Cages

There's something about being on a starship that makes most people feel trapped. Closed in by metal walls they can't escape -- it's no wonder the vices are running rampant throughout the fleet. No wonder that so many pilots take patrols in lieu of R&R.

There's a painter on the Horizon's Quarry who is rumoured to be the highest paid civilian in the fleet. He's a muralist, with a keen eye for landscapes of their home worlds.

He spends all his time painting. There is an entire crew of twenty whose job it is to create new paint for him. When the Council had to vote on starshp repair budgets, they removed all allowance for paint. No one cares what the outsides look like; too many people are hungering, desparate for the sensation that they are home. Planetside.

Anywhere but here.

Starbuck has never felt that way. On the over-crowded civilian ships, on the lavishly over-decorated R&R ships, on the Galactica -- he's always felt at home with metal plating beneath his boots. With cold, smooth metal on all sides, no more than an arm's span away. Better still is the cramped cockpit of his viper, sitting in the launch bay. Closed in two times over, he feels comforted by the lack of freedom.

He's been on planets before. Too many times, though he knows better than to say so where anyone can here him. He's stood on vast plains, climbed hills and walked through forests and breathed more unrecycled air than perhaps anyone else in the fleet, since the destruction.

He's always been relieved to get home. To tuck himself into the cocoon that he lives in.

He knows he's unusual. But he isn't the only one. He's seen a few others, sit in the corners of rooms, holding onto the railings of their bunks as though to pull them closer. He's met the gaze of more than one person when they cram onto a lift and stand perhaps too close together. There's something they recognise in each other.

Most of the others are older, men and women who served for so long that the ships have grown into their blood and now it keeps them tethered like mother's milk. Starbuck knows he'll be one of those, the old warriors who could never retire because they could not leave the confines of their ships.

Retirement has never been a problem, anyway. Starbuck never really thinks he'll last that long.

But if he does, he knows he will be here. The long, narrow corridors of the Galactica, or maybe her daughter if they ever find a place to build one. If they find a place to land, and live, and re-create everything they've lost.

They're all dreams. There is no planet waiting for them. There is no repreive, no salvation. But Starbuck doesn't mind, as long as he is here.

Surrounded by the starship, hemmed in by metal and cables and the artificial lighting that seems more natural to him than sunlight ever did. He's content to never leave, content to never find the end of their journey.

As he walks down the corridors, he feels the humming in his bones of the ship's engines. His heartbeat has grown accustomed to it, and he thinks it could not continue without it.