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12 November 2009 @ 10:10 am
The Thread of Ariadne, Ch. 14  
Chapter Fourteen






"Viper squadron inbound," Thea reported quietly. "They're coming for us."

The Raiders moved to protect their bigger cousin, forming a screen and drawing the Vipers from their tail.

But as the Vipers fired at the Raiders, Sam felt each of them die, like little blades slipping between his ribs. Then one in particular darted directly into the path of a Viper tracer round headed for the Heavy Raider, and the Raider exploded.

"No!" he gasped. He couldn't breathe, as the mental connection burned away. And suddenly, he felt focused again and present, back in his body, except he didn't want to be, because the loss hurt. His Raider, the one who had saved him and comforted him and played with him, was gone.

Leoben put a hand on his shoulder. "They will all resurrect, Sam. The baseship already began the process at the instant of death."

"Will it... will it still know me?" he asked softly. "After?"

"Yes. And its knowledge of you, its... affection will spread with its resurrection," Leoben comforted him. "You'll see it again."

Thea said, in a very surprised voice, "The Raiders are gone, but the Vipers are keeping their distance. They're following us, but not one of them is locking weapons."

"They know Sam's aboard," Leoben guessed.

"It doesn't matter," Sam murmured. For a moment, he was clear-headed enough to wonder whether Kara was one of the pilots, but the tone filled his head again, and the thought slipped away. "I have to go there."

"We won't let them stop you," Leoben promised and moved to the back to wake the Centurions. Sam wanted to protest, but the words wouldn't come. He had to find it.

Thea grabbed the controls away from Sam as the Heavy Raider burned at a high rate of speed through the atmosphere and trembled violently. She forced the ship to slow down. The ship emerged into the smoother air of the atmosphere and cruised high above across the planet's surface.

"Here. It's here." Sam lunged across to the controls, pushing the stick down and sending the ship into a dive.

"Sam!" Thea shoved him away with one hand and tried to pull up. The engine screamed against the pull of gravity and their momentum, unable to stop their descent, and they slammed into the ground. He was thrown forward in his harness and he heard the Centurions shift with a metallic clatter. Leoben hit the back of Sam's seat with a thud.

"Sam! What the hell were you doing?" Thea cradled her stomach with her hand, panting.

Panic overlaid the music for a moment, thinking his stunt might have injured her or the baby. "Sorry, God, I'm sorry," he murmured, contrite, and put a hand over hers. "Are you all right?"

She nodded, still looking shaken by the near-crash. "We're okay."

"Leoben?" Sam turned to find the other Cylon was picking himself up with the help of one of the Centurions.

"I'm not hurt, but I"m in no hurry to do it again," Leoben said dryly. "The ship is too badly damaged to fly. We'll have to go the rest of the way on foot."

Sam nodded. "It's that way, not far," he pointed, having no idea what he was pointing at from inside the ship, but he still heard the tone that pulled him on. Thea unfastened her seat belt and stood up. "Maybe you should stay here?" he asked, now worried for her. "It'll be safer."

She shook her head, smiling now. "Maybe. Except you'll walk right off a cliff without someone to watch over you. Let's find this thing."

"Centurions first," Leoben ordered and opened the back hatch.

* * *

Kara flew as slowly as she could above where the Heavy Raider had gone down, on the reverse side of the ridge from Apollo's defenses. This side was all sheer rock and steep slopes, not the more gentle approach toward the entrance on the opposite side.

"Never could land worth a damn," she muttered after seeing it plummet like a frakking rock. But it didn't appear to be too damaged, and she made another pass hoping she'd see him leave the craft.

But the first thing she saw were Centurions. Lots and lots of Centurions.

She reported into the wireless. "Apollo, Starbuck. Eyeballing a twelve-pack of tin cans stuffing the Turkey. At least." Then she glimpsed very pale colored hair behind all the shiny chrome. "And a Model Six, probably their boss."

"And our target, Starbuck?"

"Negative, Apollo. No joy on the Turkey."

'No joy.' Never had that seemed more appropriate. She had to swallow back her disappointment. But the wireless cut in with another transmission to distract her. "All Vipers, Galactica. Return ASAP. Three more bogeys inbound."

Frak. Three more baseships. She was tempted to put a rocket into the Heavy Raider, just because she was pissed at Sharon's lie, but her finger held back from pressing the trigger until she was out of position. She hit the afterburners to climb back into space, she saw the glint of the metal Centurions far below.

They'd been suckered, but now it was Lee's turn to deal with them.

* * *

The Centurions led the way, helping to find a path and following Sam's minimal directions.

Sam recognized the place from his visions - the pale, low plants, the weird brightness of the sun, the shape of the mountains. And he knew where to go.

He was about to send the Centurions on ahead, when he reconsidered. "All of you, go around that way. That's where they are. I need you to distract and hold their attention as long as possible," he ordered. Then realizing he was sending in Centurions against Fleet personnel, he swallowed and added, "Don't kill any of them. Just keep them pinned down. Go."

Thea confirmed his order to them, and they trotted away around the western slope. Sam watched them go, praying he hadn't done something terrible. "That is well-meant," Leoben murmured, "but they won't hold the humans for long."

"I don't need long. Just long enough," he answered and took the lead. He helped Thea once or twice on the steepest parts, and soon they stood at the base of a blank rock face, easily fifty meters high.

"Where now?" Thea asked, wiping away the sweat from her face and catching her breath.

"We go inside."

Although it seemed that the entire rock face was humming, there was still a bit of a pull to the right, so he moved that way, searching with his eyes, knowing it was close. At the edge of the small platform where they stood was a narrow vertical crevice, which looked barely wide enough for a dog. The tone was emanating from there.

Without hesitation Sam wriggled his way inside. It was a tight fit, but he was able to push his way through to where the crack widened out into a passage, tall enough he didn't have to duck his head. Once the sunlight from outside was blocked, the passage was dark, but he continued forward, hands trailing the walls to either side.

"You know where you're going?" Leoben murmured.

"If I don't, we're all frakked aren't we?" he returned and kept walking. But he had no doubt. He'd found the way inside. The passage remained a single tunnel leading deep into the mountain, without no connecting passages, and the walls were smooth. It was not a natural tunnel.

When he pushed the stone at the end of the passageway and it moved as if it had been waiting for him, he wasn't really surprised.

When he stepped through, the music stopped. For the first time in weeks, he heard nothing.

He paused and for a moment, closed his eyes to listen to the silence.

Then he looked around. The whole place was lit by just a few electric lights, casting most of it into faded but still obvious grandeur.

The Temple looked exactly as he had seen it in other visions, which made it seem more like a vision than reality. There was a massive central column reaching up toward the barely visible roof, and shorter ones, too, shaped like pentagonal prisms. The stone was smooth and mostly bare of decoration, and felt unfinished, as if the builders had been interrupted. The main pillar was carved with writing, in an old script he couldn't read.

"The Temple of Five," Thea breathed.

Sam stared around. Though he remembered the Scrolls had called it that, he shook his head and murmured, "No. It's true name is the Temple of Hopes."

Leoben looked at him, in surprise. "Temple of Hopes? I've never heard of that before."

Before Sam could speak, Thea exclaimed in alarm, "Oh, no! They've set explosives." She hurried to the nearest column where there was a big block of what looked like G-4 explosive and a bunch of wires. She ripped out the detonator and threw it on the floor. "Help me!" she said, moving to the next one. "Sam, Leoben, hurry. We don't know how much time we have."

Leoben started to tear out the detonators as well, but Sam walked instead over to the shortest of the central pillars.

He reached out, spreading his hand on the pentagonal surface. The stone felt warm under his hand. The faint scent of sickly sweet incense touched his nose, and he shuddered. His gaze snapped to the large painted circles on the floor. They seemed to move, to swirl... he blinked, trying to clear his vision.

The dim interior changed, as the light turned reddish from the light of lanterns, becoming the same place, but a different time...

They force him to lie flat on the floor. More people come in slowly, until there are people all around; he can feel them even though he can't see them. He can hear their breathing filling the space. There is something anticipatory about the silence, and it fills him with dread.

They gave him some kind of drug, to make him hazy and weak. He stares upward at the ceiling and it seems impossibly far away. His limbs are leaden and refuse to move more than a twitch.

He knows what this is. He's seen it before, smelled this incense before, when he was fighting this horror. His people suffered this, and yet here it is, evil resurrected.

The stone is hard, but smooth beneath his bare back. "We will pray," says the voice of the man who's going to kill him. He shows Sam the knife - a ritual sacrifice blade from Kobol, marked with the glyphs of the cult of Hades. Those knives had been banned from the ship and there shouldn't be one here. The priest of the lord of the dead has fervent eyes, as bright as the steel blade of his knife. "The memory transfer and the growing chambers are being destroyed, right now," he tells Sam in spiteful pleasure. "The blasphemy of resurrection has been burned away. The other four heretics are dead, and you -- your blood will flow to purify this temple, and you will die so the gods know we repent. They will listen and guide us from the wilderness."

"No. We fought... for freedom," Sam protests. His mouth moves strangely as though his tongue has turned to stone.

The priest's face contorts in rage and he backhands Sam across the face. "We were banished! Because of you!"

"No..." Sam whispers, but they don't hear.

The chant to Hades begins, and he wants to shout at them that they are Psi-Lon -- they believe in science, not this abomination.

He tries to speak. "No. We stopped Death," he protests again. "We wanted immortality. Why is eternity only for the gods?"

But the words don't leave his lips, because there's a hand over his mouth keeping him silent. He looks up into pitiless, vengeful eyes - eyes that have lost all hope -- and he looks at a man willing to betray all that they are and return to what they abhor, for what scraps the gods might throw their way.

Hands hold his arms out to either side of his body and he feels the bite of the blade on his left. The knife is sharp enough there's little pain at first, but then it hits, shooting up his arm. He tries to pull away, but the grip is too strong. The knife slices his other inner arm and wrist, and Sam cries out, beneath the hand over his mouth, but no one can hear him above the chanting of the watchers.

His people learned well from the humans: the thought is bitter and angry.

The priest watches the blood flow from the wounds. Sam has the moment's hope that it's done, and they intend to watch him bleed to death. But that's not enough for the priest, who lifts the knife again. Sam tenses as the priest sets the knife in the middle of his sternum and carves the glyph of the Lord of Death into Sam's skin. Each cut is down to the bone, and he would scream, but the drug has stolen his voice and his strength, and all he can do is endure through the agony. Time crawls forward, endless. He feels the blood creeping in rivulets down his sides and pooling around his body. His heart beats more quickly, frantic but futile, spilling more blood onto the floor.

His gaze lifts to the symbol he placed on the central pillar. He dreamed of those circles, and he still wants to believe it means something hopeful for his people. But that same symbol is underneath him, and it's covered in his own blood. If it's still a sign of hope, it's not for him.

His mind floats and the pain fades as shock sets in. It's a familiar feeling, since he's transferred twice before, but if resurrection is barred, he doesn't know what happens next.


The hellish light turned yellow again, and the crowd was gone. Sam drew a panting breath, and his hand grabbed the pedestal as his legs trembled.

"I died here," he whispered.

"Sam?" Thea asked in confusion.

He stared at the circles on the floor and repeated, in a voice like dust, "I died here."

Not just him, but all five leaders of the rebellion on Kobol died here, in agony, sacrificed to appease desperate people and an angry god. His mind whirled with the vision, memories hard as stones as they struck.

... blood stark against the light stone, flowing over the edge of the low dais...

He blinked the vision away.

The Hybrid had said he would be reborn here. That meant there had to be more. But surely none of it could be as terrible as remembering himself tortured and sacrificed.

His whole body was shaking, but he forced himself away from the pedestal, staggering for the first few steps.

"No," Thea rushed up to him and held on to his arm. "We need to go. The humans are going to come here any minute."

"I have to do this. I have to be the one who sees," he insisted.

His gaze caught Leoben's, who was staring at him with the transported expression of a revelation.

But Sam didn't care that Leoben knew something. His eyes fell away from the other Cylon and went back to the circles on the floor.

He remembered the vision of standing there and the floor falling out from under him. He remembered "Kara" warning him that he might go mad with the truth. He only had part of it, and already wanted to curl up in the corner and clutch at his head. Maybe madness would be a relief.

"No, don't. Sam, don't do this," Thea said, fear in her voice and every line of her body, clutching at him desperately. But nothing could hold him back now, not when he knew the answers were there.

He didn't even look at her as he pushed her off. Terror tightened his chest so much he thought his heart might burst, but he forced himself forward, toward that mandala on the floor.

On the outer edge of the circles, the Temple brightened. At first he thought he was seeing another vision or projection, but glancing up, he saw that the dome was opening, letting in brilliant sunlight which was shining on him like a spotlight.

Then he drew a deep breath and he stepped into the place where he had died more than three thousand years before...

And he saw.

Circles and lives and death and war... images one after another. Flashes of different times and places, some still to come, some long ago, but all him.

His own time on the wheel of fate. His own lives.

...

Earth. He stands on the beach and looks across the water at the gleaming towers of the city. He has his guitar in his hands, but he's not playing it.

"And so it goes around again," she whispers behind him, and her hands caress his shoulders. "You lost your chance to come home to me."

There's a high-pitched scream of something falling very fast from the sky.

...

... A yellow flower falls into the stream of blood falling from the sacrifice on the table. Then more blood joins it, as he and his followers start firing their weapons at the priests lining the edge of the platform. The rage is a white-hot fire inside and he screams his frustration and hate, "No more!"...

...

He turns around in the middle of the cavern and exchanges a glance with Galen. "Here. We will build it here and pray."

"If the gods listen to us," Galen murmurs for Sam's ears alone.

Sam answers, "Haven't we been punished enough? We're lost, alone, and we can't go back to Kobol. Our people are losing hope. Surely the gods will grant us mercy. We're still their children."

"But what will they want in return?" Galen asks, and Sam knows he's right. The gods give nothing for free. Will they demand a forfeit? A sacrifice?

...

... a storm on a gas giant, a swirling hurricane the size of Caprica. He's piloting a Viper inside it and he knows this is the end. He has no choice. He has to open the way home...

....

Standing before a kind of Centurion, he puts out a hand, palm upward, curious about what the Centurion will do. At first it does nothing, sensors sweeping around the room, then slowly it reaches out with one hand. The hand rests lightly atop Sam's and the fingers curl around his hand, and it speaks: "Father."

Sam smiles with pride and excitement, knowing he's given the machines the gift of sentience at last. These soldiers will now have free will, to become the people he believes they were meant to be...

...

Standing with the other four in the room as Tory and Galen try frantically to open the door. Ellen screams at the camera carrying their image to someone else on the ship: "John! John, no! Don't do this!"

The rushing wind of the air being sucked from the room yanks at Sam's ears and his lungs start to burn. He falls to his knees and his last conscious thought is that they've failed...

...

... on his knees, he faces the bulkhead, feeling the gun barrel against his head. "Do it!" he orders someone unseen behind him and his voice rises to a desperate shout, "Kill me! You have to do it now. DO IT!"


...

... running alone through the tumbled ruins of what were once beautiful buildings, he knows the ground troops are closing in and he darts, searching frantically for a way out. But there isn't one; the bombings have left only shattered columns and piles of rubble, and nowhere to hide. He stumbles to a stop, realizing the partial façade before him is the Opera House.

It started here during a showing of a new minimalist version of Kardilis' War of the Gods, a lifetime ago; he'd met Saul during intermission and they shook hands on forming the Psi Alliance, joining their groups together. It was time to announce to the world at large that science was the future and they had found a way to live forever. Nothing had gone to plan, though. Cultists reacted and killed them. Psilons protested when the government did nothing about the violence and then tried to put everyone who was in a new body into walled compounds for 'their own protection.'

Protest became rebellion became civil war, and families tore each other apart.

And now, there's no one here. There are no gardens, no trees, no beauty, no people. Only stone and dust.

"What have I done?" he whispers and stares in dismay. He wants to be angry still. But he sees the skeletons caught under the rubble near his feet, and feels sick. He can't know if they were humans or psilons -- in death, they're the same. He started a war for freedom, and now his people have less than they started with. So much blood and death spent for nothing.

Behind him, the sound of the engine grows closer, nearly overhead, and he whirls and fires at the flying weapons platform in defiance and anguish. They don't waste a single bullet on his defeat. His small arms fire bounces from the armor without effect, until he pulls the trigger and nothing happens.

The speaker from the craft is loud, ordering, "It's over. You're surrounded. Surrender!"

He opens his hand and lets the empty gun fall to the ground, realizing too late he should have saved one of those bullets for himself.

When the troops surround him, he raises his hands and lets them take him.

...

... in the Opera House, standing before the large wooden door with unidentifiable beings of light near him, watching. Waiting.

He reaches out and clasps the knob in his fingers, the draping sleeve of the white robe coming into view.

He turns the knob slowly and pulls the door open. Brilliant light rushes out and fills his vision, and he knows the cycles have come to their end, at last.



* * *

Leoben yanked Sam from the streaming light and staggered into Thea. Together, they eased Sam down, his head pillowed in her lap. She stroked his hair and her glance at Leoben was with a frown. "You know where we are. You know who he must be," she said, but she couldn't quite say the words aloud.

He nodded and said with calm assurance, and yet awe in his light eyes, "He's one of the Final Five."

As if hearing the words broke some invisible chain inside her head, Thea repeated more easily, "The Final Five. He's a Cylon, like us."

Leoben shook his head. "Not like us. Different."

She looked down at Sam's thin face, ravaged by pain and exhaustion. His blue eyes were open but blank, as he stared into a vision only he could see. One of the Final Five. She had always believed he was an oracle, even a prophet, but this was more than she ever dreamed. She put her other hand on her belly and her unborn daughter. "She's not a hybrid," she realized in awe. "This is the first Cylon child."

"She's more of a miracle than we knew," Leoben agreed.

"He knew," she said, looking down at Sam and putting together all the small things he'd done and said, especially his look of resignation and fear when he'd gone to the infected baseship. He'd thought he might die, but he'd gone anyway.

"He's always known," Leoben agreed softly, "But now I think he can't deny it anymore." He glanced toward the entranceway at the sound of movement. "We mustn't tell the humans."

"No, we say nothing," she agreed fervently.

In her lap, Sam blinked and groaned, coming back to himself.

"Sam, wake up," she told him, "we need to get out of here."

When his eyes finally flickered open, she gasped. For just a moment, he was a stranger. There was nothing of Sam Anders there at all, and the look in his eyes was ancient and unfathomable. He was one of the Final Five, and for the first time, she understood that meant something more than a Cylon model like her who went missing years ago.

Then he blinked and it passed. He was Sam again, and she caressed his face, trying to ease away the confusion and pain.






On to Chapter Fifteen: Revealed by the Light of a Dying Star

..
 
 
 
Merry F: kara sam poseivanolix on November 27th, 2009 01:52 am (UTC)
Wow, you weren't kidding about the mythology being different! I think I'm just as overwhelmed as Sam...but it was amazing and I can't believe there are only two chapters left.
lizardbethlizardbeth_j on December 1st, 2009 08:29 pm (UTC)
No, I wasn't kidding. :) It's similar, but shifted into a different configuration. Hopefully one that makes coherent sense, once you see the final picture all the pieces make. I hope. *bites nails* (well YOU will, I'm pretty sure, cuz you think a lot like I do. it's everyone else I'm more worried about *g*)
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