A Bottle Between Friends
Location: Patrolstar Achilles
Timeline: PCH-5 1300 Hours
Things had been insane for the past several days, and even that had been an understatement. Hit both unexpected and unprepared the Achilles had gone through hell to get here and now she had been pillaged of almost everything to reinforce the more powerful ship in their fleet. Of all places, the Air Group probably felt this most extensively. Reduced to a single squadron the position of CAG had more become one of Squadron Leader but work continued and reports needed to be filed. After giving the overview one more look Alethea walked into the CIC where she expected the XO to be. Upon seeing the man she approached him. “XO, I have the daily updates on the squadron” She said.
Zach wasn’t used to being in CIC; he wasn’t used to the standard uniform. He took note of the surprising lack of dirt underneath his fingernails and he felt out of sorts. He was an engineer, and a hands-on one at that. How the Major had charmed him into saying yes to this clown show was beyond him; then again, he recalled her figure and her smile. The mystery was solved.
He stood behind the command table in the small room which seemed packed with people. He’d finished reading a report and, as he took the last drag of a glass of water, he heard the door to the CIC open and saw Alethea walk in. A warm yet distant smile crossed his handsome features as he looked her in the eyes. “Oh, yes. More reports. Great.” he said, his smile seeming both to broaden and to become more pained. “Thanks, Alethea.”
Alethea couldn’t help but smile at the response, at least she wasn’t the only one annoyed by it all. “I think you’d prefer a good old engine right now, right?”
“Oh my Gods, you have no idea.” he exclaimed. Just after he said so, he noticed the glances from the crew in CIC and remembered that he was in a leadership role. He made a visible effort to comport himself and to make the best of the situation, at least in front of the junior officers. “Uh… no one’s really right where they want to be right now. We’re all doing our best where we’ve been put; trying to keep frakking toasters off our backs.”
She had trouble hiding her amusement at the entire exchange, the XO definitely was capable of Command but she had gotten to know him as the kind of guy with an attitude sometimes prone to rather unexpected statements. “Yes, about that. Any news when I’m getting some Vipers back? They’re kind of making us run on the most bare essentials here”
“It’s not looking good, Captain.” he said, frankly. He had always had of way of being perfectly honest, yet tactful. “Solaria seems to be angling for a huge shift. Not sure what it’ll look like, but something tells me it might leave you with about a Squadron.” he offered her a charming yet knowing smile and folded his arms across his chest. “I can go to bat for you if you want me to; see what I can do.”
“Of course they are, because Battlestars always come in taking priority” She sighed. “Anything you could do would be nice, I’m not convinced we can protect the Achilles with that kind of downsizing. We’re already down a lot in pilots”
“I’m here for you.” he said, flashing his white teeth. He’d always been known for his charm and his quiet confidence. “I will be needing one favor though..”
Alethea nodded “Of course, Captain. What is it?” She asked.
“That bottle of Ambrosia in your quarters is only half gone. If you let me finish it with you, I’ll work on retaining a few birds on this ship.” he said with a friendly wink. There wasn’t anything suggestive or more than platonic about what he was asking for; a gesture of friendship.
“We definitely should, tonight at 8 perhaps?” She could definitely appreciate that the new position hadn’t gone to the man’s head. Of course the circumstances of the promotion were unfortunate but Alethea knew for sure they had a good XO in him.
“I’ll meet you there.” he said with a nod as a baby-faced crewman brought him another stack of papers. “For now, it seems I’ve got some reading to do.”
“I’m looking forward to it” She replied with a smile before turning around and heading back to the hangar.
Alethea had gotten a quick bite to eat after her shift and from there had proceeded to her quarters. Despite the platonic nature of it all, she still felt that with everything from the past few days it would be good for everything to at least look like it was any other day before the Fall. Her flight suit had made place for the regular Dress uniform and just as she got the bottle out of the cabinet, she noticed that it was 8 already. She then put the bottle on the table, waiting for her guest to arrive.
The knock at the door came swiftly with three solid thuds. Zach stood waiting for the door to be opened in his uniform pants and standard-issue beater. He nodded at two crewmen who passed down the corridor behind him as he waited for the door to be opened to him.
As soon as she heard the knock, Alethea walked to the door and opened it. “Captain”’ She said while moving back to give her XO some space to get into her quarters. “The bottle is ready”
“Zach…” he corrected with a sideways grin as he stepped over the raised threshold of the door. “No one ever called me by my rank on this ship until I became XO.” he chuckled and lowered himself into a seat.
“Right, and then you did become XO. You better get used to it, Zach” Alethea said with a grin before closing the door and turning around to sit down in the seat opposite. She had already prepared two glasses and filled both of them. “So how is XO life so far?”
“Full of far more communication and paperwork than I ever thought I would have.” he responded with a handsome white-toothed grin. “But I’m done complaining about my life. How about you? How are you feeling considering…” he paused for a moment, looking at her. The colonies had fallen; very likely everyone they’d ever known outside of this fleet was dead.
Alethea sighed and emptied the whole glass in response. “I’ve been trying not to think about it, everyone outside of the members of this crew were either on the Orion or on Caprica. They are almost definitely all gone” She said, struggling to restrain her emotions.
“Same here.” he said with a frown, taking a drag of the powerful drink and then pulling the glass back down and holding it casually, his fingers dancing around it. “Honestly, it’s amazing that we, of all ships, got away. I keep trying to figure out why we survived and not everyone else.”
“I’m not sure we are the lucky ones, even with the Solaria and the civilian fleet there is no way we are going to hold off the toasters with these odds too long. At least a nuke would be quick” Only as she told it did she realize how morbid that sentence really was. “I just don’t get it Zach, we had a solid thing going here doing our own thing. Why the hells did they come back?”
“Because that’s what big mistakes do.” he said simply, taking anothing drink from the glass in his hand. “We can try to bury our problems all we want; it won’t make them go away. We had no business making these frakkin toasters anyway. We played the Gods and thought we could handle the consequences. Well, we couldn’t.” he pursed his lips. “I don’t know about you, Alethea, but I plan on keeping this fleet alive and building the human race back up from scratch.”
Alethea poured herself another glass as she considered the man’s words, she could appreciate his can do attitude despite the odds. “You’re probably right, I just hope there is enough left to build us up again”
“There has to be.” he responded confidently. “We have to fight like there is.” He finished his glass and reached for the bottle, pouring himself another.
For the first time in a long while a legitimate smile appeared on her face, not in response to anything humorous or the like but for the first time since the attack did she feel hope again. “Thanks, Zach”
He looked up at her, a bit confused by her gratitude. He contorted his face and lifted his brow. “Huh?” he responded dumbly, lifting the fresh glass to his lips.
“After all that has happened I needed to hear that, I guess as long as there is even one person left it’s worth fighting for” She said after taking a sip from her glass.
“Sure it is.” he said with a simple grin. “It’s all going to be okay. I know everything’s gone to hell but think about it; it’s a frakking miracle we’re alive. Plain and simple. Some people might call that chance, but I don’t have that much faith in randomness to believe that.”
“Perhaps the Gods are watching out for us” She replied, bending backwards in her chair. “I do wonder if anyone survived on the Colonies”
“Damn, I hope so.” Zach responded, lifting the drink to his lips again and taking a quick sip. As he followed, he focused his eyes on the woman across from him. “Don’t work yourself to death, Thea.” He said, seriously. “Find some bliss; find some comfort. We can’t live on vengeance and duty alone.” he leaned in even further. “That’s an order.”
Not a lot of people called her Thea, not a lot of them were allowed to for that matter. Just family and close friends. As she considered his words, they became more and more appealing. It was the end of the world, why shouldn’t one have some fun? “Y… You are right Zach” She said, not sure whether it was the alcohol doing the talking or her.
Zach down the rest of his glass and leaned back in the chair. Her quarters were smaller than his, but still much bigger than the sleeping conditions of most on Achilles. He looked around for a while without saying anything as he stretched his strong arms into the air and took a breath like a forceful wind. “I miss my engine room.” was all he said, finally, staring at the ceiling.
Alethea couldn’t help but break down in laughter. “You know, you can just go there anyway right? The job does have some perks” She replied after regaining herself.
He chuckled right along with her, looking down from the point where he had been fixed and making eye contact with her again. “I could, but I don’t want to get in their way.” he said, almost sadly. “I don’t want my replacement feeling like I’m stepping on his toes by being there.”
She nodded. “I can get that, at least the CIC should smell better and the money you will save on laundry will be worth it by itself” She added jokingly.
“A better solution was just not to wash.” he said with a wink, clearly joking. He lifted himself out of his seat and into a standing position, definitely feeling the alcohol at this point. He stumbled slightly and braced himself on the table. “It was great talking to you, my friend.” he said with a handsome grin. “And thanks for sharing your booze. I’ve got you next time.”
Alethea herself struggled to get into a standing position. “We definitely should do this more often, and you better. This bottle cost me a small fortune” She concluded with a smile.
He chuckled. “Take care, Thea.” he said, in a tone that was both confident and full of genuine affection. After the words left his lips, he turned on his heal and headed toward the door.