Fic - "The Golden Ship" part 4
Here's part four of my Jeremiah/BSG crossover. I think I have tagged previous parts as "Jeremiahfic". When last we left? Gaeta was getting a beat down because he looks like a religious prophet who may have killed a lot of people while spouting a lot of nonsense that was eerily similar to the first exodus from Kobol. Kara meanwhile was having a momentary lapse of conscious and felt bad about leaving him behind so was spying on the Thunder Mountan set up, cheerfully ignoring her mission to scout Earth.
Jeremiah looked down at the list of requirements and then at the applicant. He wasn’t sure what Markus was thinking. Markus hadn’t been in any sort of mood to share either. Do this, he had snapped, and don’t go near the prisoner again.
Markus would get over it. He hadn’t crossed the line, although that was only due to Kurdy, and he would let Markus deal with the prisoner. And Markus was mad but Markus had agreed to keep David… Or Felix as he was calling himself now, in custody, citing concerns about the disappearances.
Then he had handed Jeremiah his current task, recruiting physically strong and well educated people to work on the electrical plant and join Thunder Mountain as full time staff. Which was bizarre. Recruiting had always been stringent and secretive and it just wasn’t like the man to open the doors. Jeremiah did grant that Markus was being very fussy but it was still odd. Still, there were worse punishments than interviewing prospective applicants in the quiet town of Rockaway.
The applicant sat casually, but he wasn’t fooled. She was alert, not only to him, but to the sounds and noises outside the recruitment tent and she was watching him very carefully. “You passed the written tests. So now I ask you some questions. Where are you from, Kara?”
The blonde woman shrugged. “Yellowknife.” She smirked. “It’s in Canada. Want me to find it on a map? Or maybe I could read out loud from a kid book some more? Or are you satisfied that I’m not illiterate?”
“Literacy is a major requirement.” He looked her over. “Why should we take you? You’re not local so you don’t have anything invested in the towns that will get powered up. You weren’t here for the war with Daniel. You don’t know anyone in the area. You’re smart, the tests show that.” He looked her, making a point of eying her breasts and face. “You’re not ugly. Plenty of good communities would take a woman with skills and looks.”
She didn’t strike him as the type, that was what set him on edge, despite the fact that she was certainly the best candidate out of the bunch. There were two or three more in the group that he would make the offer to, but Kara Thrace from Yellowknife, Canada was the best candidate to show up to the impromptu job fair. The problem was that she seemed… like a problem. Not just a problem, he realized, but a troublemaker. And he got the sense that she wasn’t afraid to get violent. People like that, men or women, usually didn’t want to work, not in the traditional sense. They liked to fight, and to take what they wanted. Kara reminded him of Theo, and it wasn’t a positive thing.
She looked him in the eye, not put off at all by his rather pointed leering. “Do you want a pretty speech? Is that it? How I want to commit my life to rebuilding the world that was destroyed? So that all the little children can grow up in a better place?” She made a scoffing noise. “I want a job. I don’t like sleeping on dirt, and I know I can get better, and… maybe I like the fact that you people ask first, and don’t take. I’m here because I want something better for *me* and the only way I can get that is by taking it, or by joining the people who are working together. Is that good enough?”
After a moment, Jeremiah nodded. “It’ll do for now.” He stamped her application. “You’re through. You take this,” and he handed her the paperwork. “You go outside, you send in the next one waiting, and then you wait by the truck. Tell the guy waiting there that you passed.” He waited a moment. “You had anything to eat?”
She looked lean, and tough, but also pale. It tickled his mind, but he pushed the thought away as she shook her head. “Tell the guy that. His name is Mr. Smith, and you’re on the payroll, so he’ll get you something.”
Kara nodded and straightened as she stood up. That also tickled his mind, but he couldn’t quite figure out why. Her expression softened suddenly, and he was surprised at his own sudden interest. With the cynical glare, Kara was merely slightly above average in looks, with better skin than most of the women he knew, but with the softness in her face, she became lovely. “Thank you,” she said. “It means a lot.”
“Don’t thank me yet,” he said easily. “There’s going to be a hell of a lot of work. My name’s Jeremiah.”
She nodded, and her interest was suddenly plain. “Good to know.” ~*~
“How is your patient?” Markus asked as he stepped into the infirmary. Cassie, the head of the medical staff, shrugged. She had inherited the position from her mother, who had been one of the staff doctors at NORAD. Cassie had taught herself from her mother’s books and she was the best doctor they had. Good enough to save his life from a gunshot and a gunshot was usually death. Cassie, when she didn’t have patients, spent a lot of her time reading medical books, researching techniques and asking for the teams to bring back medical supplies. Markus tried to indulge her, since medical knowledge was a skill they desperately needed and Thunder Mountain needed to be as healthy as it could be.
Especially considering the looming threat, but he made a point of not showing it. Leading people was, to a point, an acting job. He was scared beyond belief that an outer space threat was going to kill them all, but the last thing his people needed to know was just how frightened he was. It was fortunate in a lot of ways that his people rarely disobeyed him, even when they didn’t understand his reasoning.
He hoped it would save them, if things were as bad as he thought.
Cassie Frasier handed him a file. “My patient would be a lot better if he hadn’t been beaten into a bloody pulp. Your team broke his leg, his ribs, and gave him a serious concussion. Don’t get me started on how there’s not an inch on the poor bastard that isn’t bruised. I don’t much care if the guy did kill a dozen people, or a hundred, I’m not ok with torture and I know how to use a gun. If I ever have another patient brought in like this…. I’ll handle it myself. This is unacceptable, Markus. Unacceptable enough that I am talking about a gun, and I hate guns.”
A problem considering the very real possibility that he might need to kill the prisoner. “Cassie, I have already spoken to Jeremiah. It won’t happen again. Now… tell me about your patient.” It had been three days. He had waited entirely because of how badly Jeremiah had beaten the man.
“ He’s nice.” Cassie said quickly and easily. She hesitated. “Some people, when they’re sick or hurt, they get angry and they fight you. Some people are nice. You were nice…this guy, Felix? Is nice. He doesn’t get mad at my staff over how much pain he’s in, or that you’re insisting he be handcuffed to the bed despite how badly injured he is. He knows I’m trying to help, so I don’t have to fight him or sedate him just to do simple tests. It’s a nice change.”
“Anything odd?” Cassie was smart, and she knew he was asking for a reason.
“Kurdy was right,” she said easily. “His hands are pretty damn soft. As soft as my hands and lets not pretend… I don’t live rough and his story is that he does… and I don’t buy it. People who have lived rough since the Big Death… They don’t have nice skin with no scars. On the other hand, he eats like he hasn’t seen food and that’s pretty consistent with living rough…. But I’m not buying it. He comes off well educated…” Cassie looked at him wisely. “I’d guess he was some Valhalla Sector hold out on that but that’s just me. I assume you want to talk to him?”
“I do…This is a potential security issue, Cassie.” He said it forcefully. “There may be a threat to Thunder Mountain. If there is… I’ll need to deal with it.” He waited until Cassie nodded to continue. She was one of the originals, one of the children of the dead soldiers of Thunder Mountain, and he knew she understood his point. “I don’t intend it to be unpleasant, I don’t want that particular answer…”
“I’m behind you, Markus,” Cassie said after a moment. “You know that. But if that’s necessary… you know, there’s easier ways than a bullet. And for the record… I don’t think this guy is the murderer that Jeremiah thinks.”
Cassie’s opinion was interesting. He let that roll around in his head as he stepped into the small infirmary room. The patient, David, or Felix Gaeta depending on who he believed, was sitting on the hospital bed, slowly thumbing through an old magazine. A National Geographic from the 1980’s, if he remembered the cover correctly. The man was carefully turning pages, the magazine in his handcuffed left hand. He looked bad, his eyes in particular were badly bruised, and Markus could see the blue black pattern of kicks and blows on the man’s bare chest and arms. He could see the man flinch when he entered room. That didn’t surprise Markus.
Sympathy will come later, he told himself. There was a possibility that the prisoner would need to be killed. He strode over to the hospital bed and took a seat close to the bed. “I’m Markus Alexander. I’m in charge of this place. I know you say your name is Felix Gaeta. Do you want to change that story?”
“That’s my name,” the man on the hospital bed said, “and I didn’t…. I didn’t convince a bunch of people to kill themselves.”
Oddly, Markus didn’t think Gaeta was lying. The incident with David was unusual and worrisome, but it hadn’t been the only suicide cult that Markus had ever heard of. There were a lot of odd religious beliefs floating around the devastated United States. Even in Thunder Mountain, there were people who thought Mr. Smith actually got messages from God. Was it just happenstance that Gaeta and David looked alike? Markus didn’t think so, but he didn’t think the man sitting in the hospital was David. “I don’t think that,” he said finally. “But I don’t think you’re what you say you are.” He took a seat beside the bed. With the handcuffs, and Gaeta’s obvious injuries, he wasn’t worried about being attacked. Gaeta didn’t look capable of standing, let alone fighting and…. Markus found himself mentally agreeing with Cassie. Felix Gaeta seemed nice. He wasn’t going to let that stop him from going where he need to go. “I think… that you’re a long way from home, Felix.“
Felix looked stricken. “I… California is a long way from here…. And I didn’t have any transport. So that’s true.”
Markus didn’t fancy himself a master interrogator, but he also didn’t get the impression that Gaeta was a tough bastard to crack. He took the National Geographic away, noting it was about the eruption of Mt. St. Helens. “You’re what…. 27 years old?”
After a moment Felix nodded.
“So sixteen years ago… when the Big Death came, you were eleven. Old enough to remember the old world. I was thirteen. Did you like Power Rangers?”
“What?” Gaeta looked at him quizzically. “I don’t know…. I… wasn’t into that….”
“Come on,” Markus said easily. “What were you into? What was your favorite show?” He had been into the X-files when the world ended, but he wasn’t going to drop any hints. He had a really good idea that Felix Gaeta had utterly no idea what he was talking about.
Gaeta looked at him and then away. “I didn’t watch shows…. My parents didn’t like them.”
“So they didn’t like tv? My parents didn’t… they were always wanting me to read.. I bet you read Harry Potter then…. You know….where he was the hero and won all those battles doing magic?” Which was much more Chronicles of Narnia than Harry Potter…. But he had a feeling Gaeta had no idea what he was talking about at all.
After a moment, the curly haired man nodded. “It was a long time ago,” he said warily.
“You like sports? You look like a basketball player. You’ve got the right build, lean and wiry and not too tall. I played in a league, did you? Or just pick up with other kids?” Markus pressed. More and more he was certain he was right. He was also certain that Gaeta was either very smart or had been strongly coached to reveal nothing. He suspected the former, because he thought the man was in too much pain to rely on coaching.
“I wasn’t allowed,” Gaeta said after a moment. He winced as he shifted position. “My parents didn’t like sports… They wanted me to study for school all the time and then they died in the Big Death and I never had time for games.”
It wasn’t working, Markus realized. Gaeta was smart enough to avoid answers that pinned him down. Smart enough to do it while in miserable pain, which meant that his story wasn’t likely to change even if there was more physical pressure applied. That he was lying seemed obvious, but he couldn’t be pinned down in an obvious lie. There were any number of people in Thunder Mountain who had strict parents, and Markus had met more than one adult close to his own age that had no idea what basketball was. It was rare, and it wasn’t proof of anything but ignorance.
Which meant he had to push harder.
“All right, let’s stop fucking around.” He didn’t normally curse, but a lot of people responded to it. Gaeta didn’t react except to look at him oddly. He held the photo Sarah had taken of the mysterious space fleet out to Gaeta. “Let’s talk about this. What do you know about these spaceships?”
Gaeta paled. “I… don’t…I don’t know what you mean. Spaceships? No one has spaceships.” He looked at the photo briefly and then at his hands. It was obvious that points had been scored. Not a particularly good liar, Markus thought, which made the protesting about the incident with David seem more like the truth.
“What about this?” He handed Gaeta one of the photos from the slaughter at Milhaven, where the cloned bodies were displayed. “See anyone you know?”
Gaeta looked, and for a moment, Markus was certain that the man was going to faint. It was close, he had never seen anyone, man or woman, blanch and turn an off grey. He almost called for Cassie but something made him hesitate. Finally Gaeta handed the photo back, his hand shaking. “That’s… awful… but I don’t know those people.”
“You sure?” Markus asked.
“I can’t tell you anything.” Gaeta looked resigned. Resigned and frightened.
It confirmed his opinion, the man wasn’t much of a liar, but there was a problem, one he didn’t like contemplating. Gaeta had been startled by the grainy picture of the space fleet, but not shocked. Surprised, and he had covered it reasonably well. But the pictures of the dead, identical bodies and still robot exoskeletons had scared the man almost speechless. That was a problem. That suggested there were different players. He decided to try a different angle.
“I don’t believe you,” he said simply as he stood up. “But I don’t expect you to trust me with your secrets. Not after the welcome we gave you. So let me explain something, since I think you’ve only been around here for the last month or so. I built this place, as a haven for survivors of the Big Death, so that not everything would be lost, so we could rebuild. We’ve fought wars and stood down armies and I need to know something. How much danger are we in, and who’s side are you on?”
Gaeta looked at him intently. “Can I see the photo again? The second one?” Markus handed it back and this time Gaeta studied it carefully. He pointed to the red rash that seemed to engulf some of the dead people’s faces. “They died…. Where are the cen… what did you do with these?” He pointed at the robots.
“They appear to be deactivated. They’re in our lab facility.” And he had to admit, there was a part of him that almost physically ached to run down and tear the things apart to see how they worked. He had always wanted to work with computers and robotics and there had never been time for it after the Big Death.
“That’s dangerous,” Gaeta said quickly. “You should destroy them.”
“Why?” It was interesting, Markus thought, that Gaeta desperately wanted to tell him why but was forcing himself to be silent.
“If,” Gaeta said slowly, “The pile of bodies isn’t enough to convince you, then nothing I say will help.” He looked at Markus grimly. “I don’t know you. I’ve heard about you, a little and people say good things… but I’ve got a broken leg, broken ribs, and a cracked skull because of your people. For all I know, you get your kicks killing people just like some of the other warlords out there. Anyone who runs across those… things is in danger, and I am not on their side…. But I have yet to see any compelling reason to be on your side.”
“Well… then I’ll need to let you see how we do things here.” He reached down and unlocked the handcuffs. Then he withdrew an electronic tracking bracelet. It was lucky that the guard station still had a few. “This tracks where you go, and will set off an alarm if you go outside, or into a restricted area. I’m sure Cassie will give you crutches. We’ll talk again later.”
After all, Markus thought as he walked out, his mother always said that you caught more flies with honey than with vinegar.