Characters: Sam Anders, Ensemble
Spoilers: None. This is an AU of Season Two.
Summary: The day the Cylons came to Caprica, Sam knew he was one of them. That was the first revelation.
Disclaimer: A bit of the dialog in this is borrowed from "Downloaded" and "Lay Down Your Burdens 1 and 2". BSG is not my creation.
Author's Notes: Thanks so much to sabaceanbabe for the beta but mostly for giving me the confidence that my crazy idea was a good crazy idea... Other authorly ruminations linked at the end if you're interested in how this Plot Kraken took over my brain and some hints about where I'm going next. Because this... is just the beginning. *whimper* I'm very proud of this story and I like it a lot - I hope you do too. :)
This was too long to fit in one post, so make sure you click the link to the continuation at the bottom. *g*
"What is the most basic article of faith? This is not all that we are." -- Leoben
Sam always had the feeling he was… different. When he discovered Pyramid, he thought that was the reason. Pyramid was his ticket out of foster care to college. Two years later, he went pro and was recruited in the first round to the Dionysis City Wildcats and on his way to the Intercolonial League and all the fame and fortune that went with that. Yet, it always seemed that something was missing.
For one moment, when he was on the championship team for Virgon, that niggling restlessness fell silent. But soon it came back, stronger than ever. He'd won a frakking championship and it wasn't enough. He tried to fill the void with alcohol and frakking anyone who stayed still long enough, but it left him more hollow than before.
Two trades later, he was on the downward slope of his career, propping up the mismanaged Bucs, and still that emptiness lingered.
But then the Cylons attacked.
The instant he saw one of the Centurions, it was as if a switch flipped in his brain and he knew.
He was a Cylon. He had no idea how that could be possible, but he knew it was true, right down to his bones (and they were bones - he'd had two fractures and numerous x-rays to prove it).
But he still felt the anguish and anger of losing his home, and he could still fight and destroy the toasters. So even while he wondered who and what he really was, he fought them.
He got very good at sublimating his confusion into anger at the Cylons, and never had a qualm at killing them.
Six weeks after the attacks, Sue-Shaun and Ten-Point brought another group of refugees in to camp.
Sam held a water bottle in one hand, and started down the line to meet-and-greet. He shook hands with a woman and turned to the man next to her - he was a bit older than Sam himself, attractive though a little worn-looking with grey in his close-cropped hair, and a smile that seemed secretive.
"You're Sam Anders," he said eagerly, sticking out his hand. "C-Bucs rule! I'm glad to meet you."
"You too, mister…?" Sam said, and extended his own hand.
"Leoben Conoy," he answered.
Their hands clasped together, and Sam's heart seemed to drop into his stomach as the strangest feeling washed over him, like a breeze across his skin.
Leoben was one of them. A Cylon. Sam knew it, the same way he knew he was one. He stared into Leoben's eyes, waiting for the same spark of recognition.
But it didn't come. Instead the Cylon smiled, and he licked his lips suggestively, as if Sam were staring at him out of sexual attraction. Sam let go of his hand and stepped back.
"We're always glad to see new people, Mister Conoy. Welcome to the Resistance. Someday I hope we'll kill all the Cylons and free our people," he said. It was a test, but Sam didn't know what to make of the answer.
Leoben didn't blink, but he wasn't exactly enthusiastic either. "I follow God's will," he said. The words were strange, but he seemed to believe what he was saying, given the fervor in his eyes. "He showed me the path to you."
Sam shuddered as he moved to the next person, resisting the urge to wipe his hand on his pants. As he spoke to the rest of them, his mouth was on automatic while his brain chewed on this new information.
A Cylon too.
He couldn't let one of the enemy stay in their hidden camp. But what if Leoben was like him, just as confused and ignorant of his true nature?
But Leoben didn't seem to know him. Did he have any answers? Was there a way to get them without exposing himself?
What was he going to do?
Sam put Joman on watching Leoben, and he waited. The Cylon seemed content doing the menial chores assigned to him and didn't seek out Sam, but Sam wondered how long it would last. The second evening when Sam sat on the steps outside for a cigarette (yet another bad habit he'd picked up -- it was odd and mysterious that smoking worked at all if he was actually some kind of machine, but it did), Leoben wandered up.
He sat on the top step next to Sam and looked out at the treeline. "You should keep moving. The Cylons will triangulate your position if you stay in one place. They're very methodical."
"Oh really?" Sam tapped the ash off. He didn't feel very methodical at all; in fact, most days he felt too emotional and wrecked if he thought about everything too much.
"They don't see the patterns, or they would know you're here already," Leoben murmured. "I see them though." He turned and cocked his head a bit to one side, regarding Sam. "Despite all your fame, you always thought you were supposed to be something more. You knew you had a destiny beyond all this." He waved his hand outward, indicating the camp and probably the Colonies altogether.
"You some kind of oracle?" Sam asked.
"This is not all that we are," Leoben murmured. "And it's not all you are."
Sam flinched and took a drag on his cigarette. "Well, I'm not going to be more here. Cylons frakked that up pretty good, didn't they?"
Leoben shook his head once. "No. You're right where you're meant to be."
Sam felt cold. Was it true? Had the Cylons put him here because he was supposed to be here? Was there some kind of plan? But how could that be? The Cylons couldn't have known the Bucs would be training up here rather than their facility outside Caprica City. No question the team would all be dead if they'd been there.
He stabbed out his cigarette. "I'm not that special," he muttered. "It was just luck."
"You don't believe that," Leoben admonished. "You believe you were saved for a purpose. And you were, Sam."
"For what?" Sam demanded, facing him. "What purpose?"
"Something glorious," Leoben answered. His eyes were shining and he seemed to believe every word. "The first time I saw you I read your pattern to the end, and I knew you would eclipse everyone else on this world. And I knew I was the one meant to show you the path."
For a moment, Sam looked into his eyes and he believed it too. He wanted to believe it - that all of this meant something good. But he knew what Leoben was, and he knew what he was.
It was all a lie.
He wasn't becoming more; he was becoming less.
He stood up, grabbing the pistol from the back of his belt and pointing it at Leoben. His thumb clicked off the safety and his hand was steady.
"You're a Cylon."
Leoben raised his eyebrows in surprise, but didn't deny it. "Does that matter?" he asked. "Everything I've said is the truth. Yes, I came to spy - I didn't expect to find you here. But now I know I have to show you your destiny."
"Why do you look human?"
"We evolved. All living things evolve. The creatures closest to God find their purpose much faster."
"You're machines," Sam retorted and his hand started to tremble. "Just godsdamned machines."
"We're alive. I have a soul," Leoben declared softly, staring at the pistol without any fear.
"You have a soul?" Sam asked, and his voice cracked. Gods, he wanted to believe that…
Leoben frowned at him. "I have a soul, Sam Anders, and I swim in the stream just like you. But unlike you, I know where the stream will take me. Kill this body, and my soul will be reborn in a new one."
Sam blinked away the confusion. He needed information, not mystical crap. "How many human-looking Cylons are there?"
"Twelve models there were, and Seven remain of the children of God." He paused and when Sam couldn't speak, he held out his hand. "I can show you the path, Sam. I sense your closeness to God. Our destinies are entwined."
Sam shook his head and stepped down to the ground, away, keeping the gun trained on Leoben. "No. You're just frakking with my head."
"Don't fear your destiny." Leoben stood up, and since he was still on the step, his eyes were level with Sam's. "There's no reason to be afraid."
"Shut up! You're a spy!"
"I can choose, and I choose you. You need me, if you're to do what you're meant to do."
"I'm not going to listen to you!" Sam pulled the trigger and Leoben fell backward, sprawled across the steps with blood blooming red on his shirt.
Leoben didn't look surprised. Instead his lips twitched into a faint smile and he whispered, "I'll see you again."
Sam lowered the gun and stared at the corpse. His own blood seemed like ice, not moving in his veins, and his head was pounding. Leoben looked dead; if he had a soul, it wasn't in his body anymore.
The door slammed open and Sue-Shaun rushed out, gun ready. "Sam! Are you --?" She nearly fell, realizing at the last second that there was a body sprawled across the steps, and her eyes flew up to his. "Sam? What the hell?"
"He was a Cylon," Sam answered tonelessly. "They look like us now."
And he almost said aloud, "They look like me. " Somehow that was very funny and he started to laugh, and he laughed long after Sue-Shaun's tentative smile had faded into concern.
He sobered abruptly. "He said he's going to resurrect somehow. We have to move before he can tell them where we are."
Stepping around the body, being careful not to touch it, he brushed past Sue-Shaun and went back inside to do his job and forget about lying, frakking Cylons.
But deep inside somewhere, he did the math.
There are five missing. Five he didn't know. That's what I am.
He grabbed onto that knowledge and held tight.
Kara wasn't one of them. He knew that before he touched her -- he knew it looking into her bright eyes when they were holding guns on each other.
When he was with her, all the questions and fear inside him went away. She was so enthusiastic, so physical, so unlike anyone he'd ever known, he couldn't get enough.
For the first time, he was tempted to tell someone the truth, but he knew she wouldn't understand. How could she? He didn't understand it himself.
But he'd grown skilled at ignoring the truth until sometimes he realized that days had gone by without thinking about it at all. He continued leading the resistance and killing Cylons without a twinge. He might be one of them by blood, but he was raised human. He remembered how Leoben had said he could choose, and so could Sam. Sam chose humanity.
A few days later, Kara had been taken, and in the middle of it, he found he wasn't the only Cylon to choose humans when one of the black-haired women Cylons found them and volunteered to help.
The truth of what she was breathed across his skin, and he didn't need to touch her to know. As before, she didn't recognize him. He wondered at that, why she didn't feel him the same way he could feel her.
After Kara was rescued and with Agathon, he wandered over to Sharon who was standing by the truck, alone. She looked a bit surprised that anyone would approach her.
"I have a question," he said. "We had a Cylon in camp before. He mentioned something about being reborn in a new body. What did he mean?"
She took a moment to answer, then faced him. "Our consciousness can be downloaded into a new body if this one dies. We carry our memories from one to the next."
He frowned. "So, you -- your thoughts and feelings, who you are -- don't die." He thought back to Leoben claiming he had a soul, and felt sick, because an immortal brain wasn't the same thing as a soul.
She nodded. "Right. Death is a learning experience."
He swallowed back the anger, but not the bitterness. "That's not true for humans. When humans die, they're dead, and their souls go on to the gods."
Her gaze, unsettling and dark, flipped up to his. "You don't sound like you believe in the gods."
"No," he answered and turned away. "The Lords of Kobol wouldn't have let this happen if they were real."
Her silence was answer enough.
He rubbed his arms as the breeze turned cold, even though he stood in the sun. "He also said there used to be twelve of you, but now seven remain. What happened to the other five?"
"The Final Five," she answered and seemed to be clenching her jaw. "We don't speak of them."
"We're programmed not to."
"You must know something. What do you know of them?" he pressed.
She gasped. "They're different." Then abruptly her eyes went glassy and she said through her teeth, "Not like us."
Then she shook her head and inhaled a deep unsteady breath. "That's all," she said and there was an unsettling note of plea in her voice. "It's hard."
"It's all right," he told her automatically, though it wasn't. Not at all.
They had been programmed not to think of the Five? It had to have something to do with how she couldn't recognize him as one of her own kind. But why? Who had done it and to what end?
Always questions and no answers.
When the chance came to go with Kara and take the Arrow to the fleet, something inside him seemed to be pushing for him to leave with her. But he didn't trust the feeling, so he shook his head and smiled, sliding his thumb across her cheek and her lips. "I won't leave my team. But you have to go. "
Kara opened her mouth to protest but then nodded. "I'll come back for you."
When he closed his hand around her dog tag, he thought it should burn him for being unworthy of the gift. But it felt like metal warm from her skin, and he held it as he watched her and Helo and his only example of what it meant to be a Cylon and friend of humanity take off into the sky.
If he died, would he resurrect too?
The question preyed on his mind in the quiet times: when he was cleaning his guns, when he was eating, when he was drinking… not when he was shooting toasters.
He was a Cylon; he knew that much. Cylons resurrected, according to both Sharon and Leoben. Therefore, he should.
Somewhere around there, each time he was on that mental treadmill, he would remember Sharon's voice saying the Five were different. Maybe he wouldn't resurrect if he died. Maybe death was as permanent for him as it was a human.
But… He knew his history - he remembered being a child. There were photos and videos and people who knew him back at least twenty years. Hilliard had played against him in the Intercolonial High School Tournament -- he still teased Sam that Picon had paid off the refs. That couldn't be fake.
Sometimes he wondered if his belief in his 'Cylon nature' was the delusion. He'd met people who had cracked, even a few so far gone in their grief and denial they'd become more dangerous than Cylons. Maybe this was his personal brand of not-dealing or punishing himself for surviving.
He didn't know, and in the end, what difference was it going to make? He was trapped on a Cylon-occupied world, fighting against an enemy that didn't recognize him and wouldn't stay dead. The outcome was inevitable.
So he killed them and waited to die. He'd find out the truth soon enough. At the rate the Cylons were cutting down the Resistance, he wasn't going to make it to the new year. His luck would only hold out so long.
When the explosion ripped through the garage, he expected either to not wake up at all or wake up shiny and resurrected. But instead he woke up choking on dust and dirt, with what felt like half the building on his chest. Worse, he knew he was near Cylons. His skin prickled with their presence so strongly it was hard to concentrate.
He wanted to stay quiet so they wouldn't know he was there, but he couldn't hold back the coughing or pained groan as the heavy block on top of him shifted.
"We'll get you out, hold on!" a chipper female voice called to him.
They took off the debris and pulled him out - an Eight and a Three. Strange, he looked at the Eight and even though she was identical, he knew she wasn't the Sharon he'd met before. "Thanks," he gasped out and curled over, hacking up concrete powder that felt like a paste coating his lungs.
Bending probably saved him from unconsciousness, when the Three kicked him in the head.
Blinding pain shot through him - everything went black shot through with sparks. He fell back again, and couldn't move even when he felt one of them wrench his gun free of his thigh holster.
Opening his eyes allowed the light to stab through his brain and his stomach heaved, but he pushed that away, seeing the Three had leveled his own pistol at him. "Frakking human. You know he set that explosion."
Another time, that might've been funny that she was calling him a human, but not when he was staring at the possibility of mortality at the wrong end of his own gun.
"Him? Why? There's no military value to that café," the Eight asked in evident confusion. She sounded like such a child, stuck in a war zone she didn't understand.
"Humans don't respect life like we do," Three added with complacent satisfaction, and he stared, stunned into momentary silence by the egregious claim, before bursting out in incredulous fury, heedless of pain or threat:
"Is that how you live with yourself? Pretend the twenty billion people you murdered didn't exist? At least I acknowledge I'm killing people. And you people come back, humans don't. So how can you even think the words 'respect life'? You don't. So go ahead, murder me too. Prove me right," he challenged hoarsely, lifting his head up and glaring straight at her.
Three gave a little shrug and smile that she didn't care, but the Eight grabbed the gun and the two struggled with it. "No, I won't let you kill him."
"Don't! Don't kill him," another feminine voice said, the sound rough, and he saw a Six sitting against a chunk of wall. Her gaze slid to the side vaguely, as though hearing something he couldn't. She had a wound on her head and blood on her pants leg, too. She didn't look well at all.
"Why not?" the Three demanded.
The Six turned her head back to the other Cylons and seemed at a loss for a moment. "We can interrogate him for his accomplices. He's no threat to us."
The Three seemed to buy that excuse and, after pulling the gun from the Eight, she leaned down, aiming it at him as if daring him to move. "That's a Colonial fleet i.d. tag." She ripped Kara's dog tag from him and moved back to the other Cylons to look at it. "Thrace, Kara. Is that your name?" she asked, with a taunting smile, knowing damn well it was a woman's name.
"Starbuck?" the Eight asked, sounding startled. He was surprised, too. How did she know Kara?
The Three swung the tag back and forth and he watched it, fingers itching to grab it back. She grinned, knowing he couldn't reach it. "She was on Caprica a couple of weeks ago, and escaped with the help of another Sharon."
The Eight looked from the tag to Sam and back. "If she gave him that, he means something to her."
"You have no idea," he muttered. Slowly he pushed himself upright and felt the side of his head gingerly. At least he didn't seem to be bleeding, even if it throbbed like a jackhammer in his skull. Kara's tag blurred in his vision and he blinked furiously to clear it, waiting for his chance. If he could pluck a Pyramid ball out of the air for a steal, he could take his tag back.
Three snorted disdainfully. "How sweet." And she tossed it behind her like it was trash.
The dog tag fell near the Six, who picked it up and stared at it in her hand, looking strangely sad.
The Three sat down on a fallen piece of masonry and held up the gun, turning it about in the dim light. She purred at him, "Where are your accomplices? Your resistance base?"
"Frak you." He didn't want to confront her from the ground, so despite the ache in his whole body, he pushed himself to his feet. Fighting not to show the resulting dizziness, he leaned against the back end of a car. It had a "C Bucs Rule" sticker on it, and he hoped that was a good sign.
The Eight broke in asking, "Did you mean it when you said you know you're killing people? You believe we're people? So why would you kill people just talking in a café?"
He wanted to shake his head at her, but settled for saying, "My account manager's office was on the third floor of this building. But he's not around to get coffee anymore. That's why."
"Vengeance," the Three sneered. "That's all you want."
"Is that any different from you?" he retorted. "Isn't that why you're back? To avenge your loss of the first war? You didn't try to come back in peace. Instead you took it back with death and murder and blood. You don't deserve my planets."
The Six flinched and her lips parted as if he'd struck her. Well, he hoped he had. Gods knew if even one of them felt a little bad about what they'd done, he could die feeling he'd accomplished something.
"Oh really?" There was something dangerous in the Three's expression that sent a chill down his back. "Do you?"
She tossed the gun in the dirt halfway between them.
"What are you doing?" the Eight asked.
"Seeing what his words are worth. Come on," she taunted him, "take your vengeance. We're all unarmed. You can kill us and be out of here before the others come."
His lip curled in disgust. Human lives were really just a game to her. He narrowed his eyes. He'd played a lot of games, and this one might be higher stakes than most, but he wasn't an average player. The gun was too far and his balance too chancy, but she didn't have it anymore either. He could wait.
"Leave him alone," the Eight told the Three wearily, sounding sick of it also.
The Three sneered, without turning to look at her, "You think you're human, but you're not, and you never will be, Sharon. You're a broken machine, nothing more."
The name caught him by surprise. Did all the Eights go by the name of Sharon?
"At least I'm not a murderer," Sharon retorted. "I know right from wrong."
"You are a murderer," Three told her, and Sharon shut her eyes and turned away, looking distressed.
The ceiling groaned and he could suddenly hear more distant sounds of machinery. "They're almost here. What's it going to be, human?" Three asked.
With a strange urgency, the Six blurted, "We're dangerous. Sharon and I, we're celebrities in a culture based on unity."
Three and Sharon turned to look at her, frowning in confusion. He glanced at the gun, but Three was still too close.
But then the Six spoke some more and he forgot about the gun, listening and marveling at what she was revealing. "Our voices count. More than hers. More than others'. We're two heroes of the Cylon, right? Two heroes with different perspectives on the war. Perspectives based by our love of two human beings."
The Three laughed, sneering at her, "No, you're corrupted."
The Six ignored her, to focus on Sharon. "Jealousy, murder, vengeance-- they're all sins in the eyes of god. That's what you and I know. That's what they don't want to hear."
The ceiling groaned again and a shower of dirt and rocks came down. Three sprang up from her seat and toward the Six, to avoid another rock fall. Sam felt the car at his back shift and threw himself forward, as something behind him gave way and there was a roar of tumbling concrete.
When it stopped and he seemed all right, he got up to one knee and turned, looking for the Cylons.
Three was there, holding his gun on him again. "God loves me," she said and in her eyes, he read his death.
She never saw the Six come up behind her with a chunk of concrete and smash it on the Three's head. She went down, falling next to Sam, eyes open and staring.
Trying to breathe caught something in his chest, and he bent to cough again, holding his chest at the sudden pain in his ribs.
When he was done, Sharon was holding out her hand to help him up. Without hesitation, he accepted her hand and scrambled to his feet.
Six stood next to her, bloodied and limping. "You should get out while you can," she told him and held out Kara's tag. "Here."
As his hand closed around it, he wondered at this moment - Cylons helping him even though they thought he was human. "Thank you," he said. Then he licked his lips and offered, "I don't want this. I don't want to kill Cylons. I'm so tired of death …" He glanced down at Kara's tag, and the promise of something else that it represented, and murmured, "I wish there was another way. Something else than all of us drowning in our own hate and vengeance."
"Do you mean that?" the Six asked, astonished.
"Sure," he shrugged. How many Cylons had he killed? Dozens, hundreds maybe, but all he felt was a sense of weariness at the inevitability of defeat. He would fight them and he would die. "But it doesn't change anything."
Sharon and the Six looked at each other for a long moment. "Maybe that's not true," the Six murmured.
"Something needs to change," Sharon agreed. "We know the slaughter of humanity was a mistake. If we could get the others to see it too…"
The Six nodded slowly. She glanced away again, and in the dim light her hair shone like a halo. She smiled and his heart caught at how beautiful she was. "We need a new way to live in God's love. Our people need someone to show them the way. Someone like two heroes of the Cylon."
Sharon smiled back. "I'm with you," she declared.
They clasped hands, and something opened inside him, as if he had a glimpse of the future and he knew they were on the right path. Feeling strangely proud, he wished them, "Good luck."
"You, too," Sharon told him and offered him the gun, butt-first. He took it and kept it carefully pointed away from them. The ceiling made ominous grinding noises and he heard Centurions, so rescue was getting close. He turned and picked his way through the debris to where a draft was coming from a hollow area beneath a beam and a slanted chunk of broken concrete. Hopefully the fresh air showed a way out. It was better to try, than stay.
"Wait!" the Six said, and he turned back at the opening. "I just realized -- you're Sam Anders of the C-Bucs, aren't you?"
He nodded. "Yeah." He glanced at the car, and saw the back end had been entirely crushed by the last collapse and the bumper sticker was gone. "It feels like a million years ago." He turned back to the two Cylons and said, "You're doing the right thing. Don't give up."
As bright light from above suddenly filled the cavern, he ducked under the fallen beam and hurried out.
He came back from a scavenging mission to find a religious brother in camp. The man was sitting on a log, facing away from Sam, so Sam couldn't tell what denomination he served, but the brown coat and hat were distinctive.
Not that it mattered, because Sam knew instantly he was a Cylon. From across the field his body hummed with the knowledge.
This was the last of the seven that Sam had to identify. And this time, he felt danger. His heart beat faster and his palms sweated, even as he raised his gun and shot the Cylon in the back of the head.
"Sam!" Barolay exclaimed and stood up, reaching for her gun belatedly and then letting go. "What - ?"
"He was a Cylon." Sam nudged the fallen body over with his foot. There was enough of the face to see that he looked old. Strange. Perhaps he was meant to look grandfatherly and harmless.
But he hadn't been harmless, and somehow Sam had known that.
Looking at the empty eyes seemed to pull his own gaze to follow up to the sky.
The light was still orange, but the sky was blue again and stretched out high above, dividing the land from space. Kara was up there, somewhere.
His gaze dropped to search out each of his new team in turn. He spoke, mouth giving shape to something unexpected, "Our time here is almost over. We have to be ready."
Ten-Point frowned at him and the others looked curious, but only Hilliard, as the one who'd known him the longest, could ask, "Sam? Are you… okay?"
"Yeah, I am." That was a lie. He felt constricted, as if his skin was stretched too tight. Something strained to escape and he clenched his fists and tightened his stomach to hold it in. "But I -- look, I just know, okay? We're about to leave this rock. I don't know why I know this, or why it just hit me, but it did. So don't die and you'll make it out of here, okay? "
He stalked away, rubbing at his face and raking his hands through his hair, trying to scrub it out of his head. But the feeling remained, some new awareness pushing up through his body.
He went for a run, but that seemed to make it worse, like a balloon beneath his skin and a whisper he couldn't quite catch. Drowning it in alcohol muffled it somewhat.
Barolay dropped next to him where he sat alone in moody silence, staring into the little fire he'd built under the trees away from everyone else. She was the only one to approach him all evening. "Hey. What's going on?"
He stared at the flames and shook his head. "I … It's still there. It's like someone… calling me. A voice but it's inside, pushing at me, and I … " he trailed off, and she let the silence fall between them.
One heartbeat. Another.
"I can feel something's happening." He added softly, "It scares me." He knocked back another swallow of the cheapest liquor in the place and shut his eyes.
He was a Cylon, not human. So how could a machine know things like that? How could he be feeling these things, like he was trapped in a tight cocoon and trying to wriggle free?
Treacherously, his mind recalled Leoben and the promise of a glorious destiny. Complete bullshit. And yet… What if it wasn't?
Jean pulled up her knees and stared off into the forest for a few moments, before murmuring, "My grandmother was an oracle. It came on her late in life, after she'd had my father and uncle. I used to think she was a fraud, but I remember that last time…. She knew there was something coming. Something horrible. She took chamalla to try to find out what it was. She collapsed, screaming that 'they were coming home'. Over and over again. And then she died. The doctor said it was an overdose, but I think she was terrified."
He absorbed the words and then turned to her, a bit incredulous. "Is that supposed to help?"
She blushed and ducked her head, but said, chuckling, "Sorry. I just meant, you're not alone in this."
"I'm not an oracle," he said. "I don't think that's possible."
"You could have oracles in your family. You don't know much about them," she said, not knowing how right she was. "But one thing I know from Gram-- if you fight the visions, they fight back. They want to come out."
He scrubbed his fingers through his hair and pressed on his skull, hoping she was wrong and he could keep them in, but fearing she was right. "Gods, what's happening to me?"
"Priests always say in times of trial we find our own strengths," she murmured and patted his shoulder. "You lost yourself for awhile, Anders. Now, maybe you're finding out who you really are. "
He laughed once, bitterness like bile. He knew more than enough, but there was more to come, and worse. That much he knew.
Kara was late and the Centurions found them first.
Sam didn't realize they were found until the frakking shell fell right where Ten-Point and Joman were standing. One moment, they'd been laughing about nothing, getting their cereal from the pot, and the next there was an explosion and they were gone.
"TOASTERS!" he yelled and dove for the vague cover of a low cement wall, just as one of the cabins blew up, spraying shrapnel all over the frakking base. He returned fire, toward the metallic glints approaching from the east, through the trees.
Phanes was the next to get hit, from the wrong angle. "They're in the west!" he shouted. "Toasters in west and south!"
The warning wasn't enough when Tolliver went down, and Verdugo knelt to try to tend him and she got hit too, riddled with Centurion bullets.
They were getting surrounded. Sitting ducks, and the toasters everywhere.
He watched his resistance get blown apart - implacable hunters stalking the few sheep who had escaped the slaughtering pen. Over and over again, as he fired his guns and reloaded automatically, the merciless thought beat at him -- he hadn't seen this. And by telling them rescue was coming, they'd gotten careless.
Now they were paying for his mistake.
"Anders!" Barolay shouted, breaking through the numb horror. She was holding a grenade.
He grabbed both of his and they threw together, trying to open a hole for the survivors to escape. Twenty years of Pyramid let them put the grenades exactly where they needed to, and he felt a surge of vicious satisfaction as the Centurions blew apart.
"Everybody! MOVE!" he yelled.
The survivors ran through the opening and into the forest.
They ran and ran until Yenmere gasped that he had to stop. Sam whirled around to check behind, and since they seemed clear for the moment, nodded. His heart was hammering too fast, and he couldn't draw a deep breath or let go of his gun, so his fingers were cramping on the trigger.
He counted how many had made it out. Barolay stood next to him, warily scanning their back trail for signs of pursuit. Gripkey. Hilliard. Yenmere. Iolanth. And himself. Only four of them were C-Bucs. On the day of the attacks the roster had been twenty-five, counting the coaches and trainers.
He wanted to swear, but nothing seemed strong enough.
"Anders?" Barolay asked. "Do we have a ride to catch or not? Because I want to get out of this hell hole."
Inhaling a deep breath felt like the air scraping his lungs, and when he tried to find that knowledge from last night, he couldn't find anything. "I hope so," he answered. "This way."
He took point again, jogging at a more sustainable speed and hoping he was right. Gods, let them reach some defensible ground, find a crate of ammo, or frak, maybe the Gods would just lean down and wipe all the Cylons off the Colonies, if he was going to ask for impossible things.
Ten minutes later, he stopped and threw up a hand for the others to get down as the feeling of 'Cylon' skittered across his skin. They weren't alone in the forest anymore.
A familiar voice called from the brush ahead, "You got a Samuel T. Anders there?" It was Agathon, Sam was pretty sure. Hopefully that meant he was feeling Sharon. He shut his eyes, as the rush of relief went through him. Kara had kept her promise.
Sam exchanged a glance at Hilliard, who shouted, "You got a Kara Thrace there?"
Sam called, "If you do, tell her she's late!"
Only seconds later, he had his arms around her and even though she had on some kind of body armor and a helmet, so it felt like he was hugging a statue, he just held her tighter. For the first time since she'd left, he felt that maybe everything was going to be okay after all. He wanted to breathe in her light, take it deep into the darkened, bruised parts of his soul. "Kara…"
When they parted, not letting go of each other, she looked behind him. "We should go get the rest of your people."
He shook his head once. "There aren't any others."
"Six?" she looked horrified. "That's all?"
He glanced away, into the forest. "Toasters found the camp this morning. I had twenty-seven last night. We're all that's left."
Her fingers tightened on his. "Oh gods, Sam…"
Hilliard broke in sharply, "And we've still got toasters on our ass. So if we could move this along?"
Sam pulled free of Kara and took a deep breath. "Yeah, let's get the hell off this rock." Karl and Sharon were standing together, and he frowned, wondering what had happened. She seemed different somehow.
He opened his mouth to greet her when suddenly her head swung upward and she shouted, "Incoming!"
The toasters had found them.
Holed up for a day in the broken walls of a fortress from the very early days of colonization, the silence started to get to him. Why weren't the Cylons moving on them? There was no reason not to … it wasn't like the Cylons had to worry about 'acceptable losses'. They could just throw Centurions at them all night long. If they wanted the Resistance alive, as Sharon suggested, they could use gas. Instead there was nothing, and it was making him anxious and restless.
Next to him, Kara agreed, "We need to recon and see what the frak they're up to."
"I'll go," he started to crawl away, but she put her hand on his belt, and tugged him back.
"Stay put," she ordered. "I didn't come all the way back for you to get your ass shot off because you're bored. Sergeant!"
The marine sergeant moved to her side to listen to the orders, and Sam watched. He hadn't really seen the military officer side of her before. He had to admit it was … attractive.
The marines crawled off into the forest, and Kara's gaze pinned him, noticing he was looking at her. "What?"
He bent closer and murmured, "You're hot when you're being all captain-y."
Not far away, Helo heard him and snorted. Kara smacked his shoulder with the back of her hand, but looked pleased, even as she told him, "Mind on business, Anders."
"It is," he promised and let his fingers slide back from her knee, teasing, before lifting them away.
Ten minutes later, the sergeant was back. "Captain. They're gone. We couldn't find toasters anywhere. I've sent the squad to widen the perimeter but they've definitely moved back from their previous positions."
Not quite believing it, Sam bounded to his feet and looked. For the first time he tried to actively use that sense, concentrating on Sharon and the feeling her presence left on him and trying to widen it out. But he had never been able to feel Centurions, anyway, and if there were other human-forms out there, he couldn't tell.
"Hey, pyramid-boy," Kara nudged him with her elbow, not gently, "you ready to get the hell out of here?"
He blinked and realized the rest of the group was on their feet, waiting for him. "Frak, yeah. I hate this place."
He joined Kara's Raptor, with Sharon and Helo, but felt incomplete when the door shut and he realized the rest of his people weren't aboard. Barolay, Gripkey and Hilliard especially -- it made him a little nervous they weren't there, like he'd lost them, too.
Sitting behind Kara, he watched as she spooled up the engines and Helo sat in the back, reporting, "Dradis is clear."
The Raptor lifted off the ground, and the other Raptors reported they were in the air.
"Still no toaster action," Kara muttered. "Where the frak are they?"
Helo added, "No baseships in range. That's weird, isn't it? They've got to know we're here by now."
"Swing closer to the Delphi landing port," Sam suggested.
She made a thoughtful noise and then decided, "All right, let's take a look. SAR squad, Starbuck, follow on me."
The Raptor turned and headed toward the valley. "No Heavy Raiders at the port," she reported. "No Raiders coming after us… Where did they go?" She turned around in her chair to look toward Sharon. Sharon shrugged - not seeming very interested in why the Cylons had apparently bugged out from the Colonies.
But Sam wondered … the Six and Eight in the basement. Maybe they had done this?
The Raptors cruised above Caprica and jumped to recon the other Colonies. They found a handful more humans and took them on board, but not a Cylon anywhere.
Picon had long since stopped being his home, but a sharp, painful nostalgia lodged in his heart when he saw it. He still remembered it, as far back as elementary school, the avalanche that wiped out Carathon Valley when he was thirteen, going to foster care… and he didn't know how much was true and how much was a lie.
He was glad the Raptor jumped away.
Stepping off the ramp and onto the floor of the Galactica, he gaped like the stupidest backwater mouse, until he realized what he was doing. He shut his mouth, reminding himself he used to play in the Coliseum every week and he was no stranger to big places. Even if this one seemed bigger and noisier than the Coliseum at game time. The dwindling roar of the Raptor engines, the excited talk, an old familiar song playing off in the distance… it all made such a din, it was hard to concentrate.
Kara grabbed his elbow and pulled him right up to two older men, clearly the ones in charge. She grinned. "Am I good or what?"
She introduced him to Admiral Adama and Colonel Tigh, and he answered the admiral with the expected cockiness, trying not to lay it on too thick.
When she reported the Cylons gone from the Colonies, Adama frowned deeply, and Sam added, "It's true. They've left."
"Where did they go?" Tigh wondered, but nobody could answer.
Sharon and Helo appeared at the top of the ramp, and Adama moved to greet them. "Lieutenant, Sharon. You did it."
She nodded briefly, her gaze somewhere else.
Adama seemed to soften for a moment, and told her, "Thank you." She didn't acknowledge it. He nodded to Helo. "Take her back to her cell. Leave off the restraints."
"Sir. Thank you, sir." Helo put an arm around her shoulders, and, surrounded by four marines, they left the deck.
Adama turned back to Kara. "How many did you rescue?"
Her eyes flickered to Sam. "Twelve, sir."
He caught the surprise on Adama's face, and had to agree. "Hardly seems worth it, does it?" Sam asked bitterly. "Yesterday they took out all but five of my team, and today they leave."
Adama didn't answer right away, and his wise eyes seemed to see far deeper than Sam wanted them to. "It turns out that Racetrack and Skulls made a significant find when they missed the first jump: a habitable planet. We may have found a place to settle."
Kara stared at him and repeated blankly, "Settle? To colonize? But sir, that's … We don't even know where the Cylons are."
"It's not my choice, either, captain, but it's an issue for the election. Baltar has decided to back the idea of settlement, and it seems popular."
Sam had been listening, trying to figure out what was going on, and the name caught his attention. "Baltar? Gaius Baltar?"
"You know him?" Kara asked.
He shrugged. "Met him. We were in the same photo shoot two years ago. I'm … surprised he's alive."
Considering Baltar had barely managed to tear himself away from the girls they were posing with long enough to shake his hand, Sam wondered that he'd kept himself zipped long enough to survive the attacks, not to mention campaign.
Kara snorted, "He makes a way, somehow."
"He does," Adama agreed steadily. "Make your way to quarters, Captain. We'll find a place for your crew too, Mister Anders. Welcome aboard."
Sam lingered until he could talk to the last five of his team and made sure someone came to take them to a place to sleep. After, he followed Kara, instantly lost in metal corridors that all looked alike.
Glancing up, she laughed at him. "You'll get used to it. C'mon, Sammy, I'll show you where I live and the showers. Because, man, do you need it." She wrinkled her nose.
"Sure, Captain Miss Smells-Like-Flowers," he retorted.
"Race you!" She sprang away like a deer, sprinting down the corridor, and he ran after. Every step he took seemed to take him farther and farther away from Caprica, shedding all the weight he'd been carrying, until he was laughing.
Sam cast his "Hell no to Gaius Baltar" vote on Galactica. He didn't know Roslin at all, but he for damn sure didn't want anyone as vapid as Baltar as president.
Then he and Kara settled into the rack room at the table with a bottle of ambrosia to listen to the broadcast of the election results.
As he'd settled into this new life on board and paid attention to the election, he'd become sure that settlement was the wrong choice. That gave him a constant low level of anxiety whenever he thought about the election, and that anxiety was now growing, as the fate of the fleet was being decided.
His foot twitched rapidly, as the results kept coming in, and Roslin and Baltar kept switching off the lead, but staying close.
Kara poured him a refill and shoved it across the table. "Here. The Fleet can't be so stupid as elect Baltar. They can't."
"Fifty thousand people used to fill their stadium when we'd play frakking Aerilon," he muttered, and his fingers turned the full shot glass on the table. The light splintered through the glass into little rainbows that went round and round. "That's fifty thousand people stupid enough to show up to watch us kick their ass over and over again."
She snorted, but it wasn't like she could argue. "Drink. And stop bouncing your knee before I stop it for you."
The announcer gave new results and Baltar moved into the lead. Sam lifted the shot and downed it, wishing he'd found cigarettes somewhere. Alcohol didn't seem to be helping.
By concentrating on not moving his leg, he didn't, but it was like an itch - he wanted to move it so badly.
Kara snatched the glass out of his hand and slammed it down out of his reach. "Cut it out."
He hadn't realized he was tapping the glass until she took it away. "Sorry."
He moved out of the chair, blowing out a long breath slowly to rid himself of the tension gripping his body. He'd never had pre-game jitters like this, and there was no reason to be so anxious about a stupid election when he'd just survived the end of the frakking worlds.
Going through his stretching routine gave him a way to move that would hopefully annoy Kara less, while he listened to the announcer McManus yammer on about nothing as everyone waited for more of the results.
He caught an appreciative gleam in Kara's eyes as she watched him. Playing to her salacious looks distracted him until McManus got another result that seemed to stun him:
"… That's 8,593 for Roslin… that puts her over the top…. She has retained the presidency…"
Sam let out another breath of relief, as the tension evaporated, leaving him feeling weak. "Thank the gods."
"Told you so," Kara said and poured him another shot. "To Laura Roslin, President of the Colonies."
He sat next to her again, and they clinked their glasses together before drinking,
But twenty minutes later, in the middle of kissing her, he pulled back at the surprising sound of McManus' voice on the speaker again.
"In a stunning turn of events, a recount has caught a tabulating error of over five thousand votes wrongly attributed to Laura Roslin. These votes should have been counted for Gaius Baltar. Which means… Gaius Baltar has won the presidency."
"No. That can't be right," he said, as that awful, sickening feeling tightened up in his gut and clutched cold hands around his heart again. He slid away from Kara and stood up, looking away as if he could peer through all the bulkheads to where the counting was going on. "No. Not Baltar. Not settlement. Not New Caprica."
Somewhere behind him, she sighed, "Baltar can't lead his way out of a sack, but maybe the planet won't be so bad. I saw the specs - the planet's cooler than Caprica, but liveable. And fresh air would be nice."
"It's wrong," he murmured.
"Yeah, probably. But we're stuck with it. I've heard a whole bunch of the pilots are going to resign and go down. What if we went, too?" she asked. "Get our own place where we can do whatever we want, when we want…"
She trailed off, and he retained enough awareness to realize she'd just offered something very important to her, and he had to be careful. So he bit his lip to stop the first instinctive rejection of what she was saying to frame his words, "That sounds nice." He turned and forced a smile. "I'd like that. But not here. Not this place. Not now."
Kara looked up at him, frowning. "It's not like there're a whole lot of options." She flashed a grin, trying to cajole him into a better mood. "Just think, we can be like the original colonists. We can make our own future."
But the more she said the more he knew it couldn't happen. He shook his head frantically. "No, no, you can't go down there to live. We need to make Baltar see that settlement is wrong… This can't happen."
Kara eyed him and demanded impatiently, "What's wrong with you?"
"I -- " He tried to forcibly calm himself, deep breathing, knowing she'd never believe him if he came off like a crazy person. He returned to his chair, and explained, "Back on Caprica, while you were away, I got this … premonition. Well, a couple of them, but I knew you were coming back the day before you came. I knew. And I have the same feeling now. I know if people settle this mud ball, it's going to go terribly wrong. We need to find Earth. Earth is where we need to go, not this hole."
He found his hands clenched so tightly his nails were cutting into his palms and his chest was heaving for breath, as if he'd been running.
And still it thrummed through his body - all wrong, don't do it, don't stop here, all wrong…
He grabbed the bottle off the table and drank half of it. His hands were shaking when he put it down. "I think I'm going crazy," he admitted softly, staring at the bottle, painfully aware of Kara watching him in silence. He almost said the other words, too, the "I think I'm a Cylon" words, but kept his mouth shut. Because he didn't think he was just a Cylon, no, he was a "special" Cylon - so frakking special he could see the future. Which was absurd. It was all in his head, some creeping insanity caused by too many months killing toasters and getting irradiated.
She swung a leg over his lap and straddled his legs, facing him. "Sam, you don't need to be crazy or an oracle to know this pit's a terrible idea. Everybody but Baltar and stupid people across the fleet know it."
"But they're going to do it anyway, and it's going to be a disaster," he muttered. He framed her face with his hands. "Gods, why'd you come back for such a frak-up?"
"I told you I would. And it was a good thing I did, since I don't think you would've lasted the day."
"No, probably not. So you came to my rescue," he breathed the words across her lips right before he kissed her.
Her mouth on his and her hands on his body made that strange anxiety disappear, replaced by a different kind of tension, this one welcome. He was eager to show her how much he appreciated it.
Continued in part 2 HERE