The hatch on the side of the simulator cracked open and Hamish crawled out, removing his helmet and gloves. The Virgon Prince—he refused to take the title of King, at least until he made certain that no others of his family still survived among the refugees following Galactica
, that is—was plastered in sweat.
Andrew Martens—Jester—handed him an energy drink and he nodded. “Combat ops are far different from SAR, right?”
“Yes, sir,” the Prince answered the newly promoted Captain and CO of Scorpia’s Raptor Squadron. He took a drink. “I know I failed that test, Jester, but frankly, I don’t see how I could have won.”
“Bravo, Your Majesty,” the veteran pilot answered. “You couldn’t—it was rigged against you. Sometimes, there is no right answer in combat—only the least worse answer. You will lose people—you might even be called upon to give up your own life, and that of your ECO. This test isn’t about finding a way to survive—it is to see if you can do your job even when you are faced with the certain possibility of not coming home again. And you passed, Prince,” he said.
“So I’m cleared for flight duty now?” the Virgon asked as he sat down—seven hours in the simulator on the last run had drained him.
“Yep,” answered Jester. “You aren’t qualified as an ECO yet, but I’ve got no problem with your skills as a Raptor pilot, Prince. And since my ECO is still stuck in a bed in surgery,” he said with grimace, the result of shrapnel tearing into the woman when his Raptor had been hit during the attack on the Styx
, “and since she won’t be returning to flight duty after she recovers,” losing a leg will do that, after all, “I am assigning myself as your
ECO. You are the pilot—but I am in command? Got it?”
“Got it, Jester,” he whispered.
“Good. Now, let’s get you back to your quarters for some rest; we’re flying patrol early on the ‘morrow and I wa-. . .,” he broke off as Arclight came in with a smile on his face.
“It’s a girl!” Ian Herjavec announced with a broad grin—and he held out three cigars.
“When?” asked Prince as he took one of the slender tubes of wrapped tobacco. The woman brought over from the Pryde
had gone into labor four hours before he had crawled inside the simulator.
“Fifteen minutes ago,” answered Arclight. “Thumper said it was a rough labor; said she never
wants to go through that herself.”
“That’s what they all
say, until they do
and have a new babe in their arms, then decide it was worth it,” laughed Jester as he took the second cigar. “What did she name the babe?”
“Evelyn Sophia Val-Adama,” Commander Lorne said from the hatch, with a big smile on his face. “You best have one of those for me, Arclight,” he said in a good-natured voice.
Ian just grinned and handed the Commander the third cigar and then fished a fourth out of an interior pocket on his flight suit. He struck a lighter and Mathias puffed his cigar to life, followed by Jester and Prince and finally Arclight.
Mathias exhaled. “A new life—born into a new world, gentlemen,” he said. “And it is our job to keep her, and those who come after her, safe.”
“So say we all,” said the Prince.
“So say we all,” echoed Arclight and Jester.
“So say we all,” whispered Mathias.