Summary: There's a dragon on board Galactica.
Fandom: Battlestar Galactica
Spoilers and/or Warnings: Set during season one, but includes spoilers up to No Exit.
Title, Author and URL of original story: The Stories We Tell by lls_mutant
"You enter a small room," Baltar said, "and you hear breathing."
"This is ridiculous," Six said.
Baltar ignored her, and looked at the group in front of him. "Roll a D20."
Gaeta picked up the die, and rolled. Twelve. Baltar consulted his notes.
"You can't see anything," he said finally, "but you hear movement ahead of you, and you get the feeling you're not alone. What do you do?"
"You know," Six said, leaning closer to him, "I can think of more ... interesting things you could be doing." She ran a hand across his thigh, and he squirmed away, trying not to make the movement too obvious.
"I make a light," Billy said, and Baltar made an attempt to refocus his attention. He nodded, and Billy picked up the die.
"A faint light begins to emanate," he said. Beside him, Six sat back, rolling her eyes. "The room is still cast in shadow, but it appears to be empty. You can make out a door on the far wall, leading into another darkened chamber."
Around them, the lights flickered, and shadows danced on the walls of the lab.
Cottle lit a cigarette. "Damn lights," he muttered.
"I say we go in," Gaeta said.
Billy looked nervous. It was understandable; he was new to the game, and his character was still a lower level than the rest.
"Billy," Baltar said. "Do you have your character sheet?"
Billy handed it to him, and Baltar scanned over it quickly. After a minute, he mused, "Who knew you had it in you?"
"I did," Ellen said. She was sitting a little too close to her husband, who was trying hard to look as if he was bothered by the attention. "He totally looks the type."
"Should I be insulted by that?" Billy asked.
"Druidic magic could be interesting," Gaeta said. He was peering over Baltar's shoulder, and Baltar swatted him away.
"Stop peeking," he said, trying to sound authoritative. "This is fine, Billy."
Across the table, Tigh was making much the same gesture at Ellen. "Well, then, let's get started," he said, and looked deliberately at Ellen. "I'm in the mood to kill things."
The lights dimmed again, briefly. Cavil smiled. "I'm right there with you, brother."
"Well, then," Baltar said, trying to regain control over the discussion. "Let's proceed. Are you all in agreement?"
"Yes," Gaeta said immediately.
Billy looked a little less nervous than he had before. "Yes."
Cottle and Cavil nodded, as did Tigh.
"I'm with Saul," Ellen said.
"You make your way to the end of the room," Baltar said. "The chamber beyond is dark, but with what little light you have, you can make out a vague shape in the centre. All around you, you can hear faint shuffling sounds."
As he spoke, there was a sound, almost too low to hear, around the edges of the room. The lights in the lab dimmed for a third time, leaving a faint glow around the table.
"Spooky," Ellen said, laughing, and Baltar cleared his throat.
"That's quite enough," he said, quietly, and turned to face Six.
"I'm not doing this," she said; she sounded sincere enough, but he could never tell, with her. She glanced from Tigh and Ellen over to Cavil, and he twitched a little as the walls of the lab seemed to expand, shadows almost like vague forms moving and stretching.
"All right," he said, trying to act as if nothing out of the ordinary was happening. "Someone should -"
"I'll do it," Cavil volunteered. Baltar was surprised; usually, Cavil acted as more of an observer than anything else in these games.
"Right," he said. "Roll a D20."
"The shape in front of you unfolds slowly," he said, getting back into the spirit of the game. "Smoke begins to rise from it as it stands, enormous, almost the size of the chamber. The light around you begins to brighten, and finally, you can make out the shape of the creature - a dragon."
Ellen gasped, clasping Tigh's hand, and the light in the centre of the room flared. Cavil clapped a hand on Tigh's shoulder, and the lights flickered again before plunging them into near-complete darkness.
Somewhere outside the lab, somebody screamed.
Gaeta had been sitting closest to the door, but he had been the third out of the lab, following Tigh and Ellen, Ellen clinging tightly to her husband. His legs were shaking slightly as he ran, not helped by the dim lighting in the corridor, or by the way the walls of Galactica seemed different somehow in the poor light, more like rough stone than their usual comforting metal.
"Get a grip," he muttered to himself firmly. There was no reason to panic. Things had gotten a little ... weird in Baltar's lab, but electrical difficulties weren't entirely unexpected on a ship as old as Galactica, and there were any number of reasons why someone on the ship could have screamed.
"Yeah," he murmured. "Right."
The light on the hangar deck was brighter than elsewhere, as if someone had switched all the lights back on. As they drew closer, the first scream was followed by another, then a few muffled shouts, and the sound of running footsteps.
Then he stepped onto the deck, and saw the reason why.
In the middle of Galactica's deck, shrouded in smoke and standing almost the height of the space it occupied, was a dragon.
"Frak me," Gaeta said, and Baltar glanced at him. He wasn't sure what he had expected when he followed the group out of the lab, but it had been nothing like this. Nothing like ...
Well, he wasn't sure what to call this, exactly, except a dragon. Which was clearly absurd. Dragons simply didn't exist, and if they did, they certainly wouldn't have been hanging around in the middle of a battlestar.
"I'm dreaming," he said suddenly. Decisively. Of course he was; there was no other explanation for it. "This isn't real. It's a dream."
Six was standing beside him, her hand steady on his arm. "It's real enough."
He looked at her sharply. "And you'd know all about this, I suppose? Dragons and other nonsense? I forgot, you do live in a fantasy."
"I'm only trying to help."
"Yes, well, you're not."
She shrugged. "You can touch it, if you don't believe me."
He didn't move forward. Because there wasn't any need to. "I'm hallucinating. This is all in my head."
"Close," she said.
"You know, your cryptic comments really do get on my nerves sometimes."
She placed a hand on his cheek, turning his head until he was facing her. "It's a projection, Gaius."
"A projection?" This was just getting sillier and sillier. "Are you doing this?"
"No," she said, and looked almost thoughtful for a minute. "I wonder who is."
"Yes, well, I don't," he said.
He had far more immediate dangers to think about.
"Saul?" Ellen asked quietly, a slight edge of hysteria to her voice. She was holding his arm tightly, and he extricated himself from her grip, as gently as he could manage.
There was commotion on the deck, now, as people began springing into action. Some people were still frozen - like Baltar, muttering to himself, staring off into nothing - and Tigh shook a couple of deck hands into action as he passed them, grabbing a jagged piece of scrap metal from a pile by one of the raptors. Ellen trailed behind him, staying far back enough that she wasn't directly in his way, and Cottle followed on the other side.
He passed Lee, yelling orders at a marine, and placed himself so Lee was somewhere in the periphery of his vision. It was the least he could do for Bill. Then he hefted the piece of metal, and swung it at the dragon.
Beside him, Ellen swooned.
Gods, he really needed a drink.
"Run to the CIC," Lee yelled at the marine. "Tell them what's going on."
The marine nodded, but Lee could see in the man's eyes that it was easier said than done. Hell, he wasn't even sure what was going on.
Well, he had a pretty good idea. There was a dragon on board Galactica. He felt insane just thinking it.
A few minutes after the marine left, the call for action stations rang out loud across the deck, and the dragon roared to life, snarling as it came under attack. Lee reached for his sidearm, and shot a glance at Kara beside him, standing firm even on her wounded knee.
She nodded, and he turned back to the dragon, aimed, and shot. The bullet didn't ricochet off the dragon's armoured hide, but neither did it appear to make much of a dent. He could hear Kara firing, more rapidly, and he aimed again.
"I'm out," she said, and he heard a thud as her weapon hit the floor, the sound dulled by the chaos around them. He clenched his jaw, took aim again at the dragon's head, and emptied his clip.
It barely angered the dragon, who didn't even bother to turn and face him.
"Any more ideas?" he asked, almost shouting to be heard.
Kara looked at him. "Somehow, they skipped this one in basic training."
"It must have been an oversight," he said. He could feel the urge to laugh bubble up inside it, and he clamped it down, hard.
Kara was grinning, which didn't help matters much.
"Watch out," she yelled suddenly, and pulled him back towards her, sending them both tumbling onto the deck. He could feel a wave of heat maybe a foot over his head, followed by the faint smell of singed hair.
He lay there for a moment, sprawled awkwardly on top of her, and she raised an eyebrow. "You comfortable there, Apollo?"
He scrambled to his feet quickly, and held out a hand to help her up. She winced as she took it, and he glanced down at her knee, still wrapped in bandages.
"Sorry," he said. "Are you -"
"You can thank me later," she interrupted him.
He nodded, and glanced back over his shoulder. The dragon was ignoring them again, in favour of menacing a group of marines who didn't seem to be faring much better than they had. Guns obviously weren't much help against a dragon.
Good to know.
"We need bigger weapons," Kara said, echoing his thoughts.
He glanced back at her. "You have anything in mind?"
She grinned, and a wave of apprehension washed over him almost immediately. "Follow me."
It didn't take them long to get to the small arms locker, even with Kara limping slightly. Lee followed her closely, but he knew better than to offer to help her along.
"This is your idea?" he asked as she wrenched open the door. She shrugged, and a minute later, held something out towards him.
He glanced down at the G4.
Absolutely frakking insane.
"Chief," Boomer shouted, not taking her eyes off the dragon.
She felt something hard press into her hand, about the size of her palm, and ran her thumb across its rough, uneven edge. She couldn't quite tell what it was by feel alone, but she'd hazard a guess that it was some sort of spare part.
Or possibly not so spare. Right now, it didn't really matter.
She threw the object, and there was an almost metallic thunk as it connected with the dragon. Something that didn't quite look like blood blossomed on the dragon's flank, and it swished its tail irritably. Boomer let out a breath, and held her hand out behind her again.
This, she thought, was definitely not what she had expected to be doing today.
She hadn't been on the deck when all of this started; mostly, she'd been avoiding it when she wasn't on duty. By the time she'd arrived, though, some things had become painfully obvious. Guns, for all that they were the military's weapon of choice, weren't much help. It had been Tyrol's idea to make projectiles out of spare parts lying around, and that, she had to admit, seemed to be working. Thrown hard enough, the larger objects were hitting with considerably more force.
Under the circumstances, Boomer was able to throw surprisingly hard.
Tyrol handed her another part, his hand barely touching hers, and she gripped the object hard before letting it loose. It hit the dragon just above its wing, and a second later its tail lashed out at her, moving impossibly fast given its size. Something jerked her aside, and she saw Crashdown go flying backwards.
She knelt down above him as the dragon apparently lost interest once more. His tanks were torn just below his chest, blood already beginning to pool above the thankfully shallow-looking wound, and she reached down to put pressure on it.
"Frak," she swore, a little louder than she'd intended. "That was stupid."
Crashdown tried to sit up, and groaned as she pushed him back down. "You're welcome."
"I don't need you to protect me," she said, but she smiled faintly, anyway. She was getting really sick of irrational bouts of heroism from her ECOs.
"Just following my pilot," he said, and she briefly laid a hand, gently, on his arm.
Then she stood, grabbed another projectile, and kept fighting.
"Gods," Cottle breathed. It sounded almost like a prayer, and he supposed that was exactly what it was. If the gods really were out there, now would be a good time for them to make themselves known.
He finished patching up the wounded pilot, and moved steadily on to the next body. Ishay stayed close beside him, what supplies she had been able to carry over from sick bay held ready; he could only hope that more were on their way.
If they were going to get through this thing, they were going to need all the help they could get.
Baltar watched the scrambling pilots, all rushing to use their weapons against something that, by all rights, should not exist.
A dragon. A real, live dragon. Like something out of a story.
Or a game.
"Did I do this?" he asked quietly, and Six laughed. Not mockingly, exactly, but it went straight through him, making him feel powerless in a way only she could ever really manage. He searched her expression for some sort of answer, and, like always, was unsurprised when he found none.
"Maybe we should ..." he said, and started to back away. "I mean, I wouldn't want to get in the way, and I'm sure -"
He barely caught the movement out of the corner of his eye, but he recognised Gaeta anyway, leaping into the battle. He was wielding something that looked like a length of pipe, and he rushed forward with a yell, swinging it jut as the dragon turned around.
Baltar stepped forward, feeling almost like he'd been pushed.
He stepped in front of Gaeta, and he had a moment to freeze in sheer terror and contemplate the stupidity of his actions before the dragon swatted him aside, sending him reeling into a nearby viper. His vision blurred for a second, and when it cleared again, Gaeta and Six were both standing over him.
"Thanks," Gaeta said softly, as if Baltar had single-handedly taken on an entire cylon fleet for him, instead of making a rash and definitely ill-advised last minute decision.
Baltar smiled back, as best he could.
"Gaius Baltar," Six said dryly. "The brave warrior."
"Yes, well," he said, and pressed his shaking hands to his thighs as if wiping off some dirt. "You noticed that?"
Kara planted another detonator, and glanced at Lee.
"Everybody get back," he shouted, and they waited a few moments for the area in the centre of the deck to clear before laying down the last of them.
"Are you sure about this?" he asked her.
"Abso-frakking-lutely," she replied. She hoped she sounded more confident than she felt.
He nodded, and took a few steps back to join the crowd.
She set the charge, and ran.
For a moment, everything on the deck went silent. Well, as silent as it could get while the explosion rattled it, anyway. A thick cloud of smoke rose up, and Billy thought he could almost make out some movement on the other side.
He held his breath, and beside him, Dee did the same.
Then the dragon rose up from the smoke, letting out a loud bellow. Billy thought there might have been a trace of pain in the sound, but it was difficult to tell, really; mostly, it just sounded loud.
Dee gasped, and jumped back as the dragon turned to face them. Billy held out a hand in front of her protectively, which, he had to admit, was probably not going to do much good. If the dragon wanted to, it could probably kill him with little more than a thought, and there wasn't really anything he could do that Dee couldn't. Still, he couldn't just stand by and do nothing.
Around the deck, he could see people scrambling to their feet, regrouping. The two pilots who had been closest to the blast looked vaguely singed but still intact. Others were already wounded, carried off to sick bay or still lying on the deck, and those who weren't were already gathering more weapons, closing in once again in a circle around the dragon.
"Billy," Dee said, but he didn't turn around. Instead, he stepped forward, and started searching for anything he could use as a weapon.
Most of the actual weapons were gone already, rendered all but useless by the dragon's thick hide. What little they had left was mostly scrap metal, pieces of raptors and vipers torn apart by the deck crew, and even those were coming to be in short supply. To the side of the deck, the gutted planes sat uselessly inert.
If the cylons attacked now, they were screwed.
Billy picked up a piece of scrap metal lying on the floor, and hurled it with as much force as he could at the dragon. The metal barely glanced off its scales, and he froze in place as the dragon turned.
Dee pulled him away just in time to avoid being thrown back against the wall, and he glanced back at her.
"Thanks," he said, breathless.
She smiled at him. "No problem."
He turned back around as the dragon charged again, and he ducked, crouching low on the deck, his hands searching for anything he could use to defend himself. He felt drained already; he was never meant to be a fighter.
After a moment, his hand closed over something small and round, its edges worn mostly smooth. It felt cold in his grasp, like the stones that had paved the edges of his parent's backyard, and he stood up, gathering the last of his energy.
Throwing rocks at dragons. This was going to end well.
He threw the projectile, and closed his eyes.
He opened them again a minute later, and breathed a sigh of relief when he was able to do that much. He couldn't hear the dragon, couldn't see it towering over him, and his body was surprisingly free of the blinding agony against which he'd braced himself.
He looked up, and saw the dragon; no longer standing, but collapsed on its side. It wasn't moving. Everyone stood for a moment, almost perfectly still, and an eerie silence washed over the deck.
"What?" he asked no-one in particular.
"What the frak are the odds?" Cottle's voice, somewhere in the distance.
"What?" he asked again, louder this time.
Behind him, someone started laughing.
"You just killed the dragon with a rock," Gaeta said, nearly doubled over with laughter, his shoulders shaking with the effort of trying to compose himself.
Billy turned back to stare at the dragon, his mouth opening and closing wordlessly. There were footsteps to his left, and he felt Dee's almost familiar presence beside him.
"My hero," she said, and took his hand.
"I think it's time we all had a drink," Tigh said. He was exhausted, his vision slightly marred by a cut above one eye, and he told himself his shaking had more to do with his need for alcohol than with fear.
"Saul," Ellen said, coming up behind him and turning him to face her. She was pale but unharmed, and she threw herself at him, almost knocking him back off his feet.
After a minute, she drew back, and looked at him.
"You're hurt," she said, raising a hand to his forehead.
"It's just a scratch," he said, but let her fuss over him anyway. At this point, he doubted there was much he could do to stop it.
"We have to get you cleaned up," she said, never more in control than when she was running his life. "I'll get the doctor over here."
"Don't bother him," he said irritably. "He's got real patients to see to. Bill -"
"Is fine," she said. "Come on. At least let me get you back to our room."
He shrugged, but didn't complain, when she slung his arm over her shoulder. If anything, he was pretty sure he should have been holding her up, but he'd never, he thought, been able to change her mind about anything once she'd set it.
"Don't you worry," she said as they walked. "I'll get you back to your old self in no time."
The gods help them all.
Cavil watched the aftermath of the battle, torn between being faintly amused an utterly disgusted. Around him, the humans were gathering together into groups, pairing off. Helping each other. Celebrating their victory.
It was all pointless, and ultimately futile.
Fathers and sons, husbands and wives, lovers, friends. He'd always thought humans were more intelligent than to be led about so completely by their emotions, but clearly he had overestimated them. In the end, it was still all about sex, all about the bundle of hormones they chose to call love.
He honestly didn't see the appeal.
Still, the day's events had been entertaining, in their own way. At least, they had been a fascinating look into the human mind. Into what they were capable of believing.
A dragon in the middle of Galactica's deck? They certainly were ... adaptable.
With a flicker of will, he released the projection he had only been partially responsible for creating. In a way, he was sad to see it go; it had been a good one, actually capable of affecting the world around it, and he never could have managed it on his own. He was going to have to thank his creators one day.
Around him, people blinked at the dragon's sudden disappearance, and he allowed himself a small smile. They evidently had no idea what had just happened.
He was sure they would figure it out, sooner or later. It was just a matter of knowing the full story.