Fandom: Battlestar Galactica
Spoilers: Home 2
Disclaimer: Not mine.
Summary: Four stories from a flying refugee camp.
Before the Cylons came, I was going to be a hairdresser, as part of my honorable and clearly short-sighted idea to drop out of the graduate program at my university and forgo the pain of trying to secure a position in Tauron’s byzantine academic system. But I never wanted to teach normal students, and the other alternative was becoming a private school instructor, and that didn’t pay the bills, not on Tauron. Not without a man, and I never wanted to depend on no man.
So I was going home to Virgon to learn the trade from my auntie and my grandmother. I liked the idea, really. There are worse things to do than make women feel beautiful, which, as my auntie always told me, is how you survive as a hairdresser. It’s not about cutting hair or putting in curls or doing the awful highlights your client’s insisted on.
It’s about making a woman think she’s Aphrodite for an afternoon and raking in the tips.
After the first week of being stuck on a low-class transport with nothing to do, I decided to start learning my trade anyway. Mind, there was nothing to do hair with, but once people started hearing I was trying to get something going, supplies started showing up and queries about when I was gonna open for business.
Clients took longer. Most people were too shy, too worried, too busy to worry about their hair, but there’s always someone with time to kill on their hands, so one morning, I found myself staring into the face of a rich, bored blonde who demanded I do her hair immediately.
“I want to shave it off,” she told me, lifting huge, heavy sections of hair into my hands. Irresistible hair. Well-conditioned, beautiful natural highlights that contrasted gold and honey, thick, full, clearly trimmed once a month. Not a split end to be seen.
Hair that women would die for. I’m entirely serious.
“Can I make a wig out of it, if you really mean it?” I asked, putting my hands into her hair and enjoying the feel a little more. “You have such beautiful hair. Someone will need it, eventually. Or they could dress it up.”
“I hate that it’s beautiful,” the blonde said, her big green eyes staring into the too-small mirror I’d jury-rigged up with wire I’d stolen from somewhere. She looked like a doll, like someone too pretty to be real. “How can I care about being beautiful when everyone I love is dead?”
“Will being ugly change anything?” I asked, wondering what I could get for her hair. It was beyond my skill to make the wig, but someone in this gods-frakked fleet had to know how, and it would be worth good money or trade.
“Will anything change anything?” she asked. “I mean, I just want you to shave my head. Is that so hard? You said you do hair. Do mine in.”
I sighed, and started the job, careful as I could to get every strand of that beautiful hair.
A week later, I found out that the blonde had hung herself in her room.
Her name was Irena Earl, and I found out she left me all her stuff. Because I was the only person who’d said a word to her since the Cylons showed up.
Me, who didn’t even know her name.
I stared at it when they brought it in, practically drooling. Irena was a rich girl; she had shit that I would have killed for in my basement apartment on Tauron, shit that my auntie would have loved, that even my grandmother would have approved of.
And I had her hair in a vacuum-sealed plastic bag, awaiting a transfer over to Galactica, because there was someone who thought they could make a wig from it.
“I heard you do hair,” said one of the two crew members. “I got a date tonight, and I gotta look hot. Would you…”
“Yeah,” I said. “Frak, yeah. Just don’t have me shave your head as a precursor to suicide, okay?”
Her hair was short, dark, and frizzy. Couldn’t be more different than the goddess-perfect hair I’d been asked to shave off and throw away. She was going to be a challenge.
“Not a problem,” the crewwoman said. “My name’s Bethany, by the way. What’s yours?”
I told her. Then I had her write her name down in a notebook, like every client I had after that, in the Aphrodite’s Afternoon logbook.
Because I never wanted to forget. Not even one of them.
Just in case.
* * *
They call her Hattie. If they knew her real name, they’d call her by it, but nobody knows her name, and she’s one of those unfortunates who doesn’t talk much.
In fact, she’s one of the lucky ones. If she looked like everyone else, it might have taken days or weeks to identify her as a severe post-trauma, and it’s clear she doesn’t have people with her.
But they call her Hattie, because she’s the best-dressed head-case on board, the one with the hat. She’s already a pretty woman, somewhere between twenty and thirty, big eyes that change color — some days, they look like emeralds, others, they’re muddy olive, and others, grey with tweedy flecks of green and brown and gold. Beautiful skin, somewhere between olive and honey.
The head-to-toe black garb is a little disturbing, but her dress is beautiful and by the time they’d figured out which room was hers, it had been looted and everything else was gone. And Hattie squawks loudly if you take her hat, which looks like it’s out of the past. Sometimes she forces them to put on her coat, which is heavy wool and so rich that Jessie, the girl who watches over the headcases most days, tries to coax Hattie into letting her wear it, too. There are cashmere-lined leather gloves in the pockets, also black.
Her stocking are…well, mostly were…black silk, thin and gauzy and much-petted by the girls, and now she goes barefoot.
Everyone seems to find the bare feet disturbing, but no one’s found shoes that’ll fit Hattie, or indeed, any she’d wear.
Jessie wonders who she was, before the Cylons came. Rich girl. Going home to her family, maybe for a funeral. Or maybe she was already crazy. Most days, Hattie wanders up and down corridors, looking confused but polite. People share their food with her, and send her back to the crazy ward if they need to, and nod politely.
“How are you, Miss Hattie?” they say, as if they were in a different era, a different milieu. Sometimes she nods. Sometimes she goes to the windows in their quarters and stares for hours, ignoring them.
She never says much. Once, one of the little girls on board swore that Miss Hattie had taken her for a walk, and told her that there were thousands of people on the ship that nobody but she could see, and the reason she never talked much was that they’d put her under a spell, and that she didn’t belong here. She’d fallen out of time.
But nobody much bought it, and the little girl got scolded plenty for telling tales about Miss Hattie when it was clear she wasn’t right in the head.
But Jessie wants it to be true, for some reason. If Miss Hattie is a ghost, or a person who should have been a ghost, it would explain so much.
The head-to-toe black, for one. She wants to know why Hattie wears black. And the hat. The beautiful, beautiful hat that nobody has any use for on a spaceship.
But there’s no proof, her room had been properly booked, even if they don’t have a name, and the only thing Hattie has ever said to Jessie is the only thing she ever says:
“Excuse me, miss? There seems to be something quite odd going on here…”
* * *
You didn’t think it would work.
You didn’t believe it could work, just throwing on military duds and saying that you were here to help with logistics and field kitchens from some made-up frakking ship. You thought for sure they wouldn’t buy it. And maybe they don’t believe you, but competency is currency in this upside down crazy world everyone’s living in now.
And you are good at what you do.
Mostly, people know you because you’re Ali (not your real name; you left your real name and its record behind with the Cylon nukes), the girl who can get you anything. And you do mean anything, except medical, because Doc Cottle caught you that time with the hypodermic and almost throttled your ass.
“I know folks like you have to exist, but if I catch you in my goods again, you’ll be replaced,” he said. “And I’ll go to Tigh and not Adama, little girl.”
It’s an effective threat, because you can talk your way around Adama, but Tigh’s a half-cocked ass who shoots first and asks later, and hearing that someone was running a grey market in pharmaceuticals on Galactica?
Oh, Lords of Kobol, you’d be frakked. In jail worse than when they tossed good ol’ President Roslin in the brig for flirting harder with Apollo than the old man.
You kind of dig on the president, and not just because you could sell that holy relic jacket of hers for big big trade. Most because you can see how she completely overthrew the old man. He’s her bitch, and he’s the kind of guy, if he’s her bitch, then everyone else is going to kiss her feet.
You appreciate power. Especially in fellow women.
You also really appreciate the way this ship leaks and limps along, and how everyone needs something, and they come right to you when they need. Ellen the drunk-ass whore always wants whatever beauty products come through, and that hairdresser girl over on the Virgon ship had paid you a shiny commission of gorgeous blonde hair when you’d referred Ellen to her.
You made a pretty good wig out of it, and use it sometimes when being Ali is too much. Not because you want to do anything, but because it amuses you to see them act stupid for a blonde with tits and a press pass. It’s easy, too. You just switch back into your other clothes, wear glasses and that press pass you stole off some frakhead you blew in the head, and ask big name fools stupid questions.
Like that Gaeta guy, who you found out was queer the other day from one of his used and abused frak-toys. The rumor market is just one of your many, many useful sidelines, and that one’s going to make you popular soonish.
And it’s insurance, because you do not have a stable life. Every heartbeat brings you close to crossing some invisible military line that you don’t even know exists, but you can’t stop. You don’t know how to do anything else.
At some point, you are going to offend someone with power and they are going to stick you in the brig next to the Cylon bitch. Probably it will be Starbuck, because you know Starbuck down to her toenails. Big voice, damaged psyche, and she’s a playboy hustler, the kind you’d like to throw against a wall sometime, but you keep pissing her off. Probably because she can see herself in your eyes. Maybe also because you keep cheating when you play poker with her, and she can’t prove it.
You haven’t decided if this will be fun or not, the getting caught. There are days you live to get caught. Sometimes it gets boring yelling at stupid-ass specialists to trade fair or frak off, but on the other hand, you’re not sure Cylons are any better company. Even if the Cylon has that hot like crazy Helo guy visiting ALL THE TIME.
Still. It worked. You can’t believe it worked after all.
Goes to show that even in an apocalypse, people are mostly stupid, and in a weird way, this comforts you.
* * *
The priestess kisses me on the forehead in the ancient ritual of benediction, the way she did when she took me away from my mama and sisters. From my twin sister, Ishana.
I think she’s happy. At least, I think she’s trying to smile, but she doesn’t do it so well.
“We are going with the fleet to Kobol, as the gods have said,” she says. “Are you excited, child?”
I am bored. I want to go home to Ishana. The priestess says she is dead, that everyone is dead, dead, dead and we are super-extra-lucky to be trapped on a stupid ship with convicts and dwindling supplies. I don’t believe her.
Ishana talks to me in my dreams. Every night, or I’d worry. She tells me they are fighting the Cylons at home, that I must come back to them, that our worlds are dying and they need my powers at home if they are to survive.
“Is that lady going to take us home once we find Earth?” I ask. “She seems like she would, if she knew about all the people there. If I told her about Ishana, she’d listen.”
The priestess takes me by the arm. She thinks I’m stupid and making it up for attention. I think she’s stupider; the whole reason she took me away from my mama and my sisters and from my Ishana is because I’m supposed to be special. Good for the priesthood. And if we’re going to Kobol because someone who isn’t even a real priestess or even religious at all tells us so, why can’t I be seeing true?
“Don’t you say a word about that when the Prophet comes aboard, Tala, or so help me,” she says, putting her finger in my face.
“Is she coming here?” I ask. That’s more interesting. Maybe I will ask Ishana how to get away from this boring old hag and find a new priestess to watch me until I can go home. Maybe I’ll try to appeal to the Prophet to save me from a boring, horrible life burning herbs and reading scripture with Yanabeth. Sister Yanabeth, the most boringest priestess ever.
I could go with the Prophet. I bet she’d take me with her, if she knew I was a seer, too, and that I was brave. Braver than any eleven-year-old the captain of this boat ever saw. She is an exciting priestess, even if she’s even older than Yanabeth and white to boot. She escaped from the evil people on Galactica who don’t believe in anything, and took poor dying Adama’s own son with her, and I think they’ll get married and lead all the people to Earth and Galactica will be sorry for ever thinking she was crazy. That’s how it should be, anyway.
And if I tell her, the Prophet will call forth the gods to stop those Cylons still on the Colonies, and she will take me with her to go rescue Ishana and my mama and my sisters.
And Ishana will be waiting for me, her hair so long it’s fallen to her ankles because she promises never to cut it until I came home, and her hands will be held out.
“You came home. Just like you promised,” she’ll say.
“I never left. I dreamed of you every night,” I’d say. “I wished for you. And our mama. And our sisters.”
“I know,” Ishana will say, and we will link arms and Mama will be waiting in the doorway with a smile. “I saw you in all my dreams, too. Did you really kill a hundred Cylons with a sword?”
“Two hundred,” the Prophet will say, and it will be true. “Tala is very brave. I would have died without her to help me.”
The priestess shakes me a little, and I come back from my daydream, which was better than any of my real dreams. Ishana is happy in my daydream, and my mama is happy, and I am braver than anyone in the Colonies, even Adama’s son, and everyone knows he is braver than brave.
“What are you thinking of, Tala?” Yanabeth asks.
“Home,” I say, putting my arms out. I’m kind of dizzy about how wonderful things are going to be soon. “I am going home soon, and everything will be all right.”