.
"Permission to speak openly?" Willow asked, straightening her back as she stood to attention. Lee Admiral nodded. "Sir, the way it is," Willow said coldly, "you are not treating the Pegasus like she is your command. You merely keeping the centre seat warm until someone comes with the guts to make the tough decisions."
"That would be all Major," Adama snapped, his face gone pale. "Dismissed." Without another look Willow turned her back and marched out of Lee Adama's rather luxurious quarters.
For an hour Willow stood in the middle of her living room, staring at the telemetry screens imbedded in the rooms long wall. With herself off duty and Lee Adama still in his quarter, Lt. Jean Lefebvre was in command of the CIC. She was one of the best second officers Willow could wish for.
"I have to do something," Willow told Miss Kitty, who was sitting right next to her on the floor. "I can't just sit here and wait for to others to bring Tara back." She watched the screens as a single Raptor launched from Galactica and jumped away. Lt. Agathon and a marine strike team, for the first part of the operation. Galactica would follow later, leaving Pegasus and the rest of the fleet behind. Behind to wait hope and pray.
Willow couldn't wait! She just couldn't sit here and wait for Tara to be returned to her. There was also this nagging feeling in the back of Willow's head that not only she needed to be up in orbit above New Caprica but down there in New Caprica City. But how could she get there?
Another hour of pacing up and down the living room thinking, Willow took up the phone to call the CIC. "Jean?" she asked, "I need a Raptor and a pilot in five minutes," she ordered and upon hanging up hoped that she had sounded convincing enough for Jean not to call the Adama to confirm her order. Willow checked her sidearm, there would be larger weapons aboard the Raptor she knew. As well as the necessary combat gear - helmet and a bullet-proof west.
Now if she would only get the right pilot.
Willow stepped out of the elevator and into the buzzing starboard hangar bay. All around her, pilots and specialists where busy getting those of Pegasus' Raptors and vipers ready that where to go with Galactica. In the far corner Willow spotted her friend Buffy 'Slayer' Summers working on her Mark II Viper, she'd brought over from Galactica when she became Pegasus' CAG. Casually Willow started to walk over to where she knew the Raptor that was neither part of the operation nor one of the evacuation Raptor's was ready for her. Now if she could only get there without anybody asking questions, so she didn't need to lie about where she really was planning to go.
"Going anywhere Major?"
"Commander Adama!" Willow said turning around to find Lee Adama leaning casually against the wall of the bay where the Raptor was standing. "Yes, I was about to…" she fell silent, unable to go on and lie to Lee while he watched her with understanding but at the same time with disappointment.
"Lee," Willow said pleadingly, calling him by his first name for the first time, "I need to get back and save Tara."
He made a step towards her. "Willow, by the time you get there the town will be in complete chaos and you are disabled." He pointed at her injured leg.
"I can do this Lee," Willow said determined. "For the past month I have been working for this."
"So you are really determined to commandeer a Raptor and take it to New Caprica on a mission against orders?"
"And if I try to stop you?" Lee Adama asked quietly.
"Sir, you will have to knock me out if you really want to keep me from going," she raised her cane, ready to defend herself. But to her utter surprise the commander laughed out loud.
"Sir?" Willow asked puzzled.
"You know Willow," Lee said getting a grip, "I don't think I'm really in a position to lecture you on obeying orders when I'm about to disobey some orders myself."
"Sir?" Willow asked again.
"We'll be going to New Caprica too."
"Yes, seems that you and my wife managed to successfully kick my frakking ass," Lee said. "So we will be following Galactica, though we will give her a head start. Should give the Cylons one hell of a surprise when we turn up, joining the party."
"Sir if you do need me in the CIC," Willow offered, out of her sense for duty.
"No Willow, you go and get your wife," Lee Adama said and the added: "But not on your own. Sergeant!" From behind him Willow spotted Sergeant Bruce O'Reilly and three more marines coming around the corner and standing to attention in front of them. Only absentmindedly Willow returned their salute and watched the commander send them aboard the Raptor. She also saw Lieutenant Dana Kim giving her the thumbs up, signalling that the Raptor was ready for take off. Willow turned back to face the commander.
"Thank you Lee," she said, her voice filled with gratitude.
"Don't mention it."
Willow stood to attention. "Permission to depart sir?" she asked.
"Permission granted," Adama returned.
Willow was just about to board the Raptor when she turned around once more. "Since you're going into battle after all," she said carefully, "if, gods forbid, it might be necessary to abandon ship… could you send somebody to make sure our cat gets off too?"
"You know Willow," Lee Adama said wryly, "you're really asking a lot for a person who's about to embark upon a mission against orders." He gave her his best glare, "I'll have a crew member take care of, what's her name?"
"Miss Kitty Fantastico."
"Right. Now off you go!" Willow climbed up to the Raptors wing then turned around one more time.
"Good hunting 'Red-Dyke'!" 'Pegasus Actual' called.
"Good hunting 'Apollo'!" Willow returned.
"Sir would you man the Dradis?" Lt. Kim asked. "The commander said he could spare a pilot and some marines, but nothing more."
"No problem," Willow said, placed her cane securely next to the Dradis station and put on the bullet prove west before sitting down in front of the Dradis screens. Willow started to check the jump drive while the Raptor was moved up to the upper starboard landing bay.
"Okay jump on my mark," Willow called out minutes later, after they'd cleared Pegasus. "Five, four, three, two, one, jump!"
A enormous sonic blast send Willow down to her knees. "I'm all right!" she yelled as one of the marines pulled her back to her feet.
"Sir look!" another marine called out and pointed up to the sky and the most magnificent sight Willow had ever seen.
The Galactica had jumped right into the upper atmosphere and in a burning blaze plummeted towards the surface like a stone. Out of this flaming inferno Galactica launched Vipers before jumping away again. Now the battle was really on.
Explosions were going up everywhere around New Caprica City, Vipers where thundering overhead, chasing Cylon raiders. In all the turmoil civilians where running from cover to cover to get to their designated ships, while insurgents where engaged in areal combat with Cylon centurions. But where was Tara?
"Okay let's move!" Willow ordered.
"Yes sir!" Sergeant O' Reilly answered. "Okay people, go, go, go!"
They moved to the next cover, Willow following as fast as she could. There she spotted people moving into their direction. "Friendly!" she cried, after she identified Laura Roslin, looking through a pair of binoculars.
"Mrs. Roslin where's Tara?" she asked the former president and two fighters of the insurgents had come over to them.
"I don't know," Laura said, "I went to her tent to get her before this all started," she paused as a Raider flew right over their head followed closely by one of Galactica's Vipers. "But she was gone. I'm sorry."
"It's not your fault," Willow said, though she had to admit that she had hoped to find Tara with her former boss.
"Okay," Laura Roslin said while around them the first civilian ships were getting into the air and jumping away as soon as they had reached the appropriate high. "If you don't mind, I need to get my ship back!" She pointed towards Colonial One.
"Do me a favour," Willow yelled over another explosion, "and give that son of a bitch Gaius Baltar a good kick into his traitorous ass."
"I see what I can do," Laura Roslin called back, as she and her escort started moving again.
"Where to now, Major?" O' Reilly asked.
She couldn't tell why but suddenly Willow just knew where to go. "That way!" she called out and soon they where moving again, blasting away two centurions that where standing in their way.
"Sir we have something," called a female marine, who was looking around a corner of a tent with the help of a mirror she attached to a piece of metal. "But it's not looking good."
"What is it?" Willow asked, crawling up next to the marine.
"Sir it's your wife and another civilian," she answered.
"Let me see," Willow said. The marine handed her the mirror, then moved around Willow, so the major could take her place.
Willow moved closer to the corner and carefully stuck the mirror out. Once she'd adjusted the angle, Willow saw what the marine had seen and her eyes widened in terror, as her glance rested on the most horrible sight she had ever seen in her life.