Sidewinder just shook his head. “I never thought I would see these outside a museum,” he muttered as he examined the ten Raptors housed in the old-style hanger bays aboard Anubis
. “These relics can fly?”
Eight of the small vessels were antiques from the Cylon War—the First
Cylon War, Sidewinder thought to himself bitterly. Complete with the rear mounted cannon and gunner’s station. “I thought all of these were scrapped ages ago—they lack the EW capabilities of the Mk IV and their sensors are shorter ranged.” And the pilot from Scorpia frowned. “And what is up with the decorations?” he asked. Because instead of the brownish-green coloration of Fleet Raptors, these Raptors had been painted in garish multi-colored murals of slathering jaws and burning eyes and flames and scantily-clad angels fighting hordes of demonic creatures, half organic and half machine. It was . . . awe-inspiring, the detail and the imagination involved, the skill and passion that motivated the painters, but it had definitely not been what Sidewinder had expected.
Sam Caldwell chuckled. “They fly, Captain—they fly and they can jump, and if their ECM and sensors aren’t as good as Mk IVs, they are good enough for our movement. As for the art, well, that’s a long story.”
Sidewinder leaned back against the wing of the one of the flamboyant vessels and he crossed his arm. “Well, since Major Church’s teams are getting this old girl back into shape—we’ve got a few minutes.”
Sam nodded, and she sighed. She motioned with her head and walked Sidewinder back through the port hanger to where his Raptor had been parked; unlike modern ships, this vessel lacked elevators; after landing the hanger doors had closed and the ship had flooded the compartment with atmosphere—that would make it difficult on the pilots when the small fleet jumped back into Cyrannus, he thought. But then he spotted something, and he sucked in a deep breath. “What the . . .,” but he felt Sam’s hand on his arm and he cut off the expletive he had been about to shout.
“That’s our artist, Captain Greene,” she said pointing out the young man—maybe twenty-four or twenty-five—crouched down beside Sidewinder’s Raptor. Cans of paint and brushes at his feet; and one in his hand. He was busy bending over, wetting a brush that he held, and then quickly drawing on the hull.
“He’s painting my Raptor, Major,” Sidewinder said through clenched teeth, and she nodded.
“He does that,” she answered and then she frowned. “Daniel,” she called out, and the man looked up. “Don’t paint over the sensor heads—understand?”
The artist nodded and he went back to work. “He doesn’t talk,” she informed the pilot from Scorpia
. "He hasn’t said a word in the past two years that I’ve been part of Jon’s organization. He isn’t mute, he just doesn’t talk,” and Sam turned to face the pilot, a stern look on her face. “And he isn’t ‘special
’ either, the way people talk about the mentally underdeveloped. I’ve got the feeling he’s probably smarter than the rest of us—he’s just . . .,” she sighed. “He’s been hurt. And he only communicates now through his art.”
Sidewinder nodded; it didn’t take a genius to see that she liked the kid. And that calling him slow or dumb or dimwit would be a remarkably bad idea. “If he doesn’t talk, then how did you know his name?”
She smiled. “He was wearing a set of tags on a chain around his neck when he wandered into one of our safe-houses on Tauron—one step ahead of a very irate civilian upset at him for painting his wall. Well, hitting Daniel was the last mistake that ass ever made—and Jon had a soft-spot for the kid. He pitches right in and helps on whatever we need, but he won’t pick up a weapon—he doesn’t like it when we carry weapons.” She shrugged. “And if he isn’t helping us or sleeping, he’s painting. He paints everything—wait until you see the internal corridors.”
Sidewinder couldn’t help himself; he began to laugh, despite the sudden glare from the Major.
“What is so funny?”
The pilot tried to catch his breath, but he was laughing so hard that tears leaked from the corners of his eyes. At last, he held up one hand, and he nodded. “You’ve served with the Commander, apparently. I was just thinking of what HIS
reaction would be if your Daniel started painting the halls on Scorpia
“Oh, Lords,” Sam chuckled with a grin. “I’ve got to make certain that Daniel doesn’t find his way over there—especially not with a can of paint. Mat would go completely off his rocker.”
“So what’s the story between you two?” Sidewinder asked—but the stern and cold stare of the Major made him raise his hands in surrender. “Okay, don’t want to talk about it; I’m good with that, Major. So, the kid have a last name?”
“Nope. Only thing on the tags was an engraving of the name Daniel; no last name, no address, no social identification number, nothing but his first name,” Sam said after a moment.
The ship’s PA system sounded, and a voice echoed in the hanger bay. “Skipper, the Colonials are back—two ships in tow,” and Sidewinder winced.
“Not exactly following form, are they?”
Sam shrugged. “You take what you can get—beggars can’t be choosers, Mister Greene. Join me in CIC for when the Commander calls?”
“Well, that depends on what kind of a mood he’s in; and since all of your people dance around why none of you want to go back there, I think I’ll make certain your Raptors are good to go, while YOU
go talk to the Commander.”
Sam snorted. “I’ll be damned. A pilot that knows better than to charge blindly where the angels fear to tread.”