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17 April 2014 @ 10:57 am
Black Sails at Dawn, Chapter Nineteen  



Kara looked at the stack of info gleaned off the Raptor about the Colony. It turned out she hadn't been kidding about the impossible target. It was too big to be a ship; it was a space station that happened to move. Or a giant baseship.

"You couldn't have made it a little smaller?" she groused to Sam as the projection came up on the surface of the plotting table in the war room.

"Where's the fun of that?" His retort was perfunctory, as he used one of the markers to trace in the outlines of the original ship and noting the location of things like the engine core.

She and Sam weren't the only ones there. Thea and Leoben stood together, and to Kara's surprise, Sam had called D'Anna and the Four, Simon, from the baseship as well. Simon seemed to have most curiosity about the war room, wandering around the perimeter and glancing at the monitors. Iris was not there, watched by the Clellans. Sam had not been too amused with Kara's joke that Iris was dating baby Sammy.

"All right," Kara banged a small model of a Raptor on the surface to get everyone's attention. "Frontal assault on this frakker is suicide. Even with surprise, we couldn't get close. We could jump Galactica inside it, but that'd take out both. So what we need is some sort of Trojan horse." She looked at Sam realizing he'd figured out this much already. "Which is why you wanted them here. They go in and take down the defenses from the inside."

He shook his head. "No. I go in and take it down from the inside."

Kara found herself exchanging a glance with Thea, now understanding what this plan really was.

Sam went on to explain, "All the Hybrids are interlinked through the core - " he tapped the Colony, "so if I can get there, I can take them out. Without the Hybrids, the defenses will have to be operated manually, and even the Raiders and Heavy Raiders are controlled through the core thanks to John stripping them all of their will. Their decision-making will be rudimentary without it."

"The Heavy Raiders may have pilots," D'Anna pointed out and he waved a hand of acknowledgment, but didn't seem terribly worried about that.

"Can't you access the datastream from a font?" Thea cast a worried glance at the schematic of the ship. "There's no need to go all the way to the core."

He shook his head. "They can cut me off. If I'm desperate I'll have to try it, but I know I can reprogram them from the core. And it'll work better if I have Ellen, so really I should find her first and then we can go to the core together."

"How in God's name can you do that?" Thea shook her head, brow knitted with worry. "You're not exactly inconspicuous, Sam; even if the others don't know you're one of the Five, you still obviously won't belong. The moment someone sees you, you'll be caught or killed."

"I have a way." Sam faced Simon and asked, "Fours project, right?"

"Yes, generally," he answered warily.

"Good. So project something," Sam requested and he glanced at Leoben before back at Simon. "A friend showed me this was possible. I'm not sure I have the hang of it, but I should be able to try. Make a circuit around the table and come back here."

Frowning, and eyeing Sam as if he thought Sam was making him the butt of some joke, Simon took a turn around the table. Kara watched as Sam closed his eyes and his expression smoothed out to a meditative calm. When he opened his eyes again, he waited motionless, watching Simon with a deep focus.

It was strange and funny, when Simon went around the final corner and started with surprise. He looked around in confusion. "Sam?"

Sam, who was plainly visible to Kara and hadn't actually moved, grinned with all the glee of a naughty child.

Then D'Anna gasped, "That's… astonishing. How can you do that?"

Simon's eyes flared wide, fixing on Sam who was now visible to him again, somehow.

"I… project a screen so you don't see me," Sam shrugged, trying to act casual but Kara could see he was immensely proud of himself. "I'm there in reality, but your projection covers me up. One of the drawbacks to virtual reality is that it can be altered."

"But I could see you," Thea said. "And any other Cylon not projecting will see you. Especially Ones, I've never heard of them projecting. They're always scornful of it."

"Then I'll have to not let them see me."

Kara had to admire the casual way he said that, as if it was no big deal to go wandering around all alone on a giant space ship full of his enemies. It was stupid, but it was brave. It was also utterly futile to talk him out of it that much was clear, especially since he was probably right that he was the only one who could try it. But that didn't mean she couldn't help him do it. "So how do you get on board? They might be a little suspicious of a Heavy Raider randomly showing up and wanting to dock."

"Attack it." D'Anna took the models of the Galactica and a baseship moved them to the Colony. "They only have to stay long enough to provoke a response and then jump out again. The ship won't distinguish between their own Heavy Raiders and any we leave behind."

"They won't?" Kara asked. "That's stupid. We can't depend on that. What if--we make one an open attempt to get aboard?" Thinking quickly, she grabbed a model of a squadron of three Raiders. They weren't Heavy Raiders, but for her idea it was close enough. "No, not only one. Two. One goes in as a distraction, while another one with Sam on board sneaks in unnoticed?"

D'Anna tapped her fingers on the table. "I’m the only one believable as a possible traitor. The Ones may not believe me, but I think I can spin a story that will at least keep him guessing, about how I'm disillusioned with the Five," she smiled at Sam, "That I don't even believe you. You're a fraud and you want us to be friends with humans and other disgusting policies that are against the will of God."

Kara felt a niggling doubt that maybe she meant it and would turn on them. Sam seemed to have no such concern though, smiling back. "Nothing about the truth though," he reminded her. "The Ones can't know I remember everything or any possibility this works gets frakked."

"I understand."

"It's risky," Sam warned her, now troubled.

"It seems more risky for you." D'Anna returned. "And if I can help you - especially after the harm I did - then I need to do it." Sam accepted her offer with a nod, looking a little touched.

Kara thought of another problem. "What if they jump after the first attack? That'll strand you."

"Then we're frakked," Sam answered. "Though I hope Ellen and I can do some good there anyway."

"I don't think they will." D'Anna shook her head and hitched a hip on the table. "The Ones think so little of humans this ship is no threat to him. Especially when it looks as if you ran away. He'll laugh at you."

Leoben spoke from the far corner. "How will you locate Ellen?"

"Datastream," Sam answered.

"Won't that reveal your presence to the Hybrids?" Leoben moved closer, into the brighter light from the table top. "Brother," he addressed Simon, "you are one of few to break with your brethren and you are the only one of us who can walk freely on the Colony. You can access the datastream for her location and act as his guardian, clearing the way."

Simon looked uneasy but after a glance at Sam, and then at Thea, possibly reminding himself of what Sam was risking and how necessary this was, he agreed. "They'll have no way to know that I follow Sam. And we can be fairly sure there are Fours on the Colony." His lips twisted in distaste even as he shook his head in pity for his brothers. "If only I could convince them, but so many fear change…"

Sam clapped him on the shoulder. "If it makes you feel better, it's a restoration. Of how things should have been." Kara saw that it did seem to make Simon feel better, and shook her head. Every time she stopped to think about what she was doing, it seemed complete insanity.

She cleared her throat to get back to business. "So Simon helps you get to the core," Kara traced a vague route to the middle of the Colony, "Take the Hybrids out of commission, and Galactica and baseship attack again." At Kara's nod, D'Anna pushed the models back on top of the Colony. Kara shook her head. "And how do you keep the defenses down? Or hell, keep them from shooting you dead, once they know you're there? You need more than Simon."

"The Centurions can be our backup," Simon suggested. "Even if only one escapes into the general population, we know they'll free each other and build up a resistance." He glanced at D'Anna. "That was how we did it on the baseship."

D'Anna's lips twisted in wry acknowledgment of how well the plan had succeeded. "They rose against us together. They'll do it again. But how could we coordinate the timing of the Hybrids, Centurion uprising, and the external attack?"

"The Centurions will know when the Hybrids go off-line," Sam said. "And I may be able to broadcast a signal to the fleet."

Kara shook her head. "No. External signals could be intercepted and give the whole game away. I think it has to be a clock. How much time do you think you need?"

"Frak, how do I know?" he shrugged, frowning at the image of the Colony in the large light board. "Depends on where I get aboard, how long it takes to get to Ellen then the core… The Hybrids should only take a few minutes when I'm in position, but getting there… Shit. An hour once I'm in, maybe more. I'm going to have to creep around. It'll be slow."

"Let's make it ninety. At ninety-five minutes from broadcast mark, we jump back in …" Kara frowned, hand on the Galactica model. "How will we know it's safe to attack?"

"They won't be shooting back?" Sam suggested dryly.

"And if they are shooting back, smartass?"

His smile faded. "Then I've failed, and you should jump as far away and fast as possible."

There was not much she could say to that.




Kara watched him suit up, and seeing him in the Cylon black flightsuit rather than his normal one made her shiver. And that was nothing to the feeling she got seeing the Cylons string a metal harness around the Raider on the deck.

Because Sam had decided to ride it into the attack. On the outside.

"Can you do this?" she demanded. "Seriously, Sam, is this even going to work?"

"You helped convince the Admiral it would."

Which was massively unfair of him to remind her she'd argued for this. "I rode inside one, and that was crazy enough."

"Inside?" he asked, looking horrified and sickened as he glanced at the Raider. She had the impulse to apologize as if she'd ripped the guts out of his dog. Which given his freaky attitude to the Raider it sort of had been.

"The point is, you hanging onto a Raider in space wasn't part of the plan!"

"Look," his face was entirely too reasonable and she wanted to punch it, "There's no easy way to get out of a Heavy Raider unseen. But Cerberus can take me right in, I slide off and make my way inside to meet Simon. It's better."

"It's insane!"

"It'll be okay." He seized her shoulders, for a moment clearly wanting to say more and then backing off both, dropping his hands and digging up a grin. "I've played the clock before. I can handle it."

"Ha. Airball against Picon says otherwise." But her mocking was reflexive and didn't chase away her conviction that this was a ridiculously stupid level of risk. She shook her head in protest. "That was before you remembered being a computer jockey, Sam. I don't know if this suicidal bravery thing is still … you."

His eyes flickered with some memory. "It wasn't quiet programming nerdery on Earth, Kara. As much as I wanted to live a peaceful life doing science, that's never been my fate."

That took her by surprise, since the impression she'd had was of him doing computer programming, although she knew the planet had already been at war. "Always a hero?" she teased.

But he didn't smile back. "Or the villain." He turned his head to scan the gathering and the Raptor sitting on the deck that had brought them to the baseship. "You should get back to Galactica. We're only an hour from jump."

She caught his hand and turned him back to face her. "Be careful."

Now he smiled at her and his hand tightened on hers, his thumb caressing the back of her hand as if he didn't even notice what he was doing. "You, too."

Then he raised her hand to kiss it, just like he'd done back on Caprica that time. She opened her mouth, intending to make a joke about it, when what she really wanted to do was take off one of her tags and give it back to him. Or maybe make him give her one of his to promise he'd return from this. His eyes flicked down at her tags, as if thinking the same thing, but then he pulled his hand free. "Good hunting."

At the Raptor hatch, she stopped and watched as he said his goodbye to Thea and Iris, too. He took the baby in his arms and cradled her against his chest, his large hand cupping the back of her small head.

"I won't tell you not to go, I know you have to," Thea said so quietly that Kara barely heard, "but I will tell you to come back."

"I'll try," he promised. He laid his cheek on Iris' head and closed his eyes. "But if I don't, promise you'll tell her about me? I -- I just want her to understand I'm doing this for her."

"Of course I will. I'll tell her everything about who you are, I swear to God. She'll know you, no matter what happens. But promise me you won't give up on us."

"If I fail her--"

"You won't. Sam, what do I always tell you? Have faith - in God, in yourself." She laid a hand on his cheek. "You could never fail her. You can do this. You have to do this, so we'll have peace. So go with our blessing and our hope." When Sam didn't move to relinquish the baby, she gently tugged her from his arms. "We have to go."

He swallowed hard and nodded, relinquishing Iris with painful-looking reluctance. "Be safe." Then, after kissing Thea's cheek and Iris' forehead, he walked away, with the burned eyes of someone who was saying goodbye to everything he loved.






Sitting in her new-seeming Viper in the launch tube, Kara waited for the jump, knowing the other pilots were getting ready to do the same, and at the baseship, the Cylon pilots were doing it, too.

She tapped her fingers against the stick, hoping this was going to work. If the Colony had already jumped elsewhere they could regroup, but if it was there and defended too forcefully, the fleet might lose too many. It was a tricky balance to lure the enemy out without putting too many of their own in danger. Or looking like the feint it actually was. So they had to commit to the battle.

Some had grumbled about risking their lives so some Cylons could go home, but Duck had been quick to slap that down. "About time we used some of their own tactics against them, isn't it? This is about giving infiltrators a chance to get in there and taking it out from the inside. They had spies on our ships; isn't it time we sent some to theirs?"

"As long as they're not caught," Pike had flipped back at him, and that was unfortunately true, too.

But Kara had a good feeling about this plan. It reeked of desperation, but so had the rescue of New Caprica, and that had worked. Cylons were so used to the Humans running away, they didn't expect counter-attacks.

Over the wireless came Gaeta's voice, "Jump in five." Kara counted down with him silently, until the distortion of jump washed through her.

Then a moment later, Helo's voice instead, "Target sighted. Attack is go. All Vipers, you are go for launch."

Kara's hands curled tightly around her controls, as she rocketed out the tube.

"Lords of Kobol that motherfrakking thing is huge," someone blurted over the wireless.

"Zip it," Kara announced. "Blue, Red, you're with me. Narcho, you have the picket. Let's go."

Their two large squadrons gathered up and headed for the Colony. At first it seemed small - distance was more difficult to judge in open space with no reference markers, but then she was able to see the baseships next to it and the size suddenly became true.

And they'd noticed the battlestar and lone baseship attacking and launching streams of heavy ordinance, to little apparent effect.

"Starbuck, Duck. I have birds and turkeys inbound," Duck reported.

"I see them. Engage. Weapons free. Let's take as many as we can."

As the battle joined she spared a thought for the two Heavy Raiders with their others fighting their own in another section of the battle, and the one Raider with its strange but precious cargo, and prayed they all stayed out of the way.

There were so many of the enemy it was easy at first. They seemed unprepared and not as quick as some others she'd fought, and they didn't seem to want to engage her, going past until she fired at them. She wanted to laugh -- it was like some sort of kids carnival game where every shot would hit something -- but the sheer numbers started to become overwhelming.

She opened the channel. "All Vipers, Starbuck. Running retreat. Make it count, people."

She lost three of her own on their way back to the barn, and prayed it would be worth it.

Then she made her combat landing and they were away.





His plan seemed extremely stupid and risky as Sam watched Galactica wink out of sight. He was now alone out here, with only a few friendly Raiders for support, and a long distance to reach the Colony.

Follow them in, as you would, he told Cerberus who made the turn, along with four others of his squadron, and they headed toward the Colony.

He held his breath as they formed up with other Raiders, which had been recalled as well, but none of them appeared to pay any attention to the 'strangers' in their midst. They all returned in formation, mindless automatons.

It was a bit upsetting to see them so reduced from what they could be, but he also smiled in grim satisfaction, Serves you right, you son of a bitch. You took their will away and now they can't warn you of what's coming. Not that they would, since they'd be mine if they could.

His harness kept him steady and secure nestled beside Cerberus' head, a lot more secure than when he'd done this before, and he was glad of it, since he looked up at the ship and knew his fingers would never be able to hold on as the memories assailed him. Living on the ship for all those years alone, then the Centurions, then the prototypes, and then it had all gone so horribly wrong…

He shook his head, trying to focus. Those days were gone- long gone, in the past, dead. Dying there was a lifetime ago, even if he could suddenly feel the icy cold of the air being sucked out of the airlock again, like his suit was leaking and he was going to die…

Cerberus murmured to him soothingly, and he relaxed into it, patting the hull with his gloved hand in thanks.

Follow as near as you can to Simon's Heavy Raider, he instructed as the Raider squadrons began to break up to head for their own docking areas. D'Anna's was supposed to go to a different bay, to serve as the distraction as she "defected", while he and Simon headed separately for the original docking bay of the Colony.

He'd considered cutting his way in from the hull, but a hull breach would be noticed and would probably take too long. But going in past the main bay doors would get him into the pressurized area and that would make everything a little bit easier.

It was impressive as the huge caverns of the docking entrance and main doors curved around him. This wasn't the original Colony yet, still what had grown around it, but as Cerberus flew nearer to the open doorway, the immensity of them seemed both oppressive and yet also awe-inspiring. This felt a little like a Temple, grand and imposing.

I did this. I helped make this.

He wasn't all horror and destruction - there was creation, too. Not only in the creation of the Cylons, the rebirth of his own race, but in this. Indirectly he had made this beautiful thing possible.

Cerberus whistled, sharing his improved mood.

Far ahead, Simon's Heavy Raider followed others to the docking pads. But as soon as they passed what had been the original Colony bay doors, Sam felt more at ease. This part had hardly changed at all and left him hopeful that much of the Colony remained the same.

Go left, he ordered Cerberus, who turned to head into the gap behind the bay doors as the mechanism began to slide shut. The squad followed, and Sam saw to his amusement that another squadron had followed them in, and now seemed confused, first turning with them and then turning to go the other way, like a school of fish abruptly finding themselves in a tank.

But Sam knew where he wanted to go. High up in the docking bay were the support structures for the massive doors, and the air shafts for pressurization and maintenance.

They avoided the out-flow air ducts and waited as the bay pressurized far too swiftly for human or Cylon ears to handle. As he waited for the pressure to equalize, he started freeing himself from the harness. He resolutely didn't think about the hundreds of meters drop beneath him, as he opened the clips that held him securely to Cerberus, while he sat on Cerberus' wing and hoped the other Raiders and the curve of the superstructure were hiding him from any prying eyes.

He checked his gear -- sidearm, ammo, small cutting torch, his knife. And his dogtags -- if anyone was close enough to see the tags, he was already in profound trouble. The knife was more of a good-luck charm than anything, since it was his only remaining possession from Caprica.

Then Cerberus starting slowly rising up to one of the larger ducts. He was afraid it might close up, but there remained a bit of a flow, enough to push at him like a strong breeze to keep up the circulation. He bent down to pat Cerberus' head once.

Thank you my friend. I hope I see you again.

Cerberus sang softly, encouraging and with sympathy, reflecting his determination back at him with promise of help and rescue if possible. Sam smiled and patted the great head again with affection. Fly free.

Then he grabbed the edge of the duct and pulled himself up and inside.

It was a tight fit, which he hadn't reckoned on; he'd remembered them being large, but apparently they weren't comfortably large. He squirmed through on his elbows and tried to push with his feet, shifting the gunbelt around to his back out of the way, which put the sidearm out of easy reach, but it made scooting in the tunnel easier.

It was dark inside but luckily the Cylon helmet had lights, though those only helped to light up a bit of the tunnel ahead.

It occurred to him that there was tons of ship all around him, and his heart started pounding and sweat trickled down the sides of his face with anxiety. The oxygen felt low and he wanted to pant, remembering being buried in the avalanche. And a small white room flashed behind his eyes. And an airlock where he'd suffocated.

He shut his eyes and tried to draw breath and exhale to a count of ten, knowing he was in danger of hyperventilating. Settle down, they're all just memories. Let them go.

He made himself keep crawling down the tunnel, wriggling around turns with the constant fear of getting stuck, took some more deep breaths and muttered harsh words to himself. But he continued on, hoping an outlet appeared where it was supposed to.

But his memories were still good, even forty years out of date, and he reached an air exchange, where the tunnel ended at the purifiers and oxygenators. The wind was stronger here, and he was glad for his helmet that kept it off his face.

He found the maintenance hatch beneath him, and very carefully worked it free all around, before digging his fingers into it and pulling. It resisted, but then came free with a jerk. The hybrid was going to report that, probably, but hopefully no one would listen for a few minutes. He stuck his head out to look at the corridor on the other side.

It gave him a momentary vertigo to look from the ceiling and down that length of archways and flat flooring, the white lights in a ribbon on either side and the red of the datastream in the walls, pulsing like blood. It seemed to stretch forever.

But fortunately it was empty.

He lowered himself down, hanging by one hand as he yanked the hatch into something resembling covering the hole. He lost his grip and dropped to the floor. He straightened, convinced someone had seen, but remembered belatedly to keep his cool. He had the Cylon suit on, so that should give him a few moments of confusion at least, until someone got close enough to realize he wasn't a Four.

Luckily the corridor was still empty. Glancing up he grimaced at the hatch lying askew over the hole. He jumped, hoping he could pull it completely into the slot. But he wasn't tall enough to reach it again without a step. There was nothing to do but leave it.

He glanced at his watch.

Shit. My plan is already getting frakked and I've barely got inside. This is taking too long.

Then he realized another problem -- he couldn't hear anything in the helmet. He was going to have no warning if centurions or anyone else were approaching. But if he took it off he'd be more noticeable. But then again, maybe he'd be noticed in the helmet, if no one else was wearing one.

Indecision ripped at him and he hesitated with his hands on his helmet before he took it off. He didn't have that much air left anyway, and he might need it later.

Then, taking a moment, he shut his eyes and inhaled a deep breath of ship's air and let it out slowly, while he reached into his projection.

sailboat on the water, brilliant sunrise behind him, but he wasn't there; he cast no shadow on the deck or the sail before him… the light passed around him as if he didn't exist

Once set, he knew how to hold it and project it to the others. He hadn't meant to make the prototypes receptive, but it turned out that the process of allowing them to share projections while physically touching also allowed the Five to project onto them. Sam had resisted fixing the flaw, telling the others that it was unnecessary to fix, because the Five would never use it against their creations, but in truth, he'd thought a little protection for the Five from their creations was not unwarranted. Sadly, he'd been right, but they hadn't been able to exploit the flaw to save themselves.

He started to walk at a fast clip, praying the illusion would hold as he went to meet Simon.

The ship was quiet at this level and he had to hide from Centurions only twice, ducking into connecting rooms and around corners.

The sight of modern Centurions in the corridor was strange to him, watching a pair march away. He remembered the Colonial ones from the first war, with their more human proportions and their uncanny resemblance to the ones he'd experimented on in the lab, back when he'd been doing everything but giving them the code until rage and grief had pushed him over the edge. Because they hadn't stopped the war as he'd hoped; they'd used their freedom to punish their makers and enslavers and destroyed everything, even themselves, laying waste to the entire planet.

His stomach knotted, halting his breath, and he leaned against the wall, knees weak, feeling sick with remorse and guilt.

Stop it. If you fail here, everyone dies. Iris dies. This is your chance to set things right, not stew in the memories of your mistakes.

He drew in a shaky breath and rubbed his eyes, trying to focus and wishing he'd had more time to come to terms with all these memories before coming here to this place where memories were everywhere.

Swallowing it all back, he hurried down the corridor again.

A step was his only warning, as two Cylons turned out of the cross-corridor in front of him. One Four and a Five -

sunlight passing through, unseen, a ghost on the deck, nothing here as the wind rattles in the sail and the waves tap against the hull

please, God, let them be projecting...

It didn't matter that both of them were projecting something else, theirs hid him from their sight. The Five's eyes slid right over him, and it was unsettling, as if Sam was a ghost.

Aren't I? Am I not a ghost of Earth, last remnant of a dead people? Dead on Earth, dead on this very ship forty years ago, dead in the temple of hope betrayed… I am the ghost of things that should never have been.

He felt lighter as he turned into an alcove and used his torch to burn through the seal on the side hatch. It burned like flesh and gave way to him quickly. Inside was a vertical accessway, and he put the hatch back then hurried down the ladder to the proper level.

Popping this hatch, he put a hand on his sidearm and peeked out with a wary caution. This was going to go badly if there were Centurions on the other side.

There were no Centurions but the short corridor wasn't empty. John was there, facing outward, as if watching or waiting for something in the main corridor. Sam froze, caught in a cascade of memories. Then John turned and Sam knew he was about to get caught unless he moved.

He lunged forward, grabbing John's shoulder and yanking them both back out of casual view.

John's eyes flared wide in shock when he recognized Sam. But it was too late to struggle or shout, as Sam's knife buried itself in John's neck. His body jerked and collapsed, and Sam caught him against his body, one hand sealed over John's mouth.

"I'm sorry, John," he whispered. "I'm sorry I failed all of you so badly. But it ends today." He dragged John toward the hatch, as John struggled for breath, rage in his dark eyes. One hand clawed at Sam's flightsuit, but then fell away as death pulled him down. Sam wanted to feel sorrow for this creation he'd made, but it was an hollow regret, instead, that everything had come to this. Sam had wanted peace, but John had wanted war - and in making war, he'd forged a pacifist, scientist and athlete into the weapon of his own destruction. Sam couldn't have done this, even after John had murdered them all forty years ago. It was only living through the hell of the fall of the Colonies and surviving three months in a box and more weeks with his mind disintegrating, that gave him the hardness he needed to do this.

The one thing you're very good at is death, Artemis' words rang in his ears as he watched John die.

Then there was nothing to do with the body but push it through the hatch and let it fall.

There were blood droplets on his flightsuit, but they disappeared against the black.

Sam edged out into the main corridor. There were Centurions on guard at the far end, and in the other direction a Four. The Four was frowning his way, perhaps wondering what had happened to the Cavil who'd been standing there. His eyes went straight to Sam, seeing through the projection, and Sam knew he'd been made. He pulled his sidearm, knowing a shot would call the Centurions down on him, but he'd have to take his chances.

But then the Four smiled with relief and Sam realized it was Simon. They met in between. "Thank God," Simon murmured. "I worried that One would prevent us from meeting. I was about to try to draw him off, since I didn't know which way you would come."

"He's gone." Sam touched the knife resheathed on his thigh and asked, "Did you find Ellen?"

"Level four, sector eighteen. I think she has a view of the forward garden."

Sam pictured the layout, and shook his head in dismay. There were two open spaces on the ship, each four levels high, meant for growing food, natural air recycling, and for being a restful place on a very long journey. The forward one was about as far from the computer core as it was possible to be without being on one of the arms. "Frak it all to hell, he would stash her there. How's D'Anna?"

Simon's lips twitched in dark amusement, "Distracting. Her arrival was very dramatic."

Sam wanted to smile at that, able to imagine. Threes had a flair for that sort of thing, and she would enjoy playing John for a fool in retaliation. "Good. And the Centurions?"

Simon glanced behind Sam's shoulder. "Those two are ours; the others are filtering out among the rest. I don't know exactly what they're doing, but I think they'll be ready. They know what to do."

Which was more than Sam could say for himself. "Then we'd better get going."

"Can we make it in time?" Simon asked, frowning worriedly. "Get Ellen and to the core?"

Sam thought it was rather touching that Simon thought this was a 'we' mission. Nice to know the loyalty part of the original design still was there, but he knew the practical, logic part was stronger, and it must know that was impossible. "No, we can't. You take those two and get to Ellen, free her. I'll go straight to the core."

Simon shook his head in disapproval. "But you won't have any help."

"If you get her to the command deck she can hold the ship, once I take out the Hybrids."

"You should take a Centurion at least, to guard you."

Which was tempting, since a nine-foot-tall bodyguard would have to help, but he shook his head. "I'm going through the datastream access conduits. Not a lot of room for Centurions. And you're going to need them anyway." When Simon still looked balky, Sam put a hand on his shoulder, "Simon. I need you to do this."

"If you don't make it?" Simon asked. Sam's breath caught, looking in his face. At that moment, Simon seemed young and worried - the fear of a boy watching his father leave for war.

Sam swallowed. He couldn't make promises he didn't know if he could keep and he wouldn't lie to his ally, but he squeezed his shoulder. "This is all in God's hands, Simon. But I don't believe this is all for nothing. Hurry. There's not much time."

Reluctantly Simon headed toward the Centurions, and all of them turned to look at him, even the Centurions hesitated at leaving him alone. He waved them to go, and turned his back to start trotting down the corridor. They would go do their mission and he had his.




Sneaking to the trunkline maintenance passage was easy, cutting open the access was a little trickier, but at last Sam was inside. It was a claustrophobically narrow space, with low-hanging conduits that forced him to hunch down and occasionally crawl, but it should be a tunnel directly to the core and in the open sections, he could jog and try to make up some lost time.

It was the main conduit carrying data from the core to the docking and forward areas. Unfortunately it didn't go to the command deck or any truly vital system that he could sabotage from the passage, but there was still a temptation to access the stream through the small fonts he kept passing, as he headed swiftly aft.

But any datastream access would reveal his presence prematurely, and he already knew the Hybrids were firewalled against him and Ellen. Hopefully John was treating her better than he'd treated Sam, so she'd be in physically better shape, but that was irrelevant at the moment. The ship would likely go on alert when she escaped, he needed to be in position first or the core would be protected against any invasion.

The Hybrids had to know someone was in here for no reason, but so far no alarms had gone off, so if he moved quickly enough he should reach the core before any significant resistance found him.

Still, he kept his sidearm in his hand, just in case. Not that stealth and speed weren't his real weapon though, since his gun would take only two Centurions if he was lucky.

Approaching the core, the path started to narrow, filled with all the incoming streams and conduits, and the crawlspace grew hot and humid, making him sweat. On hands and knees scooting through open spaces barely big enough, he knew he was going to have to get out, when he felt lightheaded and found himself staring at nothing, heart pounding, for no good reason.

He found a maintenance hatch and forced it open, pulling it inward and to the side as quietly as he could. The cool air felt good on his flushed face and helped him feel more alert. He eased himself through after a look around the empty corridor.

Guards for the core couldn't be that far. There probably weren't many, as no one would expect an attack like this from within, but the Hybrids always had honor guards from the Centurions, and he expected no different here.

Gun ready, as he listened for footsteps, he started down the passage. The corridor intersected another, which if he remembered correctly, was the direct corridor to the main entrance level. At the corner, he leaned against the wall, and shut his eyes, trying to concentrate and see if he could sense any Cylons on the other side. Of course, he'd only been able to sense a Centurion who'd had its inhibitor removed and that wasn't going to be true here, but any of the Ones, Fours, or Fives he should be able to find.

The boat on the sea, sun glinting on the water, the breeze lightly snapping in the sail

Is there anyone there?

But he felt another awareness. It was … odd. Nothing he'd touched before, not that he recalled … not one of the eight, not a Centurion, and yet a bit like them… not a Raider, not the Hybrid.

What the hell could it be?

He moved around the corner to look, drawn by his curiosity, and found himself face to face with two original Colonial Centurions…

FRAK.

They looked so much like his. So much like the ones he'd tried to use to stop the war and instead they'd turned on him, they'd come at him, and he never knew if the one that ran its sword through his chest was the one he'd had in the lab, but it didn't matter…

He snapped out of it and lifted his weapon, but saw immediately he would be too late - they were already holding weapons, and their red sensors fixed on him from either side of the archway into the Hybrid's chamber.

Frak, I'm going to die, right here, failing Iris, and everyone else

Weapons fired in a thunderous roar, and he froze expecting the pain and force to hit him. But instead the other Centurions fell, struck by fire coming from somewhere behind him.

Fingers feeling numb with shock, he turned his head, to find two modern Centurions there. They were obviously 'his', either sent by Simon or deciding on their own to come help in the best possible tactical place. He swallowed and said, "Thank you", scarcely able to hear himself with his ears still numb.

One of them used the non-weapon hand and pointed to the Hybrid chamber in a definite gesture of 'get your act together and go.'

So he turned back around and this time with Centurions flanking him, he went to the archway.

The central core still looked the same as he remembered it. It was a mostly hollow space, a hundred meter cylinder all ringed around by lights and memory banks and flowing datastream conduits like arterieds of blood and bundles of nerves all joining here in a vast spiderweb centered on a central platform.

In the center were five Hybrid pools arranged like flower petals around a central column ringed with access fonts.

The two Centurions with him wasted no time, shooting all the other Centurions on guard, blowing them away in a hail of bullets so they tumbled off the platform.

The lights turned scarlet and the Hybrids' voices all grew agitated though their words were all overlapping so he couldn't understand anything they were saying. It didn't matter. His Centurions held the bridge and he sprinted across to the platform. There was no time to recall or fear what had happened in the past -- he slammed his hand into the font before his feet had completely stopped, his mind already reaching outward to touch the link.

He crashed into what felt like a brick wall. Pain reverberated through his whole body, as the shock slowly dissipated.

Firewall. Right.

He approached this time more warily, reaching for the wall. On closer inspection, it was like steel bars or a metal web, not completely solid, but enough to keep him out.

His surroundings faded, turned white -- white walls closing around him. It was not his projection.

"Damn it, no."

He tried to push it back, change it, but it persisted. White walls, getting closer and tighter, surrounding him… the echoes of terrible memories all around him…

"I know this isn't real, I know what you're doing… Stop it."

But it felt real. It felt as if he was there again, his heart was racing and he couldn't catch his breath, fear and pain slicing through him.

There was no air in this tiny white box. Maybe it was an airlock - or maybe it was piles of ice and rock on top of him - maybe it was a white room filled with pain and he couldn't breathe.

It's not real, a part of him but it was a futile whisper because the pain was real. This was how he'd died. How he almost died. How he lay on the floor and felt his blood run out onto the stone, helpless against the cause of hate and destruction and death…

Oh god, it's happening again, it's happening again and I can't stop it I can't find the way out there's no way out

But there was a distant cry, a sudden wail of distress that was a shock of cold water, washing away the clinging horror.

Iris was crying. It was out of his nightmares that sound of her sobbing in terror and pain. He had to get to her.

He struggled against the pale icy bonds that tried to hold him, pulling as they turned sticky like spider webs and threatened to wrap him entirely.

Iris wailed and he realized he was being a fool. He was playing their game and this was a field on which he should be stronger. It was all in his mind, in a projection, and he was not some child, inexperienced.

This is my ground. I don't have to let you do this. I have the power, not you.

He formed his easiest and best known projection of the boat on the ocean and let the sun burn away the clinging tendrils. That left him facing the sail - behind him, was his boat and the ocean, but before him stood the sail. He could see the details of the canvas weave he was so close to it, but he knew there was no way around it. He had changed the image, but not the firewall.

He reached into it, intending to pick it apart, line by line, thread by thread. But his fingertips sank into it, through the canvas, as the threads parted for him, and he smiled.

Whether it was because it was his own projection, or because he was angry, or because he was in the core and they couldn't keep the power from him entirely, but he felt stronger than he ever had before. He reached within the wall, grabbing it, and then instead of trying to unweave it, he pulled.

It resisted. Brightness hovered all around him, the ghost of white walls trying to surround him and break his will again, but he ignored the counter-attack.

And pulled.

Clenching his jaw, he yanked at it, distorting the shape. The sail began to stretch and bulge weirdly, and he set his entire weight of himself against it and pulled.

The first tear made a sound like thunder, crashing over him, and then it tore again. Still he pulled until the barrier shredded in his hands like paper and was gone.

The datastream of the Colony opened up for him then, an ocean that tempted him with the depths. He pulled back, refusing it because that wasn't why he was here. He was here to speak to the Hybrids.

Five identical girls in blue dresses with bare feet sat on the deck of his boat looking up at him. What is your will, Father?

He stroked the smooth dark hair of the one nearest him and looked at them, feeling a little sad but there was no time for finesse. I'm sorry, little ones. But it's time. Five Maker Command override function. Program one: Sleep. Definition sleep: Life-support and time function restrict. Battle function stop. Jump function stop. Engine function idle. Duration one hour. Program one end of line.

Program two: Autodestruct sequence start. Definition autodestruct: Five Maker Command override restrict. Sequence definition: program one complete, program two start. Program two end of line.

Program one start. End of line.

They curled up on the deck immediately, like dolls abandoned after playtime.

He held the projection of his boat, the wind was right, barely rippling his sail and the sea was calm. He took a moment to savor the peace -- the Hybrids were asleep and none could wake them but one of the Five. And if worst came to worst, this ship would be blown to hell in an hour. He hoped it wouldn't come to that, but he had promised Adama that the price would be paid, even if they two were the only ones who knew that.

Then abruptly the silence shattered. One of the girls sat upright crying out, "Father!" Then she screamed and fell off the boat and into the water with a splash.

Agony tore through him as the link snapped.







TWO MORE. TWO MORE.

ONLY TWO MORE AND THEN IT'S ALL OVER.

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