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12 November 2009 @ 02:09 pm
The Thread of Ariadne, Ch. 15  
Chapter Fifteen






Lee was ready to leave this planet, if only the Cylons would let them. Everyone left on the surface was gathered here on this ridge, holding back the small army of Centurions that wanted to get into the temple behind them.

Dee handed him the canteen and he drank, unable to resist a small smile at her. Even covered by dust and sweat, she was still so frakking gorgeous, he could hardly believe it. She turned her head, glaring fiercely toward their enemies as if she was a marine and fired off some shots at a Centurion, which had emerged from cover behind a large boulder. It didn't fall, but she managed to push it back.

He prayed the admiral could send some help before the group ran out of ammo. He took out his last grenade. "Think you could get this behind that big rock?" he asked Barolay on his other side.

She gave him a look that would've made him chuckle in other circumstances. "Seventy-six percent from the foul line, Major. Only eight players in the premiere league ranked better. And none of 'em are here." She grabbed the grenade from him and pulled the pin, waiting for the right moment. "You know this is weird," she muttered, and then when the Centurions paused in their firing, she hurled it overhand with Pyramid-playing precision over the big rock and into the attacking Centurion line.

After the bang and the satisfying sound of metal getting smashed around, he asked, "Weird? How?"

"They're not attacking us," she answered.

A Centurion sprayed bullets at them, kicking up dirt behind them, and he ducked, yelling, "What the hell is that, if they're not attacking us?"

Barolay explained, "They should rush us. They've got the numbers." She added with a frown, "And nobody's dead."

"Isn't that a good thing?" Dee asked. "And they shot Hilliard. He could've been killed." She pointed at the hasty bandage she'd put on Hilliard's shoulder and arm.

"No, the ensign's right," Gunny Mathias agreed, crawling back from the left to rejoin the group. "I tried to flank them, Major," she reported in a low, urgent voice. "But they're holed up. They had Hilliard dead to rights - a shot no chrome-dome should miss -- and it shot him in the shoulder. I think they're keeping us pinned down, and they're avoiding kill shots."

Centurions fired toward them, reminding the Humans they were there, but Lee realized Mathias and Barolay were right; the toasters hadn't advanced since engaging. And if they were really not shooting to kill, they'd only do that because they were ordered not to. He frowned in the direction of the chrome jobs. "But why? There's got to be a reason... They've got a whole squad - they could've outflanked us ten minutes ago." Then he realized something else. Kara had seen a Six, but they'd seen no sign of her in the fight. He turned on Tyrol, who was squatting nearby holding the trigger box. "Chief, is there another way into the Temple?"

Galen shrugged, wide-eyed. "Not that I saw."

"Well, these are here to distract us for some reason. Blow the temple. Blow it now!"

Galen's hand hovered on the button, and trembled, then he shook his head, looking anguished, and thrust the remote at Apollo. "I can't, I can't do it. It's a holy place. I can't."

Apollo grabbed it and slammed his hand down on the button, holy place or not.

But nothing happened. He pushed it again. Nothing. "Frak, Chief, what have you done?"

But Tyrol wasn't paying attention to him. "Major, look," Tyrol was looking upward, and Lee followed his gaze up, toward the sun.

It looked different, with strange colored haloes around it.

"It looks like the mandala on the floor in there," Tyrol whispered. "It's going nova. Major, maybe the star is the Eye of Jupiter."

That was ridiculous. The Eye of Jupiter was a thing, like the beacon, not a star exploding at exactly the wrong time. "Chief, fix the charges and blow the temple. We'll retreat to higher ground. Go!"


* * *

Sam stirred, feeling dazed. Memories, visions, whatever they were tumbled in his head, and when he opened his eyes he saw the Temple as it was and as it had been long ago, the images atop each other.

But then a familiar face leaned into view, and he recognized Thea. "Hey."

"We need to go," she murmured and pushed at him so he could sit up.

Boots on stone surprised them both, and Sam looked up.

Galen.

It was dizzying -- Galen as he was now, and Galen from before. Galen, over and over again, flashing in his memories. Different sometimes, but always Galen...

In the present, he had a gun, and he didn't seem to share the same memories, as he recognized Sam on the floor. "Hold it! Let him go, toaster!" he ordered Thea.

Sam's voice was hoarse. "She's with me, Galen. So's Leoben. There's no need to be afraid of them."

Galen stared in confusion, and then shook his head once, lowering the gun. "This planet is about to turn into a cinder," he told them. "Let's move. We'll deal with it when we're out of here."

Thea and Leoben helped Sam to his feet, when Barolay ran in. She pulled up short, staring in shock. "Sam?"

"Hey, babe," he greeted with an effort at a smile. "I brought friends."

Then she was staring at Thea and her belly. "Holy frak," she whispered. "Is that--?"

Thea lifted her chin and rested her free hand on the baby. "Our child, yes. Our miracle of God."

That froze Jean for just a heart beat, then she shook her head at him. "What is it with men who can't keep it in their pants and knock up Cylon women?"

Sam's smile widened, and he knew they were going to be okay.

"We gotta move, people, let's go," Tyrol barked anxiously. "Jupiter's not waiting for us."

Sam turned back at the entrance archway. This beautiful, deadly place was going to be gone soon. He remembered the hope of succor from the gods, drowned in blood. The hope he'd painted into the floor and the column with his own hands as a message to the future: Here is hope for others, but none for you. It is your fate to bleed and die in this place, time and again.

"Sam, hurry," Thea tugged him forward and they hurried to the S&R birds waiting nearby.

Sharon turned to see them as they ran into her Raptor, and her eyes went straight to the pregnancy as well. "Oh my God," she whispered.

"GO, Sharon!" Tyrol shouted and punched the hatch.

She lifted off and they raced for the sky as the first shockwave arrived.

Sam held Thea through the rough flight, wrapping his arms around her to keep her steady as the Raptor shook and bounced, trying to keep her safe. He knew he would make it. If his vision was true, it wouldn't end here.

... 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...

The end was coming, but it was not here. Not yet.

* * *

Kara waited on the floor, surrounded by security, as the Raptor depressurized and the engine roar died away to nothing. The hatch cracked open. Tyrol was the first out.

Then a Cylon - one of the Leoben models. Kara's throat tightened to see him there. It had been a long time, but she still remembered him from her interrogation.

Then Sam appeared in the doorway.

Kara stared. It was really him. He was wearing a grey shirt with the sleeves cut off, black pants, looking slim and fit with those shoulders she loved. But his hair was surprisingly shaggy, and he looked as if he hadn't shaved in a week. He didn't smile at the sight of home. His face was thin, eyes shadowed, and when he stopped on the wing and stared with blank weariness into the crowd, he didn't seem to be seeing anything at all. Then he twitched and his gaze flicked to Tigh, who stood at the front of the marines. Then Sam took a deep breath and squared his shoulders, as if steeling himself for something, and turned back to offer his hand to a woman emerging from the Raptor behind him.

It was a model Six. She smiled at Sam as she put her hand in his to let him help her down.

Kara gasped, and she heard her gasp echoed through the docking bay. The Six was pregnant, her stomach distinctly rounded and protruding, even though the rest of her remained thin.

And there was pretty much no doubt, given that the Cylon didn't release Sam's hand when they were on the floor and he didn't move away when she leaned against him, that he had to be the father.

Kara started to move, pushing her way through the marines.

"Kara!" Sam saw her finally. His face lit up for an instant with a bright grin, though the grin was gone by the time she was standing in front of him.

She clenched a fist and punched him in the face. He staggered and fell back onto the Raptor wing, holding his nose and looking up at her. He didn't look surprised.

"You son of a bitch," she hissed at him, standing over him. "All this time I waited for you; I prayed you were alive. And you come back in bed with the Cylons."

"Kara - " he started, maybe as protest or explanation.

But she had no intention of listening to him. Ever again. "Frak you, Sam."

She turned and left, rage and hurt bubbling inside like Tylium waiting for a spark. And she was fiercely, bitterly glad to hear Tigh order him under arrest.

* * *


Kara couldn't help watching. It was like being drawn to an accident - she knew it would be horrible, but when she heard Roslin was going to interrogate Sam, she couldn't stay away. Kara sat in the observation room, looking at Sam through the smoky glass and up on the monitor, thinking this had to be a nightmare.

But no, there he was, sitting in one of the chairs, in that gray tanktop, single dog tag hanging on his chest. Maybe it was the lights giving his skin a bluish pallor, but he looked more pale and drawn than he had on the hangar deck. He even seemed smaller somehow, as if he sat farther away than he was. Metal hand-cuffs bound his wrists, but he didn't seem to care. His gaze was unfocused, staring past the plastic cup of water on the table.

Roslin seated herself across from him, and the guards who'd come in with her stood against the wall with weapons ready in case he did anything. But all he did was glance up and say politely, "President Roslin."

"Lieutenant Anders." She settled in her chair and regarded him. "So tell me, Lieutenant," Roslin said, "why I shouldn't airlock you as a traitor."

"I'm not a traitor," he answered. His voice was flat - matter-of-fact but tired, as if he was saying something he'd said many times already.

"And yet, there you were, on the planet apparently of your own will. With two Cylons, one of them pregnant with what she claims is your child."

He snorted softly. "I don't know if I'd say my own will, but yes, my baby."

Kara flinched, feeling the fury inside at the unfairness - she'd been loyal, she'd held onto the hope he was alive. She'd had dreams of him, believing they were true. Only to find out when she finally saw him again, he'd been betraying her with a Cylon all along.

"They even said you brought them there. So how are you not a traitor?" Roslin asked.

Sam stared back at Roslin, his face like stone. "When you've walked my path, then you can judge me. Not 'til then."

She made a small hard smile. "I'm the president; I can judge you if I want."

"Shall I call you Admiral Cain then?" he retorted, and she stiffened. "No, you can't judge me. I don't answer to you. I'm not afraid of you or your airlock."

"Because you'll resurrect?" she asked.

He laughed once, humorlessly. "No. I'll die just like you. But you won't kill me."

"You shouldn't be so sure of that," she warned. "Ask your friend Leoben."

"You still don't understand. I know." He shook his head, a faint, unamused twist on his lips that soon faded. He looked down at his cuffed hands on the table in front of him. "The Temple called to me. A hundred light-years away, I could hear it. It buzzed in my brain, a noise no one else could hear. I couldn't sleep, could barely eat... all I could think about was finding where it was coming from. In the Temple, the noise finally stopped. And then the Eye opened, and I saw. I saw the Fall of Kobol. I saw … I know.... I know too much." His voice fell to a whisper and he shut his eyes, pain and weariness in every line of his body and his voice.

For a moment, there was silence, and then Roslin asked, in a very different tone, one of wonder, "You saw Kobol? Did you see the exodus? The departure of the Thirteenth?"

"I saw," he answered. When he lifted his face, he saw nothing in the room, staring back into the vision that darkened his unseeing gaze.

"Tell me," she leaned forward, eagerly as a child.

His voice came out low, barely above a murmur, and for a moment it didn't seem to be Sam's voice at all. "I see... it rise and fall, and rise again, to fall again, darker and worse than before. Voices once raised in song screamed in rage and terror. The flowers drowned in the blood of children butchered because they had been born... And Athena wept for the souls of the lost."

She stared at him, the same horror in his eyes now reflecting in hers. "What more?" she prompted, her fingers twisted tightly together as if in prayer. "There must be more."

"Earth. I see Earth -- " He held out his manacled hands, fingers extended as if he could touch what he was seeing. "Blue and green, with white clouds. The Thirteenth Tribe built there -- spires of light and gardens to the horizon. It's beautiful... When you reach it, they're waiting for you."

"How do we get there?" she asked, breathlessly. "How?"

His hands dropped and he blinked, coming back to himself with a twitch. He stared down at his hands as if unsure whether they were even his. "I don't know. That's not my path. I thought it was, but it's not."

"Where then?" she asked.

"No." She reacted as if he'd slapped her, though the word was quietly spoken. He went on, not even looking at her, "It's knowledge no one should have. Including me. It's too much. Too many pieces scattered in my head." He slumped forward across the table, and raised his bound hands to push his fingers into his hair, holding his head. He let out a deep sighing breath, and looked upward, straight toward where the Cylons were being kept. "I want to see my daughter. If I didn't have Iris to wait for… I would step in that airlock myself. She's how God keeps me walking the path even when I know how it ends," he added with a hard bitterness. He shut his eyes and whispered, "I'm so tired."

Kara was suddenly strangely glad for Thea and the baby growing inside her, if that was the only thing keeping Sam from stepping into an airlock. She reminded herself that he'd got that daughter by sleeping with a Cylon, but the thought didn't have the bite anymore. There was something deeply wrong with him, she could see that now that her shock and hurt had faded. The blue eyes she'd seen bright with mirth and joy of flying were shadowed, sunken with exhaustion, and his expressions were fleeting and edged in something painful. Whatever he'd seen had been too much, too heavy, and it had crushed him beneath its weight.

After a moment of considering him in silence, Roslin gathered her thoughts and said, "You say 'God'. You believe in the Cylon god?"

He shrugged. "I … believe in … something. You can call it god or Zeus or the creator, or the universe itself. It's the same thing."

"That's blasphemy to most believers," Roslin pointed out.

"To the Cylons, too," he snorted. She smiled, knowing it was true, but he continued, "Before the attacks, I only cared about getting the ball in the goal and getting laid. I drank, took stims, and the only time I went to a temple was to sign autographs. Then the worlds ended. Something or someone took that pyramid player, broke him into little bitty pieces and remade him into an oracle."

"A Cylon oracle?" she asked, casually, as if she could trick him into admitting he was a Cylon himself.

He laughed at her, abrupt and harsh and biting with scorn. "Do you think your little boxes still apply? One box for Humans and one for Cylons? One is good, one is evil? So what is Hera? What is Iris? What am I? What are you? It's not that simple any more, if it ever was."

She stiffened at the attack, and snapped back, "The Cylons are our enemy. If you've forgotten they destroyed our home--"

His temper sparked, and he straightened so quickly the cuffs rattled. His eyes fixed on hers, blazing with the first sign of life. "I was there. You weren't. I watched people die, as they coughed up their lungs from radiation poisoning. I blew up buildings full of humans because they were hooked up to machines and it was better to be dead. So frak you, I know who the enemy is."

"Then why--" she started.

He cut her off. "I also know who it's not. It's not Thea, it's not Sharon Valerii who had no choice in what she was, it's not Leoben who kept the Twos from New Caprica because he believed in me. The enemy are those who refuse to change. So that's the question, Laura - are you going to be Cavil and stay fixed in your black-and-white views, or can you see shades of gray? Because that's the only way you'll see Earth, I promise you that."

Roslin's lips pursed as she thought about his words. Kara wondered if it was true that none of the Leobens had been on New Caprica. Given what she remembered about the model, it didn't surprise her that they would all believe in Sam's visions, but still, it was more proof that the Cylons were not the monolithic entity the Fleet assumed them to be.

Roslin said, "The Cylons seem to think they'll get to Earth without you. That's what that Three said, right before all the baseships jumped away. They couldn't wait to get rid of you."

The passion leached out of his expression and he gave a little shrug. "I'm sure. They were afraid."

"Of you?"

"I told them the price to Earth. They didn't want to believe me." He chuckled bitterly. "Though that might have been the insanity."

"What's the price to Earth?" she asked.

"For them? Death. They weren't very happy to hear that. But they're not going to escape it, whether I'm there or not."

"What about us? Is there a price for us to find Earth?"

He sighed. "There will be."

"And you, Sam? Is there a price you're going to pay for Earth?"

"Oh, I keep paying, and paying and paying," he murmured, staring away into the distance. "Even though I didn't want any of this."

She let that linger for a little while, then said, "I promise, no matter what you answer, you and Thea and your unborn child will be safe. But I need to hear the truth. Are you a Cylon?"

For an instant, he said nothing. Kara felt her heart seize up in fear as she waited for his answer, wondering if he was going to be honest, wanting to warn him that Roslin had promised the exact same thing to Leoben right before throwing him out an airlock... She wasn't even sure what she wanted the answer to be.

When he spoke, his words came slowly, admitting, "I ... don't know. I'm not like Thea. I know that. It should be impossible for two Cylons to have a child. I was born of human parents on Picon, as far as I know. But... the more I see, the more I remember, the more I feel the human parts fall away. It's like I'm becoming something else, something new. Or maybe something so old we've forgotten the word for it."

He paused, expression distant and eyes fixed on some hidden darkness, then he laughed once and shook off the mood. "Or I took too much chamalla and too many pills and I'm completely frakked in the head. Frak if I know. But I swear I was just trying to do what I thought was right. That's ... all I ever try to do," he finished heavily and rubbed at his eyes with the heels of his hands as if he had a headache.

Roslin watched him, staying silent for a long time, and drew in a deep breath. "It's all true, isn't it?" she asked finally. He nodded. She asked, "You really don't know how to find Earth?"

"No. Maybe I will, but not right now. And please don't try to make me give it to you. That didn't work out so well for the Cylons when they did it."

"You'll tell us if you see something about Earth? Or the path?"

"Yes."

"Yes?" she repeated, surprised. "Just 'yes'? No attempt to bargain?"

He glanced up and said dryly, "I figured you'd be smart enough not to threaten Thea and my child." He didn't speak the counter-threat that lingered momentarily in the air. Kara had no idea what he might do in retaliation if she harmed them, but she had not a doubt that Sam would find a way. It seemed Roslin didn't either. Then he shrugged. "Besides, the Cylons are ahead of you. I don't want Cavil to get there first any more than you do."

She hesitated then nodded, making her choice. "Then you're free. Remove his cuffs," she ordered. "Let him visit the Cylon."

His surprise was tangible. "Really?"

"As someone reminded me not long ago," Roslin glanced at the mirrored window, straight at Kara, "we can't blind ourselves to the chance for peace. The Cylons stay in the brig, but I won't have them killed. I believe you, Lieutenant Anders. Don't make me regret that belief."

He merely nodded. "Thank you."

Her expression softened. "And get some rest. You look like hell."

* * *

Kara watched on the monitor as Sam entered Sharon's old cell. He moved a little way inside and stopped. Thea was sitting on the cot and she smiled at Sam, but her smile faded as she saw something in his face. "Sam? Are you all right?"

He shook his head slowly.

"Come here," she gestured him forward.

He sank to his heels in front of her, cheek on her belly and his hands to either side of her, gripping the cot.

With him bent like that, his shirt rode up and Kara could see most of his lower back. Her eyes couldn't help tracing the muscles along his spine down to where it disappeared into his pants and the curve of his ass. The appreciation turned to curiosity, when she noticed an odd pale pink line on his skin, crossing the small of his back. She frowned, looking more closely, realizing there were more, thinner lines and marks that were hardly visible at all.

Scars. He hadn't had them when he'd gotten into his Viper the day the Cylons came to New Caprica.

Thea combed her fingers through his hair. "It's all right," she murmured. "It's going to be all right, Sam. You need to rest."

"No," he shook his head in adamant refusal against her stomach. "No sleep. No dreams. I-- I can't -- "

"Hush," she murmured, quieting him, her fingers rubbing the back of his neck. "You're exhausted. You haven't slept in days. I'm here. I'll watch over you, just like always."

He stirred reluctantly, and she coaxed him into curling up on the bed beside her. "Rest, while you can," she urged him, and pulled the thin blanket over his shoulders and caressed the side of his face before leaning down to kiss his cheek. "Sleep. And remember, you carry our love with you, always." She twined her fingers with his and brought his hand to her stomach. After a moment, he let out a long breath and his face smoothed out into something more relaxed, as his other hand loosened from the tight fist.

Kara turned away from the scene. She wasn't angry at Sam anymore, but she was furious with the Cylons. They'd clearly beat him, badly enough to scar. What else had they done to him that she couldn't see? He'd admitted to Roslin that he'd been broken and remade - was that what he meant?

But as she walked aimlessly toward the gym, she remembered the same expression of soul-tearing pain on Sam's face the night he'd drank himself unconscious, when the Tyrols had left for New Caprica. He'd been an oracle before the Cylons put their hands on him.

She told herself she shouldn't care anymore. Sam had made his choice; he was going to have a baby, for frak's sake, so it wasn't like it could get more over between them.

And yet, the image of those scars haunted her. What kind of choice had it been, if they'd tortured him into compliance?

She turned away from the gym and headed for the other cell, to do a little questioning of her own.







On to Chapter Sixteen: Out of the Labyrinth and Out to Sea

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Merry F: samuel andersivanolix on November 27th, 2009 02:01 am (UTC)
Oh, poor broken people all of them. You did get Roslin a little back into my good books, though. And it's funny, I always imagined Sam comparing Roslin and Cain at some point even though he'd never met the former.