The Invisible Barriers of Class on Aquaria
Fandom: Battlestar Galactica
Disclaimer: Moore, Eick, Sci-Fi, et cetera, are the copyright holders. I borrow.
Summary: I have like thirty unfinished BSG fics, but what finished first was this weird little Cally gen piece about family and class and leaving home and the things you feel bad about later.
It’s weird, but when Crashdown aims the gun at me, the thing that flashes into my head is my last conversation with my sister. My sister, who I haven’t been thinking about, like my two little brothers, my mother, and my father. But particularly, my sister, Mollison.
The last time I spoke to Mollison was on my last leave to Aquaria, eight months ago. We were never that close. Mollison was always the pretty one, taller. Blonde, cared about whatever over-sprayed style was in fashion. Wore tight tops and tighter pants with high-heeled shoes with lots of glitter.
She was the one that my family got along with. I was the trophy daughter, even when I refused to answer to my name (after all, with a sister named Mollison, there’s a reason I stuck with Cally after I got used to answering to it) and only responded to Cally. I had a five-week leave, and it was the pits. I didn’t know anyone, so I spent a lot of time talking to the dental school I was gonna attend, going shopping with my father, and watching my mother die.
My mother’d been dying for ten years. Apparently it had gotten worse in the last two, and I hadn’t understood how it could be so bad and nobody really explain in e-messages and calls.
And a week before I went back to Galactica, my mother went on a new course of drugs to work with it. My father had gone off with my brothers on a camping trip for a day or two, and told me it would be okay, that Mom’s symptoms were like a really bad case of the flu.
I didn’t expect to have to help her dress while she complained how cold it was. And warned me that we might have to go to the hospital. And ask if she had chills or a fever, and warn me to make sure I could hear her.
Which I guess I should have known, but nobody mentioned that part.
And then Mollison called while I was hoping my father was swarmed by mosquitoes.
“Mollison wants to talk to you,” Mom said, snot running down her face. “I need…excuse me, baby.”
She started to retch. I sighed and picked up the phone.
“It’s not a good time, Mollison,” I said. “What is it?”
“I need you to get me,” Mollison said. “My frakking ride left me in the hills, and me and Sahyanne need to get back to our transports. Come on, Cally, don’t be a brat. You’re awake and everything.”
“Will be okay. I mean, the guy we’re with could drop us off in the morning, but Dad will pitch a fit and try to kick me out again and come ON, Cally. Come get me.”
“Mollison, I don’t even know where you are, I haven’t been on Aquaria for two years, and I haven’t lived in Uranion for like, five, and it will take me a minute to figure out where you are from out here in the suburbs,” I said. “And Mom is still retching.”
“I don’t even want you to get me anymore,” Mollison said snappishly. “Thanks for nothing, bye.”
And back in reality, Crashdown has a gun aimed at me and is ordering me to blow up Cylons. I never signed up to blow up Cylons. And I was thinking that once upon a time, Crashdown would have been fun to invite by to Uranion. The Chief, too. Well, Mollison thought they should come.
“I can’t,” I say. I can’t do it. I was never any good at shooting things. I never wanted to be a typical Aquarian, and did my best to ignore everything Aquarians were good at.
Including all that backwater family care stuff.
Eventually, I got Mom situated and still ended up driving twenty-three klicks out to Ring Springs where Mollison was wearing too much hairspray and Sahyanne was too drunk to stand up.
“Hey,” Sahyanne said. Sahyanne was the friend we all hated; Mollison drank too much with her, and there were always twenty guys they were talking about at the same time. “How’s the army? Fix any teeth yet?”
“Shut up, Sahya,” Mollison said. “Thanks for getting us. Is Mom really frakked tonight?”
“She’s whining,” I said. “I don’t even know what to do, and I can’t find Dad.”
Mollison snorted. “It’s not that hard, Cally,” she said. “I did it for six months when I didn’t have a job.”
“Are you drunk again?” I asked. She’d been drunk for three days. She’d stolen my rental car this morning to get to work because she’d woken up and had no idea where she was. “Dad will mess you up if you are.”
“I didn’t drink,” Mollison said. “Sahya’s flying, yeah, Sahya?”
“Frak the frak yeah,” Sahya muttered indistinctly. “When are you bringing your military friends to Uranion? All the guys here are so u.p. And Mollison says your friends are cute.”
I would have rather died than bring anyone to Aquaria. We weren’t from the right part of Uranion, not that there was a good side — we were from the Northside, where everyone drank too much, shot at things for fun, and talked like ignorant asswipes. Lots of literalists, so bad that the Aquo City Times referred to Northside Urania as “Little Gemenon.”
My sister thought it was a compliment.
“I’m so curious what it will be like in the Scroll days,” Mollison told me one day as we were on our way to the Shopping Centre in her guzzler of a transport. “You know what would be cool? If the Leader were a girl. You know she won’t be, but that would be cool.”
I didn’t know Leader from follower in those days. I muttered something noncommittal.
“You know,” Mollison said. “It wouldn’t kill you to pretend you give a frak, Cally.”
“I think the Scriptures aren’t literal, Mollison. Literalism is kind of creepy sometimes,” I said.
“Oh, that’s just your big fancy education talking,” Mollison said. “You’re not even going to come back to Aquaria once you get out, are you? You’ll go to like, frakking Caprica. I bet that’s what you want to do. Go to Caprica and be all like you don’t know where Aquaria is.”
I had told Selix about eight times how much I planned to move to Caprica City as soon as I got out of dental school. I sighed.
“Aquaria’s not the only place in the universe,” I said again. “My friends are kind of busy. It’s hard to get leave at the same time.”
“Yeah, sure,” Mollison said. “I bet that guy you were talking about, Crashdown, would come. He sounds like he’d like playing pop-top.”
Pop-top, for those not lucky enough to be raised as country Aquarian as me, was a Northside specialty. See how many times you could hit a can of soda before it exploded all over the neighbor’s window, or out in the county, on someone’s raised flatbed vehicle.
“He’s an officer,” I said. “Officers don’t just come out to play pop-top, Mollison.”
That was a lie. Every engineer on Galactica thought pop-top sounded great, but I was never going to tell Mollison that.
“Well what about that guy you said is like your big brother, that Chief guy? Tyrol? He should come visit,” Mollison said.
Kobol is worse than the worst parts of Northside Uranion. It’s cold and wet and full of creepy trees. Northside was hot. It was dry, so dry that all the construction companies that supported sprawl got weathered and kind of trashy-looking. Only runty trees, marking the transient presence of water with pathetic skill.
And desolate. Like I said, twenty klicks between my parents and anything resembling fun for people our age, just strip malls and cheap housing. More, even. The closest discotheque I would have gone to was thirty-five klicks from our house.
“ONE,” Crashdown says back in the real world of dying and Cylons and everyone losing their minds, and my heart beats faster and I am trying to prepare myself to die and I think only of how I came from a crappy town on Aquaria and was a bitch to my sister because of it. “TWO.”
“Oh, that’s flaming,” Mollison said, pointing at one of the ugliest raised vehicles I’d ever seen.
Two seconds before I had been cursing at the street constructions in Sahya’s neighborhood, and muttered, “What is HE trying to prove?” when the monstrosity had appeared out of nowhere.
“I wouldn’t even date a guy with just a little auto-transport,” Sahya said derisively. “I mean, would you, Cally?”
“I wouldn’t date a guy in something like that,” I said. She had to be kidding; those things were inefficient and clearly a sign of penis inadequacy. “That’s just stupid.”
They both laughed like they couldn’t believe their ears. “Wow, see what happens when you leave the Northside?” Mollison said. “Totally different. You went to your uni and totally just disappeared. Like you never even lived here. Took off and left me behind.”
“You’re the one who dropped out of secondary,” I said. They laugh again. “What?”
“Oh, we all did,” Mollison said. “I mean, come on, Cally. We’re all just waiting to move out further north with our trailers and pop-tops. You shouldn’t be so mean about us having fun. There’s my transport. I gotta take Sahya down to hers in the Rancho.”
When the bullet fires and I’m not dead, I realize two things. One, that it’s not me and I don’t much care who it was as long as I don’t die. Two, how weird it was to drive the last six klicks back to the house and realize I had no idea about anything anymore, and how I didn’t know anything at all about living on Aquaria or the people I grew up with.
It was this beautiful night, late spring on Aquaria. Eighteen million people swarmed throughout Uranian regional space just because the weather was pretty and the ocean was nearby. Even up in the Northside hills, we were all beach bums. And I could see the moon as I drove up and down the hills and cursed the mileage on my rental.
I’d grown up here, and it was like I was from a whole different world. I couldn’t imagine bringing anyone like even Selix or Socinus, even though I’d talked about how Uranion’s beer was the best, how one day we could go to the Street Fair and frak around.
Then again, the idea of moving out north with a trailer and a couple of guns still seemed like a fate worse than death. Even appreciating that Uranion wasn’t hell didn’t make me want to stay.
“Cally,” the chief says. We’re on the way back to Galactica now. I can’t say home because there’s no such thing anymore. “You look a million light-years away.”
I smile. “Back on Aquaria, Chief,” I explain. “I was thinking about my sister.”
He goes kind of sad. “I’m sorry. Your whole family, they were in Uranion, yeah?”
“Northside frakking Uranion. The tackiest place on the planet, and Aquaria’s a pretty tacky planet,” I say. “They put all the yokels there. I mean, my sister was named Mollison. Who names a kid Mollison?”
The chief chuckles, but I can tell he’s a little confused. “That’s not so bad,” he says.
“I don’t know,” I say. “Last time I talked to her, it was big time drama. I had to drive her home because she had gotten stuck at this party and her friends had ditched her and she had this stupid friend Sahya and they always wanted to know why I didn’t bring Galactica people to Uranion, and it was like, come on, I’m going to bring Galactica people to drink beer and play pop-top with all the other yokels? But Mollison wasn’t so smart. She was always joking she was gonna get her a trailer and go up north, out to real country. She teased a lot. Said I was stuck-up for wanting to leave Aquaria.”
He doesn’t even know what to say, and I don’t know why I’m telling him. Everyone’s so quiet about their dead families, and if they’re not, it’s always because they were so close and at least two guys on Galactica went on suicide watch over it, wives and kids gone forever.
Meanwhile, it’s like my family never existed. I get more upset over my friends, the ones who lived, being in danger than thinking Mollison’s been dead two months, that all my family probably went outside to watch the bombs fall, and shoot at the air until their time came, like fighting Cylons was a big game of pop-top.
“You had a tough day, Specialist,” he says. “It’s how I was when I found out Sharon was…well, it just made me think of all the things I wouldn’t let myself think about.”
“It wasn’t even that I wouldn’t let myself think about Mollison,” I say. “It was like it was so easy, not thinking about her, that it was almost like she wasn’t dead until now.”
We both go silent, and I know he’s thinking about Lieutenant Valerii and I’m thinking about Aquaria, and how I had planned to never go back. Make my family come to me, let them see how beautiful space was.
Because the thought of Mollison always stuck on the Northside got to me, you know? Because I couldn’t see any other answer.
“You did good today, Cally,” he finally says. “You’re doing real good, no matter what you’re doing. I’m proud of you, and I know they’d be proud, too.”
And I’m sure he’s right, but it’s so hollow, thinking about my family now. I can’t even see them in the Fleet. I can’t see them anywhere but Uranion, and it kills me. It just kills me, because if even in a dream I can’t let them off Aquaria, what’s that say about me?
What’s that say about the whole frakking universe? Toasters and rich people, that’s what’s left because that’s who move around in the Colonies. Toasters, rich people, and weirdos like me who got off Aquaria and never looked back.
I just wanted to go to dental school. You know?
I just wanted to go to dental school. So I lived. Mollison died. For nothing more serious than that.
What’s that say, you know? Really, what does that say?