was certainly smaller—more compact—than Galactica
, Athena thought as she walked through the corridors, getting used to the ship’s layout. It was similar to the old Battlestar on which she had spent nearly all of her career in the Colonial Fleet—just similar enough to cause her problems when she expected a compartment in one location that wound up being somewhere else! Not to mention that the ship seemed more crowded than the Battlestar she had ingrained in her consciousness. That was due to the more than eleven hundred civilians and scientists packed aboard—but also because this ship had a full complement of officers and crew, unlike either Galactica
Trailed by the two Marines assigned to watch over her, she finally found what she had been looking for. Or rather, she hoped that she had.
She passed through the hatch—and her guardians did not stop her—was surprised that it opened up to a narrow corridor about a dozen meters in length with another hatch at the far end. She exchanged a glance with the senior of her two escorts—Lieutenant Tamara Mayne—and the woman nodded with a thin smile. So Athena walked down the corridor and opened the hatch—and before her was the forward observation deck.
Dimly lit and as wide as the two flight pods on either side of the Battlestar, observation deck featured a massive armored glass face, nearly a meter in height that stretched from the port bulkhead to the starboard—some forty meters across without so much as a single support strut or structural brace. The view was . . . breathtaking
, but unlike the similar deck on both Galactica
, this one was almost empty.
Mathias Lorne stood in the center to the observation deck, his hands crossed behind his back as he stared out at the naked stars with his own eyes. He turned his head, and the corner of his mouth twitched as he saw her—and the two Marines.
“My apologies, Commander,” Athena said. “I will return some oth-. . .,” but the Commander interrupted her.
“Join me, Lieutenant,” he ordered, turning his gaze back outward again. “Buried in CIC beneath all of the decks and armor, it is so easy to forget the splendor, the majesty of space. Enjoy this while you can, Lieutenant,” he said. “Soon enough, duty and rank will take from you your time in the cockpit. Cherish what you have while you still have it—because the universe seldom grants one a second chance.”
“I was given a second chance,” she whispered.
And Mathias snorted. “You are the exception to the rule, perhaps,” he replied. “I have watched the stars since I was a child, Athena—are you as wise as your namesake?”
“Are you as mischievous as yours?” she retorted.
He laughed. “Sometimes, Athena. Not so much these days as in the past,” his voice got softer. He turned to face her. “My offer stands—I will endorse any request you might make for a transfer. Your husband as well.”
“Thank you, Sir,” Athena said. “You don’t know what that means to me, but the Admiral has given me a chance to prove myself—and I don’t want to abandon him.”
“Just how much of a buzz-saw are my people walking into, Athena? I know what Sidewinder and Kaboose have told me they saw—I know what Lee and Margaret have said. But they have left other thins unsaid. Matters where Sidewinder and Kaboose were did not have the expertise to pass a judgment. I was never good at politics—that is one reason I was selected for such a long-duration mission. The officers who played at the political game stayed where they could advance their careers—I have never cared for that,” he whispered.
“This President—this Quorum? Are they worthy of our service?”
Athena paused and she swallowed. “I don’t like the President, Commander. I believe that she does not know how to let go of her hate—I cannot and I will not forgive her for what she tried to do to me,” and Athena smiled. “But we could have had worse in command.”
“Not exactly the answer I was looking for—but an answer nonetheless,” the Commander said. “You have finished plotting and distributing the coordinates for Jump Sixteen?” he asked.
“Yes, Sir. Colonel Jayne is making certain that all ships have verified the final coordinates for our last jump—if Galactica
and the Fleet remains at the rendezvous. Circumstances may have changed over the past three weeks since our departure.”
Mathias snorted. “Circumstances always change—remember that, Lieutenant, and plan accordingly.”
And with that, the Commander walked forward and he pressed a control—slowly, a solid and massive blast shield slid up along the entire length of the transparent panel. It locked into place, cutting away the stars and the sky, and the lights increased their illumination to compensate. “Then let’s wait no longer,” he said. “It is time for us to find out how much has changed in your absence—or how little.”