Bill pursed his lips as the hatches of the Raptors slowly cracked open and the former Cylon prisoners staggered down the wings to where the waiting pilots and deck hands helped them to the deck. Most bore a haunted look on their face—a few were injured. And all of them seemed in a state of shock.
He swallowed as one of the men spoke with Chief Galen and Galen looked at the Admiral; the deck chief called up an escort and the man walked across the deck to Adama—his uniform bore the insignia of a Colonel. He was thin—to thin—and he was missing his left arm.
“Colonel Elias Thorean, executive officer, Battlestar Solaria
, reporting, Admiral,” he said with a salute.
“Colonel,” Adama rumbled. “You weren’t on Solaria
during the attack?”
“I was on leave—spending vacation time in the Ionian Islands,” he shook his head. “Unlike the mainland, there wasn’t room to hide in the wilderness—the Cylons captured us ten days after the attack.” He swallowed and Bill waited.
“We were taken to a holding facility—I was the senior officer present, Sir. Sir, I-I . . .,” he paused and Adama waited. “We weren’t overly abused, Admiral. A few beatings here and harsh questioning there, but by the second month, they just let us be. Wouldn’t let us go—kept trying to talk to us about the One True God, well, talk to the men at least.”
“They segregated us from the women,” and he sighed. “They suffered worse than we did, I found out when they loaded us up on that cargo ship,” he said quietly. “We joined a few other survivors, from other Colonies—civilian and fleet alike. I think we were going to the Cylon Homeworlds. But then, things changed. They started telling us we were going to be released—we didn’t believe them. They had tricked us before, Admiral. Not until today—this is real
, isn’t it?” he asked in a voice that said he was still struggling to cope with the sudden reversal of fortune.
“It is. Your arm?” asked Adama.
Elias shrugged. “Month three, I tried to lead a breakout from the camp where we were being held—I thought that maybe their guard was down. I was wrong. Eleven men were killed—I and sixteen others wounded. It took the Cylons four days to ship a doctor over from the mainland. And by then,” he grimaced. “By then, the tissue had gone septic. Only thing he could do was cut it off . . .,” and his voice trailed off.
Adama swallowed again. “Is there a Lieutenant Novachek with you?”
“Bulldog?” Elias asked and he nodded. “He was put in with us just days ago—the Cylons kept him separate and alone. He’s been a prisoner for seven years, Admiral. He is . . .,” Elias closed his eyes, “he’s suffered more than the rest of us.”
Adama turned to two sick-berth attendants. “See to the Colonel’s needs,” he ordered roughly. “And get him a meal.”
“Thank you, Sir. Sir?” he asked and Bill’s heart broke at the plaintive tone in his voice.
“Yes, Colonel Thorean?”
“It would be good to have something to do—to work on. I know that you don’t need a crippled Colonel, but my people need to occupy their thoughts, Sir. They need work—and they are good officer and crewmen, Sir.”
“Colonel,” Adama growled with another swallow of a lump in his throat. “I won’t be throwing away an experienced officer just because he has lost an arm. You won’t get out of work that easily, not on Galactica
. Now let these men make certain of your health—and eat, and get some rest. Then
we will talk about putting you to work.”
Elias nodded and he saluted—a salute that the Admiral returned in full. And then he was led away by the SBAs.
And that was when Adama saw the man he had been waiting for—the man he had dreaded seeing. Adama walked forward to where Daniel Novachek sat on the wing of a Raptor, shaking with cold and clutching a blanket around himself. He was ill—feverish—and Doctor Cottle was inserting an IV needle into one arm.
“What do you hear, Bulldog?” Adama asked, and the man’s head snapped up—his eyes locking onto the Admiral. “Commander? Commander Adama—Admiral
Adama,” he hissed as his eyes settled on the collar insignia. “You left me for seven years in a stinking Cylon prison, and they promoted you for it?” he asked, his voice bitter.
“I called for help, and you never came—you left me behind, Admiral. You left me there to die—but I didn’t die. I was their prisoner for seven years, Bill Adama. SEVEN YEARS
!” he bellowed.
Adama just stood there and he turned to the Doctor. “Take care of him, Doctor—we will talk later, once you calm down, Bulldog.”
“DON’T YOU WALK AWAY FROM ME!” Novachek yelled; he leapt to his feet and grabbed Adama’s shoulder, spinning the Admiral around—and his right hook caught the Admiral on the jaw. “DON’T YOUR EVER WALK AWAY FROM ME!”
“NO!” Adama shouted at the Marines who were rushing over, and Bulldog collapsed back down unto the wing of the Raptor—shaking life a leaf. Cottle glared at him, “Tear out a vein that I am poking around and you are going to the morgue, flyboy!” he barked. And he injected the pilot with a syringe.
“Don’t you leave me behind again, Bill,” Bulldog repeated as his eyes rolled back into his head and he collapsed.
“Get him to the surgery!” Cottle ordered. “I gave him some hefty sedatives, Admiral—you all right down there?” he asked and held out his hand.
Adama took it and climbed to his feet. “Take care of them, Sherman,” he growled, and stalked off of the hanger deck.