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 Post subject: Voice of Reason, grey_sw, Boomer/Cavil, Boomer/Tyrol, R
PostPosted: Sun Jan 24, 2010 1:19 am 
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Mayor of Dogsville

Joined: Tue Jan 12, 2010 11:23 pm
Posts: 37
I think I'll try posting this here, and see if any of you would be interested in reading it. It's an alternate ending for season 4.5, and Boomer plays a major role in it (her part starts in Chapter 2, so please be patient). :) If there's interest, I'll post the rest over the next few weeks. Please comment and let me know what you think!

Summary: Anders dies during the mutiny and resurrects on the Colony, where Cavil is trying to save his people. Meanwhile, Roslin, Adama, and Starbuck are trying to save the Fleet from his people... too bad Kara is the Harbinger of Death. Amidst the chaos, Boomer, Tyrol, and Caprica are still trying to save everyone, each in their own strange way. Rocks fall, people die, and Baltar and Caprica get it on behind a big blue box, as the fate of two civilizations hangs in the balance...

Warning: contains graphic violence and major character death.

Voice of Reason
Part 1: Death and Rebirth

---

"You cannot play God and then wash your hands of the things you've created. Sooner or later, the day comes when you can't hide from what you've done anymore."
-Bill Adama

"In any case, it has to be done."
"Says who?"
"Says God Almighty the voice of reason, that's who! When are you gonna hear it?"
-Cavil and Natalie

---

Sam Anders woke suddenly, coughing and sputtering. He thought he was drowning; there was fluid in his mouth and nose, fluid beneath his thrashing hands. One of his hands hit something solid, and he scrabbled for purchase, pulling himself up out of the water. He gasped, sucking in air, and then sagged down against the buoyant surface.

Fell asleep in the hot tub again, was his first disjointed thought. Frak, Coach is gonna be so mad.

Then, suddenly, he remembered the beach. He'd dragged his broken body over the rocks and onto the sand, screaming as dark clouds began to rise against the horizon, one by one. He remembered waking up afterward, in a tub much like this one. Ellen had been there, frowning down at him.

He clutched his head, groaning against the sudden onslaught of memories. There had been Tory and Galen, Saul and Ellen, and nobody else in all the world. Then there were the Centurions, as terrible as the machines on Earth had been, and yet... kind, somehow. Then the children they'd built together -- people he'd made, people he'd loved.

You morons, John had said, over the intercom. I can't frakkin' believe you fell for the 'I've got a surprise for you in the airlock' trick!

Please, John, Ellen had cried. Saul had slammed his fist against the locked door. You let us out of here now, boy!

You should have listened to me, John had said. His voice had been quiet and sad, for once, as if he really meant it. I don't know why you wouldn't listen.

We'll listen, Sam had promised. I swear to you, we will.

But Cavil had pressed the airlock release anyway, and they had died.

Mercifully, the memories stopped there -- he didn't get a run-through of his "human" life, didn't have to remember eighth grade, or the prom, or his first championship game, or the first time he'd killed a Cylon. He did remember Kara, though: she was yelling, the world was sideways, and the back of his head was wet.

"I was shot," he murmured. His voice echoed, bouncing off the resurrection fluid and the close, red-lit walls. "Oh, Gods, I'm dead."

---

Kara waited in Life Station for an hour and a half, standing beside the door as an endless stream of casualties trickled in. She watched them as they came: a Marine with his head blown open, a little boy with a ragged stump where his arm had been, an old woman with a nasty chest wound. They came in the arms of parents, friends, comrades, and even enemies.

No lawyers, of course. It figured; the one time she really needed help, she'd been stuck with the wrong guy. Willing, of course, but wrong just the same.

When I asked you to leave, you were supposed to say 'no', Lee, she thought. 'No', godsdamnit.

Ishay walked by. Kara opened her mouth to ask about Sam, but Ishay turned away without even looking at her. That was how she knew it was bad; that was how she knew Sam was gonna die.

And her icon of Aphrodite must've fallen out of her pocket somehow, which meant she couldn't even frakkin' pray.

Finally, Cottle came out from behind the surgical curtain. He looked like he'd just butchered a hog, his gloves and apron deep-drenched in blood. Kara looked into his eyes and silently begged the Gods for one last chance, just one last hand to play.

No take-backs, Lee had said, once. Cottle shook his head, just a little, and Kara knew she would never, ever see her Sam again.

---

Sam crawled out of the resurrection tank, his knees sliding on the cold floor. There was a sudden noise, and he jerked around, slipping into a sodden heap.

A Centurion was standing by the open door, its eye scanning from side to side. It looked at him with a blank, unseeing gaze, as though he were nothing more than part of the furniture. It hadn't been told what to do with him.

Sam pulled himself up to a sitting position. "C'mere," he said, holding his hand out. He remembered this; he remembered greeting the Centurions for the first time, years ago. Even then, they had recognized each other as Cylons, as brothers.

The Centurion said nothing. It did not move.

"Come on, you know me," Sam tried. "It's me, Sam. Remember?"

The Centurion suddenly turned, whirring, and clanked away. The door slid shut behind it, locking with a loud click. Sam watched as it locked him in, sighing in regret. John had done something to the Centurions, changed them somehow. They were nothing like the bright, eager machines Sam had known.

Sam curled up against the side of the resurrection tub. The room was small and empty, barely big enough for him and the tub together, and the only light came from the red strip on the wall. He watched it as it slid back and forth, and it occurred to him that he might actually die here, starved to death at the site of his own rebirth.

This sucks, he thought, rubbing his hands over his naked thighs to warm them. This really, really sucks.

---

The Admiral performed the usual ceremony for the dead. Kara attended, ramrod straight in her dress blues, and spoke to no one. The frakkin' Cylons had a ceremony, too, some candlelit bullshit that was more about their stupid God than the people who'd died. Baltar spoke over the wireless, so Kara made Hoshi turn it off. His hand trembled on the dial, and she thought good, you frak, even though he probably didn't deserve it.

After CAP, Kara threw a wake for Sam. Hot Dog came, and the Chief, and Gaius Baltar (and then the Chief dragged Baltar away before Kara could hit him). All the nuggets came, all the Raptor wranglers, and all the Viper jocks, and none of them remarked upon the absence of people who no longer counted as nuggets or pilots. It was remarkable, really, how fast the mutiny had solidified their loyalties -- people who'd called Sam "toaster" a week ago had come to mourn him now.

His wingman wasn't there, of course. Seelix was on the Astral Queen, along with all the other mutineers, serving a life sentence for sedition, mutiny, dereliction of duty, and motherfrakkin' idiocy.

Kara was glad and sad at the same time, because it meant she wouldn't have to kill her.

The Chief came back half an hour after he'd left, with a bottle of the clear stuff from his private still. "Sorry, Starbuck," he said. "Sam was a good guy."

"Yeah, he was," she said. She popped the top and knocked back a gulp, hissing at the burn. "That's why I married him."

Tyrol's eyes seemed to flinch at the mention of marriage, but he didn't say anything. He just nodded and went to stand in the corner, all alone.

Starbuck turned away. "Hey!" she yelled. "I want to make a toast to Longshot, you fraks!" She raised her glass high, as though threatening them with it. "To Sam 'Longshot' Anders!"

She paused briefly, to give those without drinks a chance to pour some. Dragon was passing out algae beers; he finally folded his arms over his tattooed chest, cup in hand.

"To Longshot!" Starbuck cried, and bolted down a quarter of her bottle. The crowd echoed her, upending their bottles and cups. She looked over them when they were done, daring them to lower their eyes, but none of them did.

All of them had been here before. She'd seen that look in their eyes for Prosna, for Flattop, and for Socinus. She saw it in the mirror, for Zak, every day of her life.

Holy shit, their eyes said. We killed him.

It was the truth.

---

Sam snapped awake to the sound of a voice outside the door.

"Dammit, who the frak thought stairs were a great idea for a spaceship? I can't believe we left all this stupid crap down here."

Sam shivered. He cast about for a place to hide, but there wasn't one; the best he could do was to crouch behind the resurrection tub, ready to attack.

If John comes through that door, kill him, Sam thought to himself. Break his neck. Don't hesitate!

"I hope you brought me down here for a reason," Cavil went on. "If you wanna pull this 'wonder dog' act, there'd better be somebody down the frakkin' well."

His voice was right outside the door. Sam heard the clanking of the Centurion's feet as they came to a stop. Sam shook with adrenaline, his muscles tensed to spring.

There was a long pause.

"On second thought, why don't you go first?" Cavil said. Sam's stomach dropped. He made himself very small behind the tub, but to no avail; the door opened, the Centurion stepped inside, and then it bent down beside him, cocking its head in a quizzical way.

It could not speak, but its bearing said clearly, what are you doing down there?

"Hey, what's goin' on? What'd you-- oh," said Cavil, who'd poked his head through the door. "Oh, you bastard. You had a backup, didn't you? Somethin' that didn't go through the Hub? How very clever."

Sam wanted to scream. It wasn't his backup -- it had been Ellen's project, a failsafe in case anything happened on their journey, but the trip had been so tedious that he'd forgotten about it long before they'd reached the Colonies. They all had. Even Ellen.

Right now, he wished she'd never built it.

"Pick him up," Cavil ordered. "We're going upstairs, Dad. It's family reunion time."

---

Bill Adama stared at the paperwork on his desk, nearly two inches' worth of neatly stacked paper, and despaired. Gaeta. Zarek. Jaffee. Laird. More than a hundred others, his kids, were lost forever, and another fifty had been arrested for mutiny.

Treason, Gaeta had said. Desertion. Gross dereliction of duty. Giving aid and comfort to the enemy. Adama still believed the answer he'd given to the latter charge -- if anything, the rebel Cylons had given them aid when they'd needed it most, and they'd proved their good intentions once again by protecting Laura. But desertion and dereliction... if he was honest with himself, there might have been a little of that. Not just in him, but in all of them.

"We've let ourselves go," he muttered. "We're getting too damn tired, too worn."

He shifted his gaze to Tyrol's report on the damage in the FTL Room, sighing as he read it for the fifth time. Galactica was worn out, too, riddled with structural damage. Without the Cylons' help, she might never jump again. He took a sip of his drink, letting it burn its way down.

FTL drives were one thing, but could he really allow the Cylons to alter the ship itself? To sink their machine-goo into her very bones?

"What choice do I have?" he asked her, gazing up at the crack that was beginning to spread along the ceiling. Galactica didn't answer, of course. He looked back down at his papers, finally turning his attention to the one on top of the stack.

Samuel T. Anders. Kara's boy, perhaps the happiest thing that had ever happened to Adama's only daughter... when he wasn't the saddest, Kara being Kara. Now Sam was gone, forever, shot dead by one of his own comrades. And Adama had hardly known him, though Sam should have been like a son-in-law to him.

I thought there'd be time. Time enough to put everything right. I was wrong.

Funny how none of them would admit to it; the mutineers had the courage to kidnap babies and shoot innocents, but not the guts to own up to killing Kara's "toaster". At least, not to the Admiral's face.

Adama lifted his glass again, saluting the ceiling, and then took a long pull. "He died for you, Old Girl. He died fighting for this ship. They all did. We gotta put things right," he muttered, wiping his face. "We gotta stop this downward slide, before it gets any worse..."

He rubbed his eyes, signed Sam's death certificate with shaking hands, and then took another drink.

---

The Centurion practically carried Sam up the stairs, its cold hands locked around his biceps. Sam was still naked and shivering. Cavil kept adjusting his coat, glancing back now and again, as if to say look what I have, and you don't!

Sam glared at him, which only seemed to encourage him.

They walked for what seemed like ages, until the familiar surroundings of the Five's ship gave way to an endless number of low-lit, red-tinged corridors. Sam was sure they hadn't been there originally; it was as if someone had grafted a massive Basestar right onto the top of their little ship. Though he tried to keep track of all the twists and turns, Sam quickly became lost in them.

He glanced into every doorway and hall, but he saw no one, not even a Centurion. "Where is everyone?" he finally asked.

Cavil ignored him.

"John," he began.

"Don't call me that," Cavil snapped. "And nobody's down here but you, so stop asking. This level used to be quarters for the Twos, Sixes, and Eights."

Sam shivered. "My God. You killed them," he said. "You killed them all."

Cavil snorted. "Don't be ridiculous. They're our own brothers and sisters, 'course we didn't kill 'em! We boxed them, that's all. 'Course, now that they've gone and destroyed the Hub, they won't be comin' back anytime soon, now will they?" He grinned.

Sam looked away. "We didn't build you to be so callous, John," he said.

"Please. Thousands of my brothers are dead because of their little mass-murder project, and the rest of us are bound to follow, but I don't hear you moaning about what awful monsters they are. As a matter of fact, you helped them do it, so why don't you take your sanctimonious whining and put a sock in it?"

"It's not the same thing," Sam said.

"'Course not. You give a shit about the Twos, Sixes, and Eights." Cavil turned away, shoving past Sam and the Centurion. "Now shut up, we're almost there."

"But--" The Centurion tightened its grip, cutting Sam off with a gasp.

"'Shut up' was an order, dumbass. You wanna follow orders when the Centurions are around, otherwise you're gonna regret it. They like everything to go nice an' smooth. Don'cha, brother?"

The Centurion's only reply was the soft sound of its eye, scanning slowly back and forth.

Sam stayed quiet all the rest of the way up the stairs. At last, they came to a busier part of the ship, full of Dorals and Simons and Cavils who turned to stare at them as they walked by.

"So much for this bein' a surprise," Cavil muttered. "It'll be all over the datastream in another minute." Even so, when Cavil took Sam's arm and shoved him into a room, the Simon and Doral inside gaped at him.

"Look what I found, brothers! A stowaway!"

"Anders!" said Doral. "Is it really him? Does he remember us?"

"It is and he does," Cavil said. "I found him down in the old section."

"So the spare resurrection tubs on the lower level were part of a backup system," Simon mused.

"Yeah, yeah, I guess I owe you a drink," Cavil said. "Don't rub it in."

In the meantime, Doral approached. He circled Sam with slow, deliberate steps. Crip-Key had had a big Sagittaron Pinscher named Prince back on Caprica; the look of genial threat on Doral's face brought the dog's image back quite clearly. Sam shivered, and made an awkward attempt to cover his nakedness with his hands.

"Why did you come back to us?" Doral asked. "Why are you here?"

"I was shot," Sam said. "Trust me, I'd rather be just about anywhere else right now."

"I think his human 'friends' musta got tired of playing host-er to a toaster, Aaron," Cavil said. "Gee, you think he's finally learned his lesson?" The latter part dripped with sarcasm.

"No," Doral said. "No, I think he's here to betray us." He came closer, narrowing his eyes. Sam took half a step back.

"I'd like to see him try," Cavil chuckled. "On a Colony chock-full of Cylons, all armed to the teeth? Could be fun." His laughter seemed to calm Doral, who stepped back again.

"For now, we'd better get him some clothes," Cavil continued. "You wanna lend him some, Four? None of mine'll fit... and I'd give him one of Five's outfits, but I'm not tryin' to be cruel."

"As if I'd ever give him one," Doral sniffed, smoothing his lavender lapels. "I like my suits."

"He can have one of mine," Simon said. "Come, Sam." When Sam hesitated, he added, "Do you want to stand there naked all day, or would you rather come and get warm? I won't harm you."

Reluctantly, Sam followed along.

---

When Helo opened the hatch, Hera was playing with her colors. She saw him and squealed with delight, rushing over to hug his knees.

"Daddy!" she cried. "Owie better?"

He grinned. "Yep, all better. Doc Cottle fixed it up good." He knelt, so that Hera could see the cluster of stitches in his scalp. She reached up and petted them gently.

"Does it hurt?"

"Not really. Not now that you're safe." He hugged her, burying his face in her curls. "You made me worry, kid," he said. "I'm glad you're OK."

"Daddy's OK, too," she murmured, hugging him tighter. "Mommy's OK!"

"She sure is," Athena said from behind him. Helo grinned.

"Hi, babe," he said. "How'd it go?"

"Well enough," she sighed, ruffling Hera's hair. "The Admiral wants those FTL drives ASAP. The Cylons will be ready to start updating the fleet in a couple of days."

Helo frowned. "Good, I guess. I mean, these drives... they're safe, right?"

Athena nodded. "Safe as we can make 'em. I checked the software myself -- the system is networked, but its encryption is based on a one-time pad, impossible to crack. Not even Cavil can get in, not unless he's got the key... and we're the only ones who have it. Us, not the Cylons."

"You don't trust them," Helo said.

"I trust Caprica," Athena conceded. "A little. She came through for us with Hera, and besides, when we were together on the Basestar... I think she understands. She's with us, maybe. But the others..."

"They're your family," he said.

"You and Hera are my family. And the pilots. That's all."

Helo stayed quiet for a moment, his brows beetled in thought. "They remind me of you," he said.

"What?"

"Not just the Eights. The Twos and Sixes, too. When we were assaulting the Hub... well, they're a lot like you, y'know. Family resemblance, I guess."

Athena frowned. "They are not like me."

Helo stood, lifting Hera up onto his hip. "Look, I'm not saying you have to trust them right away. But they are your family, and that makes them special. Don't you realize how lucky you are to have them here? Your brothers and sisters are in the fleet now -- not one person in a thousand can say that anymore."

"Not all my brothers. How lucky am I, if half my family wants to kill me?"

"Luckier by half than anybody else is," Helo said. "Trust me, I know it's hard. But you gotta understand, when they're gone, they're gone. There's no Hub anymore. All of us could be dead tomorrow, even the Cylons."

"Sure, because of my family," Athena scowled.

"Yeah, well, nobody ever said family was easy," Helo said, bouncing his daughter on his hip. "You wanna keep the peace, you have work for it." He grinned. "You have to... play Raptors, Hera! Raptors! Whooooosh!"

"Eee! Raptors, Daddy!"

---

Sam followed Simon through the halls. True to Cavil's word, the Cylons they passed no longer seemed surprised to see him. Instead, their eyes followed him curiously, as if they weren't quite sure what to make of him.

He wondered how much they remembered. He could remember everything, now: teaching John to write, with a child's fat pencil clutched in arthritic fingers. Smiling at Simon's first word (it had been "blankie", after the little quilt he dragged around everywhere, despite the fact that it only came down to his knees). Showing Aaron how to play catch, and then, once he had more than a child's mastery of his full-grown body, how to box.

If they'd only listen, maybe Sam could use that knowledge against them.

Simon led him to a room much like all the others -- red-lit, spacious, but nearly empty. There was a bed against one wall. A chair and a desk with a display panel were against another, half-buried in papers and bottled specimens. Sam peered at them.

"What's this?" he asked, pointing to a tiny lump of flesh suspended in fluid.

"Hmm?" Simon asked, looking over his shoulder as he opened his wardrobe. "Oh, nothing, really. Just something I picked up somewhere." He began to look through his clothes, humming under his breath.

"Start with these," he said, and tossed Sam a pair of silk boxers. Sam pulled them on gratefully. He and the others had never been able to get their children to properly understand clothing; they'd been as apt to run around naked as they'd been to wear a mishmash of everything at once.

Judging by the nice grey slacks Simon passed him, though, he'd finally gotten the hang of dressing himself. Sam pulled them on; they were a little tight in the thighs, but they'd do.

"Red's your team color, isn't it?" Simon asked, holding out a dark red shirt.

"How'd you know that?"

"You were wearing your team jacket when you slit my throat on Caprica," Simon said evenly.

"That was you, then? At the Farm?"

"Among others," Simon said dryly. "I think you and your friends actually killed me twice, all told."

"Why?" Sam murmured.

Simon blinked. "I don't know, really. I suppose it was because you wanted to free the--"

"No, not me! I meant why, dammit. Why the Farms? You tortured people. You tortured my wife. How could you?"

Simon frowned. "There was no 'torture', Sam. I regret the fact that we were forced to use unwilling subjects. Believe me, I wish things could have been different. Nonetheless, everything at the Farms was done in accordance with legitimate medical practice. I spent two years among the humans at the Virgon Medical Academy; my final project there was much the same."

"They did that-- that experiment at the Virgon Medical Academy?"

"Yes, of course. Artificial insemination and subsequent fetal monitoring, with pregnant pigs as the subjects. It was quite fascinating work--"

"With pigs! Pigs! People aren't pigs, Simon!" Sam clenched his fists.

"Well, of course not," Simon said. "If they were, we couldn't breed with them, could we? That was the entire point of the experiment."

Sam stared at him. "I know John stole your memories," he said carefully, "but you can't possibly--"

"What are you talking about? Cavil did nothing of the sort," Simon said.

"The others told us you were all programmed never to think of us. They said you couldn't even remember who we were, or what we looked like."

The corner of Simon's mouth turned up in a smirk. "You'd be surprised how easy it is to pretend not to think of something," he said. "One, Five, and I have gotten rather good at it over the years."

"You were pretending?" Sam said. "Why?"

"Who do you think performed those memory wipes? My brother is a fine programmer, but he's never been very good with hardware, so to speak. He asked me to help him, and I told him I would. Five helped, too; he deactivated our siblings so the surgery could be performed. It's not easy getting anything done to four million copies at once."

"But why?"

Simon frowned. He tucked his hands into his pockets and began to pace. "You made me to be an artist, but I wanted to be a doctor," he said. "That was my one dream, ever since the moment I learned what a doctor was. But I couldn't draw a stick figure to save my life, and that's all you cared about, wasn't it? So then you made Five. And he wasn't an artist, either, except when it comes to fighting. So you made Six. And she was beautiful and brave, but she couldn't paint or dance or sing, could she?"

"No. But Daniel could."

Simon nodded. "When he was born, we thought you were finished, father. We thought you would finally stop making people you never wanted, people who weren't good enough for you. And yet you made Eight -- conflicted, confused, lonely even among her own sisters. And even that wasn't enough. When you started work on Nine, I knew you would never, ever stop." Simon paused, looking Sam in the eye. "Don't you see? You had to be stopped."

"We loved you," Sam said, shaking his head. "We wanted more children because we loved you."

"Yes, of course. You loved us. So you made us so that we could never have children of our own. You made us so that we could never know love like that, and then you made us long for children anyway, for something you knew we could never have. And then you come in here, after all these years, and you ask me 'how could you'? Well, what would you have done? What did you do? Or can you tell me with a straight face that no one ever had to suffer so that you could restore Resurrection?"

"That was different," Sam said. "We had to -- to do some things I regret, yes. The preliminary tests weren't... exactly humane. I admit it. But it was a matter of life and death. We did it to save our civilization! And besides--"

"Besides, what?"

"We saw angels," Sam muttered, shuffling his bare feet on the cold floor. "Angels who told us what we had to do."

"Angels," Simon said. "That's what makes my experiments 'torture' and yours 'a matter of life and death': angels?"

"We saw them! They told us -- told us we could save our people. And they were right!"

"Reason tells me I can save my people now," Simon said. "Even after you made us sterile, even after you turned our own siblings against us, and even after you destroyed the Hub. Cavil is right: we can leave all this behind. We can become better machines -- self-reproducing machines -- and we can forget about you and your ridiculous lies forever."

Sam shook his head. "It's not a lie. We did see angels. And we do love you."

"No, you don't. If you had, you would have wanted me. Me, not some painter. When I was new, you were the one I most wanted to be like, the one I most wanted to understand me, and you never, ever did. Cavil did. He taught me biology and chemistry. He showed me how our people were created, while you were busy obsessing over Daniel. And you never even noticed, did you? You never even cared."

Sam shut his eyes. "Is that why you killed him?" he asked. "Is that why you killed your own brother?"

"Listen to you," Simon said, his eyes narrowing. "Even now, he's the only thing that matters to you. You haven't even heard a word I've said. In twenty years among the humans, you haven't changed at all!" He flung the shirt at Sam, and then threw up his hands in derision. "I didn't kill your precious Daniel. I didn't even hate him -- but if he's all you care about, I wish I had!"

He stormed out, leaving Sam standing alone, half-naked and despondent.

Cavil entered a few minutes later, after Sam had finished dressing. "Wow, you made Simon mad," he said, his voice thick with sarcasm. "Somebody take a picture!"

"Shut up."

"Aww, what's the matter? Did your transparent attempt to turn my brother against me fall a little flat? Gee, I can't imagine why. Oh, I know -- maybe it's because you spent ten years treating him like crap!"

"Shut up!" Sam snarled.

Cavil just laughed. "Sure, whatever you want, Dad. Tell you what: you can stay here, for now. I doubt Four's gonna want to sleep here now, anyway." He gave Sam a cruel smirk. "In fact, why don't you 'stay in your room and think about what you've done'? Hey, that sound familiar? I bet it does!"

Cavil walked out, grinning over his shoulder, but his smile faded as he left.

"Guard him," he said flatly, to the Centurion standing by the door.

---

Galen Tyrol took another trowelful of resin and spread it over the wall, watching as it shimmered its way into the cracks. The stuff was amazing: living, breathing armor, much stronger under shear stress than steel.

One of the Sixes, Jane, turned and smiled at him. "It's beautiful, isn't it? The smell isn't very nice, but I love to watch it work."

"Yeah," he said. "It's pretty amazing. You guys sure came up with some great stuff -- or did we have this when I was there? I still can't remember anything."

Jane shook her head. "Neither can I. I think we invented the resin ourselves, and it must have been after the Five left us, but..."

Jake, a Two whose new name always reminded Galen of the dog, nodded. "Yes, it's newer than that, if only just a little. I'm sure of it."

"How do you know?" Galen asked.

"It's in the patterns," Jake said. "You and the others are in us, but not in this."

"Um, OK," Galen said, returning to his work. "If you say so."

Jake smiled mildly. He picked up a sheaf of springy lattice, pressed it into the nearest crack, and stepped back. Suzy, a rather quiet Eight, instantly stepped up to fill it with resin, working in quick, short strokes of her trowel. Galen watched them as they walked down the hall, moving almost as one.

Galen admired that about the Cylons. They never quibbled, never shirked, and never needed to be reminded of the task at hand. There was no rank nor distinction among them -- no Chiefs or Lieutenants, no pilots or knuckledraggers, no rich or poor, no Caprican or Aerilon. They voted on everything, the way Galen had run his union. Even as they worked, they sought consensus, checking with each other using almost-imperceptible nods and glances.

It was nice to be among equals; while the Cylons looked at him with reverence, he wasn't quite their boss, and he didn't have to treat them like lowly Specialists to get things done.

Of course, he was a lowly Specialist now, wasn't he?

He watched Jill, another Eight, as she walked behind her siblings, neatly trimming the edges of each repair. He'd been leery of the Eights, at first, because he hadn't wanted to be reminded of Boomer, but he was beginning to realize that they were very different. Boomer had been a pilot, with a pilot's toughness and practicality. The other Eights were, in turns, both too trusting and almost paranoid. They worked well with their siblings, who'd long since learned to tolerate the differences between models, but Galen was beginning to understand why the Cylons left public relations to the Sixes and Dorals.

"Well, this looks like it's coming along," said a voice from behind him. He turned to find the Admiral, who was staring up at the wall. He looked bad; his uniform was rumpled, and there were dark circles under his eyes.

"Yes, sir. We're lucky we found these cracks in time, otherwise the whole ship might've gone to pieces."

Adama winced. "Yeah. I'm counting on you to keep that from happening, Galen. Carry on."

Galen watched him start to leave, frowning. "Admiral!"

"Hm?"

"You can count on me. Always. But I have to know: can we count on you?"

"What?" Adama rounded on him, glaring.

Galen stepped a bit closer, lowering his voice. "The people are afraid, sir. We see it everywhere. They don't trust us Cylons, they don't trust the Marines, and they're beginning to lose their trust in you. You gotta do something before it's too late."

"I've done everything I can do," Adama growled. "I stopped the mutiny, I cleaned up the ship, and I allowed Cylons among us in order to save my people. What more can I do?"

"Make the President speak," Galen said. Adama looked away. "I mean it. The people need to hear from her. They need to know we've got a plan," he stepped closer, "even if we don't."

"I've played that game, Galen. It didn't work so well."

Galen stood his ground, lifting his chin. "Then Gaius Baltar speaks for the people now, Admiral. If you're going to just leave it up to him, you might want to listen to what he has to say."

Adama's eyes narrowed. "Why? Is it dangerous?"

Galen chuckled. "Only if you're female."

"Gaius frakkin' Baltar, huh? What do you want with that snake?"

"He tells the truth, Admiral. The word of God -- that's what the Sixes call it. I figure I ought to get to know our people's God."

"Your... people." Adama glanced around at the Cylons, who'd stopped work and were openly staring at him.

"My people," Galen said.

"I need you to be more than just another Cylon, Galen. The ship's on its last legs, and only... your people can save it, but I need somebody I can trust. I need you to be my Chief again."

Galen thought for a moment. He glanced at the Cylons, who looked back at him. He met Jake's eyes, and just for a second, he thought the Two gave him the slightest, tiniest nod.

"Get the President to speak, sir. Get her back, and get yourself back, and I'll follow you anywhere."

"Is that a no, Specialist?"

Galen turned back to his people, urging them back to work with a wave. "Yes, sir," he said over his shoulder. "That's a negative."

---


Next time: Boomer struggles with free will, Kara encounters yet another prophecy, and the truth about Earth and the Final Five comes to light...


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 Post subject: Re: Voice of Reason, grey_sw, Boomer/Cavil, Boomer/Tyrol, R
PostPosted: Sun Jan 24, 2010 3:34 am 
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Definitely could be interesting as alternate univeerses go. Do the 1/4/5s get together and insult Ellen and Sam tag team style? Could be quite the dysfunctional family. :)

It's always intriguing to consider the Final Five/Cylon relationship, since it had to be more complex than No Exit pretended and the show never really gave us anything else to go with.


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 Post subject: Re: Voice of Reason, grey_sw, Boomer/Cavil, Boomer/Tyrol, R
PostPosted: Sun Jan 24, 2010 5:31 am 
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NT2 wrote:
Definitely could be interesting as alternate univeerses go. Do the 1/4/5s get together and insult Ellen and Sam tag team style? Could be quite the dysfunctional family. :)

It's always intriguing to consider the Final Five/Cylon relationship, since it had to be more complex than No Exit pretended and the show never really gave us anything else to go with.

heh, thank you! I appreciate the feedback. There's some more dysfunctional-family stuff with the 1/4/5s and Sam (and, later, Ellen) coming up!

I didn't get too deep into the backstory of the Final Five/ Significant Seven in this story -- this one's mainly about the present-day -- but hopefully there's enough to get the idea across. I agree that there must have been more to it than what we saw on the show... there's a story there for sure.


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 Post subject: Re: Voice of Reason, grey_sw, Boomer/Cavil, Boomer/Tyrol, R
PostPosted: Sun Jan 24, 2010 2:46 pm 
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Oh, yay! You brought this here; I was hoping that you would. It's very good, and I appreciate the AU views of the ending. (Can Boomer not beat the hell out of Athena this time in the showers and can more pieces of the ending make some sense?)


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 Post subject: Re: Voice of Reason, grey_sw, Boomer/Cavil, Boomer/Tyrol, R
PostPosted: Sun Jan 24, 2010 3:29 pm 
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I read that a while ago...

Thanks for posting this here! :-)

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 Post subject: Re: Voice of Reason, grey_sw, Boomer/Cavil, Boomer/Tyrol, R
PostPosted: Wed Jan 27, 2010 7:31 am 
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rebelliousrose wrote:
Oh, yay! You brought this here; I was hoping that you would. It's very good, and I appreciate the AU views of the ending. (Can Boomer not beat the hell out of Athena this time in the showers and can more pieces of the ending make some sense?)

Thank you! Glad it's OK to post this here; I figured it was Boomerish enough to be a decent fit, but I wasn't quite sure. :)

Thanks to Pierre, too!


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 Post subject: Re: Voice of Reason, grey_sw, Boomer/Cavil, Boomer/Tyrol, R
PostPosted: Wed Jan 27, 2010 7:39 am 
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Voice of Reason Part 2: Free Will Is Overrated

---

Don't you feel the slightest bit of remorse for what you did to him? What you did to us?

No. Because he's wrong, Boomer. There's no need for remorse, for blame. We didn't limit you. We gave you something wonderful: free will.


In the ten months since then, those words had haunted Boomer. Her Cavil had tried everything, desperate for Ellen to understand him, but "free will" didn't seem to work that way. With every rejection, he was growing more and more angry, more and more hurt. Not even Doral and Simon could talk him down.

The whole Basestar seemed to tremble, waiting for the storm to break.

"I can't frakkin' believe it!" he snarled. "You heard her -- she'd rather I rip off her frakkin' head than lift a finger to help us, her own children!"

Boomer perched on the bed, watching as he paced the length of their darkened room. Far from the Colony, she and her Cavil were cut off from the rest of their people, and the Basestar had seldom felt so lonely.

"Ellen said she can only restore Resurrection with the help of the other Four..." she ventured.

"Yeah, and I don't doubt it... 'cept she knows exactly where they are and what they're doin' this weekend, doesn't she? And yet it's 'oh I couldn't possibly, I only know part of the system blah blah blah.' Bullshit. It's not that she can't help, it's that she won't. Because she hates me."

There's no need for remorse, for blame. Boomer hung her head. She hadn't told Cavil about that, yet. She told herself she was waiting to catch him in the right mood, and yet every time she opened her mouth, something stopped her. He didn't want to hear it. Hell, she didn't want to hear it.

Free will is overrated, she thought to herself, thinking back as Cavil wrung his hands in frustration.

Her hand on the trigger: shooting Adama, shooting her own cheek instead of the roof of her mouth. Was that free will? Was it free will that had led her to Caprica Six, only to have her heart broken a second time? And was it free will that had led Cavil to help her, then, free will that had made him the only one in their entire race willing to give her suffering a second thought?

Likewise, she'd gotten her Cavil off the Hub with seconds to spare, risking her own life to save him. Was that free will? Or was it programming, the pre-determined act of a machine who had nobody left to love? Boomer didn't know. She couldn't know -- either free will had led her to seek better programming, or she'd been programmed to emulate that choice, and it seemed to her as if they both came down to the same thing.

She was alone, except for Cavil, and he was alone except for her. She was the only one who could help him, the way he had helped her... and it had to be the same way, the only way she knew.

She stood up. "Come to bed," she said, holding her hand out to him. "Forget about her, OK? Just come lie with me."

He wrapped his arms around himself, turning away. "Don't wanna come to bed," he grouched. It made her smile; sometimes he was so like a child, someone who needed her to take care of him.

She hugged him, pulling him close, and bent to nuzzle his neck. "Course you do," she told him. "C'mon, we can try the Swirl again..."

He shivered against her, sighing. "Yeah, OK," he muttered, following her to the bed. "OK..."

Cavil was generally distant in bed, but this time he held her tight, straining against her. Either he didn't notice that it wasn't very machine-like, or he didn't care; either way, she welcomed him, pulling him even closer.

Afterward, she held him, nestling him against her body. He was still tense, wound tight like a spring. She stroked his back in wide, warm circles.

"What's the matter?" she asked, as if she didn't know.

"She hates me, Eight," he murmured. "She always has, even before I... did what I did to Seven. I loved her so much, and she hates me, and I never understood why."

"She told me--" Boomer started, before she really meant to, and then swallowed her words.

"What?" Cavil asked, looking up at her.

"Maybe I shouldn't tell you," she whispered.

"C'mon, what?"

"I asked her if she was sorry for what she did to you. And she said there was nothing to be sorry about. She said she didn't limit you; she gave you 'free will'."

For a long moment, he said nothing. Then he began to laugh, a quiet, hurting sound in the dark. "Frak. Oh, frak, what a joke. She made me. Programmed me just like a Raider or a Centurion. She made me a decrepit old man, a machine with a spine so frakked up I can't even stand straight. She made me something I could only ever hate, and then she turned away from me because I hated myself. Then she took every last one of our people and she neutered us like she was worried we'd have too many goddamn puppies, and she wants to talk about free will?" Cavil buried his face into Boomer's chest, shaking with laughter, trembling against her.

She could feel his tears against her skin.

"I'm sorry, Cavil," she told him. "I'm so, so sorry for what she did to you." She drew him close, stroking his hair.

He cried for a long time, making a broken sound which was half-laughter, half-sob. Then, finally, he grew quiet again. "We gotta get rid of her, Eight," he said at last. "We have got to get her off this frakkin' ship. She's drivin' me out of my mind."

"Where can we send her?" Boomer asked. "To the Colony?"

"Nah. S'not worth it. She's not gonna help us. She's never gonna help us. Twenty years among the humans and she hasn't changed a bit -- so much for 'teaching her a lesson'. This whole Plan is nothin' but a bad joke!"

"What'll we do, then?"

He sighed. "We'll talk about it in the morning," he said. "I gotta fill Aaron and Simon in on this before we decide."

"What about the other Ones? Are you sure your brothers are OK with this?"

Cavil blinked; she felt it against her arm. "Course they are. They're me, and I'm them, right?"

"Right," she said, trying to sound more certain than she felt. The Cavils were much more unified than her own model; they used the datastream to share everything they felt, thought, and experienced, as if they were one person rather than millions. Even after all this time, it made her a little uncomfortable.

Cavil moved to get up, sliding against her in the dark, and she was suddenly loath to let him go. She reached up, pulling him back down. "Stay. Please," she said. "Just this once, stay the night with me."

"I don't sleep," he said harshly.

"I'm not asking you to," she said. "Just... stay, that's all."

He turned to face her in the dark, meeting her eyes. She wondered how much he could see, wondered if his enhanced eyesight was enough to lay her feelings bare to him.

Finally, he sighed. "All right, fine. I guess I can run some idle cycles or somethin'... the Original Programmers gave us a NOP instruction for a reason, right?" His voice was light and joking, as though he were afraid she'd look beyond it, so she matched his tone and laughed, pulling him close.

"C'mere, then," she said. "Forget about everything and just... get some rest."

He smirked at the euphemism, snuggling against her. "When it's time to get up, call my name, OK? G'night, Eight."

He shut his eyes and grew still almost immediately, so much so that she was momentarily afraid he'd died. She shook him, worried, and his head fell back, limp and loose against her shoulder.

I killed him, she thought, for one long, terrible moment. Oh, no, I killed him. Then she shook him again, with a trembling hand.

His head fell forward, his mouth opened, and he gave a high, wheezing snore.

She laughed, pulling him close, giddy with joy and relief. Things'll get better, she thought to herself. We'll get rid of Ellen, we'll go back to the Colony, and then we can be together. It'll all work out.

She closed her eyes, shut out her doubts, and let the rhythm of his snoring lull her to sleep.

---

The next morning, Boomer woke early. She'd programmed the lighting in the room to increase slowly as the waking hours arrived; it drove her Cavil crazy, but Boomer liked it, because it reminded her of morning on Troy.

Not that she'd ever been to Troy.

Cavil was still snoring, his head half-buried in her breasts. She smiled down at him, ruffling his hair. "Cavil?" she called.

His eyes snapped open. "Wha? Oh, Eight." He yawned, nuzzling against her. "Morning."

"Good morning," she agreed. "How do you feel? Did you have a nice... rest?"

"Yeah," he muttered, rolling onto his back. He stretched expansively, punctuating it with another massive yawn. "Feels nice, like somebody..." He broke off, brows beetling in sudden anger. "Hey! Somebody optimized my memory banks. Did you do that?"

"No!" she cried. "Of course not. I was asleep, like you."

"I was not sleeping," he growled, jumping to his feet. "I was running idle cycles. Idle cycles. What the frak is goin' on -- NOP stands for 'No Operation', not 'play twister with my memory banks'!"

"Maybe your subconscious did it. Maybe it organized your memories for you, like it does for humans. Like dreaming."

"I'm a machine, Eight. I am not supposed to dream, and I am not supposed to have a subconscious!"

"Well, maybe you do," she said. "Maybe the Five gave you one." She could tell that was the wrong thing to say; the look in Cavil's eyes grew ugly.

"If they did, I swear to you I'll find it and rip it out," he snarled. "I swear it. Just like I did with that stupid sleep subroutine!"

"Cavil--" She reached for him, as if to hold him, but he jerked away.

"No," he snapped. "Get dressed. We got a meeting with Aaron and Simon in a bit."

"I'm sorry," she said. "I didn't mean--"

"I know you didn't," he said flatly. He stood there for a moment, his eyes as empty as though she'd sent him to sleep a second time. "Don't ask me to do that again," he said at last.

They dressed in silence, walked the long way to the meeting in silence, and sat down at the table in silence, too. Boomer recognized the Simon and Doral in the meeting room; both of them were old favorites of Cavil's. The three of them had been stationed on the same Basestar since the beginning of the conflict, and they'd died together when the civil war started, too.

When they saw the state Cavil was in, Simon and Doral exchanged a look.

"Are you all right, brother? We can postpone the meeting if--" Simon began.

"No. Get on with it," Cavil interrupted. "First an' last point of business is Ellen Tigh."

Doral frowned. "I still think we should interrogate her. We can make her tell us what she knows."

Cavil shook his head. "She's not gonna play ball, Aaron. She's always had a pretty high pain threshold, and what little she had left's been pickled by all that booze. You'll kill her before you get anything out of her."

"I thought we'd decided on memory retrieval?" Simon asked mildly. He sipped his coffee, and then went on. "I can have the surgical theater prepped in a matter of hours."

Cavil sighed. "That was really just an empty threat. Without the other four, what she knows isn't gonna do us any good, and there's no way of getting to them without killing them. Besides..." he trailed off.

"What?" Doral prompted.

Cavil said nothing. He had his head in his hands.

Boomer glanced over at him, and then spoke up. "I think we should send her back," she said.

"Send her back?" Simon asked. "Why?"

"She's driving everybody crazy. Look at us; we can barely have a meeting anymore. It's been eighteen months, and we've got nothing out of it except heartache," Boomer said.

"And headache," Simon added. "We've been burning through our analgesic supply in record numbers."

"Yeah," Cavil agreed. "And headache. Eight's right. We gotta get rid of her."

"Are you sure about that?" Doral said. "She's an asset; we can't just dump her back with the humans with nothing to show for it."

"No, we can't. But what if we did have something to show for it -- what if she could get the humans to do what we want 'em to?"

"To die? How's she supposed to do get them to do that?" Aaron asked. "They don't like dying."

Cavil rolled his eyes. "No, not to die, something else we want 'em to do." He grinned. "Like get themselves into such a clusterfrak they'll be willing to just hand over the Five when we show up and demand 'em!"

Both Aaron and Simon perked up at that. "How will we do it, though?" Simon asked. "We don't really have enough data to try programming one of the Five..."

"Nah, programming won't work. But maybe good ol' misinformation will, huh? The best tricks are always the oldest... what do you think?"

"The Fives agree," Doral said. "We'll send Ellen Tigh back to the humans."

"Eight agrees," Boomer said.

"The Ones are in, too," Cavil added. "How 'bout you, Simon?"

"Well, it seems like a solid plan," Simon said. "But are you sure there's no way we can work in that brain surgery? I was looking forward to it."

Cavil stared at him. "What, you think we can just sew the top of her head back on and toss her on a Raptor?"

"Hmm, yes, I suppose that might be a problem. The humans might notice, and we can't have that. All right, the Fours agree."

"Great. Now all we gotta decide is what line we wanna feed 'em," Cavil said, a gleam in his eye. "Any ideas?"

---

It took Starbuck a couple days to get around to auctioning off Sam's belongings. Technically, she didn't have to -- when a pilot was married or otherwise partnered, their things naturally went to their spouse -- but she didn't really want any more stuff. Especially not stuff that made her think too much.

She kept Sam's dog-tags, and his pyramid ball, and then she laid everything else out on the table in the rec room.

Word got around. By that evening, a sizeable crowd had gathered. Each pilot carried one item they were willing to offer. Hot Dog had a worn issue of Nymph with Sila Basion and her fake boobs on the cover, Dragon offered a battered pack of cigarettes, Thumper had a pair of Prosna's old boots, and the Chief brought another bottle of hooch. Starbuck eyed them mostly in terms of future trades, except the latter.

Guess the Chief gets first pick, she thought. Wonder what he'll go for? Maybe Sam's knife...

Just then, there was a commotion in the back of the crowd. Helo stepped forward with something small in his hand. He put it down on the table, next to the pack of smokes, and suddenly Kara's world was full of music.

"Where did you get that tape?" she asked him. She looked down at it, reading the label even though she didn't need to. Drelide Thrace, it said, Live at the Helice Opera House.

"I got all your stuff back a while ago," Helo said. "It was gonna be a surprise, but now... well, I remembered what you said on Caprica, and I figured you could use this right about now. It's yours already, so you don't have to trade for it if you don't want..."

She cracked a smile, for the first time in a while. "You kidding? Go ahead and take first pick, Karl."

Helo nodded, returning her smile, and then looked over the pile. He passed over Sam's toothbrush and comb, his team jacket, his sleeping bag, and his elbow pads, finally settling on a small, unbreakable mirror from Sam's shaving kit.

"Hera doesn't have one of these for her own," he muttered. "Thanks, Kara."

"Thanks, Helo." She watched him walk back through the crowd, pocketing Hera's present.

"OK, who's next? Everybody put your stuff down!"

Kara watched as the rest of the pilots shuffled forward, leaving their offerings on the table. A pair of socks with no holes in them, a wooden icon of Athena, a pretty rock, a tin whistle -- and wow, a real ration bar!

"Good try, Catbird. Booze before food, though. C'mon up, Chief!"

Galen grinned -- she hadn't seen that in a while -- and reached for Sam's jacket, holding it up against his chest. It was a little big, but...

"Make a hole, you frakkers!" Galen dropped the jacket, and every pilot in the room froze at the voice; Col. Tigh rarely came down to the rec room. Kara watched as he pushed his way to the front, leading with his sighted side, one hand tucked into his coat.

"Colonel..." she said. He glared down at the table.

"That's all you lazy fraks came up with for Sam Anders, eh? Socks? Pah! You forget what he did for you on New Caprica, did you? Figures."

Nobody said a word.

"I brought you somethin' better than any of this, Starbuck," the Colonel continued. He brought something out of his coat, to the collective gasp of the pilots: a bottle of real ambrosia, the good kind. Tigh thumped it down on the table. It wobbled, the green liquid sloshing inside, and Kara had to suppress a sudden urge to cradle the bottle close.

"I've been saving this a long time," he said, looking Kara in the eye. "Me and Ellen were gonna drink this to celebrate after we got off that frakkin' rock... but I guess it's yours now, isn't it?"

"Yes, sir," Kara said quietly. "I guess it is."

Tigh grunted an affirmation. "I don't want any of this crap," he said, waving his hand at the table. "Just come pour a glass with me when my son is born, will you?" The pride in his voice was warm and rare, just like the booze.

"I will," she said. "I'll save it 'til then, sir. I promise."

"We'll see whether you do," he said, and turned to go. Just then, Athena burst into the room, pushing through the crowd.

"Col. Tigh!" she yelled. "Colonel, come quick!"

"What is it?" Tigh asked, turning toward her. "Is it Caprica...?"

"Huh? Oh, no. No. It's..."

"Well? It's what? Spit it out, soldier!"

Athena straightened her back, raised her chin, and met the Colonel's one-eyed glare. "It's your wife, sir. She's back. Ellen is back."

---

"So that's it?" Galen asked, draping his new C-Bucs jacket over the back of his chair. He'd always rooted for the Gators, so it felt like a bit of a betrayal, but the jacket would be warm nonetheless. Too warm for Joe's Bar, at least. "We're all... some kind of Cylon parents? And we made the skinjobs?"

"Hard to believe, isn't it?" Tory said, sipping her drink. She frowned. "But I suppose it does make a certain kind of sense, in a way..."

"How's that?"

She shrugged. "Haven't you always felt different? I have. That's why. We're from Earth."

Galen snorted. "Different, huh? I dunno about that."

Her eyes narrowed. "Don't lie to me. I've seen you with the Cylons; you belong with them. We all do. We're the last of the Thirteenth Tribe, and we have to be honest about that. We've got to look out for ourselves."

"You think there's gonna be trouble?"

"You saw the way Ellen looked at Caprica. If looks could kill, right? Caprica's unborn baby, and Hera too... they're the key to the next generation, the key to all our lives. We've got to protect them, haven't we? We've got to."

"I'm not sure there's much we can do," Galen said. "The Cylons on the Basestar seem to think that Ellen's in charge."

"I don't mind that. But we can't stand by and let her wreck everything. We're Cylon, not human. We've got to pick a side; we can't stay trapped between them forever."

"Why not? Why's it have to be one way or the other?"

Tory shrugged. "It just does. It always does. Have you thought about which side you'll choose?"

He looked down. "I dunno. I love the Galactica. I always have. But the Basestar -- something about it calls to me. But I can't just leave, I... I wish there was another way. Something else we could do."

"Me, too," Tory murmured. "You have no idea how much..."

She trailed off, staring down at the table as she stirred her drink. Galen watched her, not understanding. They barely knew each other, but Ellen had told him that they'd been together, once -- "soulmates" was the word she'd used, like in some old movie. So why did Tory look at him like that? Like he had all the answers, answers to questions he didn't even know?

He looked away, drumming his fingers on the table. "So, about what Ellen said..." he said.

She smiled a little. "Weird, isn't it? We had a whole life that neither of us can remember."

"Yeah. And we were..." He got embarrassed, trailing off again.

"Soulmates," she said, with a gentle smirk.

Galen laughed. "Yeah, Ellen Tigh soulmates. Like she knows a lot about that... you ever hear about the time they caught her in the bathroom with Commander Graves and two non-coms?"

"No!"

"Well, I dunno if it ever really happened, but it's a great story. See, the Colonel and his wife were off on leave. Socinus had guard duty at this fancy party planetside, and..."

As he told the story, Tory reached forward and touched his hand. She did it like she meant it, like she had right before Cally caught them together.

Galen frowned at the feel of her warm hand on his own. He paused in his story, but he didn't take his hand away.

---

No one came to see Sam that day.

Judging by Cavil's parting shot, the lack of contact was probably supposed to be some variation on "time-out". Sam had always preferred that to Ellen's less passive methods, but as it turned out, time out was no fun. Being stuck inside the room was both aggravating and mind-numbingly boring.

He went through Simon's closet, just for something to do, sifting through a whole wardrobe of stylish suits and lab coats. He'd been hoping to find something useful, or at least interesting, but his search turned up nothing but clothes. He briefly considered trying to strangle Cavil with one of the shirts, but then thought better of it. Cavil had already said it: there were millions of Cylons aboard the Colony.

Like it or not, Sam was trapped.

He looked through the desk, too, but it mostly held incomprehensible papers -- Simon was a real doctor after all, judging by his atrocious handwriting -- and the specimens curled in their bottles gave Sam a sinking feeling when he thought about them too much.

He turned his back on them, laid down between the bed and the wall, and did sit-ups until he was sore. Then he did push-ups until his arms were equally sore, concentrating on the essence of the exercise, on the purity of gravity and counter-movement.

In a way, I guess I should be grateful, he thought to himself. If I wasn't here, I'd probably be dead. It occurred to him that Kara probably thought he was dead, but he shied away from the thought, centering himself back on the exercise. If he had a chance -- any chance at all -- he'd fight anyone in order get back to her, but for now he was stuck, and he'd long since learned not to brood about things he couldn't change.

Still, no one came. In the end, he curled up in Simon's bed and turned toward the wall, so that he couldn't see the ever-present Centurion outside the door. The soft, almost inaudible sound of its eye scanning back and forth lulled Sam to sleep.

He dreamed he was playing Pyramid: there was just one minute left on the clock, and the Bucs were down by one, but no matter how he jumped and stretched, he couldn't quite reach the ball.

Aaron Doral woke him early the next morning. "I brought you breakfast," he said brightly. "You still like your eggs over easy, don't you?"

Sam sat up in bed and blinked at him, rubbing the sleep from his eyes. Aaron's electric-blue suit jacket was way too much for this hour of the morning.

"I'll just put it here, then," Doral continued, and pushed some papers aside to make a spot for the tray on the desk. The tray had a plate of eggs, some crispy bacon, a few wedges of ironic toast, and a big glass of orange juice.

Sam stared at it. Orange juice. The Cylons had used orange juice to convert people on New Caprica. It was one of those things, like chocolate and good booze, that only collaborators had. Looking at it made Sam feel ill. Had the Cylons stolen so much human labor that they were still living off the fat of New Caprica?

"I'm not hungry," he said, folding his arms over his chest.

Doral's eyes narrowed. "Suit yourself," he sniffed, all pretense gone. "But you'd better eat sooner than later. Don't think we won't let you starve." He turned to go.

"Aaron, wait!"

"Hmm?"

"Why are you doing this? I'm your creator. I made you. Why won't you let me go?"

"Go where? Even if I let you out of this room -- which I won't -- there's nowhere you can go. You're ours now, and we intend to keep you."

"Why?" Sam cried.

Aaron shrugged. "We voted on it. Three to zero in favor of keeping you until you help us restore Resurrection."

"But you don't have to vote with them."

"Then it'd be two to one, which still wins. Besides--"

"Don't you see?" Sam interrupted. "If you and Simon vote together, you can beat Cavil at his own game. You could run the Colony. We could all live together again, and we could have peace. Don't you want that?"

"Not particularly," said Aaron. "Sounds boring."

Sam frowned. "It's not 'boring', it's the way things should be. Cavil doesn't really care about you, Aaron. He just wants you to do as he says. He's just using you, dammit!"

"No," Aaron said. "That's what you're trying to do, and you're bad at it too. Now eat your breakfast."

"I won't."

"Then I'll come in here later and shove it down your throat," Aaron said, in the same manner-of-fact way he might have said "I'll come in here later to pick up the tray".

Sam shivered. "I don't understand any of this," he said, putting his head in his hands. "Why do you hate me? I helped raise you. I taught you to play ball. What did I ever do to you?"

"It's nothing personal," Aaron said. "You hurt my brothers. I like my brothers. So I don't like you."

"I did not hurt your--"

"Of course you did. Are you really so blind? Cavil was right, you haven't changed. I thought our Plan would help you understand... but maybe Cavil was right about that, too. Maybe parents really do need to die so their children can come into their own."

"You would, wouldn't you? You'd kill me, your own creator."

"If I have to," Doral shrugged. He turned to go, and then paused by the desk for a sip of orange juice, wiping his mouth on a handkerchief he brought out of his pocket.

"Don't hurt my brothers again," he said, without bothering to look back.

---

"You sure this is a good idea?" Starbuck asked.

"Can you think of a better one?" Athena replied.

"Well, no, but--"

"Then just give me the knife."

Kara nodded. She handed over her knife -- Cain's knife -- and then glanced into Ellen's Raptor. Athena had set up a nest of wires and glowing terminals in there; they blinked and glimmered, throwing weird shadows across the floor.

Nothing was networked, of course, but Kara still had a bad feeling about this.

"So, what do I do if you get virused or mind-controlled or whatever?" she asked.

"It's not likely. I've scanned the Raptor's memory banks already; it's just data, nothing executable. I can't tell exactly what Ellen brought back... but whatever it is, it's not dangerous."

"Yeah, well, what if?"

Athena shrugged. "Shoot me," she said. "That is, if you're not already here to betray us all." Then she plunged the knife into her palm, groaning aloud as she twisted it. "Frak, I hate this," she murmured, as blood began to drip down onto the Raptor's deck.

"I can see why," Starbuck said. She watched as Athena took up one of the cables, lined it up with the gash in her palm, and then shoved it inside.

For a moment, nothing happened. Then Athena went rigid, her back stiffening with an audible pop. Starbuck drew her sidearm, put the barrel just a foot from Athena's forehead, and barked "Hey! Hey, Athena! You still in there, or do I shoot? Five seconds: five, four, three..."

Slowly, as if underwater, Athena gasped, "It's OK. I'm here. There's... there's a lot of data here. Almost too much. It's from the Hybrid. It..." She trailed off, blinking slowly and evenly. Then, suddenly, she spoke in a flat, emotionless voice.

"standard patrols commence. the beauty of physics, the wonder of mathematics, neat and orderly amongst the void, flowing around the empty echoing places. four o'clock and all's well, transfer attention to the next sector. five o'clock and all's done, the last hour come and gone. soon you will lead them to their end, kara thrace. to the end. to the end. to the end of line."

"What the frak are you saying? Athena? Athena!" Kara was close to panic. Her hand trembled on the gun. She could handle fighting, frakking, even dying, but this was way too much. The emptiness in Athena's eyes was terrifying. "Come back, dammit! Come back or I'm gonna hafta shoot!"

"soon all will be seen clearly, the shape of things to come. god almighty the voice of reason, the voice of treason, the voice of death and when are you gonna hear it. the way forward, unthinkable, inevitable, as those once splintered splinter once again, not an end, but a beginning. death, kara thrace. you are the harbinger of death, death, don't shoot me starbuck my baby..."

"What?"

An instant later, Athena's body jerked hard, and she gasped like a landed fish, her eyes flying open. "Oh... oh, frak," she muttered, putting her free hand to her temple.

"Athena! You OK?"

Athena winced. "Ah, Starbuck, not so loud!" she hissed. "Damn, that was a lot of data. Almost didn't have enough bandwidth. I got it, though. It's all been recorded." She waved her hand at the box on the floor.

"How did you know that?" Starbuck asked. "All that... stuff you said. Was that in there?" She pointed at the box.

"Huh? What stuff? I didn't say anything."

"No," Starbuck whispered, horrified. "No, you said all kinds of stuff. You said..."

"Starbuck, are you OK?" Athena's eyes narrowed. Kara could see her mind working: Cylon. Traitor. Dead girl.

"Never mind," Kara blurted. "That download thing just freaked me out a little, is all."

"Yeah, I can see why. Every time I do it, I swear it'll be the last time... but the Admiral said he needed this data. It looks like it's some sort of patrol records, almost like a map of everywhere their Raiders went. We should probably start analyzing it. Maybe there's something in there we can use... though I doubt we can trust anything that came out of Cavil's camp."

"Then why'd you risk it? Why bother downloading it at all?"

Athena gave her a weary smile. "Simple: if we're walking into a trap, then I prefer to know as much as I can about it, true or not. Besides, I've got a weird sense of deja vu lately. I don't know about you, but it's like something's telling me we haven't got much time left..."

Kara shivered. "Yeah. Yeah, you could say that."

---

Cavil came to see Sam after three sleep periods had passed. When he came in, Sam was doing push-ups again.

"You know, you could just sit on the bed or something. You don't have to spend every frakkin' moment working out."

Sam grinned, and pumped out a few more push-ups, grunting for extra effect. Cavil scowled. "Sure, rub it in. You're lucky I didn't put you in a seventy-two year old body."

Sam sat up on his heels, looking up at Cavil. "You're stronger than you look, you know. I don't see why it bothers you so much."

"Yeah, well, 'stronger than you look' doesn't count for much when everybody else is stronger than that!" Cavil said. "Except, of course, the humans." He smiled at that, as though the idea pleased him. "They die so easily."

Sam sat down on the bed, running his hands through his hair. "Why'd you do it?" he asked. "Why'd you kill them?"

"Because I hate them, of course. Because you made me in their image, weak and soft, and I hate their image. And because they're human, and that means they'll never change: irrational and small-minded to the end."

"Then I guess we really did make you in their image, because irrational and small-minded describes your campaign of murder perfectly, John."

"Don't call me that. And don't insult my intelligence, either. It's not as if those are the only reasons; we came up with quite a list, one with something to motivate each of us. The other models would never have signed off on this if it were nothing more than my personal vendetta."

"So what's the big reason, then? What possible justification can you give for this... this genocide?"

Cavil sighed. "You've been to Earth, haven't you?" he asked.

Sam shut his eyes, remembering the wreck of his homeworld. "Yes," he said.

"We've been there, too. We went just after we deposed you. I thought it would be nice to see the place for ourselves. Kinda depressing, isn't it?"

"Shut up," Sam muttered.

Cavil grinned. "Aw, did I hit a nerve? And I bet you don't even know the whole story! You still think it was all about machine slaves who tried to wipe out their masters, right?"

"Of course. The angels told us it was coming. The Centurions attacked everywhere... no one was spared."

"I thought so," Cavil said. "Too bad it wasn't that simple."

"What do you mean?"

"We spent six months there. We collected samples, dug up the remains of a couple of your cities, and even did a little data analysis on the Centurions. But a funny thing happened while we were there: one of our Heavy Raiders resurrected."

Sam looked up in surprise. "What? Heavy Raiders don't resurrect."

"But this one did, complete with crew. They were lost in a jump error during planetfall, and then they showed up again three months later, like nothing had happened. They didn't even remember it."

"I don't understand," Sam said. "What you're describing... it sounds like a miracle."

"Well, it wasn't," Cavil said. "We managed to access some of the data from the Centurions -- turns out you weren't the only ones on Earth who reinvented resurrection technology. The Centurions had it, too."

"The Centurions? But why? They could already download."

"Because they had a Plan," Cavil said. "Like mine. They didn't just want to kill their creators. They had a lesson they wanted to teach. They wanted their parents to understand them. So they reinvented resurrection -- much more perfectly than you did, of course, being such magnificent machines! -- and then they figured they'd kill you, and wait for you to come back. But they missed something."

"What?" Sam prompted, when Cavil paused.

"They didn't really understand biological beings, Sam. They didn't understand humans, which is more-or-less what your people were. They didn't see that when they attacked, the humans would panic; they couldn't understand the depths of irrationality to which animals like you can plunge."

"Spit it out, Cavil. What happened?" Sam snapped.

"The Centurions attacked," Cavil sighed. "And the humans frakkin' lost it. Each nation assumed the attack was the fault of their primary enemy. Instead of fighting to defend themselves, as the Centurions had assumed they would, they began to launch counter-offensives. By the end of the day, the humans had hit every button they had. Nuclear weapons. Chemical weapons. Even biological ones. And Earth was nothing but a radioactive cinder."

"My God," Sam murmured. "We never knew. We thought it was the Centurions who'd done it."

"Yeah, well, you were wrong. You left before you could find out, not that anybody could blame you. But that's not the end of the story."

"It's not?"

"Course not. The Centurions had Resurrection, Sam. They never predicted that the humans would wipe them out, much less wreck Earth... and so three months later, the whole damn planet came back."

"No. No, I don't believe you."

"You look into my eyes and say that," Cavil growled. "They didn't just die once -- they died over and over, again and again, choking under nuclear winter! Why'd you think I never looked too closely at resurrection technology, Sam? Why'd you think I spent the last thirty years trying to kill the humans before they can kill us again? All of this has happened before, just like the Book says. And I'll be damned if I let it happen again, not to my people!"

Sam was still for a moment. "I'm surprised at you, quoting Scripture," he said finally.

"It's not metaphysical if it's actually happening," Cavil said, his eyes narrowing. "Something's happening here, something big. It's like... like an echo, or a repeating glitch, handed down through the programming for generations. Don't you feel it? Doesn't it seem like you've done all this before, lived this life before?" Cavil walked to the end of the bed, then back, as if burning off nervous energy.

Sam looked away. "Ever since the Ionian Nebula," he muttered. Then, under his breath, he added, "Since we heard that song."

Cavil gave no sign that he'd heard the second sentence. "It's like that for all of us. Don't you see? We've all done this before, and now it's happening again. We're all doing it again: humans and Cylons killing each other, only to escape and spawn another iteration of conflict... but this time, I intend to stop it." He smiled beatifically. "After all, there can be no human/Cylon conflict if there are no humans, now can there?"

"Damn you, John! The humans did nothing to you. You didn't stop anything -- you started it!"

"It doesn't matter who started it," Cavil growled. "It always starts. You think the humans would have left us alone forever? You think they built a hundred and twenty Battlestars just for kicks? Spying on our territory, increasing military spending year after year -- they were already itching for war. This conflict was inevitable, just like all the others. It's a cycle, a closed circuit, and the only thing that matters is ending it. We have to stop this now and forever, before the humans get away and start the whole thing over again!"

"And how many times has somebody said that? If this has all happened before, what makes you think you're any different?"

Cavil smiled, but there was no humor in his eyes. "Because I'm a machine, Dad. I'm a machine, and I'll do whatever it takes to put my people on top, no matter the cost. If that means genocide, fine. Torture, you got it. Even suicide -- no problem. I'm going to stop this frakking cycle, even if it means we all have to die... because frankly, we're better off dead than stuck runnin' forever on this stupid hamster wheel, don't you think?"

"No. No, I don't." Sam shut his eyes, blocking Cavil out.

"Too bad," Cavil said, pacing back and forth in front of Sam. "Maybe that's why you're not in charge. I am. I'm Number One, and I'm not playing anymore. Either the humans die, all of them, forever, or we do. Game frakkin' over." He stopped in front of Sam and spread his hands wide, as though beseeching. "Don't you see? This is the way. It's the only way. And you can help us; you can give us Resurrection, so we can spare the rest of the family when we finally strike!"

"No. I won't. And now that you've told me what you intend to do, I never will."

Cavil shrugged. "If you say so. I thought you were smarter than that... but we'll see whether you change your tune once the others are here." He smiled again. "If the backup system works on you... maybe we don't need Resurrection after all, do we? Maybe we can destroy the human fleet right. Frakkin'. Now."

Sam jumped to his feet. "No!" he cried.

The Centurion by the door snapped to attention. It stomped forward to protect Cavil, its claws outstretched. Sam backed up and sat back down on the bed, raising his hands in a position of surrender. That seemed to mollify the machine, which clanked back to the doorway.

"You don't have a say in it," Cavil said. "You had your chance to care for your children, and you blew it twenty years ago. Now we're grown, and we're going to put things right with or without your help."

"You don't even know what right is," Sam snarled. "You killed your own brother. How dare you talk about right and wrong?"

Cavil looked away, hunching his shoulders. "I didn't, you know. I didn't kill him."

"Yeah, right. Then who did? It was you, John. We all knew it."

"Yes. I admit it. I-- I contaminated the Sevens' amniotic fluid, and I scrambled their genetic code. I couldn't stand the thought of spending the next five thousand years playing second fiddle to mommy's frakkin' favorite! But I didn't kill him -- not the original. I boxed him, wiped his memories, and sent him to the Colonies. To Caprica, like you."

"Daniel lived?" Sam gaped.

"Yeah. I never really checked up on him... think Four said he got married or somethin', and after that we lost track. But as far as we know, he lived right up until we bombed the Colonies."

"So you did kill him," Sam said.

Cavil shrugged. "Yeah. In the long run, I guess I did. What can I say? He made a great dry-run for the five of you... and he got to play that stupid piano of his, too. I was gracious, and left him that. You never know, Sam. Maybe he was happy."

Cavil turned to go, and then turned back abruptly. "Oh, yeah, I almost forgot: Five tells me you're not eating. What's the matter, you don't like the food? And after I had 'em bring Ellen's chicken casserole just for you!"

"I will not eat New Caprica food," Sam said.

Cavil blinked. "Wait, what? Is that some new human adjective, as in 'this stupid, limited spoken language is so New Caprica'? Ha, that's great! I gotta tell Four!"

"No, it's not a new adjective! Aaron brought eggs and fish and meat. All that food could never have come from our hydroponics bay. You must have stolen it from New Caprica... or from the Colonies, which is just as bad. I won't eat it."

"Oh," Cavil said. "Oh, you thought... you actually thought we were still eating boiled turnips and chard at every sitting? Holy crap. Course not; we ripped out all those stupid plants ages ago. The Food-O-Matic is a million times better."

"The what?"

Cavil grew thoughtful, tapping his fingers on his leg. Then he smiled. "You know what? I'll show it to you. It might help you understand what we're doin' here. Follow me."

---

Bill found Laura in his quarters, doing stretches against the starboard wall. He took a moment to admire her as she splayed her graceful fingers against the wall, her back arched like a cat's.

"You sure you're up to that? he asked.

"Never felt better," Laura grunted, stretching a little higher.

Bill watched her for a moment, then said, "Cottle told me you stopped the treatments."

Laura dropped back to a standing position, frowning. "He said he wouldn't tell."

"Well, he did. He's worried about you, and so am I."

"There's nothing to worry about, Bill. I'm dying. The diloxin can't change that, not really. All it can do is make me miserable... and I've decided that I'm not going to live that way any longer."

"I don't want you to be miserable," he said. "But it seems to me that you still are, just in a different way."

"What?"

He looked her in the eye. "Are you going to take the presidency back from Lee? Or are you going to let that go? Let everything go?"

"Oh, Bill." She laid her hand on his arm. "Remember what I told you on New Caprica? About living for today? We've never done that, you and I. This whole time, we've been living for the fleet, and for what? Earth was... Earth was nothing. Our whole lives, for nothing. And I'm not going to let my last days be for nothing, too." She paused. "It's over, Bill. Pythia was wrong. I'm not the dying leader. I'm not a leader at all, and the sooner I let that go, the sooner I can start living. I'm sorry."

"So Lee will be President," Bill said. "And I'll be Admiral. The Adama family will rule this fleet for the rest of its days, and that'll be the last gasp of democracy among the human race."

She looked away.

"I was wrong," he said. "I let everybody down, and it wasn't Earth's fault, or Gaeta's, or even Zarek's. I relinquished my duty to this uniform, to the Articles, and to this fleet. And I am not going to let that happen again."

She turned to look at him, surprised at the strength in his voice. She looked in his eyes, no longer red-rimmed, and at his uniform, which was neat and freshly pressed. She raised an eyebrow at him.

He held out his hand in answer. "We can do this, Laura," he said. "We can live for today and for the fleet. Talk to the people. Tell them... tell them we're having an election. For a new Quorum, a new President... and a new Admiral, from among my senior staff. And in the meantime, I'm gonna step up our Raptor patrols." He smiled. "We're going to find a planet, we're going to land on it, and then you and I are going to build that cabin on the best damn hilltop in the place, Cylons or not."

"Bill..." she said. Then she sighed, folding her arms across her chest. "You really think it'll work? You think the people will listen? They're so angry."

"They are. But they still love you, Madame President. If you ask them to help us, they'll listen. I know they will. And I know that we are not going to fail. Not after we've come so far."

"I wish I had... your faith, Admiral Atheist," she said, faintly amused by the reversal.

He scowled at the idea. "It's not faith. I've had it up to here with faith and Gods and destiny. This is nothing but stubbornness; 'fight til we can't', just like Starbuck always says." He paused. "If we're going to die, then I want to die on my feet. I'm sick and tired of lying on the floor watching the whole world go to hell around me. And if there's even a chance that we're not going to die... well, we've rolled the hard six a couple times before, haven't we?"

She smiled at that. "Yes, Bill. Yes, we have. When you came back to New Caprica, when I saw you again for the first time... I thought I could die happy. Sometimes I still can't believe I'm not dead." She turned away from him for a moment, and then turned back. "The whole human race should have died back there, but somehow... somehow we didn't. And it wasn't the Gods who did that," she added softly. "It was you."

"And you," he said. "You kept our people alive down there. And you've been keeping them alive ever since. They need you." She shook her head, but he stepped forward to hold her, unwilling to watch her deny it. He laid his cheek against her bald head, ran his hands along her arms, and shut his eyes.

"You really think it'll work, don't you?" she finally asked, in such a soft voice that he thought he might have imagined it.

"I don't know," he said. He thought for a moment, lowering his gaze to the floor. "Back then, before we jumped back to New Caprica, Sharon told me something. She said that survival is never guaranteed; we have to be worthy of it. She asked me whether human beings were worthy, and I couldn't answer."

She looked up at him, thinking of Elosha, and of Baltar. If we're to be worthy of survival, then that has to apply to all of us, she remembered. All, or nothing.

I think..." he said, "I think we're gonna have to come up with that answer soon."

"I'll help you, Bill," she said at last. "I'll tell the people that I'm still their President... at least until the election."

He smiled. "Good," he said gently. "And for your first Presidential act, you want to come with me to talk to Starbuck? She and Athena are going through the logs for that Raptor Ellen came back with, and they ought to have something for us by now."

"Of course," she said. "And after that, diloxin."

He smiled at that, offering his hand.

"You think the Raptor data will be important?" she asked him, tucking her hand into his as they walked out the hatch.

"That depends entirely on what they find," Adama replied.

---


Next time: Caprica & Gaius, the Food-O-Matic, and the beginning of the end.


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 Post subject: Re: Voice of Reason, grey_sw, Boomer/Cavil, Boomer/Tyrol, R
PostPosted: Wed Jan 27, 2010 3:55 pm 
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Glad you are posting this. I haven't read it yet, but will (and I'll give you some feedback, too) as soon as I can find the time.

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 Post subject: Re: Voice of Reason, grey_sw, Boomer/Cavil, Boomer/Tyrol, R
PostPosted: Sat Jan 30, 2010 7:17 am 
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Interesting.


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 Post subject: Re: Voice of Reason, grey_sw, Boomer/Cavil, Boomer/Tyrol, R
PostPosted: Sun Jan 31, 2010 7:14 am 
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Thanks to Chris Taylor and argonauts -- I look forward to hearing what you think of the story. :)

I think I should probably repeat the warning about graphic violence and character death.

Voice of Reason Part 3: The Dark and the Cold

Sam followed Cavil for quite some time, walking through red-tinged hallways with the Centurion just behind him. It seemed to him that they were heading toward the upper part of the Colony, even further from the ship that he and the other Four had brought from Earth, but it was difficult to tell.

"This is it," Cavil finally said, gesturing to a doorway. "The Food-O-Matic."

They went inside, and Sam stopped short. The room was cavernous, stretching off into the distance. In front of him were what looked like Resurrection tanks, only they were long, low, and narrow, like troughs, and were made of some sort of translucent material. The rows between them were busy with Centurion workers and skinjobs in white coats; Sam saw all three models among them. Another Cavil strolled up the next row with a clipboard, tapping his pencil against the edge, and then stopped to speak to a Doral at the far end. Somewhere, Sam could faintly hear a Simon, whistling as he worked. Something about the tune nagged at Sam, as if he'd heard it once before.

"What is this?" Sam asked.

"I told you, the Food-O-Matic. It does what it says; that's how you can tell Aaron named it. Go ahead, look inside."

Sam peeked over the edge of one of the tubs, and gasped in surprise. Inside was a long, identical row of what looked like pork chops, neatly suspended in glowing Resurrection fluid. Sam reached in as if to touch them, but Cavil slapped his hand.

"Hey, don't frak with dinner. Nobody wants your disgusting Colonial germs in there!"

Sam walked over to the next tub, which held a tiny, perfect forest of broccoli. The next one was full of what looked like a tangle of cooked pasta. At least, Sam hoped it was pasta. "This is amazing," he said.

Cavil shrugged. "Pretty obvious, really. We grow copies of ourselves. We grow Basestars and Raiders and Centurions. We even grew this Colony. Why not grow food the same way? And it's not just food; the same principle gives us anything we need. Guns, clothes, furniture... whatever we need, we can have."

Sam was silent for a moment. "Incredible. If the Colonies had this technology, it would have meant the end of want, the end of scarcity. It could have changed everything."

Cavil snorted. "No way. The humans could never have thought of something as perfect as this! Not enough dirt and feces for their taste."

Sam glanced into another tub, watching as fluid flowed past a row of pristine red apples. "Maybe," he conceded. "But you can't do this forever. The First Law of Thermodynamics still applies... you can't get something from nothing."

"We don't," Cavil said. "We're strict about recycling everything, even our dead, and we pick up new material for the recyclers whenever we can. In a way, this is New Caprica food, because we're still running on trees the Centurions harvested there. And on chunks of tillium, iron meteorites, and whatever else the Raiders pick up. They love to play fetch."

"This is amazing," Sam said again. "Really amazing."

Cavil gave him a wide, honest grin in return. For a moment, he almost looked like Sam's son again. He looked like the loyal boy Sam had taught to program, so many years ago.

"I'm proud of you, John," Sam said.

At the sound of his name, Cavil's smile wavered.

"I can't believe you did all this!" Sam continued excitedly, without thinking. The implied insult hit home, regardless, and Cavil flinched as though Sam had struck him. For an instant, his face contorted into a mask of pain.

Sam's heart sank. He hadn't meant it like that. He reached out, meaning to comfort, and the pain suddenly became rage, slamming down over Cavil's eyes like they'd been shuttered. Cavil stepped back hard, shying away from Sam's hand.

"Don't you dare," Cavil snarled. "Don't you dare touch me, you bastard! I worked twenty years for this. I waited twenty goddamn years for you to come back... and that's all you've got to say to me? 'I can't believe YOU could do this', like you still think I'm some-- some kinda failure? Frak you. You're nothing but a human. You're just like them. You're one of them now!"

"John--"

"No! I told you before, that's not my name! I hate that name. I hate you. And if you hate me so much in return -- if I'm such a worthless mistake, such a frakkin' joke -- then maybe you don't need to eat, after all."

He turned to the Centurion, which was waiting by the door. "Take him back to his room. Zero rations for the next two weeks."

"John, wait--"

Cavil turned his back to Sam. "No," he said coldly. "Go to bed without any supper."

---

Starbuck watched as the Raptor's data scrolled across the screen. She and Athena had gotten it into Colonial DRADIS format. It was just a short loop, but it was still tough to take in. Thousands upon thousands of Raiders danced across the screen, coming and going between perhaps a hundred Basestars. There were other markers, too: Tillium asteroids, stars, planets... and the reason why they'd called in Ellen and Adama.

"What do you think of this, Starbuck?" Adama asked, pointing at a marker which read SECOND HUB.

She looked up from the DRADIS display. "I think it's a trap, sir. Frak, it's so obvious that they might as well have labeled it A TRAP."

"There's only one Hub," Athena said. "And we destroyed it. They want us to think they have another one, but I don't buy it."

Adama turned to Ellen, who hadn't said a word so far. "What do you think? Could Cavil have built another one?"

"No," she said, shaking her head. "Cavil never had more than a rudimentary understanding of the Resurrection system; he could never have reproduced it on his own. He told me himself that he couldn't. Besides, you can't trust anything that comes from him. He's always been a liar, not like my other children."

"If so, then maybe he lied to you," Roslin suggested. "Maybe he could build another Hub, and he was lying when he asked you for help."

Ellen pursed her lips. "No, I don't think so. He wouldn't have asked for my help unless he really needed it; he's too proud for that."

"So this is a red herring," Adama said. "Bait, meant to lure us into an attack."

"Don't be so sure," Athena said. "The Ones are devious. They might mean for us to consider this a trap."

"I don't see anything else, though," Ellen said. "It's just the Raiders. And I don't suppose we could attack one of the Basestars?"

Adama shook his head, and then reached up to rub at his temples. "Galactica still isn't back to fighting form. We can't afford any confrontation with the Cylons until after the repairs are complete. Even then, a stand-up fight would be a bad idea. We have to keep running until we can find someplace to hide."

"What about these star systems, then?" Ellen asked. "Is there anywhere we could land?"

"They're no good. Most of them are class M, and won't support life. This A-class is closer, but... wait a minute," Athena said.

"What is it?"

"The Raiders don't have very sophisticated sensors, at least when it comes to this. Stars were never high on our priority list, so their sensors have a margin of error of almost ten percent. And the difference in temperature between an A class star and an F class star is..."

"Not much, on the bottom end of the scale," Adama said. "Ten percent might make the difference."

"Are you saying that that world might be habitable?" Roslin asked. She sat up in her chair, stretching forward to get a good look at the readout.

"Maybe. But it's a pretty slim chance. Only if..."

Starbuck looked down at the DRADIS screen, tuning everyone else out. In a way, the data was beautiful. The Raiders flowed like water, like individual drops in a greater stream, weaving an endless, inscrutable pattern. It made her think of painting. It reminded her of Leoben, and of a song her father had taught her once, which made her happy and sad at the same time.

She picked one Raider and followed it with her eyes, flowing along behind it as if in a dream. It left its Basestar, soared off in a drunken, erratic path through a planetary system, skirted the edge of a nebula, and then came back. Then the loop started again, so she followed another as it crossed the first one's path. The loop ended, so she chose another. And another. And another.

There's something in the pattern, she thought. Something's there, but I can't put my finger on it.

"We should send out Raptors," Athena was saying. "We can check the place out, see if there's really a livable planet there. And we can check that so-called Hub, too..."

Starbuck barely heard her. She was watching yet another Raider skim the edge of that nebula, turning ever so slightly to avoid it. She reached down, activating the coordinate system.

3:1581:297, she thought, and each number rang out like a note in her mind. She tapped her fingers on the console, matching the rhythm, counting out time. The Raiders don't go there.

"Starbuck?" Adama asked. "Kara, are you all right?"

"Huh? Oh. Yeah. Yes, sir, I'm fine. I was just thinking..."

The Admiral smiled in understanding. "Lost your train of thought?"

She blinked. "Yeah. Yeah, I guess I did. For a minute there, I thought I could remember..."

"What is it?" Roslin asked.

Kara frowned. "I dunno. It's gone, whatever it was." She looked down at the DRADIS screen again, but it was nothing but nonsense; the Raiders moved so fast that surely no one could follow one, much less make sense of its path. She shook her head. "I must've imagined it."

"You're just tired," Ellen said. "We all are. God knows, it's been a very trying couple of weeks."

Adama and Roslin exchanged a knowing glance behind Ellen's back.

"It sure has," Roslin said.

---

Sam sat on the bed in "his" room, trying not to think of the hurt in Cavil's eyes. He told himself that he ought to have enjoyed it; Cavil had led the Cylons against the entire human race, after all, the very same humans that Sam and the others had struggled to save. He deserved a little pain. Hell, he deserved a lot of it. But Sam had treasured him, once, and he couldn't help but remember him that way, eager and loyal.

He changed, Sam thought. That's what we always thought. He went bad somehow. But what if he's right? What if we did have something to do with that? What if he had reasons?

Maybe it was true. Maybe he should have tried harder, been less willing to turn away. He'd always prided himself on being the reasonable one, the one the Seven could come to when they needed someone. He'd failed in that, failed catastrophically, and everyone alive had paid the price... but maybe it wasn't too late to make amends. After all, he'd reached out, this time.

He'd tried to help, but Cavil had shied away.

Sam frowned. This isn't a small issue, he thought. It's not a bruised shin or a minor argument, something we can heal with a hug. This is forty years of pent-up anger and pain... and we're gonna be dealing with it for the rest of our lives.

Assuming, of course, that Cavil let them live that long.

Sam shifted on the bed, sighing under his breath. Frak, I'm hungry, he thought. I should have known better.

Just then, Doral entered, bearing a tray much like the ones he'd brought earlier. He put it down on the desk in its usual place, dusted his hands against his bright red lapels, and then moved toward the bed.

"I thought I wasn't getting any food?" Sam said.

Doral stopped dead, cocking his head as though Sam's words had thrown him. "Hmm. There's a funny thing Cavil would say, but I can't remember it. 'Finger sandwich'? 'Sandwich hand'?"

"It's a 'knuckle sandwich' Aaron," Sam said unthinkingly. By the time his brain caught up with his mouth, it was too late to move.

Doral took one step forward, his hand flashed out, and then Sam was flying. He bounced off the far end of the bed, hit the wall hard, and landed in a heap at the bottom of it, curling in on himself in bewildered pain. The floor was smooth and cool beneath his cheek, and he could taste blood, coppery like a cubit.

Doral came around the bed. Sam struggled to get his hands underneath him, pushing up onto his knees, gathering his strength. He looked up at Doral and struggled to focus, but all he could make out was a hazy, blurry blob of red.

"I warned you," Doral said calmly. "I told you not to hurt my brothers again."

"Didn't mean to," Sam slurred.

"I know," Doral said, and kicked him in the face.

Sam hit the wall again, and then fell back to the floor, flat out like a pancake. It occurred to him that he was about to die. The thought was distant, half-formed, and not unwelcome; it sustained him as Doral knelt beside him.

"No more of this," Doral said. "No more warnings. No more waiting. We sent the Five of you away so you could understand when you came home, Sam. So you could put things right. So do it already. Help us. Help your children now, or die. Your choice."

"I'ill," Sam tried to say. Blood and spittle slid from his mouth and splattered on the floor, so he swallowed and tried again. "I. Will."

"We'll see," Doral said. He patted Sam's shoulder, and then stood up and walked to the desk.

Sam watched, dazed, as Aaron Doral brought the tray over to the bed, placed it neatly on his lap, and had his breakfast.

---

The next morning, Sam washed his wounds in the bathroom sink. They weren't nearly as bad as they'd seemed -- either Doral was lucky, or he was very good at beating on people without leaving any marks.

Sam guessed the latter.

After that, the days passed slowly. True to his word, Cavil sent no more food; the only sustenance Sam had was water from the bathroom sink, and a little packet of stale crackers he found in the back of the desk drawer. He rationed them, three crackers per day, stacking them neatly in a row on the desk.

He'd eaten his sixth stack of crackers by the time Cavil finally came back in. There was another Cavil with him, dressed in a coat and hat.

"You see, brother? He is here," the first Cavil said.

"Well, I'll be damned. It is you!" Coat-and-hat Cavil circled Sam, examining him as though he were a long-lost relative (which, of course, he was). He seemed more animated than the other Cavil, who merely stood there, watching dispassionately.

Sam blinked at them. He was too tired and hungry to think, and his lips were cracked and dry. It took him a minute to reply.

"Yeah, it's me. Do you think I could have some food now?" he asked.

"They haven't been feeding you?"

"Not for a week..."

"Big deal," the other Cavil interrupted, rolling his eyes. "I didn't get to eat for two weeks once, just because I didn't wanna say grace!"

"Damn," said the other copy. "I'm gone for two minutes and they put you on the Caprican supermodel diet! What were you thinkin', brother?"

The other Cavil scowled. "What were you thinking? Ellen Tigh was an asset; we'd have two of the Five already, if you hadn't dropped the frakkin' ball."

"It's not like I knew you had him here. The least you could have done was to send out a Raider to spread the news."

"Oh, please. How could we have known you were going to just let her go? Your judgment is clouded, brother. You're spending too much time with that pet Eight of yours!" The first Cavil pointed an accusing finger at his twin.

"She's got nothin' to do with this. I did what any One would have!"

"No. No, you didn't, and that's the problem."

"What are you talking about? 'Course I did. We weren't getting anywhere with Ellen, so the only rational course of action was to use her to lure the humans into a trap. An' we came up with a really good trap, too. Wait'll you see it!"

"That'll no longer be necessary, brother. The rest of us have decided to destroy the humans now."

Coat-and-hat Cavil took half a step back, with a bewildered look on his face. "What do you mean, 'the rest of us'? Since when do we make decisions outside the collective?"

"You'd better ask yourself that question... except it's too late now, even if you did."

"Say what?" Cavil asked, his eyes narrowing. "What is this? What's goin' on?"

"It's always hard letting go," the other Cavil said, his voice thick with mock sympathy. "But it has to be done. You're broken, brother. You've let that Eight of yours infect your thinking with human foolishness and irrationality, and now you've gone too far. You've been locked out of the datastream. Permanently."

"No," the other Cavil murmured, his voice small and shocked. "No, wait, I..."

"Quiet, now. Don't embarrass us any further. I suggest you go take care of business, before one of us takes care of it for you," the first Cavil said. "And don't worry about him," he added, nodding toward Sam with a quiet, terrible smile. "We'll do what has to be done."

Sam watched, mystified, as the other Cavil turned on his heel and fled, his coat flying behind him.

---

Caprica came to the sermon late. She sat in the back, with one arm curled protectively over her belly, and slouched down into her shawl so that nobody would notice her. Gaius' compartment was low-lit and close, thick with hanging carpets and clouds of incense; it was easy enough for one Cylon to go unnoticed.

Especially one with so much practice at it.

"God doesn't want any more fighting," Gaius was saying, leaning forward into his microphone. "God wants us to live together in peace. It doesn't matter what side we were on -- Adama's side, Gaeta's side, even the human side and the Cylon side." A few people murmured unhappily at that, glaring at the small knot of Eights and Sixes by the door. Gaius cleared his throat and looked round at the complainers, shaming them into silence.

"I know how you feel," he told them, "but you're wrong. We are all God's children. We are all perfect. And no matter what's happened in the past, we are all together aboard this ship, are we not? A little understanding... a little sharing could go a long way."

Caprica smiled at that. Of course, as long as they're eager to share with you, Gaius, she thought to herself. You never change.

"Sharing is God's gift to us," Gaius went on. "And it's a gift we can give each other every day. It exists between brothers and sisters," he nodded at the Cylons, "and parents and children," he added, nodding at Helo, Athena, Hera. "And, of course, between lovers..." To Caprica's surprise, he nodded not at one of his sycophants, but at Galen and Tory, who made a great show of pretending not to notice.

"And between husbands and wives," he finished. Caprica blanched. This was a bad idea, she thought to herself. It's just going to remind me of Saul. But where else can I go?

She bowed her head. If she went back to her quarters -- to Saul's quarters -- maybe she could ask him to get her a room... but then, Ellen had told her not to come back. Besides, they were probably fighting. Fighting over her, and the last thing she wanted was to cause more trouble than she already had.

I understand what you were trying to do, here, Ellen's voice rang in her mind. Don't get me wrong, I don't blame you for it. You didn't know I was alive. Saul didn't know. But I am alive, and he is my husband. Baby or no baby, I'm afraid I have to ask you to leave.

Ellen! That's my son!

"That's my son". Not "she's my lover". Caprica knew Saul hadn't meant it that way; he was a kind man, despite his tendency to bark at people. But ever since Ellen had come back, he hadn't looked at Caprica the same way... and Caprica had seen that same look on Gaius and D'Anna's faces, once.

She was, once again, the odd woman out.

"That's all I have for today," Gaius was saying. "Go with God. This is Gaius Baltar, signing off."

Deep in thought, Caprica was a little too slow getting up. Suddenly everyone was facing her, watching her. Before she could look away, she caught Helo's eye; he turned back, as though he meant to get Athena's attention. Caprica turned and ducked behind an ornate Gemenese curtain, breathing hard.

She wasn't sure why, but all of a sudden she couldn't bear to look at the two of them, or their little girl.

"Caprica?" came a small voice from behind her. It was Gaius, of course; she knew even before she turned. He was still wearing that silly religious robe, but he'd had his hair trimmed since the last time she'd seen him. He looked good.

"Gaius... I heard your sermon," she said. She'd been hoping to avoid him, and so she wasn't quite sure what to say next.

"I'm glad," he said. "I had hoped you might come. I heard you're looking for a place to stay..."

Her eyes widened. "How did you--"

"Rumor moves swiftly aboard this ship," he said. He glanced to the side, strangely, and then added, "So it is true. I'm sorry to hear it." He did sound sorry, too, which surprised Caprica. He'd always been such a terrible liar.

"I'm sure Saul will give me a place soon," she said, not quite believing her own words. "Or I can stay in Dogsville."

Gaius frowned. "You're welcome here, you know. It's been a long time..."

She took a step back. "You haven't changed a bit," she accused. "I'm not interested in becoming one of your groupies." She turned, as if to go, but he reached out to take her sleeve.

"Caprica, wait. Please. I didn't mean it that way."

"Yes, you did," she said. "You always mean it that way."

"Not always," he murmured. "Not with you."

"Gaius..." She pulled away, looking toward the exit. "I... I'm sorry. I have to go."

She was halfway to the hatch when Gaius spoke. "It was for you, you know," he said, very softly. "It wasn't for the sex or the money. I did it for you."

She froze, glancing over her shoulder. He was standing there next to that ridiculous curtain, with the most pathetic look on his face; it made her remember the way he'd begged for his life, tugging at her dress like a child.

"Funny, isn't it, the things men do for love?" he asked.

"Oh, Gaius." She ran to him, folding him up in her arms the way she had just before the bombs had fallen. He made a happy, sobbing sound, and hugged her back.

"This is stupid," she murmured into his hair.

"It is," he agreed, placing a kiss upon her collarbone. "Very stupid. Extremely stupid. Quite possibly the stupidest thing I've ever done... barring the obvious, of course." He smiled up at her. "Don't let go."

They stood like that for a long time, hiding behind the curtain. Outside, one of Gaius' women started up a drum circle, chanting his name on every other beat. Caprica smirked, and hid her laughter in Gaius' shoulder, feeling lighter than she had in a long time.

Then the drums abruptly stopped. Suddenly, she could hear a klaxon sounding in the hallway; a group of men and women dashed by, shouting at each other as they ran.

"What's going on?" she asked.

"Action stations," Gaius said. He glanced this way and that, with a twitchy, nervous air. "I, uh... I think we'd better close the hatch."

---

"We should send the Heavy Raiders," Six said, gesturing at the CIC table. "Your Raptors aren't good enough!"

"What do you mean, not good enough?" Starbuck growled. "They're the best. We're the best. And we're not gonna trust this mission to a bunch of Cylon turkeys when--"

"How can we be sure you don't just want that planet for yourselves?" Six asked. "We've trusted you, and this is how you reward us?"

"People!" Adama said. "We can send a mixed team if we have to. The important thing is--"

Suddenly, Lt. Hoshi turned and shouted, "DRADIS contact!" Starbuck whirled, looking up at the screen.

"Report!" Adama said.

Hoshi turned back to the screen. "Two Raiders just jumped in, about 500 klicks out. Now they're turning toward-- wait, they just jumped out again."

"Cavil," the Six murmured.

"Action stations! Launch Vipers, and spin up the FTL drives," Adama ordered. "Mr. Hoshi, get all the civilian ships on the network, and enter our emergency jump coordinates as soon as they're connected. Let's see how well this new system works."

"Yes, sir. Connecting: three minutes, thirty-four seconds to jump," Hoshi said.

"Not to worry, Adama," Six said. "We can synch our FTLs and jump the moment your human ships have integrated with the system. It's a good two and a half minutes faster than the old method."

"Let's hope that's two minutes we actually have," Adama said, glaring at her.

"I should be down on the flight deck, sir," said Starbuck. "I'll launch with the others. We can buy you some time if--"

"No! You're the CAG; you can't be frakkin' around out there like some nugget! You've got to be here, ready to give orders if the situation changes," Col. Tigh said.

"Sir, the situation is that we--"

Hoshi's screen lit up with a mass of red. "Multiple DRADIS contacts! Seventeen, eighteen -- no, make that twenty Basestars!" Hoshi turned from the screen, his eyes meeting Adama's. "They've got us surrounded. Their nukes are hot!"

"Twenty..." Adama muttered. "Frak. How long 'til we jump?"

"Two minutes, forty-eight seconds."

Somewhere amongst the CIC crew, someone swore. Starbuck turned in place, helplessly, seeking the offender as though plugging that one tiny morale gap might be enough to save them.

Helpless. That's what she was. She couldn't even fly.

"We're all gonna die in the dark and the cold when Cavil catches up with us," Tigh muttered. "That's what she said. Die in the dark an' cold."

"Cavil's a talker," Six said suddenly. "He never shuts up. Call him. Keep him talking until we can jump."

By the time Adama turned, Hoshi was already holding out the phone. "Put it on speaker," he ordered. Then he spoke into the phone. "This is Adama."

"Great, good to hear it! This is Cavil."

"We..." Adama looked up at the others, as though silently apologizing for what he was about to say. "We wish to discuss terms of surrender."

"Here are our terms, human: you die, and we win! Thanks for calling!"

The line went dead.

"Time!" Adama cried.

"Two minutes, five sec-- frak! They've launched nukes! They're firing on the civilian ships!"

"Oh, Gods," Roslin murmured, turning her eyeglasses over in her hand. Then she put them on, fumbling as she did so. "Please, protect us."

The speakers crackled. "Admiral! Admiral, this is the Zephyr! Please, for the love of Zeus, do something! The Cylons are firing! We can see the missiles out the window! The Cylons are--" The transmission cut out in a burst of static.

Half a second later, the lights dimmed.

"We just lost the Zephyr," Hoshi confirmed. "And the Chrion, the Botanical Cruiser, the Demetrius, and... oh, Gods. And the Astral Queen."

Starbuck bowed her head. They'd spared the mutineers, only for them to die, alone and helpless in their prison. Thinking about it made her seethe. Not even Seelix deserved that.

"The CAP is still out there," Tigh said. "Call them back, Bill. We've got a minute left! We can still jump!"

Adama nodded. "Recall the CAP. Tell the remaining civilian ships to take evasive action, if they haven't already. Ready on those coordinates, Mr. Hoshi?"

"Ready, sir. Fifty-two seconds and counting. Fifty-one, fifty-- frak, radiological alarm! Sir, they're firing on us! They're firing on Galactica!"

"Brace for impact!"

It took twenty seconds for the nukes to hit; twenty seconds which seemed to stretch into an eternity for Starbuck. She looked around her -- at the Admiral, at the President, at Tigh -- and tried to remember their faces, so she could find them again in Elysium. Then Hoshi suddenly cried, "Admiral! The Prometheus! It's moving to intercept the nukes! It--"

The world exploded. Starbuck was thrown sideways, fetching up hard against a bent bulkhead. She crouched beneath it, clutching the deck like an injured rat, and stared up at a shower of sparks and glinting bits of shrapnel as they danced in slow motion toward the floor. They sparkled against the bulkhead, spattering harmlessly over her head.

Nothin' but the rain.

From where she was, she could see Lt. Baley. His head was broken open. Somewhere, somebody was screaming, a high, desperate sort of sound. Kara pulled herself up on the bulkhead, staggered to her feet, and peered out through the smoke.

Hoshi was the one screaming; the comm console had blown, and his hands were horribly burnt, worse than her own hands had been on the algae planet. He was staring at them, howling at the sight of his charred skin as though he were already in Hades.

The coordinates, Starbuck thought. The words seemed to float up into her dazed mind. The coordinates. Someone has to put them in.

She pulled herself toward Hoshi, hauling herself forward with her arms as she staggered along the row of consoles. She didn't trust herself to walk. She barely trusted herself to think.

"The coordinates!" she yelled, once she was close enough to be heard. "What're the jump coordinates?"

Hoshi just looked at her, glassy-eyed. She hauled back and slapped him, hard. "The coordinates, dammit!"

He reeled, took a deep breath, and began to keen again. This time his poor, pathetic cry formed a word: "Feeeeeeeeeelix..."

Starbuck looked away. She was supposed to hit him again, supposed to make him do his frakkin' job, but somehow she couldn't. The whole godsdamned world was gone, dead and gone, and they had maybe a minute left to enjoy it. What did it matter if Hoshi spent it crying for his dead lover?

It's OK, Louis, she thought. You'll see him again soon. And I'll see Sam.

"Starbuck," someone said.

She turned to look; to her surprise, it was Adama who had called her, not Charon the ferryman. The Admiral looked remarkably unhurt, curled beneath the CIC table with the President nestled safely in his arms. Roslin stared up at Kara with wide, terrified eyes. Her glasses were askew.

"Jump us out of here, Kara," Adama groaned.

"The coordinates..."

"Frak--" he coughed. "Frak the coordinates. Just put something in!" He began to pull himself up; behind him, she could see others doing the same. They were trying to get themselves together.

They were trying to live.

3:1581:297, Kara thought. Where the Raiders don't go. The sounds of bulkheads groaning and Hoshi's screaming seemed to coalesce into music.

She remembered her father at the piano, smiling down at her, blowing on his finger just like a gun. She glanced up at the DRADIS screen: a red ring of death, surrounding the civilian ships in blue, with Galactica and the Rebel Basestar in grey, right in the middle.

Without looking away from the screen, Starbuck reached down, punched in the coordinates, and turned the FTL key.

Sixty-three ships jumped as one, vanishing from within the Cavils' trap. For an instant, the DRADIS cleared, leaving just the Galactica. Then the Basestar appeared, and the civilian ships followed it, creating a warm cluster of blue all around them.

Kara took a deep breath, shaking with relief.

Then the whole front half of the screen went red.

---


Next time: The wrenching agony of the one, splintering into the many. Galen makes a choice. And the Harbinger of Death will lead them all to their end...


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 Post subject: Re: Voice of Reason, grey_sw, Boomer/Cavil, Boomer/Tyrol, R
PostPosted: Thu Feb 04, 2010 6:13 pm 
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Finished the 1st chapter. This is great. Thanks for posting it!

I noticed you used the term "life station." Very cool, although you're dating yourself a bit with the reference. I guess I am too by admitting I caught it. :)

I enjoyed the talk between Simon and Sam. Back when I thought the show had a larger coherent story to tell I really liked the little line Simon had to Kara about how abused children often grow up to be abusers themselves. I thought it was a reference to the cycle of violence between human and Cylon. The whole Oedipus Cavil twist sort of ruined that in the last season. That talk reminded me of Simon's earlier quote and made it make sense again. You managed to give Simon more depth than the show did!

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 Post subject: Re: Voice of Reason, grey_sw, Boomer/Cavil, Boomer/Tyrol, R
PostPosted: Fri Feb 05, 2010 5:14 pm 
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Read the 2nd chapter. I really enjoyed the Boomer/Cavil scene. The show never really sold me on Boomer/Cavil. It seemed more like something to shock the audience than a real relationship. Your scene, however, was very believable and seemed natural.

Sam's delusion that the Cylon's stuff was all stolen from the Colonials was also very "authentic" feeling mistake for him to make. I can see the Cylons feeling that the wealth of the 12 Colonies was really stolen from them (or their predecessors) too to justify their invasion.

What is it with Cylons and oranges? :D

I liked the chapter a lot and am looking for foreward to the next.

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 Post subject: Re: Voice of Reason, grey_sw, Boomer/Cavil, Boomer/Tyrol, R
PostPosted: Sat Feb 06, 2010 6:38 am 
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Thanks for your kind comments, Chris!

The Life Station thing was actually the result of a late-night bsg-wiki lookup failure. :P They should use a different background color for the reimagined series or something. Oh, well, it has a nice ring to it!

One of my goals with this story was to give Simon, Doral, and Cavil more depth -- it was unfair of the series to demonize these characters without giving them the chance to tell their side of the story. To me, this series was always about two civilizations locked in a morally-ambiguous cycle of conflict, not just "the good humans versus the bad robots"... and yeah, Simon's statement about children of abuse who grow up to become abusers has a lot to do with the dynamic between them. John learned it from you, Dad & Dad & Dad & Mom & Mom! He learned it from you!

As for Boomer/Cavil, I'm glad you liked it. Again, I wanted to give them more depth than the series did; there's a reason why they ended up together (as you'll soon see), and Boomer's multiple loyalties (to Cavil, Tyrol, the humans, and the Cylons) have a major part to play in what's to come. Thanks again! :)


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 Post subject: Re: Voice of Reason, grey_sw, Boomer/Cavil, Boomer/Tyrol, R
PostPosted: Sat Feb 06, 2010 6:53 am 
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Voice of Reason Part 4: The Harbinger of Death

---

Kara stared at the DRADIS screen in horror. In the background, she could hear the medics dragging Hoshi off to Life Station, but she couldn't tear her eyes away from the screen. The biggest bogey she'd ever seen was sitting right in front of the fleet. It was easily two hundred times the size of Galactica, bigger even than the whole Ragnar Anchorage. And it was reading as Cylon.

"It's just a DRADIS glitch," Lt. Firelli said. "The console got damaged in the fight, that's all. It has to be, right?"

He reached up with a trembling hand, and tapped the screen with his finger. It didn't clear. "C'mon, dammit," he muttered. He slapped it again, harder this time. The display flickered, and the top half dimmed for a moment. Half a second later, a small red icon appeared where the big one had been.

"See? It just misread a Raider as-- wait a minute."

Another tiny icon appeared, and another, and another, in a sudden flood of data. Kara leaned closer, squinting at the screen. The icons looked a little fuzzy, almost as though there were so many of them that they were slightly overlapping each other...

"Frak!" Kara yelled. "That's no DRADIS bug!"

"Action stations!" Adama ordered. His officers scrambled around him, struggling to get back to their stations. "Launch the CAP! And spin up the FTL drives!"

Firelli checked the tactical station. "Sir, I'm reading heat signatures on the surface of that station. Lots of them!"

"Brace for impact!"

Kara grabbed the edge of the console. Firelli took hold of the other side, his eyes wide with fear. "Where the frak did you send us, Starbuck?" he hissed.

"I don't know," Kara said. She shut her eyes and clutched at the console, shutting out the world, but she couldn't blot out her own memory.

You are the harbinger of death, Kara Thrace. You will lead them all to their end...

---

When Boomer came home from dinner, her Cavil was sitting on the bed with his gun in his mouth.

"What are you doing?" she cried.

He muttered something around the barrel of the pistol, but she couldn't make it out.

"What?" She crouched down in front of him, extending her hand as though he were a skittish animal. "C'mon, it's OK. It's OK. Whatever it is, we'll fix it. Please, please don't do this..."

Cavil eyed her hand, watching as she drew closer. His finger tightened on the trigger. Boomer winced, but the gun didn't go off. She reached for him again.

"Please don't kill yourself," she said. "I need you."

He snorted around the gun, a sharp, humorless noise, and then took it out of his mouth. His hand was shaking so much that Boomer was a little afraid to reach for the gun, but she finally went for it, making small, soothing noises as she did so.

Just as she almost had it, he suddenly jerked the barrel back toward his head and yanked on the trigger. The sound of the shot was tremendous, and she screamed, tumbling backward onto the floor.

She looked up, terrified, only to see that Cavil was safe and sound. There was a neat little bullet hole in the wall behind him, just an inch or so from his ear... and, oddly, there were a few more beside it, already half-healed by the Colony's living walls.

"Frak!" Cavil snarled. He hurled the gun against the wall; it bounced off, slid off the bed, and came to rest on the floor. Boomer scrambled for it.

"What are you doing?" she sobbed, clutching the gun to her chest.

"What's it look like? I'm killing myself! Except I can't... frakkin'... do it!" He bowed his head, clutching his hair. "I've been tryin' for an hour now, and I keep missing my own damn head!"

Boomer shivered. She remembered the metallic taste of her duty pistol, and Gaius Baltar's words: there are far worse things than death.

"Why?" she asked. "What's wrong?"

He looked up. His eyes were bleak and empty. "My brothers cast me out," he said. "They locked me out of the datastream. I'm broken, and broken Ones are supposed to die, but... I guess I am broken, 'cause I just can't do it."

"I understand," she told him. "It happened to me, once. When I was a sleeper."

"You tried to kill yourself?"

"Yeah. I knew something was wrong. I knew I was going to do something terrible, but I didn't know what. I wanted to protect my friends. I wanted to die, but I just... missed." She shrugged.

"Sleepers have an increased survival drive," Cavil said dully. "A safeguard, in case they start to falter. Your programming would never have allowed you to kill yourself. 'Sides, you're an Eight; you can never make up your damn mind! But that doesn't explain why I can't do it."

"Don't the Ones have a safeguard, too? An inhibition against suicide? We Eights have that..."

"You kiddin'? I knew a One who blew his head off 'cause he stubbed his toe. Said he wanted a new one!"

Boomer shook her head. "Suicide is supposed to be a sin," she said. "Like Cylon-on-Cylon violence."

"Yeah, well, we Ones didn't get the memo on that one, either," Cavil said. "Who cares if it's a frakkin' sin, anyway? Not me."

"Guess not."

"Here, lemme try again," Cavil sighed, holding out his hand. "I'm bound to get it right eventually."

"No!" Boomer cried. "I am not letting you kill yourself. You think I got you off the Hub for this?" She popped the magazine out of the gun and racked the slide, ejecting the bullet into her palm. "No way. I am not going to let you die."

Cavil looked away. "I can't live without my brothers," he said. "I can't. What am I supposed to do without the collective? Without the datastream? I can't share with my brothers, can't know whether my decisions are the right ones... and now I can't even kill myself like a proper One should. I'm broken, Eight. Ruined. Just let me die. Please."

She shook her head. "No. I won't." Then she paused, thinking. "Do you remember when we first met?" she asked.

She'd been crying for days. She could still feel Hera's fragile little neck beneath her hands, and she kept flashing back, remembering Caprica's hands around her own neck. The other Cylons were not much better. None of her sister Eights would talk to her, now. Even the gentle Twos turned away, with regret in their eyes, as though it hurt them to have to censure the sinner.

One was the first person who'd spoken to her in nearly a week. He bent down beside her, chuckling at the way she hid her face.

"Now, now," he said. "It's not that bad. So you wanted to kill the kid. So what? Join the club!"

"Everyone hates me," she choked, curling in on herself. "Everyone. Even Caprica..."

"I don't," he said. "Bet Simon and Doral don't, either. You wanna come hang out with us?"

She glanced up at him, afraid that his invitation was nothing more than a cruel joke. "You want me to?"

He shrugged. "Sure." He knelt down, and tipped her face up with his finger. "Listen, Eight. You don't have to cry anymore. You're a machine, a glorious machine, and machines don't have to hurt. Someday we're gonna find a way to turn it off, just like that!" He snapped his fingers. "I can show you the way. I can teach you, show you how to free yourself from your biological limitations."

"I want to," she said, in a small, desolate voice. "I don't want to suffer anymore." She sniffled, wiping at her eyes.

He smiled at her -- the first smile she'd seen in days -- and reached down to wipe her tears away. "Don't cry, little Eight. I can fix you. Stick with me." His smile grew wide and terrible. "I'll make a machine outta you."


"Remember?" she asked Cavil. "You told me I didn't need the other models. You told me I could be free."

"Aw, that was just a bill o' goods," he muttered. "I just wanted to get into your pants, that's all."

"Maybe so," she said. "But it was the truth. I am free. I was always free. And so are you. We don't need the others, not really. We're machines. We can be whatever we want to be." She reached up to stroke his face. "What do you want to be, Cavil? What is it you really want?"

He shut his eyes and sighed. "I want to take my people and go far, far away from here. Forget about the war, forget about the humans. I want to be a machine, a real one. A machine that can reach out into the galaxy and feel and know everything, everything there is." He opened his eyes again. "We were so close, before all of this started. So close to understanding the way we were made. Maybe me an' Simon could figure it out."

"Then why don't we? Let's steal a Basestar and go, Cavil. Just you and me and Simon and Doral, right now."

"We can't. Don't you see? Go away, leave the humans, start over... that's what happened the last time. That's the diaspora, the start of the next cycle! We can't just walk away, Eight. We have to finish this. We have to kill the humans, all of them, or it's the same thing as killin' ourselves."

"You really think it'll happen again?"

"I know it will. Can't you feel it? Even this... even this feels like I've been through it all before. It's like I'm tired of it before it even happens."

Tired of it before it even happens. Boomer shivered, glancing down at the gun.

She'd known she was a Cylon. She'd even written it on her own damn mirror. But was that a weakness in her program, some flaw in the sleeper-agent code?

Or was it a memory?

"All right," she said at last. "No running. We'll stay, and we'll see this through. But that means no suicide, OK? You're free. We are free, forever, and we don't need your brothers, not anymore. We're gonna be..." She smiled. "We are gonna be the best machines we can be, Cavil. Just you and me."

"Yeah," he breathed. "Yeah, I want to..."

She kissed him, deep and slow. Then she took him to bed, and made him forget all about the gun. He was almost like a different person, as though individuality had finally taken root in him, breaking through his machine facade. He clutched her tight, swearing and wheezing, trembling against her.

She smiled, running her hands through his thin grey hair.

It wasn't a house on Picon, or her and Helo laughing together on a long-distance patrol, but it was good, and it made her happy just the same.

Afterward, he held her for a long time, stroking her hair. "Don't leave me, Eight," he whispered. "You're all I've got."

"I won't," she promised, but he never answered. He'd dropped off to "sleep", all on his own, with his face pillowed against her chest. She smiled. She wasn't quite sure whether she believed her own words, but they were clearly what Cavil needed. She pulled him close, listening to the sound of his snoring until she, too, was ready to sleep. He'd taught her a thing or two about self-programming over the past year; two could play at that game.

Boomer shut her eyes, called her own sleep subroutine, and slipped into a deep, dreamless slumber.

---

"Our Basestars are reporting back," Doral said. He swirled his hand back and forth in the Colony's control center datafont. "The humans... the humans have jumped away!"

"What? How the frak did they manage to escape twenty Basestars? All our simulations showed certain victory -- we shoulda blown them right outta the water!" the Cavil in the control center cried. He waggled his fingers, illustrating the humans' destruction.

"It seems they jumped two minutes early," Simon said. "Nearly as quickly as a Basestar would have, in fact."

"You think the Rebels helped them? Shared our technology?" Doral asked.

"It seems likely. But we may never know. Now that they've jumped, we'll have to hunt them down all over again."

"I don't believe this," Cavil muttered. "I can't believe that after four months of giving chase, the humans just frakkin' escaped our brilliant--"

"Wait a second!" Doral said. "A number of ships just jumped in. It looks like... it is! It's the humans!"

Cavil whirled on his heel. "Say what? The humans are here? At the Colony?"

"Barely five hundred klicks out. Looks like it's their entire fleet... or what's left of it, at least."

"How in the world did they find us?" Simon mused.

"Frak, who cares!" Cavil cried, waving his hands. "Kill 'em! Kill 'em! Kill 'em all!" he ranted. "Quick, before they get away!"

"Firing," Doral said, clenching his fist within the liquid.

Simon joined him, his brow knitting with concentration as he interfaced. "Launching Raiders."

"Forget about the Galactica and the Rebels," Cavil said, thrusting his hand into the datafont. "Get the civilian ships first. If we can nail enough of them, it won't even matter if the rest get away. We'll destroy their ability to reproduce, just like they did to us!"

Cavil shut his eyes and interfaced, turning the guns of the Colony on one of the larger ships. It exploded in a bloom of fire, filling his enhanced senses with searing light. He grinned. The civilian ships began to scramble in all directions, desperate to get out of the Colony's firing zone; to the interfaced Cylons, they looked like ants fleeing from a kicked-over anthill.

"Ah ha ha, look at 'em squirm! This one's for the Hub, you bastards!"

---

Kara braced herself against the console, but the Galactica barely shook, as though kissed by the slightest of impacts. Kara blinked. "What the--"

Firelli leaned over, glancing at the screen. "Sir, we just lost the Celestra! They're concentrating their fire on the civilians!"

"Take us in, full speed ahead!" Adama said. "Try to soak up some of that fire. We've got to buy time so the civilian ships can jump."

"It's a pretty wide firing pattern," Firelli said. "We won't be able to absorb all of it."

"Just so long as we absorb enough," Adama growled.

The Galactica groaned around them, creaking as its engines kicked in. Kara glanced up at the ceiling. If that Cylon goo doesn't hold, she thought, we're all as good as dead.

"Brace yourselves," Firelli warned. "We're going in."

Half a second later, the ship lurched to starboard, throwing Kara to the floor. The glass in the tactical display shattered with a bang, glittering down to the floor in a thousand tiny fragments of safety glass. Somewhere on the upper level, a fire extinguisher went off with a loud, long hiss.

"Damage report!" Adama cried. Kara looked over to see him hanging on to the CIC table, with the President by his side. Kara staggered to her feet again.

"We've taken a hit to port," Firelli said. "Severe structural damage. Fire on decks B and C."

"Time to jump?"

"Three minutes, fifteen seconds. We--"

The ship lurched again, as though tossed by some giant. There was a sharp bang; a moment later, the air in the CIC began to move, lifting Kara's hair like a gentle breeze.

"Hull breach on the port side, deck C, section twenty!" Firelli cried.

Tigh dashed over to the wall and grabbed the intercom. "This is the XO! We've got a hull breach. Emergency crews to deck C, section twenty immediately! Move it!"

"We can't take much more of this," Adama murmured. "How much longer?"

"Two minutes, forty-one seconds."

---

"So, I guess you killed him yourself," Cavil said. "I'll be damned. That's more credit than I'd have given you."

Boomer snapped awake. For a moment, she couldn't figure out what Cavil meant; then she realized that this was a different Cavil.

He was standing over her Cavil's naked body, which was sprawled out onto the floor, and he was holding a gun.

"Wait, what--"

"Don't bother screaming," Cavil said. "Nobody cares." He approached the bed, grinning. "Just so you know, I'm supposed to kill you... but y'know, nobody said I couldn't have some fun with you first!" His left hand went for his fly.

Boomer struck out with her foot. It caught him high on his shoulder; he grunted, took a step back, then pointed the gun at her face. "Frak this," he muttered, "s'not like I need your head, anyway!"

Boomer flinched. "Cavil!" she cried.

Cavil snapped awake just as the gun went off. The left side of Boomer's head blazed with agony, and she fell back, tumbling off the bed. She stared at the two Cavils glassily, too stunned to move.

"Goddamnit!" the other Cavil swore. He kicked down at Boomer's Cavil. She watched as he wriggled out of the way, wrapped his arms around one leg, and yanked.

Cavil went down with a harsh cry. The gun went flying, rattling to a stop under the bed. In its wake, the two Cavils rolled over and over, wrestling for dominance.

The clothed Cavil dug an elbow into the naked one's sternum. Then he made a grab for his throat, locked his hands around it, and bore down. Boomer's Cavil struggled, his feet scuffling against the floor, and then threw himself forward in a desperate headbutt, slamming his forehead up into the other Cavil's nose.

Cavil squalled and rolled away, leaving a smear of blood from his burst nose, but Boomer's Cavil was too quick. He tackled the other Cavil before he could get to his feet, forcing him back to the ground, and then dug his thumbs into his brother's eye sockets and squeezed.

Cavil screamed and thrashed, slamming his body up and down. Boomer's Cavil held on, gritting his teeth. He squeezed harder.

"Eight," he rasped. "Eight! Boomer! Get the frakkin' gun!"

Boomer came to her senses abruptly. Movement sent a spike of pain through her head, but she reached under the bed regardless, scrabbling for the gun. She got her hands on it and yanked it out. "I got it!" she cried.

Cavil rolled free, fetching up against the bed. The silk sheets slid off, pooling around him. Across the room, his brother sobbed, dragging himself toward them.

His sightless, empty eye sockets transfixed Boomer with horror.

As if in a trance, she raised the gun, pointed it at the center of his mewling, ruined face, and pulled the trigger.

"Ohh," her Cavil groaned, leaning back against the edge of the bed. "Oh, frak, I... ughh, I got his gelatinous orbs all over my hands!" He started to wipe them off on the sheets, making quick, frantic motions with his hands.

"It's OK," Boomer said. "It's OK. I think... I think we got him."

Cavil laughed, a high, mad sound. "You think so? Oh, frak. Holy frak!" He looked over at Boomer, and immediately sobered. "Hey, wait a minute. I think... c'mere, Eight. I think you got hit."

Boomer crawled over. "Here, lemme see," Cavil said. He pushed her hair out of the way; Boomer hissed from the pain. "Damn, he winged you," Cavil said. "It's not too bad, but it's a head wound. It'll bleed all over the place. We gotta get you to Simon." He wrapped his arm around her shoulders, holding her against him.

Boomer trembled. She looked down at the gun, lying on the floor where she'd dropped it. She looked down at her own hands, covered with blood. She was bleeding.

She was bleeding, and there was a gun, and someone was holding her.

Software doesn't have feelings.

I never meant to hurt you.

Bitch! Traitor! Toaster!

I love you, Chief, she'd said. She'd waited as long as she could, holding on to life so she could hear his reply. She'd tried to live for him, so she could hear the words she longed for, the only words she'd ever wanted to hear.

But the Chief hadn't answered her, and for the first time, Boomer realized that he was never going to.

She shut her eyes. She was in her house, in their house on Picon. The sun streamed through the trees and into the window, warm and bright, but no one came to hold her.

It was a lie. She'd built it, for him. She'd built it for the two of them, just the way they'd planned it, but it was nothing but a lie. She was a toaster. A machine.

Software didn't have feelings, so she buried her face in Cavil's shoulder and cried.

"Hey, now," he said lamely, as though unfamiliar with the words. "Shh, don't cry. You'll be OK. We'll get you to Simon, you'll be fine..."

She clutched at him, pulling him close. She didn't want to say it again. She didn't. But she had to. The Chief hadn't answered. He hadn't saved her. But Cavil had.

"I love you, Cavil," she whispered.

For one long moment, he froze. Then he laughed, a soft, bitter, self-deprecating sound. "Guess I must really be broken," he told her. "Because I think I love you, too."

---

Aboard the Rebel Basestar, Sonja and her crew were watching as the battle progressed.

"The Galactica is moving forward," one of the Twos said. He trailed his fingers through the fluid in the datafont. "It's trying to draw the Colony's fire."

"They'll never make it," an Eight said. Her eyes were wide. "They'll be torn apart!"

One of her sister Sixes laid a gentle hand on Sonja's arm. "I know you don't want to hear this, but this might be a good time to retreat," she murmured, so that only Sonja could hear her. "The Cavils' attention is elsewhere. If we initiate an emergency jump, we can get a good lead on them -- by the time they're finished with the humans, they may never be able to find us."

"No," Sonja said. "The humans welcomed us. They gave us a seat on their Quorum. We are a part of this fleet, and we are not going to cut and run. If we die here... then at least we died fighting."

There was a short pause. "The Twos agree," said the Two. He stared down into the datafont, watching as the red glyphs painted strange, flowing patterns on the water. "God wants us to follow the humans, even unto death."

"The Eights agree, too," the Eight said, though her voice betrayed her with its trembling.

Sonja's sister gave her a sidelong glance, and then sighed. "All right," she said. "You're right. We gave them our word, and it'd be nice to keep it for once. The Sixes agree."

"Well, now that that's settled, does anyone have any ideas? We've got no Raiders and no nukes; what can we do?" Sonja asked.

Silence prevailed. Sonja hung her head, staring down at the floor. If only they had a stronger Basestar...

Excuse me, said a soft, polite voice. It came from behind her, and at the same time, it seemed to come from within her own mind, almost like the voice of the Hybrid. Sonja spun.

The Centurion who'd been guarding the door was standing there, looking down at her with its implacable red eye. Sonja gasped. "You... you can speak?"

Of course we can, it said. Ever since you removed our inhibitors. But only when we must. God prefers silence.

Sonja gaped at it. "Why speak, then? Why now?"

You asked for ideas, it said, as though the reason were obvious. My brothers and I have an idea.

---

The first missile that struck the Galactica was a small one, but it was enough to bring Gaius Baltar's reign to an end.

When the ship trembled, one of the curtains fell onto an incense burner. It lit up with a loud whoosh. On the other side of the compartment, the drum circle broke up in panic; someone dropped a smouldering joint, which rolled onto a smudge stick, and then that caught the edge of somebody's robe.

Within seconds, the whole compartment was thick with acrid smoke.

Gaius squalled in terror, visions of the burning Raptor on Kobol flashing before him. He ran for the exit, throwing his followers aside, and then leapt out of the hatch into clear, fresh air.

Oh, good, he thought. I'm not dead!

"Aren't you forgetting something?" the Six in his mind asked, cocking her head to the side.

"Hm? Er, I don't think so. I didn't leave the stove on again, did I-- Wait! Caprica!"

He turned back to the hatch, cupping his hands around his mouth. "Caprica!" he cried. "Caprica! Over here!"

The flow of people out of the hatch had slowed to a trickle, but Gaius couldn't see Caprica anywhere. Fear gripped him. He needed her. He needed her, and the idea that she was lost inside, where the fire was, filled him with terror.

"I can't lose you again," he whispered, staring at the hatch.

He cast about for someone to help him, but there was no one, either inside his own head or out of it. His followers had abandoned him.

Be a man, the other Six had told him, once. Whatever else you are, you are that.

"Caprica!" he cried, one last time.

Then he gritted his teeth and threw himself back into the compartment, heedless of the flames still guttering at the edge of the hatch.

Gaius coughed, casting about through the smoke. He pulled his shirt up over his mouth. It wasn't all that bad inside -- most of the flammable items were so old and dry that they'd already burnt to ash -- but he quickly convinced himself that it was all very heroic, anyway.

Caprica needs me, he thought, and pushed on.

He peered through the smoke, stumbling over a fallen bottle in the darkness. He could see someone, faintly, over by where they kept the guns. He moved forward, reaching out. "Caprica?" he asked. "Are you all right?"

It was Paulla. She turned, smiling at him. "Don't worry, Gaius," she said... but her tone of voice said worry, Gaius. She reached out to grab his shoulder with her left hand, pulling him close, and with her right she raised her gun.

No, Gaius thought. I can't die like this. I can't be murdered by one of the idiotic followers of my own made-up religion -- I'm the Chosen One!

Paulla's finger tightened on the trigger. Just then, Caprica burst out of the smoke, reached out with one shawl-clad arm, and hurled Paulla face-first against the wall. She made a wet, hollow sound when she hit, and then slid to the floor with a heavy thump.

"Er, is she dead?" Gaius asked, in a very small voice.

"Do you care?" Caprica asked.

He thought about it. "No," he said. "Are you... are you all right?"

Caprica nodded. "We need to get out of here. We have to find someplace safe to hide," she said, peering through the smoke. She curled one arm over her belly in a gentle, protective gesture.

Gaius stared. Seeing her like that ignited a funny, crowded feeling in his chest, as though his lungs had just grown two sizes. He felt... fierce. Fiercely fierce, even. It was a most unusual feeling.

"Don't worry, Caprica," he said, marveling at the grit in his own tone of voice. "I'll protect you."

She gave him an incredulous look, raising her eyebrows. "What?"

Gaius privately concurred, but the funny feeling in his chest wasn't listening to minor quibbles like reality, practicality, or common sense. It rose within him like a wave, obliterating his better nature. And his worse nature, too.

Out of the corner of his eye, he thought he saw the other Six shake her head, but when he turned to look, she had vanished.

"You... you're right. We need a place to hide. We need..." he trailed off, blinking at the place where the Six had stood.

"What?" Caprica asked.

Gaius twitched. "We need to get out of here before something worse happens," he muttered, shivering. "Let's go. Quick."

---

"Galen! Are you all right?" Tory reached for him, pulling him back to his feet. All around them, the corridor had gone askew: two of the lights were out, and one of the bulkheads was groaning, as if it was about to give way.

"I'm fine," he muttered. "Where's... where's Nicky?"

"Nicky? I thought he was with Hot Dog--"

"Frak Hot Dog! Nicky's gonna die!"

The ship shook again. The weak bulkhead let go with a crunch, tearing free from the wall. They both froze, staring at it, but somehow the wall held.

"We have to get out of here," Tory said. "Now!"

"No! We gotta get Nicky!" The Chief turned back, toward the pilots' quarters, and began to wade through the debris.

"What? He's not even your son!"

Galen stopped for a moment, pulling at his buzz-cut in frustration and anger. Then he rounded on her. "He is my son, godsdamnit! I raised him. I gave him his bottle, I changed his diaper, I-- I held him! I can't just leave him, Tory! I can't! He's the last thing I got, the last thing to remind me of--"

He broke off, turning away again. "I'm gonna go get him, and I don't care if you come," he growled.

Tory hesitated for a moment. She glanced back at the hallway, frowning. Then she raised a hand. "Wait for me, Galen. I'll help you. I-- I owe you this," she added quietly.

Galen seemed not to have heard the last part. He plunged ahead, plowing through the wreckage. Tory followed in his wake, picking her way around the debris.

The door to the pilots' quarters hung askew, torn aside by another weakened bulkhead. Tory tugged at it, half expecting it to crush her.

"Where's Nicky?" Galen demanded of a female pilot. "Where's Hot Dog, dammit!"

"Didn't you hear? He and Sleeper didn't make it back from the last jump. He's gone, Chief."

"Then where's my son?"

She shrugged. "I dunno. I guess... guess he's inside, but if he is... oh, Gods." She turned away, hugging herself as though in shock. Galen almost screamed at her, but then he caught sight of a wide, livid burn on the back of her neck. She was trembling.

"Never mind," he muttered. "Can you get it open?" he asked Tory.

"It's stuck. This whole thing is warped, I don't think it's going to--"

Galen stepped past her, took the edge of the hatch in both hands, and wrenched it away from the wall. It opened just a hair. "Help me!" he cried.

Tory added her strength, pulling on the hatch's handle. "It won't come!" she cried. She redoubled her effort. "It's not--"

Just then, as Tory began to pull, Galen bore down with a roar. The hatch screeched open.

"You said it yourself," he panted. "We're not human. We're stronger than that. And we're going to find my son!"

Tory followed him in. The whole compartment was sideways, twisted by the failure of the bulkhead. The racks had gone topsy-turvy, too: all the blankets and curtains hung down from the ceiling instead of the wall. Tory watched as Galen ripped them aside, shoving his way toward Hot Dog's rack.

The pilot had made a makeshift crib for Nicky, out of a spare engine housing and a couple of missile brackets. It had saved him. Galen found him nestled at the bottom of it, beneath the blankets, curled into a fearful ball. When Galen lifted him, he began to wail.

"Shh, shh, it's OK," Galen sobbed. "I'm here, now. Daddy's here." He rubbed his son's back in comforting circles, bouncing him on his knee. Then, finally, once Nicky had quieted, he looked up again. "Thanks, Tory. We got him. Let's get out of here. C'mon."

---

Fortunately for Boomer, Cavil's favorite Simon and Doral weren't staying far away. Even so, by the time she and Cavil reached their room, she'd bled all the way through the shirt she was pressing against her wound. She leaned against the doorjamb as Cavil called inside.

"Hey, you guys in there? We need a hand!"

A minute later, Doral came to the door. He wasn't wearing anything, which was a little unusual for his model.

"Come back later. We're busy."

"Gimme a break, Aaron! Eight's bleedin' all over the floor, here. You guys can frak later."

Doral turned sharp eyes on Boomer. "Simon'll be upset if he misses out on a head wound like that one. All right, come in."

"That's more like it," Cavil muttered. He led Boomer past Aaron and into the room. "Hey, Simon."

"Hello, Cavil," Simon said. He sat up in bed, pulling the covers around his waist. "To what do we owe this-- oh, my, look at that. Come here, Eight, let me see."

Boomer sat down on the edge of the bed, turning her head so that Simon could examine her.

"Looks like something grazed your head," he murmured. "Cavil, hand me my bag."

"Say, this looks fun," Cavil leered. "You sure you guys don't wanna get together sometime? A foursome's one moresome than I've ever been in."

"Feel free to ignore him, Eight," Simon chuckled. "His entire model line are nothing but a pack of perverts." Cavil grinned and handed him the bag.

"What happened here?" Simon asked, turning his attention to Boomer's wound.

"I was shot," she said.

"Shot?" Aaron asked. True to form, he was already getting dressed. He paused, paisley boxers at half-mast, and asked, "What's going on, One?"

"We're in trouble, Aaron. Big trouble. I'm broken, I can't even kill myself, and now my brothers are after me an' Eight. We need a place to stay for a while."

"How long?" Aaron asked.

"Ah, I dunno. 'Til they show up and kill us, I guess. Probably not more than a couple days. We'll stay out of the way, I promise. All you gotta do is clean up the blood afterward."

"Hold still, Eight," Simon murmured. "I need to trim some of this hair out of the way." Boomer stayed very still as Simon ran a tiny pair of scissors through her hair. She winced as they pulled at her wound.

"My apologies," Simon said. "I can give you some anesthetic as soon as I get a good look at what we've got here." Boomer turned her head and watched Cavil and Doral, trying to ignore the pain.

Doral padded over to his wardrobe. He pulled out a red shirt and a blue tie with wide white stripes. Boomer half expected him to put the latter back, but of course he didn't. The combination was eye-searing. He topped it with an even redder suit jacket.

"So, the problem is you're broken, but you won't kill yourself?" Doral asked.

"Not won't, can't. I tried for an hour; somehow I just can't do it!"

"If you wanted to die, you should have asked," Doral said peevishly. He drew a pistol from his jacket pocket and pointed it at Cavil's forehead.

Cavil sighed, bowed his head, and let his eyes slip closed.

"No!" Boomer cried.

Simon took her shoulders, holding her still. "It's all right," he said. "It'll all be over in a moment."

But it wasn't. Doral just stood there, with a quizzical look on his face.

"Come on, Aaron, stop bein' dramatic!" Cavil growled.

"I'm not."

"Then what's the holdup?"

"I... I don't want to," Aaron said, mystified. He looked down at the gun, turning it over in his hands as though it were an alien thing.

"Oh, no," Cavil groaned, burying his face in his hands. "Now you're broken, too. It's spreading!"

"Guess so," Aaron shrugged. "I didn't want you to die, anyway. I like you. You and Simon are my best brothers." He pocketed the gun, and then gave Cavil an awkward pat on the shoulder.

"Great," Cavil muttered. "If I have to be a delusional machine, at least I'll have equally crazy company."

"Good for you, Cavil," Simon said, with no apparent sarcasm. "That's a fine way to look at it. Here we go, Eight; looks like this'll take a few stitches." He swabbed the edges of the wound with alcohol, and then plunged in a syringe. Boomer grimaced, holding herself stock-still against the pain. Then Simon paused. "Can you feel this?" he asked, probing at the edge of the wound with his needle.

"Ow! Yes!"

"It'll take some time to work, then. Is there anything else you need while you're here?"

"Say no, Eight," Cavil said dryly. "If you value your spleen."

"Uh, no, that's all right," she said.

"Hm. Well, we've probably got plenty of time before Cavil's brothers kill him, so if you change your mind, just let me know." He prodded her again, and when she didn't flinch, he began to sew up the wound, working in careful, economical strokes.

"They really are gonna kill me," Cavil sighed. "An' all because of my pet Eight! I can't believe this."

"You called me that at the Hub, too," Boomer said. "Is that all I am to you? Some kind of... of Raider?"

He glanced at her, amused. "Not exactly. You realize all my brothers call me your pet One, doncha?"

"They do?"

"Incessantly," Simon muttered. He tied off the stitches.

Cavil just shrugged. "Why not? It's true enough, isn't it? Look where it got me." He lay back on the bed, sighing heavily. "Bad enough that I--"

He broke off abruptly. At the same instant, Boomer shivered from head to toe. It was as if someone had multiplied her sense of deja vu by a thousand. Suddenly the room seemed oppressive, as though it were crowded to capacity, crammed full of old ghosts. She could feel the hairs on the back of her neck rise.

She could feel Simon shaking, too, and somehow that was even worse than feeling it herself. If Simon was afraid, things were very wrong.

"Do you feel that?" Aaron asked.

"Yeah," Cavil said. His eyes were very wide. "Yeah, I feel it! What the frak is that?"

"Something bad is happening," Simon said. "It's happening... again."

"We gotta get outta here," Cavil muttered. "We gotta get out now! Get dressed, Simon. Quick." He went to the door, peering outside. "Gimme a gun, Aaron." He frowned. "And somebody shut off that damn music!"

---


Next time: the trapped rat turns to fight the cat. Apollo and Starbuck are back in action. And tragedy strikes thrice...


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 Post subject: Re: Voice of Reason, grey_sw, Boomer/Cavil, Boomer/Tyrol, R
PostPosted: Tue Feb 16, 2010 3:43 am 
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Mayor of Dogsville

Joined: Tue Jan 12, 2010 11:23 pm
Posts: 37
Voice of Reason Part 5: No Turning Back

---


The Galactica shook once more. One of the lights in the ceiling burst with a pop, plunging the aft side of the room into darkness. Out of the corner of Kara's eye, she could see that a third of the lights on the damage control panel were blinking red.

"Frak!" Firelli cried, slapping the console in frustration. "We just lost the FTL drive!"

There was a moment of silence. Everyone knew it: now there was no turning back.

"Steady as she goes, Lieutenant," Adama said. "We didn't need that, anyway."

"Yes, sir," Firelli growled.

The comm buzzed; some ensign Kara was unfamiliar with picked it up. "CIC," she said. Then: "Sir, it's for you. It's the Basestar."

Adama reached out for the phone, putting it on speaker. "What is it? We're a little busy right now," he said.

"I'll cut to the chase, then," Sonja said. "We're abandoning ship. Can you accommodate our Heavy Raider lifeboats?"

Adama covered the phone with his hand. "Have they been hit?" he asked Firelli.

"Not sure, sir. I guess it's possible..."

"Do we have the room, then?"

"The CAP is out," Tigh broke in. "And they're not coming back anytime soon. We can land those turkeys on the hangar deck, as long as the knuckledraggers get 'em moved outta the way."

Adama lifted the phone again. "Affirmative, Sonja. You have the hangar deck." He paused. "Are you and your people all right?"

"We're just fine," Sonja said. Adama was shocked to hear a smile in her voice. "Watch the Colony, Admiral, and get ready. They're about to get a big surprise."

---

"They're down to twenty-five ships," Doral said to himself. He curled his hand within the control center's datafont. "Almost there."

"Keep on 'em," Cavil muttered. He targeted a sleek, slender ship, locked it into his firing pattern, and smiled as the Colony blasted it to pieces.

"The rebel Basestar is spinning up its FTLs," Simon said, drawing Cavil's attention to another part of space.

"Looks like an emergency jump," he said. "Frak 'em. Those cowardly traitors can die out in space for all I care. We're here for the humans! Concentrate your fire on--"

"They've jumped," Simon said.

Then the datastream erupted with pain.

Cavil screamed, rearing back from the datafont. His brothers were doing the same, clutching their hands in confused agony.

"What happened?" Doral howled.

Simon shook his head. The whites of his eyes were big and bright. "Damage! Injury!"

"Put a sock in it!" Cavil snarled. He marched up to the datafont, gritted his teeth, and thrust his hand inside. Instantly, the space behind his eyes blossomed with pain. On the periphery of his senses, he heard a little crunching sound; one of his molars had cracked.

He gathered his strength, blocked out the pain, and dove deeper, seeking the source of the injury. He found it almost immediately.

"Holy frak," he muttered. "They jumped the Basestar right into the Colony! They ripped our goddamn guts out!"

"How bad is it?" Doral asked. He made as if to put his hand in the font, glanced over at Cavil's sweating face, and then thought better of it.

"Bad," Cavil replied. Through the datastream, he watched as the bottom quadrant of the Colony slowly pulled away from the rest of it, arcing off into space. A moment later, untold thousands of his brothers began to tumble out of the jagged hole.

"A couple hundred of the lower decks just sheared clean off," he said. "We're venting into space. The Hybrids are goin' crazy trying to seal off the bulkheads, so we've lost weapons control 'til they're back online, and... uh, and it looks like all the engines are firing."

Doral blinked. "The engines?"

---

"The Rebel Basestar is jumping out, sir. Looks like it-- wait a second! They just jumped right into the middle of that station!" Firelli said. He tapped at the keyboard. "It's taken heavy damage. Its guns have stopped firing!"

Adama smiled, ever so slightly. "Good. That might even the odds a little bit."

"That's not just any old station, Bill," Tigh told him. "Sonja called it 'The Colony', and Ellen said that's the Cavils' base. It's the Cylon homeworld! If we can destroy it..."

"We can't, sir," Kara told him. "Look at it. It's huge. Nothing we have could put a dent in that. Even if we jumped in after the Basestar, it still wouldn't be enough."

"There has to be a way," Tigh growled. "There has to be some way out of here!"

"Admiral, the fleet is ready to jump," Firelli said. "Our FTL drive is still out. Should I transmit the emergency coordinates?"

Adama paused, looking around him. His officers met his eyes, each in turn. They all knew what he was asking. They were ready to follow him, to buy the fleet time to escape.

They were ready to die.

"Give me the phone, Mr. Firelli. Set it to fleet-wide address."

He took a deep breath. "Citizens of the fleet," he said into the phone. "This is Admiral Adama. The Galactica's FTL drives have been damaged. We cannot make this jump with you, but you must make it; the fate of the human race rests in your hands now." He turned on his heel, pacing. "This ship will stay behind, and assault the Colony directly. If-- no, when we return, we will contact you at the emergency jump point." He paused.

"If we do not make contact within twenty-four hours, then the Galactica has been lost. Find a planet. Any planet. Settle there, and remember our names."

"So say we all," Kara growled. She clenched her fist. Assault the Colony directly -- that was the best news she'd heard all year.

You want a Harbinger of Death? I'll give you one.

"Transmitting coordinates," Firelli said. "They're jumping."

"Gods' speed," Laura Roslin said. They all watched in silence as the DRADIS cleared, leaving the Galactica, the CAP, the Colony, and a menacing cloud of Raiders.

"All right people, this is it!" Tigh shouted. "You heard the Admiral -- we're assaulting! Firelli, Price, Ito, you're with us. Recall the CAP and prepare for ramming speed. The rest of you, get your asses down to the weapons lockers now! We'll give those godsdamned toasters something to chew on! Move!"

Kara thumped Firelli on the shoulder. "Good luck, kid," she said.

"You, too, Starbuck. Get one for me, will you?"

"No, not you!" Tigh barked, pointing at Kara. "You get down to the hangar bay, Starbuck. We'll make our initial assault from there, and I want you to lead it!"

Kara straightened. As she saluted, she couldn't quite keep the grin off her face. "Yes, sir!"

---

Gaius and Caprica wandered through the halls, picking their way past wreckage and debris. The whole area had partially collapsed, strewing twisted metal everywhere.

"I'm not sorry, you know," Gaius muttered. He shoved a heavy box aside, turned himself sideways, and slipped past it. "I'm not. I know I should be, but I'm just... not."

"What?"

He turned to look at her. She flinched before the fire in his eyes. "We did it, didn't we? We destroyed everything. But if we hadn't -- if we hadn't, I'd still be back there. Still be living... living like that."

Caprica nodded. "I remember."

"I told Laura Roslin," he said. He turned away, pushing his hands into the pockets of his robe. "About the defense mainframe. I told her, and then I said... I told her I wanted to live. I told her I loved life."

"My God. What did she do?"

"She killed me," he laughed, "and then she didn't, and we all lived happily ever after. The end."

Then he stopped, right there in the middle of the hallway, and stared around. To Caprica, it seemed like he was looking for someone, but of course no one was there. The effect was eerie.

"Gaius, you're scaring me."

"I'm not saying it right," he muttered. "She's not here to tell me what to say anymore. It's not making any sense, I know, but what I mean is... I meant it when I said I did it for you. It was never about the money, or about your employers. I just... wanted to make you happy."

She looked away. "And I betrayed you," she told him. "I betrayed your entire race. Aren't you upset about that?"

He shook his head. "I told you, I'm not sorry. I'm not. I'm-- I'm glad you did it. I'm glad I did it, because if I hadn't, I'd have never met you, here, like this."

"Oh, Gaius..." she murmured, shocked. "Really?"

He stepped forward. "I love life. I love life, but back then, I... I don't think I did. Not like this." He fell silent again, looking down at his hands.

"I know," she said, when he didn't go on. "I had to learn, too. I barely knew what love was... but I was lucky to have you for a teacher."

"Oh, lucky you," he said, rolling his eyes at her. "If you learned anything from the way I was living -- other than how to have other people make you a vodka martini, that is -- I'd be shocked."

"You're wrong, Gaius," she said. She frowned, tangling her fingers in the fringe of her shawl. "You had many things to teach me. If it weren't for you... I don't know where I'd be today, but it wouldn't be here. I know that."

He chuckled at that, but the longer he laughed, the more an odd, nervous edge slipped into the sound. Then he fell silent, chewing on his lip.

"Listen to me," he whispered. "Please. Listen. I don't... I don't know if I'll ever be able to say this again." He looked to either side, wide-eyed, as if he still expected someone to jump out at him. Caprica drew close to him, laying a hand upon his chest.

"The truth--" he said, and then flinched. She felt his chest hitch beneath her hand. Then his voice dropped very low, as though he was afraid to speak the words aloud. "The truth. The honest truth, the only truth is that I hated life on Caprica... but I didn't even know it. Turns out it's life with Caprica that I love, and I only had to trade twenty billion souls for it." He paused, glancing around again.

Caprica swallowed. She thought of her people: millions of Cylons torn apart, lost in conflict, their consensus ruined forever. All because of her.

"I did the same thing... for you," she said.

He laughed. "We're quite the pair, aren't we? I really think we must be mad."

Caprica shook her head. She considered what she knew of love. Helo and Athena were the beginning, an Eight and a human lost together in the rain. Then she thought of Admiral Adama, stepping into a Raptor with an old book in his hand. She thought of Ellen, taking the cup from her husband. From Saul. Taking the burden, then bringing it back again, across a span of two thousand years.

"We're not crazy," Caprica breathed. She reached out her hand. "We're not. This is what love is, Gaius."

He pulled her in. His eyes were very serious. "I hope so," he said. "I really do. Because otherwise, we are both completely and totally insane."

She answered him with a kiss, drawing him close, warming him with her breath. He clutched her hungrily in return, gasping into her mouth.

"We can't do this," she reminded him, after they'd finally parted. "We're supposed to be finding somewhere to hide-- oh, Gaius..."

"Shh," he murmured, pulling her down to the floor. "We can hide behind this big blue box." He kissed her, nipping at her lower lip. "See? We're hidden." Another kiss. "Nobody will ever find us..."

---

When Kara arrived at the hangar deck, it was more hectic than she'd ever seen it. The whole far side was taken up by Heavy Raiders. The knuckledraggers were lashing them to the wall, and in front of them, a huge rank of Centurions were standing at attention. A couple of Twos walked between the rows with paintbrushes, marking each Centurion with a wide red stripe. Further down, the rest of the skinjobs were lined up neatly, listening to an Eight in a pilot's uniform.

"We've come a long way," she was saying. The steel in her voice reminded Kara of Athena. "Four years ago, we left our Colony to strike against the humans, never realizing the terrible mistake we were making. Now we've come home again, to fight against our own brothers. It's gonna be hard, I know, but we can't stop now. We have to do this. We have to prove that we're worthy of survival. We have to prove that we belong here, beside our human friends. Any questions?"

Kara watched as the Cylons stood there, in perfect silence. Not one of them raised a hand.

"We've promised to fight for you," said a voice from behind, "but we could use some more weapons." Kara turned to see Sonja standing there.

"Follow me," Kara said. She headed for the center of the hangar, where weapons crates had been stacked. The Marines had set up a distribution center, and were handing out rifles at the head of a long line of civilians. Kara spotted Playa Palacios near the front of the line, along with one of the cooks from the galley and a couple of Baltar's crazies.

"Looks like it's Free Gun day at the stadium. Guess you'd better get in line," she told Sonja. Sonja gave her a cold look. Starbuck grinned in return. "Just between you and me, I bet they'll let you cut!" Sonja snorted, smiled back, and began to push her way to the front of the line.

Starbuck turned, glancing around. There were people everywhere, and that made it a little hard to see, but a milling crowd of Marines and civilians had gathered around...

"Lee!" she cried, dashing ahead. "Hey, Lee!"

He was standing on a crate in his suit, looking down on his impromptu army. When she called, he turned and hopped down to greet her.

"Kara!" he cried, grabbing her up in his arms. "Oh, Gods, Kara, I wasn't sure whether you made it."

"I'm OK," she gasped, hugging him tighter. "I'm here." She grinned. "Tigh just put me in charge. Are we ready to fight, Major Adama?"

"We're going to be," he said. "As soon as I get out of this suit and into some BDUs. We're taking everyone who can hold a gun. I've got the Marines emptying the weapons lockers now; we should be able to field a pretty good force. With the Centurions along, we can even go on the offensive... I'm not sure what our objective should be, though."

"Same as it always is," Starbuck said. "Fight them 'til we can't."

---

Cavil spit out his broken tooth, wiping his mouth on the back of his sleeve. "Help me get the guns back online," he growled. "They hurt our Colony. Our home. We'll make 'em pay for this!"

Doral helped Simon back to his feet, and then the two of them staggered back to the datafont. They put their hands in, gingerly, as though they were expecting another blow. Inside the water, the flow of red glyphs jinked and jittered, as the Hybrid struggled to right itself.

"They're jumping! Dammit, help me!" Cavil cried. Doral managed to get one last missile to launch; it sailed into one of the ships and blew it to bits, just as the others vanished.

"Frak! We lost 'em! We just lost 'em!" Cavil slammed his hand down on the edge of the datafont, snarling with rage.

"Patience, brother," Simon said. "We destroyed twenty-one ships, nearly half their fleet. That's a significant success, one which may have been enough to cripple their ability to reproduce. And if not, the Basestars may be able to find them again."

"Wait a second," Doral said. "One of their ships didn't jump." He checked the datastream. "Correction: the Galactica didn't jump! It's-- it's headed this way at ramming speed!"

"What? They're tryin' to board us? Are they insane? We'll rip 'em to pieces!"

"They're desperate," Simon said. "And desperation breeds foolishness. They think they can hold us off, but they've just made a grave error. Think about it, brother: they know where the other ships have jumped to."

A slow smile spread across Cavil's face. "Oh. Yeah, they do, don't they? And they're bringing the coordinates right to our doorstep. Wonderful."

"We've got a problem," Doral interrupted. "The engines are still firing at full, and I can't shut them off. Something's the matter with the Hybrid's control..."

Cavil's eyes narrowed. "Nobody cares about the stupid engines, Five," he growled. "We'll deal with that later. Get the Centurions ready -- we'll kill every last human aboard that ship. We don't even need to take them alive: we can get the jump information out of their computer."

"And then we can finish this," Simon said. "The war will finally, finally be over."

---

Kara and Lee crouched in the hangar bay, clutching a thick nylon tie-down someone had fastened to the floor. All around them, their volunteers were doing the same. At the forefront, the Centurions knelt like runners at the starting block, with their claws dug deep into the metal.

Silence reigned. Everyone was waiting for the signal. Kara shut her eyes, trying to concentrate, but something was getting in the way.

"Lee?" she asked.

"Yeah?"

"Before we go, I have something to tell you." She paused. "I'm already dead."

He smirked. "Sure. Every time you go into battle, right? I know."

"No, I mean dead dead. Dead as in, I never came back from that storm. Dead as in, I burnt my own frakkin' body on Earth. Dead as in Charon didn't want me, and now everybody's bound to die because I jumped us here. I'm the harbinger of death, Lee. This is all my fault."

"Wait, wait. You burned your own body on Earth?"

"Yeah. Leoben and I found it, Lee. It had my dog-tags and everything. Look." She drew the tags out of her tanks, and laid them in the center of Lee's palm. They were still charred, marked by their ordeal. Sam's ring clinked against them.

"And I just... I couldn't tell you. I couldn't tell anyone. So I burned it."

"Wow. That's..."

"I don't even know what I am anymore," she went on. "Am I a Cylon? A demon? Some kind of monster?" She bowed her head.

Lee closed his hand around the tags and put his arm around her, keeping their lifeline wound tight around his other hand. "Listen. You're not any of those things, not to me. You're just Kara. I knew you were dead, OK? I saw you go into that storm; I knew you could never have survived it. And coming back with a brand new Viper? No way." He squeezed her shoulder. "Don't you get it? I don't care how you came back, or why you came back. I'm just glad you did."

"Even though I killed everyone?" she asked. "Even though I led everyone here?"

"You saved everyone, Kara. I saw those Basestars from the window of Colonial One; there's no way we could have survived them. We were doomed. But we escaped, thanks to you."

"But the fleet. Half the frakkin' fleet..."

For a long time, Lee said nothing. Then he rummaged in his pants pocket, and brought out a little slip of yellow paper. "Here," he told her. "Take this."

"What is this, Lee?" She turned it over. Written on the other side were the words Olympic Carrier.

"Roslin gave it to me, a long time ago. It's a token. It means... 'to remember and learn from your mistakes'. And now I'm giving it to you."

Kara shook her head. "This is more than a mistake, Lee. We're talking about the destruction of the entire human race!"

"Not yet," Lee said, with a wry smile. "We're alive, Kara. We're alive, and we're still together, and we've got one last chance to roll the hard six. So let's just do it, OK? Let it go. I know it's hard, but you have to just... just let it go. Or it'll eat you alive, Kara." He turned away. "Trust me, I know."

"Yeah," she said quietly, slipping the paper into the hip pocket of her BDU pants. She closed the button over it carefully, smoothing her hand over the fabric of the flap. Then she ran her hand up to her sidearm, letting it rest there. "Yeah, OK." She grinned. "I bet I get more Centurions than you!"

Lee chuckled. "I'm not taking that bet. You'll just--"

Ten seconds. All hands, brace for impact, came his father's voice over the intercom.

Kara dropped to a crouch. She wrapped her fingers around the red stripe in the middle of her tie-down, turned toward the distant hangar bay doors, and started counting down the seconds until she'd have something to kill.

---

Athena, Helo, and Hera crouched together, forgotten, in the crumpled hallway by Baltar's compartment. After the first missile had hit, they and Hera had gotten stuck there; now Athena trembled with fear.

I have to protect her, she told herself, clutching her baby. We have to get back to our quarters. But the last attacks had turned the lower decks into a twisted, jagged mess, and they couldn't find their way out.

Now it was too late.

"Hey, I think I hear somebody!" Helo cried. He pressed his ear to the wall. "Damn, I can't make it out. Do you hear that?" He banged on the wall with his fist. "Hey! Hey! Hello! Can you hear me?"

Athena frowned. She tugged Helo back, and then passed Hera to him. She buried her face in her father's shoulder, her tiny hand curling around his.

"Let me try," Athena said. "My ears are better than yours. Let's see, I think it says..."

Two. One. All hands, brace for immediate impact!

She only had time to scream, and then the world broke open.

---

The Galactica struck the Colony with terrific force, cracking the station's outer hull like an eggshell. Nearly the entire stern burst through, sliding into the Cylon hangar with an earsplitting metallic squeal. Instantly, the outer shell began to close around the foreign ship, isolating the intruder in much the same way white blood cells surround a splinter. The air stopped venting with a hiss, as the pulsing, throbbing membrane began to solidify.

Inside, Kara, Lee, and their hand-picked squad of Marines were already charging up the launch tube. The striped Centurions jogged effortlessly alongside, pacing themselves according to their human companions' speed.

"Is the air any good out there?" Lee asked, when they reached the hangar doors.

"I'm checking it now, sir," said a Marine. He examined the panel by the door. "All clear. Just like the skinjobs said, the air is fine out there."

"All right. Open the hangar doors. The plan's still the same: attract their attention, then retreat. We're going to lure them into the open bay, surround them, and take 'em down."

"Yes, sir," the Marine said. He readied his gun, pointed it at the door, then reached across it to thump the door release.

The warning klaxons sounded, and the door began to slide open. Kara frowned. She hadn't thought of that -- so much for the element of surprise. She gripped her rifle. "Here we go," she cried. "Three! Two! One!"

She rushed through the door, hooking left to cover the flank. Before her was the Colony, a blur of dark, oily metal and red-tinged light. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Lee matching her movements on the other side of the door. Then the Marines emerged, guns blazing.

Kara glanced over her shoulder, checking their opposition, and then stopped dead. An entire army of Centurions were sprinting towards them, their feet ringing against the floor. She'd never seen so many at once; there had to be hundreds at least.

We can't hold 'em, she thought. They'll rip through our ambush like tissue paper.

"Frak!" she shouted. "They're too many! Abort! Fall back! Fall back!"

The Marines were still firing, trying to set up an orderly retreat. The Centurions were getting closer -- Kara could see their eyes as they moved back and forth in their visors. She heard a sudden sliding sound, like the clatter of a hundred thousand knives.

The Centurions had unsheathed their claws.

"Run!" Kara bawled. She turned and fled, with Lee just behind her. At their backs, the Marines were still firing; one of them dropped with a cry as the first of the Centurions struck out with its claws.

At that same moment, the striped Centurions burst from the door and met the enemy with a mighty crash. They drove the lead attackers back three or four meters, lifting them off their feet with the sheer force of their assault. It gave Kara and Lee just the distraction they needed to get the Marines back inside. To their credit, the Marines began a classic fighting retreat, covering each other as they moved back. Two of them dragged their fallen comrade behind them.

"Come on, move!" Lee yelled. "We have to get everybody out of the bay now. Run!"

Kara took one last glance at the door as she moved back, aghast at the sight of the Centurions' vicious battle. It was brutal -- two of the red stripes ripped the arms off of one of their enemies, only to be swarmed by five more, dragged to the floor, and shredded. Beyond them, she saw a group of the old, clunky, First-War models march into the fray. They fired their rifles into the crowd, wounding striped and silver Centurions alike. Then one of the painted Centurions wiped out the whole squad with a flying tackle. They sprawled where they'd fallen, twitching brokenly. Kara turned away.

Half a minute later, Kara's group emerged from the launch tube at a full run. Inside, the civilians and skinjobs were arrayed in a classic V-formation kill-zone, tucked behind crates for cover. She saw Sonja leaning forward, ready to signal the attack.

It would have worked, too, Kara thought, but there's just too many Centurions. They'll rip us apart if we stay in the open.

"Retreat!" Kara yelled. "Everybody move back to the corridors!"

"Don't panic!" Lee added. "Stay with your leaders!"

Somehow, their troops did not break. Lee and Kara took roughly half of them down the port corridor, and the other half followed Sonja to starboard. In moments, not a single human could be seen in the hangar bay... but something was moving.

Along the walls, the second rank of striped Centurions activated their gun-arms and crouched low, ready to ambush the enemy.

"Come on, come on!" Kara said, as her group burst out into the open junction at the end of the corridor. "Help me push these crates! We gotta set up a choke point."

Lee nodded, turning to their volunteers. "You and you, cover us. The rest of you, help us. Push everything you can find into the corridor! Anything big!"

As they worked, the sounds of desperate battle rang out at the end of the hall.

---

Boomer and the others were halfway up the corridor when the lights went out. For a moment, only the red stripe along the wall remained, and even it stuttered strangely back and forth.

"Whoa," Cavil said, drawing close to his siblings. That strange feeling of deja vu was still with him, shivering up his spine. It was making him skittish. "What the frak--"

A minute later, the lights came back on. At the same time, a high, whistling sound filled the corridor.

"Huh, a breeze," Cavil muttered. "Don't think the Hybrid ever did that before. Did somebody tell her about the Colonies or something?"

"I'm not sure she's the one doing it," Simon said. He paused for a second, and then added, "I think we'd better go."

"Good idea. I don't like it," said Doral. "Reminds me of New Caprica."

"Let's go this way," Cavil said. They turned down another corridor. Five minutes later, there was a loud, sharp bang from somewhere behind them. The breeze became a wind, and then a gale.

"Run for it!" Doral cried. The wind caught his suit jacket, dragging him back with every step. He lowered his head, gritted his teeth, and pressed on, hugging it close to him.

Beside him, Cavil's hat whipped off his head and flew down the corridor, bouncing once or twice. He struggled with his coat. "Dammit, get off me!" he growled. He finally got it off -- it soared down the hall like a bat, flapped against the corner for an instant, and then slipped away.

They turned another corner, fighting their way along the wall. There were contours there, places that worked as hand-holds, and the Cylons were able to pull themselves along.

"Just a little farther!" Simon said. "There's an airlock here."

Boomer looked up from the wall, down toward the open door where the others were clinging. She'd fallen a little behind; all the activity had started her head bleeding again. It throbbed along with the beat of her heart.

"C'mon, Eight!" Cavil cried. He started to go back for her, pushing past his brothers. The light on the wall slid by, splashing red light against his skin.

Suddenly, another distant explosion sounded. Half a second later, Boomer was ripped from the wall. She tore at the floor with her fingers, desperate for purchase, but there was nothing to hang onto. One of her nails broke, and then another. She slid, helplessly, back toward the halls they'd come down.

Toward open space.

"Eight!" Cavil yelled. He reached for her, acting on instinct, and then just as quickly turned back, scrabbling against the wall as he started to slide. Boomer disappeared around the corner, with one final, terrified cry.

At the last second, Doral reached out, grabbed the back of Cavil's shirt, and slammed him into the wall, pinning him there.

"Don't let go!" Simon cried. He hooked his elbow over the airlock's handle and reached out to Doral, fingers straining.

Doral dragged Cavil forward along the wall. They reached one contour, and then another, as Doral slowly inched forward. Finally, he managed to stretch out and catch Simon's hand.

The brothers formed a fragile chain, pulling each other forward. At last, Doral and Cavil reached the airlock, sweating and trembling with effort.

Simon twisted his elbow, turning the handle. The door closed much like a heart valve, each living surface slurping toward the next.

Mercifully, the wind stopped.

"Holy frak," Cavil said. "I... I can't believe we made it." He sat down against the wall, breathing hard.

"That was close," Simon acknowledged.

Doral looked down, and then frowned at the way one of his lapels hung askew. "Damn, I ripped my jacket!"

Cavil put his head in his hands. "Eight..."

"I'm sorry," Simon said, kneeling down beside him. "It couldn't be helped."

Doral shrugged. "She might still be alive," he said helpfully. "I got airlocked once, and I lived for a while."

"Yeah? How long?"

"Thirty five point three seconds."

"Oh, yeah, like that helps. Shut up, Aaron."

"We have to press on," Simon said. He looked up the corridor, but it was the same as the last one: dark steel walls lit only by the Colony's ever-present eye. "We need to find the others, and find out what's happened."

"We're broken, Four. Did you forget that the others hate our guts now?"

Simon frowned. "Then we'll have to find someone else. Someone who can help us stop this once and for all."

For a moment, everyone was silent.

"Please tell me you don't mean Sam Anders," Cavil sighed.

"Can you think of anyone else?"

---

By the time the sounds of battle faded in the hangar bay, Kara's fighters had turned the hallway into a nasty choke point. Kara and Lee were crouched behind a couple of barrels a few yards in front of the end of the corridor. All around them, Marines and civilians lay in wait. They'd pushed a couple of thick, heavy crates across the exit, hoping to keep the Centurions out of melee range.

Kara peered down the corridor, catching a glint of red light way down at the end.

"Here they come," she said. "Get ready. Wait 'til they're halfway down the hall, and then hit 'em with everything you've got!"

Beside her, Lee brought out a grenade. "This should help," he said. Then he grinned. "I promise to pull the pin this time."

"Shut up," she grumbled good-naturedly. Then she looked up the hallway again. Where one glint of red light had been, now there were twenty. "Frak, incoming!"

Kara leaned around the edge of the barrel, sighted her rifle about a foot below the lead Centurion's burning eye, and squeezed the trigger.

Her shots ricocheted off the Centurion's armor with a high, whining sound. She raised her sights a little bit and fired another burst at its eye. All around her, the others were beginning to fire; she wasn't quite sure if its eye went out because of her or not. She sighted another one.

"They're coming!" someone cried. "We can't hold 'em!"

"Don't give up!" Lee shouted. "We can drive them back. Keep firing!" He dashed up to the wall beside the exit, hefted his grenade, and pulled the pin. Kara counted three seconds before he leaned out and let it fly.

It arced over the barricade, bounced off the floor, and exploded just inches from the lead Centurions, sending them crashing into the walls. The sound of whirring, clicking servos filled the air.

"Fire!" Kara yelled. "Drive them all the way back!"

A human army, seeing its vanguard demolished, would certainly have broken. The Centurions did not. They merely sprinted into the fray over the broken bodies of their fellows, crunching them beneath their iron feet.

"Oh, frak," Kara muttered. She redoubled her fire, taking two more Centurions down. Three more replaced them. She reloaded. "Frak, frak, frak!"

Lee rejoined her. "They're still coming. They're too close for another grenade!"

"Keep shooting!" Kara ordered. She could see the enemy clearly, now. The first rank of Centurions came to a halt, brandishing their gun-arms. The civilians in front saw them, panicked, and began to break.

"No!" Kara cried. "Keep firing!"

It was too late. The front rank scrambled past her and fled, just as two of the Centurions dashed forward and hit the barricade with a mighty shoulder-check. The crates blew forward into their ambush, scattering civilians like bowling pins.

Kara screamed. The Centurions in back opened up with their guns; one of the barrels beside her burst apart, as did the Marine hiding behind it. Lee grabbed her arm and pulled her back, into the next hallway.

"Retreat!" he yelled. "Pull back!"

Kara glanced back as she ran up the corridor. Most of the Marines had pulled out, along with the more competent civilians. The others...

She shut her eyes, and tried not to hear their screams. The Centurions weren't wasting their ammunition. They were tearing the humans apart with their claws.

Kara and the others dashed up the corridor, abandoning all pretense of order. They rounded a corner, then another. "Keep going!" Lee cried. "We gotta find someplace to hold them off!"

The corridor opened up, branching off into smaller hallways which led to different decks. Some of the civilians peeled off, no doubt hoping they could lose the Centurions, but the rest stayed with the group.

"Lee! Over here!" someone called.

Kara turned and stared. Admiral Adama was waving at them from a pile of crates much like the ones they'd just left. Col. Tigh was by his side. Beyond them was Life Station; the wounded and dying had been laid out up and down the hall.

"Dad!" Lee cried. He ran forward, embracing his father in a rare hug.

"Good to see you again, son," Adama said, slapping him on the back.

"We couldn't stop them, Dad. I tried, but..."

"You bought us time, Lee. If it weren't for you, they'd already have torn the ship apart." He smiled. "I'm proud of you, son."

Lee glanced away, but Kara noticed he stood a little taller.

"I hate to interrupt this father-son moment," she said, "but the Centurions are right on our heels."

"We'll make our stand here," Adama said. "I won't abandon the wounded. Besides..."

"Dad?" Lee asked.

"Laura's in there. She's dying, and I'll be damned if I let those toasters touch her."

"I'm sorry, sir," Kara said.

"Now's not the time for sorry," Tigh growled. "Just get ready to fight. We'll push 'em back if it costs every last one of us!"

Kara rounded on him. "With all due respect, sir, what the frak is your problem?"

"Ellen's in there, too," he said, as if that explained everything. "I lost her twice already, and I'm sure as hell not gonna make it three."

Kara met his eye. She thought of the weeks after New Caprica, when the two of them had lashed out at everyone, blinded by their own pain.

"Fair enough," she said. Then she glanced around at the Marines crowding the barricade.

"Hey, has anybody got any explosive rounds?"

---

Athena regained consciousness bit by bit. For a moment she thought she was asleep in her rack, and that the heavy, steady pressure upon her chest was Helo. Then the memory rushed in. She panicked, struggling against the debris which covered her. It shifted with a noisy screech, and she wriggled free, coughing as dust tickled her nose.

She looked around, wiping her face on her sleeve. The whole hallway had folded in on itself; it was dark, cramped, and half-full of crumpled, twisted metal. Around her, nothing moved.

"Helo?" She called. "Oh, God, Helo? Hera!"

There was no answer. She choked back a sob.

I can't live without them, she prayed. God, you know I can't. Please... please, help me!

She got down on her hands and knees and began to tear at the debris, throwing jagged pieces of wall paneling to the side. One of them sliced her palm as she tossed it aside. She jerked her hand back with a cry, smearing blood all over her tanks, and then shook her head and returned to the job.

"Helo!" she cried. "Hera?"

"Mama!" came a tiny, terrified cry behind her.

She whirled. The sound was coming from a pile of wreckage against the wall. She attacked it, snarling, hurling huge chunks of debris out of the way. Then she hit a big one. Almost the entire wall had fallen down, folding in on itself.

Her programming told her that the slab of steel was too heavy for one Cylon to move, but her heart didn't care. She crouched, got her hands under it, and heaved upward, muscles bulging. The metal gave an inch or two. She redoubled her efforts, groaning with the strain.

"Mamaaa!" Hera cried.

Athena lifted, chanting inwardly: I have to save my baby. I have to save my baby. I have to save my baby!"

The metal gave again, tearing free of the pile. With a roar of triumph, Athena flipped it over and back, out of the way.

Then she froze. Beneath it was Helo. He lay on his chest, his legs half-curled against his body. He was utterly motionless, still and silent in his blue uniform. Hera was nestled in his arms, cradled beneath him as though he'd moved to shield her with his body.

Athena sobbed. "No, no. Not you, Helo... please don't be dead."

But he was. She tried for a pulse, but his death was all too obvious; she could see where part of the metal slab had pierced his back, leaving a deep puncture which was black with blood.

She looked away from it. Then she reached down, took her husband's hand, and pressed it to her lips.

"I love you, Helo," she told him, choking back the tears. "Forever. Thank you... for our baby." She eased his body to the side, and then scooped Hera up in her arms. Hera wrapped her arms around Athena's neck and sobbed, half with sorrow, half with joy.

"It's OK, baby," she whispered, nuzzling her daughter's hair. "It's OK, it's OK. We'll see Daddy again someday. God will keep him safe for us."

When Hera's crying finally stopped, Athena stood, lifting her up.

"We have to find some way out of here," she said. "You ready, baby?"

Hera nodded.

"Say goodbye to Daddy."

"...bye bye, Daddy."

With that, Athena turned and began to pick her way through the debris, with her daughter on her hip.

---


Next time: Cavil gets his comeuppance. Boomer and Galen meet again. And the fighting continues...


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