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08 May 2014 @ 04:13 pm
Black Sails at Dawn, Chapter 21/23  
oops, completely forgot to actually post this last week.



Kara felt the inexorable tick of a clock counting down. It was like those early days of the war when that thirty-second minute passed and the thirty-third was on its way, again. Her chest grew tighter until she could barely breathe. She knew it didn't make any sense - there was no reason to fear that she was running out of time.

But she was, and she knew it.

"Hurry!" she snapped to Ellen, who was too cautious, too slow. Ellen said she wanted to hurry but then she lingered.

"We're almost there," Ellen told her, which at least explained why she had slowed.

Kara snapped in another clip, ducked around the corner, and fired. Centurions fired back, but Kara's team had the numbers, and Kara was in a killing mood. She took down four herself.

There. The big archway that had to be it, guarded by another group of both new and old style Centurions. The old style fell more easily, it turned out, and Kara knew from her mother that if you blinded their visual sensors, getting them in the power pack in the chest was easy with a big enough caliber gun.

At her side, the other allied Centurions, Simon, and D'Anna laid down cover fire for Kara to rush the edge of the archway. She took a deep breath and peeked, to see the status.

It was surprisingly empty, but what drew her horrified attention was Sam, backed against one of the consoles by two old Centurions and he had one hand behind him. Cavil was yelling something, and the Centurions had sidearms pointed right at Sam from near point-blank range.

"NO!" The scream was torn out of Kara's throat and she squeezed off a frantic round, knowing she was too late.

The Centurions fired.

She hit one, sending its bullet into the console behind Sam, but the other struck. Sam slammed backward, eyes flaring, as the gunfire echoed in the small room. There was already blood beneath his nose, smeared from a nosebleed, and more blood on his neck from a head wound.

As the other enemies inside the room turned to look, she took a stance and started picking them off, cold rage making her hands steady. "You frakkers, you frakkers--" She fired at her enemies until her clip emptied then she dropped the empty gun to the floor and rushed inside.

D'Anna saw, too, and her gun took out those Kara didn't. "Sam!"

"Frak!" Kara threw herself down beside him, where he was awkwardly folded on the floor, slumped against the console. He listed to the side, and she threw an arm around to catch him. "Sam, no!"

She eased him down flat. His eyes were such a stunning, brilliant blue she stared, frozen for a heartbeat. "Sam?" she whispered. Then she blinked and looked for the wound -- there was blood all over the black flightsuit on his chest, hiding at first where the actual wound was.

"We'll get you to Cottle, it'll be okay," she told him, putting her hand over the wound, hard, trying to seal it with her hand, while she looked around frantically for a medical kit in this cold and sterile place. But Cylons didn't need medical kits, did they? Because before recently, they could just download into new bodies.

"... No..." He put his hand over hers, trying to tug her hands away. "Fate."

"No!" She shook her head, attention drawn back to his face as she kept her hands tight on the wound. "Not fate. Don't you die on me."

"Sam!" Ellen was there suddenly, kneeling across from Kara on Sam's other side. "I can fix the resurrection--"

"No. No more," he whispered and his eyes went back to Kara. How could his eyes be this blue? "You. Take them home."

Kara shook her head, not understanding, not caring when he was bleeding out under her hands. "Sam."

"Home," he insisted. "You know … inside." His eyes closed and he shuddered with pain, opening his eyes to look at her again. "Iris… Tell … "

"Sam, shut up," Kara ordered him. "Hold on. We'll get you to Cottle."

Simon crowded in next to her, and thank the gods, he had some kind of medical kit that he opened up on the deck, pulling out supplies.

But Sam didn't listen or seem to notice anything else, intent on pushing the words through his lips with dwindling breath. His skin was turning translucent, as the blood welled between her fingers. "… love Thea but you… always… my..."

"Oh gods, Sam, don't do this," she pleaded in a whisper.

His gaze slipped past her, and she whipped her head around to see what he was looking at, but there was nothing there. He was focused on something only he could see. She looked back at his face, as strangely it shone with a golden bright light as if there was a high spotlight on him or he was aglow from within. Then his eyes closed and his fingers went limp.

"Sam?"

Simon grabbed for Sam's wrist to check his pulse. "I can give him time to get to Cottle for surgery. But he needs a Heavy Raider and across to Galactica. Now."

Kara looked around, feeling lost. She had no idea what to do or how to do it. He was dying, he would die, he'd been shot in the chest…

"You," Ellen addressed one of the Centurions lingering in the doorway. "Can you carry him? Simon, you go with them."

Simon worked efficiently, bandaging tightly, and inserting an i.v. for fluids.

Kara watched, holding Sam's right hand in hers, as his breathing grew labored, hitching with pain and blood. Oh gods, don't take him from me, from us.

The Centurion approached with that springy gait that made her blood chill and she nearly shot it in reflex. It said nothing but it bent and scooped Sam up in a whirr of its machinery, but its spidery fingers cradled him easily and gently.

"Well, frak me," Kara whispered, amazed. 

"Go," Ellen ordered. D'Anna and Simon followed, along with a six-pack of other Centurions. It should have been frightening to see Sam disappear among all those Cylons, but all Kara could think was maybe he'd have a chance.

Ellen went to the central datafont and slipped her hand in. "Ah, clever boy. Always a backup plan," she murmured.

"Backup plan?" Kara asked, having to clear her throat to find her voice.

"He set the self-destruct." She glanced at Kara and smiled. "Two minutes to spare. If that's not evidence of God, I don't know what is."

She pulled her hand out of the font and faced Kara. "Now your turn, Kara."

"What? Me? What are you talking about?"

"He said you know the way."

"I don't know what he was talking about," Kara protested. "He was delirious."

Ellen regarded her for a moment and then shook her head. "I don't think so. He knew exactly what he was saying, and spending all of his last breaths to tell you. You know the way, Kara."

"I… don't."

"Are you only this flesh standing here on this deck?" Ellen demanded. "You're not. I can see that, Kara. I've seen the space between life and death, and I know you have, too. I know you're special." She came nearer and her hands touched Kara's face to cup it between her palms. "He drew your picture on our journey to the Colonies. He knew what you looked like before you were born," she murmured. "This is not all that you are, Kara. I know it, I believe it. You just need to believe it, too. Sam's shown you the path, but you have to walk it."

Her words seemed so familiar to Kara. Like her mother's voice but different, like that dream!Leoben's. Like Sam's. Like words she heard in her own voice.

The words called to her, as a new feeling grew inside her heart. A tugging, like someone calling her name, or a distant melody she remembered from childhood.

Kara's head lifted, hearing the music. And she held out her blood-stained hand, hovering over the liquid in the control interface.

"Can I do this? Isn't this for Cylons?" she asked Ellen.

"It's for everyone, my dear. It always has been," Ellen told her. "Our dream was never for Cylons. It was for people."

Kara slipped her hand into the water and pressed her hand down on the interface like she'd seen the Cylons do. There was a tingle, and then her vision opened up. A display formed in midair before her eyes, and the controls of the Colony opened up for her.

It was all irrelevant, not what she needed. She searched, wandered, listening to that music, and roused the jump engines.

There. They had to go there.

The jump field expanded and expanded, engulfing the Galactica and the small friendly basestar as well. Everyone was going home.

She could feel the distance between here and there, and it seemed easy to bring them together.

Jump.





Sharon knew when the fight was won. Suddenly most of the Cylon ships stopped. Their engines died, their sensors went dark, and they started to drift. The only ones left were the Heavy Raiders with pilots, who continued the fight.

Natalie's voice came over comms, sure and strong, "To all Cylon, if you do not surrender, you will be destroyed. There is no resurrection, there is no second chance. You make your choice now: join us or you will die for the last time."

Some fought, but not all. Some tried to turn tail and flee. Sharon watched those who refused surrender disappear into nothingness and felt sorrow, but not too much. They were making their own choices. They were foolish choices, but at least Cylons were making their own.

But then, the Colony's energy signature lit up like a sun, seconds before a jump field washed through her, dazzlingly bright.

When she blinked the dazzle away, they were somewhere new.

"What the hell-- where are we? What happened?" the pilots all blurted in confusion. Sharon confirmed hastily that Galactica was still there and it was. It had been swept up in the powerful jump field as well.

Then Duck's familiar voice speaking for everyone, "Oh gods. Look, people. That planet."

Sharon turned her ship's orientation to find the planetary mass.

Bright blue seas, green and brown land, white clouds… a perfect marble floating in the black.

Kara's voice then floated over comms, though Sharon had lost track of her ages ago. Her voice seemed a little strange, ethereal, but certain.

"Everyone. We've come home. We've finally found it. This is our new home."




Kara was just as glad to leave Ellen and D'Anna in charge of the Colony. There was a lot there to deal with, including pockets of resistance from Ones and Fives who didn't want to surrender, but it wasn't her problem.

Ellen had a couple of friendly Centurions help Kara find her way back to her ship. Out in space, she could breathe. It was so gratifying to see that beautiful world there, gleaming not far away. It was like the Earth-That-Was, but this one, she knew, was the true one. They would settle there; they'd found their way.

They'd won.

Now all that remained was to find the price they'd paid for this victory.

She returned to the Galactica, to find Cerberus perched on the deck. It had a wide space cleared away from around it, and its agitation was plain in the way it trembled against the deck and the sensor pinned her with recognition. She couldn't resist going to it as soon as she was clear of her Viper. "Hey, hey, I know," she murmured.

It let out an audible whine, heart-breaking in its desolation. She wondered if it was blaming itself for not coming to get her sooner to go rescue Sam, because she sure was blaming herself for not moving a little faster. Only a few seconds ... only a few seconds ... and he wouldn't have been shot. Cerberus whined again, sad and anxious. She should have felt stupid patting the head of a deadly Raider, trying to comfort it, but she needed the reassurance, herself. "Me, too. I'm going to see if he's okay. Hold on and be patient."

She felt Cerberus' gaze on her all the way to the door, and thought it wasn't going to look away until Sam came back through that door with her.

On her way, she found curiosity and a sort of wary hope; she felt confident that the world was inhabitable, but of course the ship had fallen for the trick before, so no one was celebrating quite yet. And they had good cause to be wary, too, as bad things were happening, not only Sam's injury, as as she found out when she reached sickbay.

Helo was waiting there, looking pale and shattered. Kara lost a step, thinking there was only one reason he'd be waiting there for her, looking awful.

"Is he… is he gone?" she asked in a faint voice. "He didn't make it?"

But Helo looked confused. "Who? I'm here for Hera," he explained haltingly. "She… collapsed. Unconscious. No reason for it, Buzzer was watching her and said it was right before the jump and I don't know, maybe something happened... Sharon's … on her way. I think." His eyes drifted to the hatch, hoping his wife hurried back from her ship, then back to Kara.

Kara felt cold - that had either been when Sam had taken all the Cylons off line, or when he'd gotten shot. It had to be. And since she'd long since stopped believing in coincidence...

"Stay here, Karl. Sharon should be coming in soon, the battle's over. I have to check something." She pushed him gently to one of the waiting chairs and went to the staff rushing around to demand an answer about Sam.

The curt answer came back, "Surgery with Doc Cottle."

Surgery. That meant he wasn't dead. Thank the gods.

The hatch opened and some marines and Tory hurried in, ahead of two people carrying a stretcher. "The president! The president needs help!"

Kara pressed back into the bulkhead, out of the way, watching the activity swirl through the triage area.

The price they were paying for this new planet suddenly seemed too high.





The orderly brought Kara to Sam's bed in ICU, where Cottle was waiting. 

It was bad enough seeing the swathes of bandages around his torso and head, the wires and monitors connected to his body, but far worse, was to see the ventilator tube taped to his mouth, and the steady artificial breathing of the machine next to him. None of it looked... real. "How's he doing?" she asked, not sure she wanted to know.

Cottle shook his head. "There's swelling in his brain from a concussion, his lung was shredded by the bullet and at some point in getting here, a shard of bone pierced his pulmonary artery. He fell into shock when he nearly bled out, and he's gone into v-fib twice."

"What-- what does that mean?" Kara could barely breathe. She knew what it meant, but she wanted it to mean something else.

"It means... you need to say goodbye," Cottle answered bluntly.

Kara shook her head, unable to deal with this again. "But, no. You can fix him, you can bring him back," she insisted.

Cottle shook his head once. "No further life-saving measures will be taken."

"Why? Who decided that?" Kara demanded, suddenly furious.

"I did," a familiar voice said.

Kara whirled, finding Thea just inside the drapes, cradling the baby. She looked exhausted, her pale face even paler with dark smudges under her eyes. "You have no right to decide that!" Kara flared.

Thea didn't return her temper, letting it slid off her in her weariness. "Kara, we have to let him go," Thea murmured. "We can't hold him here only for ourselves. This isn't his destiny."

Kara remembered his desperate words and pushed them away. "Destiny?" Kara sneered. "I followed my destiny and I'm still here. He can stay, too."

Thea returned her glare calmly and passed her to go to the bedside. "We have to give him the choice. He wouldn't want this," she whispered. "We can't force him to stay for us." Thea bent over him and held Iris to his cheek and beneath his slack fingers. Kara felt her eyes burn at the sight - this time not for herself, the pain was for tiny Iris, who would never know her father.

"I have always loved you," Thea whispered to him and kissed his forehead. "But I knew you'd never stay. Go in peace, Sam. I'll teach Iris about you so she'll know you, I promise." 

She moved back, sitting down in the hard plastic chair to watch. In her silence, Kara could pretend she wasn't there.

Kara took his hand in hers. "Sam, we're here," she whispered. "We brought them here. You have to see it, it's a beautiful new planet. There's this huge ocean and a temperate sea just perfect for your boat. And your Raider buddy is in the hangar, and if it could be in here, it would be. It's waiting for you to come back." Her voice faltered, knowing that wasn't going to happen. She lifted his hand to her lips, remembering when he'd done the same for her all that eternity ago on Caprica.

"You brought us home." She pulled in a breath and swallowed. "And I have to let you go to find yours. I know that. Goodbye, Sam." She bent down to kiss his cheek and murmured in his ear, "I love you."

Then, as if he'd been waiting only to hear that, the beeps of the heart monitor sped up, skipped irregularly, and then abruptly went to a single tone. The ventilator continued, mechanicallly forcing air, so it was hard to see anything had changed.

Doctor Cottle's hand squeezed her shoulder, but he didn't move toward the bed. "He's gone," he confirmed and reached over to switch off the ventilator. The sudden silence was appalling and still, as if the air had turned to ice.





Sam looked beyond Kara as the light turned golden and the Opera House formed around him, misty and insubstantial.

The light brightened until he couldn't see Kara anymore. It wasn't Kara's hand in his either, but smaller and yet stronger -- he looked into the brilliance and it was Hera, pulling him.
 
He stood up, his large hand engulfing her tiny one, yet she the strongest by far.

They were in the Opera House on the stage. He could see the other Four, quiescent and still. He saw their faces, but they didn't react to him, because these figures were only part of them. This was the part of each of them that had been torn away and held in the space between life and death, awaiting each turn of the wheel whether they would find a way to be whole again.
 
He looked down at himself, to see he was wearing the white robe. His feet were bare, and the cowl was back on his shoulders.

"Come," Hera tugged on him. "It's this way."
 
He left the white drape where he was standing and followed her across the empty stage. When he approached the door, others were there -- Six, Leoben, Daniel… -- all gathered there waiting for him. He could see beyond the faces they wore, to their true selves gleaming within - ancient, proud. He knew them. He knew them all suddenly, the knowledge pouring in on him like the light itself.

"Welcome home, brother," Leoben - Hermes - greeted him with a nod of his head.

The Six - Artemis - still had cold eyes, looking on him. "You have returned, Poseidon."

He paused. Poseidon. He glanced down at Hera and then back to his friends, the Four rebels, and he knew them, too: Ares, Demeter, Hephaestus, and Aphrodite. Their names and yet not their names; they were names from a time so long ago they had become legend and myth.

"It is time," Artemis declared. "You five rebelled. You five sought to help the mortals cheat death, but that cannot and will not be permitted. Now you must accept our brother again, and open the door so that all souls can travel to Elysium to their final reward."

He took a step forward to do that, and then stopped. "All of them?" he asked, glancing to Hera for confirmation. "Our created children have souls. I will not open the door unless they are welcome as well."

"The Creator agreed," Hera answered. "Made life is life, and those who live can cross over. The war is over. You have been punished enough for your rebellion, and you made the sacrifice. Open the door, and come home."

He put his hand around the brass knob. It turned easily, and he pushed the door. Golden light streamed out, and he saw a haze with tall trees, flowers, and blue water beyond.

It was beautiful and it called to him, tugging at his soul with the desire to go there. Home. There were voices singing, distant music of welcome.
 
Sam heard a soft breath of amazement behind him and turned to see Laura Roslin climbing the last steps from the audience up to the stage. She looked around with visible awe at the shining figures on stage, and her gaze settling on Hera. "I... I am so sorry," she murmured.

Hera smiled. "It was as it should be, Laura. You protected your people and you led them to their new home."

Laura glanced back over her shoulder, seeing something other than the audience of the Opera House, then faced forward. She walked toward the open doorway with a peaceful smile on her face.

"I see them," she whispered. "My family. My sisters." Her smile wobbled a bit and her eyes filled with tears. "Even Billy. They're already there."

"The instant the way opened they entered," Hera explained. "They've now moved on, and so must you."

Laura nodded, blinking back the tears and stopped in front of Sam, looking into his face. He had no idea what she was seeing, but he returned her look calmly. "I understand now. Thank you," she said at last. "With all my heart, I thank you for opening the path to Elysium." She held out her hand and he clasped it in his.

"And I thank you, Laura," he told her. "You brought the humans to safety. You saved them."

She nodded a little and glanced behind him to the door. "Would you-- would you take me there?" she asked hesitantly. "I'm not afraid, but ... I wouldn't mind company."

"Of course. I'd be honored. This way." Still holding her hand, he brought her the last little way, past the other lords, toward the open door.

Her expression was lit with joy and shone as if the sun was on it. She wasn't seeing the Opera House, if she ever had.

He blinked and shifted so he could see her projection, and found himself on the deck of a large motorboat, with the blue sky above and water all around. They were heading across a wide, deep river and approaching a green shore, lined with people waiting.

The boat stopped and a ramp lowered, down to the sand. Sam helped her step up onto the ramp and then, when he tried to let go, she held on and turned to smile at him. "Give Bill my love. I'll see him soon."

"You will."

"Good. And until you join us, be happy, Sam," she wished him. "You deserve it."

"And you deserve your rest, Laura."

She pressed his hand and let go, facing the shore. She walked down the short ramp, soon surrounded by loved ones as the light brightened until he couldn't see her anymore without crossing the threshold himself.

With a contented sigh, he turned to face the others. "I suppose it's time for me, too."

He almost went through but Hera tugged on his hand. "Sam."
 
He knelt down. "Hera?"
 
She cocked her head and looked at him with those infinite dark eyes. "Do you want to go back?"
 
He swallowed and touched his chest. He didn't feel the wound, but he knew his body must have died to get him here. "I don't think my wants have much to do with it, do they?"

"You can choose. You can go across," she waved toward the shore, where Laura's people had all vanished. Now he saw his own -- a gathering of those he remembered throughout all of his mortal lives.

"The mountain you see is our home," Hera told him, pointing to a shining mountain in the distance. A shaft of sunlight illuminated the peak, connecting it with the heavens. He knew none of it was really there. His mind was still mortal and still thinking in metaphors, but it didn't matter; the sight filled him with a piercing pain of sheer longing.

"You can cross to the other side and go home," Hera said. "All that was taken from you will be restored. You'll be whole again."

"But?"

"Once we cross, the door closes behind us. We leave mortals to their own choices and we wait for them to join us."

That seemed fair. No more interference in mortality, for good or ill alike.

"And my other choice?" Sam asked. "You said I had one."

"Or," Hermes stepped toward him, "you can go back. You will be stripped of your powers once more -- "

"--more thoroughly," Artemis corrected.

Hermes glanced her way, impatiently, and finished, "--And you will live out your days mortal."

Sam narrowed his eyes in awareness of something that hadn't made sense before, but suddenly did. "You. You pretended you were me."

Hermes was unrepentant. "Until she saw through it. But Kara had to listen and ready herself to become greater. Just as you did." His expression turned wistful. "And I have loved her, too."

Hera smiled. "Aurora. She became whole to bring them to their new home. You'll have to wait until she lives out her mortal life."

"She fell for you," Artemis told him, until the form of Baltar patted her soothingly.

"For love. And there is nothing stronger than that, as our missing sister would tell us," he reminded her. "Wasn't it love that began all this in the first place? Our brothers and sisters loved the ones they made too much?"

She shot a glare at him and then let out a sigh. "I've already agreed," she said.

Sam looked at them and the brilliant beacon on the mountain and felt a strange dizziness. He knew what they were saying, he understood it, and it felt right and yet--- He shook his head in confusion. "Aurora told me I wasn't a god."

"We're not gods," Artemis said, disdainful. "Perhaps lesser creatures believe so, but we know what we are. You were made mortal in punishment, and only repentance and understanding would bring you back here to be whole again. Aurora helped you."

"If you go through the door, you'll be restored," Hera promised. "All that was taken from you, you'll be whole and you'll understand. If you go back to mortality, you'll not know when or how it will end, and you'll live a mortal life and suffer another mortal death. But in the end, you'll still come home, I promise."

Kara was waiting for Sam on Earth, and so was Aurora, because they were one and the same: one a mortal reflection of the other. He'd always loved her, with the deep dark sea's longing for the sun. And somehow through his millennia of rebellion and punishment, she'd come to love him as well. She had dared the censure of the others to help him, and their love had finally reunited their broken kin and stopped the unceasing and uncaring wheel of fate.

He had to smile, shaking his head, because it was no choice at all. "You know which one I want."

"I do," Hera answered. "I'll be there, too. Not that you'll know that, of course, but the three of us will live our lives with those who love us and we'll usher in a new age for our children."

It should've been odd hearing that from what looked like the body of a child, but there was nothing child-like in her. She was Hera, who had sought a new way to bring the cycles to an end by bringing human and Cylon, natural and artificial, together through creation of one who was both. And something which had been impossible in ages past would lead the way to the future.

He returned to his Opera House projection and to the place where his immortal self had been imprisoned all these years. But this time, it wasn't stolen from him. This time, he lifted his face to the light of the universe and stepped free of his own will.



tbc...



Crossposted from DW There are comment count unavailable comments over there. Feel free to comment wherever.
 
 
 
noybusiness: AndersGoldnoybusiness on May 10th, 2014 05:41 am (UTC)
Interesting. What can the next two chapters possibly be about, I wonder?