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 Post subject: Midnight Courage, NT2, Boomer/Tyrol, with Athena, PG-13
PostPosted: Tue Jun 16, 2009 4:57 am 
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Title: Midnight Courage
Author: NT2
Rating: Pg-13 for language, violence
Word Count: 8500
Characters: Boomer, Athena
Summary: Season 4.5 from Boomer’s fractured point of view.

Proceeds by actual series episodes to basically flip Season 1 upside down. Where you had Sharon Valerii struggling with a suppressed machine, now you have a machine struggling with a suppressed Sharon.

Author’s Note: Previous post uploaded on request. Thought of modifying it, but I think it holds up pretty well.

This post-finale Boomer tribute was instigated by an Athena fan. She and several other Boomer/Athena fans were put out that “Boomer tried to kill herself to avoid hurting people, and nobody ever said a kind, non-manipulative word to her again.” The ground rules were: (1) stay true to the key elements of Season 4.5; (2) try to find the Boomer of Season 1 and make sense out of what followed; (3) don’t be derogatory about Athena; and (4) even if she dies, have someone not treat Boomer like dirt. They liked it.


NO EXIT

They’re an audience of two. Silent. Carved in place.

On station.

Neither moves. The Centurion stands one meter behind Boomer, one meter offset from the apex of her left shoulder. Neither of them processes what Ellen’s saying. The Centurion isn’t supposed to; Boomer doesn’t need to. She’ll know what to say when the time comes, say it without even thinking it. And that’s probably best. Thinking isn’t good for this Cylon.

Cavil’s almost done for today. The Centurion and Boomer step in unison, it pivoting left toward the door, her right toward Ellen. His final flourish complete, Cavil departs. Boomer: “Don’t you feel the slightest bit of remorse for what you did to him? What you did to us?”

Ellen drones on about free will. She doesn’t get the joke, which is okay. It’s not all that funny.

”…to reach out to others with compassion,” says Ellen.. “To love.”

That reaches out, pissing off what’s left to piss off inside her: “Love? Who? Humans? Why would I want to do that? Who would I want to love?”

She’d like to backhand Ellen. But that’s just what Boomer wants, not Cavil. And it’s not like he’s left her the option. She wondered what it would be like to be a machine, to give up on guilt and blame. Now she’s the best damn machine there ever was. Or is that the worst?

Inhibitor level one kicks in. She’s not supposed to think like that.

Free will?

You frakking whore.

She is supposed to think like that.

******

Once she was a person named Sharon Valerii. At least she thinks so.

Now she’s simply Boomer.

In hell.

Poor, stupid Boomer. She never recovered from shooting Adama, which is quite the bitch since she doesn’t even remember doing it. But she remembers the look in Galen’s eyes in that cell, what Baltar did to her, how they all hated her, screamed for her blood. No going home after that. She tried to do the right thing on New Caprica and got burned. Not a good Cylon, either, like she had the slightest idea what a good Cylon was after all that time being human. The machine was still bitter about that time, about lurking beneath a human lie it never could shake completely, even now. And then John Cavil took control again… [Inhibitor level two kicks in] She winces.

The wages of imperfection.

Learn the lesson. Remember it right. Her gracious mentor forgave her earlier failures, approached her offering insight as to how she might find herself, be the best Cylon she could. No one else had ever done that for her. So she listened, found his promise intriguing, while the machine listened, too, eager for a chance to turn the tables on that experience aboard Galactica. Just waiting for her to…

Bite the hook. She does more than wince this time, finally quits, shuts that whining little revenant Sharon Valerii down. Back safely in her corner, she kneels, trying to think as little as possible. Machine meditation. Because that’s the whole point, isn’t it? Humans are a feedback mechanism out of control, biochemical chaos butchering clarity; Cavil says Cylons can get it right, make the feedback mechanism clean. Make their own reality. One where the internal and the external are simply mirrors.

Compassion is biochemical chaos. Love is biochemical chaos. Sin and forgiveness the same. All of it.

Once her inhibitors slide back into the noise, she thinks again. Thinks about what the humans did to her. About all Cavil does for her, and anything else that doesn’t challenge what she is.

Don’t get pissed off. She gets bit every time she’s pissed off.

Calm, deliberate thoughts.

Blank, expressionless face.

Cylon perfection. Her mind is a placid pool, empty and sad. For some reason sad is okay, doesn’t get the mental antibodies going. Maybe it’s just not a threat. Too little energy.

When she’s empty enough her universe inverts. Inside out, she remembers Sharon Valerii, and then she’s with her in that house on Picon. The place where she wanted to live with a man she loved and the daughter she’ll never have. The last citadel of that family she had on Galactica.

All that chaos. Poor, stupid Boomer. On Picon she can think that as much as she wants, as long as she stays sad.

It’s a quiet place.

A nicer slice of hell.

******

This is hell at its purest.

And he won’t even go to sleep after.

Not that she can think that. She just feels it, bone deep.

Cavil rolls away from her, already talking about his latest ideas. He’s got to change the mix, make something happen after the Hub was destroyed. Ellen must be telling the truth. It took five of them before, no doubt takes five again, and he can’t engineer that combination: an assault would be too costly, likely kill at least one of them. And she can’t really expect to infiltrate a Battlestar and sneak out with four disparate adults.

She stops processing what he says. She’s allowed to do that, can produce bland agreement on cue.

Time passes. She has nothing but time.

“What do you think?” he asks.

“I’m sure you know best.”

“Yes, I do.” He looks annoyed. She starts processing.

“Hera is another matter all together. You could sneak a child out. And her genetic code may be another way to save us.”

“What do you want me to do?”

He explains. She listens. It’s not like she can meaningfully disagree; Cylon right is Cavil right. And there’s no tinkering on the edges with this one that will make it any better.

She stops listening again. He notices. She knows what that means.

Positive reinforcement. It’s for her own good, a means to reach the machine nirvana. A simple interface exercise in the lab to keep her feedback humming smoothly. To keep Boomer on the road to perfection. He promises that soon she’ll no longer need to sleep.

Great. Inhibitor level one kicks in.

Once there was a girl named Sharon Valerii who hid a Cylon inside. Now there’s a Cylon hiding Valerii as she slowly dwindles away. And maybe that’s best, because Sharon just won’t stop crying in that house on Picon.

Calm, deliberate thoughts.

Blank, expressionless face.

She’s Cavil’s good little girl.

******

Cavil watches the Raptor with Ellen escape. “Well there’s an anticlimax.”

“It’s what you wanted, brother,” says a second Cavil. “Baiting the hook.”

He laughs. “All of this has happened before, right? All of this will happen again. I wish I could see the look on Adama’s face second time around.”

“If it works,” says a third Cavil. “She’ll be on her own aboard Galactica.”

“Just like last time,” Cavil answers. “She was less reliable then, still pumped two slugs into Adama’s gut. Still came back to us shattered in ways no human could comprehend.”

“Boomer math,” smirks the second. “She’s little more than a Centurion most of the time.”

“Exactly. Plot her out, and the fault lines are obvious. How she needs redemption, how to manipulate that so she winds up full circle with us. Back with the ones who did it to her in the first place, so we can do it again. Perfect symmetry.”

“No uncertainty?” asks the third.

“There’s always uncertainty. But if hers was going to amount to anything, it would have done so in that first encounter with Athena. That’s why I brought her with us to Galactica, to see if she’d respond as loaded. Spot on. If not for that stupid Six, we’d have the baby and her mother right now, could have probably quelled this whole Civil War.”

“That’s why you speak for us,” says the second. “You’re so damn eloquent.”

“No. I’m damn efficient. And so is Boomer.”


DEADLOCK

It’s strange to be homing in on Galactica after so long. But at least this Boomer nails the landing. Spot on.

She kept her communications garbled. The less interaction she has, the better her chances of staying free for a bit. Do some reconnaissance to see what’s changed. The kind of little details that trip humans up. Ellen keeps prattling. Boomer ignores her. That’s the one undeniably good thing about being a machine—she really can ignore people. Just not process.

It feels even stranger to stand in the hanger bay. They’re ignoring her in deference to Ellen, which is good. She picks up details: the location of obstacles, transit corridors between the ships, unobserved angles of approach, what to watch for on the platforms above…

Then Galen is standing in front of her. He looks into her eyes, studies her intently. A rush of biochemical chaos follows, and she actually smiles.

Damn strange.

Stabilizing protocols, the ones her human lie hadn’t known about the last time she was here, damp that out. But she runs them slower than normal, lets the chaos linger. The better to sell him she tells the machine.

He rats her out of course: “Nice to see you again.” Maybe. “This is Boomer.”

They arrest her without so much as a word. She looks at Adama, expecting him to say something. The machine is validated when he doesn’t. The part of her that still gets bit when it thinks about Cavil goes silent.

******

On the plus side, she finally does reach that special cell in the brig they were building for her. The old Galen would have found that funny, and she smiles again.

What the frak? Stop it.

Quiet time is good time. Time for calm, deliberate thoughts, to let the machine hone itself. She preps the house on Picon, but for some reason that’s going slow. She lingers over things--his picture, a music box he gave her--insists it’s just to get the details right, an adequate excuse to keep the machine from correcting her.

Think about Adama. How hateful he looked. She took a gut check mission over Kobol, after just trying to kill herself, because that man asked her to. Because he needed her. And she succeeded under more agonizing circumstance than he can imagine. He owes her at least one word, good or bad. She’s not beneath his notice; she’s the best god damn machine ever!

What the frak?

A lost memory pops into her head. She’s almost washed out of Galactica for failing her landings; Tigh and Adama are ragging on her. “A lot of people have died on this ship, lot of ghosts running around here. You don’t want to pull them into your cockpit with you, because you won’t come back alive.” Adama said that. And she is one of those ghosts.

Sharon Valerii. Trust the machine. The machine will keep her ghost at bay.

******

Helo. Of course.

But why is Athena with him?

Boomer doesn’t have a script for this, isn’t prepared. What does Athena want with her? She goes to the phone warily.

Athena speaks first: “I know I’m probably the last person you want to see. But I just want to say that, what happened back on the Base Star, I know you wouldn’t have done it.”

She doesn’t need to hear that. Boomer, or is it Sharon, almost replies: “Don’t. Don’t trust me.” But the inhibitors kick in, same as if she were some raider or centurion. What she’d voted for. If she actually voted and not some software. So she just nods.

After Athena leaves, Helo blathers meaningless offers of support. She quits processing, zones her responses back. It doesn’t feel right to do anything else. Maybe not safe, either. Ghosts. She’s never really felt the full weight of Cavil’s feedback before, and the machine’s watching her jealously now.

What the frak? I am the machine!

She asks Helo to leave. Alone with herself again, she kneels, trying not to think. It takes longer this time.


SOMEONE TO WATCH OVER ME


She’s just mimicking Ellen. It’s part of the machine’s act, a calculated response to engender trust. Emotional reciprocity. Coin of the realm.

But when Boomer really works at it, it’s surprising how well she remembers Galen’s face. Not the specific dimensions and curves. Not the distinguishing marks recorded in memory, either. She remembers the way he ought to look, the emotions that corrupt memory. The look that feels right in that Picon house.

She finally stops drawing. Sharon’s trying to think something that will get them in trouble if she keeps it up. And perfection requires limits. Purpose derives from them. Humans are destroyed by the weight of an existence they never understand. Cylon perfection accepts its role, finds liberation in restraint. The catechism rolls in her head, building self-restraint to support the inhibitors.

She becomes aware of Galen at the wall. She waits before acknowledging him. Calculates the perfect moment.

“Thank God.”

“I don’t really know why I’m here,” he says on the phone.

Because you’re imperfect. The machine goes rote: “You know, when I shot the old man, the things that you said to me... The way that you looked at me... “ His guilt is obvious, locked in memory, not the way he ought to look. “I thought New Caprica was a way to set things right."

That engages him: "You can't force people to love you at the point of a gun."

"I know that, now. But at the time I felt betrayed. So I wanted to forget you. And hate you..." Counter intuitive. The imperfect respond to that. “It didn’t work. I've thought about you every day since that moment I died in your arms." The clincher. He can’t resist that.

She’s too quick when he reaches out. He jolts from the projection. She needs to recover, back peddle, but the pain in his gaze halts her for a moment. It’s imperfect the way her eyes meet his.

Biochemical chaos.

Inhibitor level one kicks in.

******

She refuses to draw anymore. The machine wants her to, but she destroyed that picture, tore up all her paper. Still, the machine knows its role, so that command doesn’t abate. It just sits there like a dull ache in a severed nerve.

Helo stopped by again earlier to ask if she needs anything. She told him no. And then she said she was glad he survived Caprica. She didn’t get bit for that. Establishing trust, an ad lib. That’s all it was. Then she started to think about her hand on that Raptor window as she looked down at him, left behind. That made the machine bite.

Whose child is Hera? It bit hard.

She’s blank now. Galen will be back soon. He’s been back a lot since the Cylons asked for her blood, his weakness ripe. He still jolts on contact, just for it now, can’t get enough of something he thought he’d never want. And he deserves it, this Cylon traitor. The Cylon who denied her when she needed him most, back in that cell after she shot the old man. The cell where she saved his life by…

Being imperfect. She should be grateful for the inhibitors, what they spare her. Cavil saved her from all this… She blinks out as that message ramps up on auto pilot, slamming home.

Trust the machine!

Galen’s mainlining it today. I should stop calling him that. It’s just Chief. But now he’s crying over his daughter again. Dionne’s beautiful, he’s beautiful, and Sharon’s crying, weeping with him. And that’s too much. The machine forces her to back away, begging off as a siren blasts in her head. She pleads for him to leave, the perfect response, nailing him with her vulnerability as she collapses face down on the cot.

But it’s not an act, doesn’t stop. Sharon’s still weeping in that house, the machine grates louder and louder, and her head is on fire. Blacking out is God’s mercy.

Boomer awakens, head hurting like hell.

The wages of imperfection.

******

Mission accomplished.

About time. She couldn’t handle much more of this. Isn’t handling it.

Galen’s here in the dark. Boomer’s ready. Sharon’s frantic in that house, makes her check the Eight. Still alive. He’s not ruined yet.

Inhibitor level one kicks in. Sharon doesn’t give a damn. She can still save him, just refuse to leave her cell. What’s he going to do, brain her with a wrench? The machine amps the voltage. Sharon’s okay with that; go ahead—make her pass out. But the machine has other protocols. She’s never seen some of the ones now unfolding, isn’t ready for this fight. The machine is kicking her ass.

Galen helps it. “What a heartless bitch!” he whispers. “Roslin… personal feelings are what Sharon Valerii preys upon…She’s a danger in the brig, out of the brig. A danger to us, a danger to our Cylon allies.”

Just like Adama. Not even a frakking word, wouldn’t even let her apolo—

LEARN THE LESSON!

The humans are vicious. Petty. Grinding down under the weight of an existence they’ll never understand. "Do you get it now, Sharon? Forming this fleet, fighting us to find frakking water for them, blowing up a Base Star for them when you were falling apart. None of it means anything! You’re a thing to them!”

But she can still be perfect.

Boomer doesn’t hear Sharon anymore.

Game on.

******

Athena never has a chance. Because Boomer’s the best damn machine ever.

A sucker punch sends Helo’s thief head first into a steel basin, rebounding down to the floor. The finish is quick. Boom, boom, boom.

She pulls the unconscious Athena into a toilet stall. She bends down, both hands on the unconscious Eight’s head as the machine says twist. Simple math. No witnesses minimizes the degrees of freedom, lessens the chance of detection. Killing this one will also demoralize and sow terror, eliminate the already small chance of any rescue mission getting off the ground.

Both are mission objectives.

“I know I’m probably the last person you want to see. But I just want to say that, what happened back on the Base Star, I know you wouldn’t have done it.”

Yes, she would have. The machine insists.

The woman who saved Helo… A woman whose death will be on Chief’s head… wife and mother…

The one who stole her life.

"Do you get it now, Sharon? Forming this fleet, finding frakking water for them, blowing up a Base Star for—‘’

“No.” It’s not enough. Athena’s sin doesn’t merit this, and yes, that’s foolish, but she’s doing what the machine wants. She’s doing the big thing. It’s not going to slow her down over this.

Boomer ties and gags Athena. Boomer sponges blood off her hands in the sink, trying to go blank. She’s almost there when Helo arrives.

God! Could this be any worse?

It’s a freak show.

She tries to put him off. But Boomer never could catch a break on Galactica. He’s asking what’s wrong now. The machine says “kill him,” Sharon is guzzling tranquilizers in that house on Picon, and Boomer cuts the deal—don’t. Please. Don’t kill him, and I’ll be good.

Do it my way, and I’m yours. For the duration.

Cavil’s good little girl.

******

Sharon’s pathetic. Boomer’s got Hera, and Chief is helping her with the box. She’s calm and deliberate, just not yet blank. It’s hard to go blank after that mess in the shower. So Sharon squeaks out one last whimper to Galen: “Come with me. I can’t do it without you.”

She really can’t. Cavil has her dead to rights, inside and out, and maybe she deserves that. Maybe she listened to the devil, let him get his hooks in, never realizing what they were until it was too late. [The machine hates this; it’s grinding gears.] But with Galen, she might be able to…

“Yeah, you can,” he says. “Meet again.”

Poor, stupid Boomer. Remember what ship this is. Remember who never catches a break.

Who doesn’t deserve one.

“There’s something I want you to remember. All the things that I said about us, I meant them, with all my heart. So no matter what happens…”

He kisses her, and for a moment they really are on Picon. In that moment she could do anything, face down Adama and make him accept all the information she has, face down the inhibitors, Cavil, Galactica, Cylons… Anything.

For one moment she’s in love. And then it’s gone, aching worse than anything the inhibitors can do. Leaving her dead.

Calm, deliberate thoughts. Blank, expressionless face. Because she can’t even move without the machine. It’s all that’s left.

God help her, she’s perfect.

******

The machine handles the rest. It’s flying, after all, and what are machines good for if not for that. To be tasked.

To have missions.

Adama wants to talk now, but he had his chance. She just wants out, only there’s that little problem again. This is Galactica, where Boomer never, ever, catches a break. The machine lectures her about that, how this one is her fault. She let Athena live to be found, to escape, to tell someone. Whatever.

It was always her fault. Imperfection--it’s a killer.

Learn the lesson.

She guns it. Just get outside, clear the ship and jump. They won’t shoot her down with Hera on board. But again with that little problem--they’re trying to cut her off. It’s a hell of a job of flying. She still clips a wing, spirals out of control, tries to clear the ship and can’t.

Jump or crash.

Sorry…

The inhibitors kick in. She’s finally grateful for them.


ISLANDED IN A STREAM OF STARS


She has to let Hera out of the box. Even the machine knows that.

There just really isn’t an appropriate time or place for such an act. No etiquette to follow. So she just opens the box and ignores the child.

Hera cries. It’s a black bit of déjà vu from that Base Star, when Hera cried and cried and nothing she did could make it stop. But that was imperfect. She needs to wipe it out, kill the thought.

Just not process.

“I want my mommy!”

There’s perfection in that, too, how Hera won’t stop, just goes on and on and on. She should be able to ignore it, but something’s wrong. The inhibitors are still there, doing what they do, conforming to protocols. But she’s not right. Not since that jump off Galactica, the ship she died for.

Sorry…

Which doesn’t cut it. How many people died from that jump? She should be able to ignore that, too, just can’t. It’s like… Dislocation. Discontinuous. How a person chewing feels when they first realize a tooth is cracked, or the initial seconds after an accident, protracted in time for her.

She’s damaged. And Hera wants her frakking Mommy, over and over until Boomer could scream.

“I want my mommy!”

“You know, it’s too bad they never upgraded the FTL on this relic, but if you think I’m going to put up with your sniveling and your whining for another dozen jumps, guess again!” It doesn’t stop. Her head is on fire. “Fine! You can cry in your sleep.” She rips at the supply kit with more energy and fury than she’s felt since… Frak it! “May be a long snooze, to, ‘cause these don’t come in kiddy doses.”

Hera’s sobbing now.

“Give me your arm.”

No. Still sobbing, the perfect storm.

“Give me your arm!” She yanks hard; a whimper of pain escapes from the child.

Disjoint…

Discontinuous.

Her voice. What does that mean? She hears it, whatever that is, chokes on something silent so long, black clouds whistling rain in the desert of her head. She stops cold, doesn’t know what to do. Sorry… Which still doesn’t cut it as she kneels, head on hand, blank but not blank. The inhibitors bite. Part of her feels them; part doesn’t. Not feeling them is worse, a gaping hole she can’t fill.

Discontinuous.

Be perfect, be perfect, be perfect, be perfect, be perfect, be perfect…


******

Overload?

Could that be it?

“Please, Hera. You need to eat.” Why else is she sitting here with the patience of a saint while her head throbs? Why is Hera looking at her like that, with a blank, expressionless face?

How does Boomer get off this ride?

An even better question: Why wasn’t she out of range of a Resurrection Ship when Cally first killed her? She should have been. That would have been neat and clean. And yes, she’s not supposed to think like that, but she’s about past being lectured. Go ahead. Shock the monkey.

The machine obliges. She winces twice. When vision clears, Hera’s staring at her, doesn’t break eye contact.

“Come on, you’ve got to be hungry. Eat this.”

Nothing. Just a little girl’s placid pool, empty and sad.

“Do you know what I do sometimes when I’m sad? I go to this special place, a house where I wanted to live, with a man that I loved.”

She stands up slowly, looking around the house that no longer feels right. She doesn’t know where Sharon is anymore. There’s just the machine jabbing away until someone touches her hand.

Hera looks up at her. The child looks around, then back to her.

“You can see this? You can project?”

Hera holds up the protein bar, wicked algae now a cupcake. She likes that, wants to know if it’s safe.

“Yeah, you can still eat it.”

The machine goes into overdrive, and she cringes. Hera squeezes her hand, and she cringes.

What’s happening to me?


******

She thought she might die earlier. Could barely breathe at one point. Finally, they both fell asleep, Hera nuzzled up against her.

She thinks it’s under control again. Explaining projection is a sedative, facts and details. Trial and error. Surface truth enough to satisfy the machine. Then she blows it by showing Hera a special room, the one where she thought her daughter would live.

Someone’s daughter.

That is someone’s daughter in her special room. As loved by Athena as her own would have been. In a twisted sense, this is her own. Someone as close to home as she’ll ever get.

Someone she should be watching over.

Machine panic is a strange thing. There’s a precision to it that belies the concept. She’s hurting again, feels like Galactica with that hole blown in its side. Action and reaction. Something’s definitely happening; she just doesn’t know what to do about it.

What Cylon would?

One.

That one. No. The machine won’t like that at all. That’ll hurt like hell, and she’s lost the right. Any memories but those. The ones she downloaded after her last death, the restricted ones, doled out on a need-to-know basis only. Like how to frak Helo in a freak show.

Athena hadn’t been this messed up on Caprica. But she managed it on a smaller scale, the thing Boomer’s never been able to do--overcome programming. How did she do that? If there is a way, it’s in those memories. Forbidden fruit. Can she rip into herself that deep, face that much shame?

No exit.

No other exit. “I can’t do it without you.”

“Yeah, you can.”

She puts Hera back to sleep and stands alone on Picon. She screams alone, in shame and failure. The answer is there, has to be, somewhere back on Caprica with Helo, but she can’t find it. She just keeps screaming until she has to become presentable for the Colony.

A Centurion escorts her part of the way. They walk in step, stride for stride, flesh and metal. Both looking straight ahead.

Pretend calm. Pretend blank.

That’s how she carries Hera to Cavil. He’s so pleased he doesn’t look at her closely, gives her more time to recover. Except he takes Hera behind glass, where the shape of a little girl screams for Boomer.

Someone to watch over her.

Boomer can only cry, fleeing to hide what she’s done to herself. Kneeling in her corner to pray: “Help me, Athena. Please, sister! You can kill me later, but help me now. Please.”


DAYBREAK (PART 1)


It’s only a matter of time. For Hera. For her.

Cavil’s ready to go assembly line with the cultures. Start the clone banks Once that’s up and running, Hera is expendable. He has no use for dots.

Boomer’s on thin ice, too. Hera has everyone’s attention, helping her to keep the damage inside hidden for a time. But buying that time requires admitting wear and tear, refreshing protocols she’s beaten herself bloody against to get this far. Giving up strength even as she’s giving her secret away.

“She needs her mother.”

“She is a child, a frightened one.”

Could Sharon be any more stupid? She’s careless, won’t last long in front of the others like that.

Time’s up, Boomer. What’s the answer?

She replays Athena again. Love, love, love. It’s useless as a weapon. Love kept Athena going after she was free, but that wasn’t what broke her programming. Not hope, either. Dammit! A human could probably figure this out, Adama, Starbuck, even that bitch Roslin. But she was a fake human, so she’s missing the point.

What?

Athena loved Helo. But that isn’t how she did it. Athena thought she was defective on Caprica, struggled with that, too. Boomer recognizes the discontinuities, the feel of them. How did Athena end up at love while Boomer could only put a gun to her head over Kobol. How were they that different?

It’s strange. At the same time Boomer toyed with suicide, Athena stood in front of Helo. He pointed a gun at her; she said “Just do it.” Athena knew that was the end, that she was a failure who’d be boxed. She loved him enough to die for him. How did she know that?

How was she allowed to know that?

Athena knowing she’ll be boxed. Boomer with a gun in the mouth. Can’t quite do it. Knew she’d be boxed… Gun in the mouth. “Just do it.” Flinched at the last moment. Knew she’d…

Gun in the mouth. Flinched.

Athena didn’t flinch. Knew she’d be boxed. Not love or hope, nothing that good. Just freedom, the ugliest kind.

Boomer checks the memories again, but this is it, because the machine is shrieking. Because back in that cell with Galen, when Baltar was killing him, she’d have put a gun in her mouth to save him. And she wouldn’t have flinched.

Invert it. Athena didn’t love Helo enough to die for him.

She died to love him.

They’re running away from Six and Doral, Athena and Boomer, racing together through the woods back to Helo. Not “I love him.” Not “I need him.” He’s in danger, in mortal peril. Not a thought for themselves, just like Boomer with Galen in that cell. Know they’ll be boxed. Know they’re dead, just don’t care.

That’s the lesson. That a dead woman… A woman already dead…

Can do whatever she wants.

Give up hope and break the program.

I kept looking for water with one hand on a suicide switch. For them. I tried to be a good Cylon for them, to keep them from being annihilated by orbiting Base Stars over New Caprica. I prayed to Athena for Hera, tried to control that Raptor for Adama, put that gun in my mouth for them. To protect them.

She sobs alone in the dark. Because Boomer hears her voice, is Sharon again, finally, blessedly wants to die.

For them.

Prove it.

She’s Sharon Valerii in that house on Picon. The one where she wanted to live with a man she loved. The one that’s been a good excuse. Too good.

She builds the pyre in her living room. It’s a projection, so one match suffices. The flames build fast. She can feel their heat, just doesn’t look at them. She has eyes only for the front door, walks through it into a dead garden where all the trees are rotting. A world cold, gray and miserable.

Sharon Valerii walks out into hell of her own free will.

She thinks that’s called a choice.

[Note 1: Hopefully, the use of the term “midnight courage” is clear now. It has various uses, but the sense here is of voluntary, solitary suffering. That nothing says more about character than what a person does when they’re all alone and pushed to the brink, when nobody will know what they tried to do, when no on will ever give them any credit, and the painless thing to do is simply roll over. Based on that, the Boomer presented up to this point is already redeemed. And, yeah, I realize “The Plan” could do more damage to Boomer, but I think this is compatible with the actual show.]

[Note 2: From here on out, there are three optional endings that build sequentially. You can stop at the first, or extend through the others. Option A is pretty much the show version, but less tacky for all concerned. Option B is a more significant Boomer with the requisite fate. Option C is for incurable romantics.]


DAYBREAK (PART 2) – OPTION A


She moved slower than she should have.

There’s no Helo here to cling to, to help carry her. And she’s a mess compared to Athena on Caprica, snares littered throughout her mind. It wasn’t until Sharon broke out that she could see how many. Probably still can’t see then all.

She had to be careful, would only get one shot at this. She was almost ready to break for it with Hera when Galactica jumped into place.

I’m sorry. She should have been faster. People are going to die because she wasn’t, but she might still be able to say how many.

Cavil’s got them plotted--twin assault forces entering the Colony. They’re both in trouble, just don’t know it yet. Galactica’s main force has left its right flank in air, anchored on an obstacle that can be bypassed. The Raptor crews, the ones aiming for Hera, are going the wrong way. Neither understands the Colony’s current layout. Probably relying on information from Ellen. Always a bad idea, that.

What’s Adama thinking? This isn’t New Caprica. He’s got no one on the ground here, and Cavil can muster ten times his numbers, while she’s stuck in this room with Simon, a machine methodically working over Hera like nothing else matters.

“You’re going to just keep doing tests even with the Colony coming down around your ears?” Take the hint!

“I think you overestimate their chances. They may have confused our hybrids temporarily, but we have superior firepower and superior numbers. And in the end, it’s all about mathematics.”

Fine. She snaps his neck from behind. Boomer lifts Hera off the table and cradles her to carry. But that’s the package, no real help. She’s not handing Hera over just to let this child die with them.

The Colony is a distributed command structure. She can do things locally that take time to filter up. Boomer takes a command node by surprise, gunning down two Dorals and a Simon. She doesn’t waste time hooking up, just peels back an interface and jams her open palm into the pointed end. It slices inside. Blood drips to the floor as she twists her wrist to close the link.

Tactical feed locks into her left eye. The Raptors have been destroyed, and those two forces on the Colony won’t be linking up. They’ll die without ever seeing Galactica again.

Die without her.

She rides the hooks Cavil slipped into her up to lower level commands, distributed locally. The Centurions are supposed to obey skin jobs anyway, so it doesn’t take much of a nudge to seize emergency override. Maybe hold it for a bit, too, even after Cavil knows what she’s done.

She disconnects on the fly. Blood’s still dripping when she reaches the first Centurion, one of the old style.

“Please escort me to the sixth level gradient break.”

“By your command.”

Game on.

It’s going good for her, better than she imagined locally, even as the big picture continues to deteriorate. Until one of the new Centurions looks at her. It stops and stares. She walks by, but it’s still watching her from behind. At twenty yards, she breaks into a fresh sprint.

Time’s almost up.


******


It’s over.

They’re pinned, and the final assault is coming. All Athena can do is crouch next to Helo, ready to go down with him. She hears the charge thudding forward as Colonial warriors fire in unison. First wave breaks down, second gains a foothold. The third prepares to vault over.

Kara’s screaming like a Banshee. Bring it on.

They do. A wall of Centurion silver crushes forward. It’s the death blow.

Until it’s not. The Centurions halt in their tracks. They stand in place, going down one by one as Kara continues to fire. Finally, even she stops, searching for the trick. Kara looks to Athena, then Helo. Neither has an answer.

A woman is advancing. She threads through the remaining Centurions to stand before them, Hera in her arms. Red blotches mottle Hera’s dress.

“The blood’s mine,” says Boomer. “She’s all right.”

Karl steps forward under a head of steam, boiling over. Athena stops him: “Wait.” Boomer walks up to her, hands Hera over tenderly. The shock of it slowly dissipates.

“This doesn’t change what you’ve done!” says Athena.

“I know,” says Boomer. “But you’re cut off, won’t make it to the Galactica assault group. I will, if you follow me. Can you communicate with them?”

“Bullshit,” says Helo. A grumble of agreement sounds from the surviving Marines. Athena watches Boomer, searching for some sign, the slightest false move. It’s not there. She hands Hera back to Helo and steps forward, gun level with Boomer’s chest.

“I don’t believe you.”

“That’s your call to make,” says Boomer.

Her presumption angers Athena. She reaches out to expose the bitch, takes Boomer’s right hand in her left, only to gasp in a wasteland. It’s cinders, mud and rot, a corpse thicket marked by the narrowest of trails; predators peer from the deadwood, snarling at trail’s edge. Ahead of them, another Athena marks the path. She feels herself in this place, her memories.

What the hell? Athena feels it all, sinks into it, eyes wide as she whispers: “You’re frakked up.” Boomer doesn’t answer, stands perfectly still. Athena continues to look around the projection, reluctantly taking the measure of her twin.

It’s unbelievable. So damaged.

So abused.

“You fought this? I didn’t know…”

“No excuses,” Boomer whispers back. “I should have fought harder.”

God! How can she trust someone who’s done this to herself?

How can she not? When she herself ran through deadwood of the heart to get Helo moving on Caprica. When she can feel Boomer running with her here. Two dead women stepping outside the lines.

My call. “She’s right,” says Athena. “Let’s go.”


******

Boomer vectors them toward each other, Helo’s group and Lee’s assault force. Just like the old days, Boomer assembling the Fleet. The Centurions stop listening to her halfway there, after which things get hairy. But they make it, converging as the last firefight whimpers out. She gives Helo the current tactical download to pass on to Lee, then pulls Athena aside.

“You know what you have to do.”

Athena looks away.

“I can’t even trust myself,” Boomer says. “You know that. I’m dangerous.”

Helo motions for Athena. She waves him back.

“I’d like it to be someone who understands,” Boomer adds. “At least a little.”

Athena leans close: “I do.” She calls back to Helo: “Get Hera away.” Helo’s being Helo. “Just do it!”

Boomer steps back as Athena draws down on her.

“Thank you. Tell the old man I made a choice, my last one.”

“I’m sorry I took your life,” says Athena.

“You earned it. Then gave it back.”

They stare at each other one second more.

Sharon Valerii smiles.

Boom.

END.


DAYBREAK (PART 2) – OPTION B


AS IN “A” UP TO THE LAST BREAK…

Boomer vectors them toward each other, Helo’s group and Lee’s assault force. Just like the old days, Boomer assembling the Fleet. The Centurions stop listening to her halfway there, after which things get hairy, but they make it, converging as the last firefight whimpers out. She gives Helo the current tactical download to pass on to Lee, then pulls Athena aside.

“You know what you have to do.”

Athena looks away.

“I can’t even trust myself,” Boomer says. “You know that. I’m dangerous.”

Helo motions for Athena. She waves him back.

“I’d like it to be someone who understands,” Boomer adds. “At least a little.”

Athena shakes her head, leans close: “It’s your death. Make it a good one.”

That’s when the world erupts again. An assault she didn’t see coming laps around the corner, and everyone’s firing. She and Athena are hurled back into the fragments of a wall.

Athena’s up and firing. Boomer lifts a rifle off the ground and joins her.

“Go!” she screams. “I’ll cover you.”

Athena falls back first. Boomer follows, keeping herself up front as they retreat into Galactica. This round sputters to a close, but at the last moment, a big singed Centurion rears up to pin her. Its hand is on her throat, and it’s looking at her. Then the squeezing stops.

Just looking.

Still looking.

She starts to try a command, but something inside says “don’t.” Then the Centurion’s head sparks under multiple impacts. Athena calls to her from behind, and she rejoins the group, calling out the tactical picture she’s receiving as they move. It’s stopped making sense, seems haphazard..

A skirmish from behind takes down two Marines. Boomer ducks low until she hears Athena cry out. Helo’s hit. So why are they both yelling “Hera”? Boomer looks around, doesn’t see her. She starts toward them as Helo yells “Go!” at Athena.

“No, you’ll bleed out.”

“Go!”

Athena continues to hesitate.

“I’ve got him!” Boomer shouts. An unfortunate choice of words given recent events, but it works. Athena heads up the corridor; Boomer twists the tourniquet until Helo screams. “Get up, mister! I’m not leaving you behind again.”

She stands him up, leaning hard on her, and twists the tourniquet again. They limp forward in a drunken stagger step. They’ve finally got a good rhythm going when a damaged Centurion staggers in front of them. It turns, wrist gun pointed…

And stares. At her.

She hears something. It’s faint. Like…

That’s insane.

Helo tries to go for a gun.

“No,” she says, blocking his hand. “Wait.”

Even he notices how odd this is now. Silver gun slides back into silver hand. The Centurion steps toward her, only to sink under a hail of gunfire like the one earlier. More Colonial forces. A man helps her get Helo to medical, then she’s alone, thinking about Centurions.

Three Centurions. Boomer didn’t command them. Others tried to kill her, but not those three. And that sound.

Not possible.

The available tactical still doesn’t make sense. Cavil’s mobilized, and he’s got the numbers. But she sees a Centurion force holding to port, not pressing it’s advantage. Galactica’s deployment appears to be swinging that way. But what the frak’s happening in CIC? The Colony shows a breach there, but there’s some kind of standoff developing.

Cavil’s stood down?

Like hell.

He should be all over this ship, chewing it to pieces. What’s he doing? What’s the calculation?

What don’t I see?

Like they’d believe her anyway. If anyone recognizes her right now, she’s going to get shot. She needs to…

That sound again. She hears it. And yes, it’s music, louder and more insistent this time. She shakes her head, but it doesn’t stop. No one else seems to notice, so she walks away, head tilted, wondering if this is some trick of Cavil’s. Some final descent into madness. What’s left of the Cylon machine inside maps the rhythm out, plotting notes that repeat over and over.

Dots. Memory scrolls to the sheets of paper Hera had shown her. When Boomer was trying to get her to eat, when she comforted her between procedures. Lots and lots of dots. Hera insisted on showing them to her, would literally pull her toward them, Hera’s dots.

Boomer’s hearing them now. It’s easy to follow, gets louder as she goes. Just some nameless Eight on Galactica, slipping between the lines. Into No-Man’s Land.


******

She’s still watching tactical. There’s activity all over the ship, but most of it’s low intensity. That still makes no sense. The available Colonials can’t even man the whole ship, are concentrating on the vitals. Maybe not even that. There’s one area with almost no activity, starboard side, below CIC frames. Colony feed shows black there. Nothing. And that’s where the music’s led her.

Centurions. They’re here.

She dodges left, pressed up against a bulkhead as they pass. Frak! Not black—blacked out. This is where the numbers are. Cavil’s funneling them up from below, toward that breach in CIC while he plays possum. When he’s got what he wants, he’ll blow the walls in. Adama will never know what hit him.

Frak! How much time does she have? Depends on what they’re doing in CIC. Not that Adama would listen to her. But the music’s insistent, veers her down a shunt corridor into the middle of a very bad box, Centurions on every side.

She should run. Except for some reason, Sharon Valerii is supposed to be here. She’s never been more sure of anything in her life.

Another Centurion looks at her. It walks over, stops inches away as a taloned hand snaps up. Twinkles of light dance across razor tips as they come close. The metal hand is almost touching her now, a razor at each eyeball. Then it rotates left, coming to a stop cold on her cheek, tips scratching ever so slightly. Yet another Centurion comes over, stands to her left. The original just touches her cheek.

Waiting.

Sharon raises her right hand. When it rests on the Centurion’s, the world dissolves into a streaming glow, light against black, sullen like the Colony. Calm and deliberate.

Blank. It’s a projection, just not hers.

Hand touching hand, Centurion to skin-job. No. Centurion to Centurion. She had been what Cavil made her, the perfect machine. That’s why the Centurion needs no words for her to understand.

“How did you do this, sister?”

They flow in the stream, machine and flesh: a race enslaved, Boomer lost over Kobol, Athena found on Caprica. What Cylon knows this? One. The flesh-and-blood Centurion cries out: “Help me, Athena. Please, sister!” Centurion to Centurion, she knows the secret—how to break out.

They can’t do it alone, either. And Athena can’t tell them, was never degraded enough, broken enough.

Not a thing.

Athena taught Boomer, so Boomer could teach them.

This will be the final Cylon civil war--Centurion against Centurion. If Cavil only knew what he’d done. He will, if she can get him to flinch, to relax direct control for a moment.

In the projection, she dies for them. Will they die for her? She holds up her left hand, the one already injured. The Centurion slices in. She shares the secret, loads it ready to go, if she can win them their moment. It’s already spreading among the ones that want it, an infection gone virulent. Now all she needs is to get inside CIC.


******

Cavil’s maintaining the fiction of a stand-off. He’s tipped his hand with just enough force to look balanced, maybe even a slight underdog. But as soon as anyone starts firing, they’ll be coming out of the walls.

It’s a calculated risk. Probably worth it for Resurrection, and maybe this was his plan all along. She’d been a pawn; pawns know what they need to know.

Cavil’s close to a damaged wall where two Centurions are blocking the view. If she squeezes through, there’s a chance she’ll reach him fast. Fast enough? She’s got to lift a gun from someone and point it. In a room this tense, someone’s going to shoot at her, and that’ll start the chain reaction.

She’s still linked. Take Cavil out, release his active suppression of the Centurions, and think the word. That’s the game changer. They can shoot her after that.

Calculation. Bless his heart. Cavil’s drifting back her way, confident enough now that he’s less interested in exposing himself. Getting close to those Centurions for when it’s time. Moving ever so casually. Slow.

Close enough.

Boomer bolts. She’s in, lifts a gun from Doral before anyone notices. Step, point, and…

White heat explodes in her skull; she drops in her tracks, fetal on the ground. Above her, Cavil casts a disapproving glance at Adama.

“I believe she was on your side,” he says. “Which means I kept the truce.” The aft starboard wall explodes in. Fresh centurions form a phalanx, commanding all fields of fire. “So let’s just call this collateral.”

Adama is yelling nearby. Tigh’s yelling from above. Doesn’t matter. Cavil’s in full control now, pushing the limits of calculation, all because Boomer frakked up again.

She was dangerous.

“You wanted a leap of faith, Admiral, “ Cavil continues. “Seems I made it better than you.”

“She wasn’t under my command!” Adama protests.

“Check with your assault force. I think you’ll find differently.”

“We had an agreement!”

“That you breached,” says Cavil. “So I want to know something, Admiral. Do you think I’ll still honor my end? Am I as good as my word?”

Ellen was right. He’s a sadist.

A Simon lifts Boomer up to face Cavil. “I’m disappointed in you, my dear. I always have a fail safe to use, and I thought we’d worked on that tendency for futile gestures.” He smiles, hands her two guns. “Let’s work some more. You can help me with a demonstration.”

Boomer sleep walks toward Adama, stops three feet from him and points both guns.

“Keep your bargain, and she won’t shoot,” says Cavil. “Show me how strong human faith is.”

Of course she’s going to shoot. The minute Cavil has what he wants. Just one more Centurion under direct control. He’s mocking her now, mocking them, holding out just enough hope to see if they’ll cling to it.

They will. What else can they do?

“Go ahead, Colonel Tigh,” says Adama. He’s playing for time, looks at her with murder in his eyes. She meets his gaze, knowing he never had a chance. He looks beyond her at the Final Five, but his eyes keep darting back to her. To frakking Boomer.

The defining moment of her life. It’s going to happen again, because this is Galactica. And Boomer, never, ever, catches a –

Movement in the overhead. With the Final Five.

Tyrol’s in motion, doing something huge. He’s blowing the whole thing. Cavil’s screaming orders. He’s distracted.

Miscalculation. That’s a flinch.

Boomer pivots and fires. She fires again as her first shot splatters Cavil’s brains over Simon, then thinks the word. Centurions turn on one another as the sound of gun fire becomes deafening, below, above, all around. Throughout the ship. Galactica is a slaughterhouse, but the numbers are on their side now.

Her side.

Boomer keeps firing until she’s hit. As she goes down, tactical registers multiple incoming on the Colony. The warheads impact, someone jumps, and she loses the Big Picture.

Adama stands above her. Athena is speaking to him. He finally looks down at her.

“I owed you one, sir,” she breathes.

“Yeah,” he says. “First one who ever paid when they owed me their life.”

Fair enough. She’s getting weaker. Then Galen’s lifting her up. She smiles: “Told you I couldn’t do it without you.”

“Told you we’d meet again.”

His eyes are wet. That’s sweet. And he looks like he ought to.

“I love you, Chief.”

“I love you, Boomer.”

He holds her all the way down.

All the way home.


END.


DAYBREAK (PART 2) – OPTION C


AS IN “B” UNTIL BOOMER IS SHOT…

Boomer keeps firing until she’s hit. As she goes down, tactical registers multiple incoming on the Colony. The warheads impact, someone jumps, and she loses the Big Picture.

Someone scuttles next to her. There’s a hand on her shoulder, compressing; another hand moves her leg. She looks up into Baltar’s face. Mr. Cylon Detector is checking her for responsiveness; his hand compresses hard, while Caprica tears cloth for a bandage.

“Can you hear me?” he asks.

She nods. “Hey…”

“Yes?”

“Hey, asshole, I’m a Cylon.”

“Well, yes…that would be correct.” He’s still a twitchy mess. “Perhaps we should have that discussion another time.”

Adama looms over Baltar’s shoulder. Athena is speaking to him. He finally looks down at her.

“I owed you one, sir,” she breathes.

“Yeah,” he says. “First one who ever paid when they owed me their life.”

Fair enough. Then Galen’s there, and she smiles.

“Told you I couldn’t do it without you.”

“Told you we’d meet again.”

His eyes are wet. That’s sweet. And he looks like he ought to.

“I love you, Chief.”

“I love you, Boomer.”

That’s good enough. She feels sleepy, but then Baltar tightens the bandage.

“Frak!” She jerks up into Galen’s arms. Baltar tells him to do something.

Adama again: “Chief Tyrol, take Lieutenant Junior Grade Valerii down to medical. See what someone can do for her there.”

That was more than fair.

She could die with that.


******


They kept her in the Brig.

Seriously. It was Tigh’s doing, of course. The bastard. Boomer on Galactica--what else should she expect? And they were nervous about her around the Centurions. Apparently the Centurions had communicated to the 268s that her trial would be a problem.

Empress Boomer. Right. Tigh probably was stupid enough to worry about that. Kind of sad. She’d have thought an alcoholic might have some glimmer of appreciation for what it felt like to stand with God’s forsaken children. To make a promise to them.

At least they didn’t launch her into the sun. Adama’s the one who gave in to common sense: “It’s Boomer, admittedly. But how much damage can even she do on a planet without much technology?” The back-handed pardon. But he did let her apologize for that whole shooting thing.

So now it’s goodbye. Galen’s right about her being a flash point. They need to put a little distance between themselves and the others.

Helo’s still Helo. He’s even more embarrassed about “the incident” than she is. A hug is out of the question, but she does get a hand shake. Hera has the hug. Then it’s Athena’s turn. Boomer’s not looking for any hugs there, either.

“So,” says Athena. “Do I get to punch you in the face?”

“If you want. I’ll even tilt my head back to give you the best shot.”

The silence that follows is leaden.

“You know,” says Athena. “Part of me really wanted to shoot you.”

“Part of me wanted to kill you in that shower. I’m glad I didn’t.”

Not even a hand shake here. Not that they need one. Neither can forget the other, even if they try. It’s a Cylon thing.

“You take care of yourself, Boomer.”

She nods toward Helo and Hera. “You take care of them, Athena.”

With that done, she waits for Galen. He’s with the Tighs, so she loiters. Ellen isn’t wild about her, and she has no use for the Colonel. Galen eventually comes over.

“I suppose he reminded you I was trouble?” she says.

“I told him that wasn’t exactly a news flash.”

They’re quiet for a while.

“So what?” Galen asks. “We just gonna’ stand here and stare at each other?”

“Why not? Anyplace you need to be?”

He smiles. It looks good on him. “You realize we could be dead in a week.”

Boomer shrugs. “Still be the best week I’ve had in a long time.”

Galen laughs. “I think I’ve been looking for you—a woman with low expectations.”

He takes her hand, and they start walking. For the first time in her life, Boomer’s actually going somewhere


Last edited by NT2 on Tue Jun 16, 2009 7:16 am, edited 4 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Midnight Courage, NT2, Boomer/Tyrol, with Athena, PG-13
PostPosted: Tue Jun 16, 2009 5:33 am 
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Oh, there is so much good here- I love poor Boomer finally being allowed to get it in the end, to see what really made Athena become Athena and not "Eight". Seeing her rage against the "machine" (pun totally intended) and struggle to be more something, anything but what she is and is supposed to be.

Your character touches are great- the nods to Helo, Baltar, Adama, and Tigh are gold. This is wonderful. Thank you for sharing it.


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 Post subject: Re: Midnight Courage, NT2, Boomer/Tyrol, with Athena, PG-13
PostPosted: Tue Jun 16, 2009 6:51 am 
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Thanks. Like I said, this one was commissioned by an Athena fan, so it has the Athena/Boomer interaction Ted was talking about that the show never bothered to do. And there is a lot you can do with it.

The other inspiration is something else that's so obvious I can't believe the show whiffed on it. Whether Boomer lives or dies, she doesn't need a contrived redemption. She needs someone, anyone, to simply understand her struggle. And again, who better than Athena?


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 Post subject: Re: Midnight Courage, NT2, Boomer/Tyrol, with Athena, PG-13
PostPosted: Mon Jul 13, 2009 1:17 pm 
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I must have already told you in an other live how I liked the way you depicted her struggle between programming and freewill and all the suffering she's been enduring.

And you're right : who better than Athena could have understood her struggle? Cavil?


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