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16 December 2008 @ 01:51 pm
At the Labyrinth Gates, 2/5  
At the Labyrinth Gates, part 2

Rated R
Pairing: Sam/Kara (background)


Chapter Two

Darkness. A darkness so thick and unrelieved it had weight, pressing down on him.

Dust and dirt coating his nose and mouth. Tongue and throat parched with thirst.

Air was coming from somewhere, or he'd be dead already. But every breath hurt so much. Everything hurt. There was a weight on his chest, and he couldn't feel his feet.

He could move one hand, and that hand groped through the dirt and along the rough edges of the concrete blocks that made up his dark prison. But he wasn't strong enough to move them. His fingers sought his mother who had been next to him when the rumble started. He touched only broken concrete and metal and dust. There was nowhere to go.

He cried out for her to help. Someone. Anyone. He prayed to Poseidon, patron of Picon, to save him.

No one answered. All he heard was the groaning of rubble around him and his own shallow breaths, ragged with pain and fear.

He was trapped. Buried.

He was dying.

* * *

Hands shook him awake.

His eyes shot open, as he gasped for air. His heart was pounding frantically in his chest, panic still sliding through him.

"Sam?" he felt Thea next to him, her hand on his face. "It's okay, it was a dream."

He took several breaths, trying to calm down. He could feel the sweat at his temples and his chest, making him feel cold. He stared at the bright red light pulsing in the walls and then up to the high ceiling, trying to remind himself he wasn't buried any more.

If he ever had been. But false memory or not, the terror was real enough.

"Can you tell me what it was about?" Thea asked softly. Her body was a welcome warmth next to his.

"I was buried in an avalanche when I was a kid," he answered shortly. "I haven't had that nightmare in a long time." He wondered why it had come back now. Even the collapsed parking garage with Caprica and Sharon hadn't called it back, but now he felt ill and cotton-mouthed and the ache in his lower legs was a throbbing counterpoint to his thumping heart.

Her hands caressed through his hair. "You're safe here," she whispered. "I promise."

He closed his eyes and let her soothe him. Safe... He was safe, but stuck. The room was spacious, but he hadn't left it in … He counted and realized he'd been in the room for ten days. No wonder he felt like he was running out of air.

He took a deep breath and turned his head to ask her, "You got a pyramid court on this big ship?"

Her hand pulled back and she stared at him with a confused half-smile. "A what?"

"Pyramid court."

"You're not playing pyramid," she told him firmly. "You need to stay off your feet."

He knew he did. But he needed to get out of the room, too. He'd exercised as much as he could, which was nothing like his usual routine, and it was not enough to curb the itchy need to move. "I need -- I need to do something," he admitted. "I’m used to moving - training, flying… This lying around in bed is getting to me."

She smiled, pleased, and propped her head up on her hand. "You must be feeling better if you're bored. For awhile you didn't want to leave the room."

That was her polite way of saying he'd spent most of the time wishing for more yellow pills, while he hobbled to the head or the shower. But the pain had faded with the swelling, and he was ready to see new walls. Even if the new walls looked an awful lot like the old ones. "I figured I should stay out of the way," he agreed. "But now, I want to move around." She eyed him in disapproval, and he added hastily, "Not a lot. But this room is… not very interesting."

The room was boring as frak, actually. Talking with his few visitors, eating decent food, and limited workouts were the highlights of his last few days. He was probably going to get to the point where he'd kill for a copy of one of those great classics of literature he should have read in school. A really long one.

She glanced around, as if she'd never seen the room before, and nodded. "All right. We don't have a pyramid court, but I'll see what I can do," she offered.

"Thank you," he said. His gaze strayed down, to the deep V of the top of her short sapphire satin robe and the pale skin revealed there between her breasts. He jerked his eyes back to her face, wishing he could unthink the thought of whether she had anything on beneath. And she'd noticed that he'd looked. Trying to put himself more at a formal distance, he cleared his throat and said, "I'm sorry I woke you. And I'm grateful for your help, but really, you don't have to nursemaid me."

"I want to," she answered and touched the back of his hand with her fingers, stroking lightly up his arm. "I'm learning so much from you, Sam."

That felt like deep and dangerous waters, so he grinned and joked, "Like Triad?"

She laughed softly. "Oh, that's the least of it. You make me feel… alive," she whispered and leaned forward, obviously intending to kiss him.

He froze, wondering what he could do. He didn't want her to, but what would happen if he rejected her? Would she get angry and withdraw her protection? Would all the Sixes get angry by proxy?

He was still wondering what to do, when her lips touched his very briefly and then pulled back. Her eyes met his, and she looked sad, as she touched the dogtags hanging around his neck.

"I hope she knows what a gift you are," she murmured.

"I -- I'm sorry," he said.

"God brought you here to be our oracle, I know that," she said. Slipping from the bed, she stood beside it and tightened the belt on her robe as if it were armor. "But I can't help wondering if he brought you to me."

"I don't know," Sam answered as honestly as he could, feeling her confession deserved some sort of return truth, even if he couldn't tell her what she wanted to hear.

She forced herself to give a small smile and nodded. "Fair enough. Get some rest, Sam. It's early yet."

Soundless on her bare feet, she walked out through the open archway.

Sam watched her go and leaned back, letting out a breath of relief. He clasped the pair of dogtags and closed his eyes, hoping for better dreams.

* * *

Kara stared at the board in the pilots' room, eraser in hand. And found she couldn't move.

"Starbuck" was at the top as CAG. Squadron leaders Kat and Racetrack and Duck. At the bottom of the list beneath Duck was Oracle.

She heard footsteps and turned quickly, sharp words on her tongue to chase whoever it was away.

Sharon came in, trailing her fingers along the seats as she moved toward Kara. She was wearing BDUs like Kara's, with tags at her chest. Somehow it was both surreal to see a Cylon in uniform, and yet also familiar, since it reminded her of Boomer before everything had gone wrong.

"Figuring out new CAP assignments? I can help," she volunteered. But when she got close enough, her gaze fell on the name at the bottom of the list. "Oh. I'll do it," she offered and she tried to take the eraser.

Kara ripped it away, suddenly furious. "No. Don't touch it!"

Sharon took a step back. "Sorry."

Kara shook her head, blindly staring at the black scrawl of his callsign. "I … " then she laughed once. "You'd think I'd be used to this by now."

"I don't think you can ever get used to losing the people you love," Sharon murmured.

About to accuse her bitterly of what the frak a machine knew about losing anything, Kara clamped her mouth shut, feeling ashamed of herself. In some strange need to make amends for her unspoken attack, she murmured, "I … I almost asked Sam to marry me the night you and Karl got married. I was a little drunk and it seemed like everyone was doing it…"

"Really? But you didn't," Sharon said.

Kara shook her head. "He fell asleep on me. I thought there'd be plenty of time…" Her voice wobbled and she forced a laugh. "Yeah. Turns out I was wrong. Imagine that."

Sharon moved closer again. "Kara, you couldn't have expected them to find us. And it was just bad luck the Heavy Raider hit the Viper in exactly the wrong place. Blame God for taking him away, but not yourself. It's not your fault."

Kara heard the words, but it was as if they were in another language, passing her ears without understanding. Because it was her fault. She had got Sam into uniform. She had put him in a bird. She had put a rook on long-range CAP, because she selfishly had wanted to fly with him. Then she had left him behind, a helpless target for the Raiders.

It was stupid, and she knew it was stupid, but she felt that if she erased his name, she would be erasing the last tiny hope of his survival, too. As if the Gods would see her lack of faith and punish her by taking him away. Even though she knew he was already gone.

Sharon picked up the black marker from the tray. Kara turned her head to watch, frowning curiously. At the bottom, far right corner, in the list of pilots without bird assignments, just beneath where it said "Helo, Buzzer - CIC", Sharon wrote "Oracle - MIA" in her tidy hand-writing.

Missing. Not killed. Kara let out a long breath, feeling a knot loosen inside, not realizing until that moment how much she'd needed to see that.

Replacing the marker on the tray, Sharon turned to her. Her face soft with sympathy, she said, "It's only been two weeks, Kara. Give yourself time. There's no rush."

Two weeks. It felt like an eternity. Two weeks of thinking she had just missed him in the corridor, or he had slipped past her in the mess. Two weeks of turning her head to catch his glance, but finding no one there.

Kara nodded and lifted the eraser. In one quick motion, she wiped away the Oracle listed under the squadron.

It still felt as if she was killing him. Her hand tightened on the eraser until her fingers went white.

She reminded herself of the thousands and thousands of people whose fate she didn't know on New Caprica. She had a job to do. Recon. Daily CAP to figure out. And Cylons to fight when the day came again.

If that wasn't enough, at least they were well provisioned with alcohol to chase away ghosts. She was an expert.

* * *

Sharon slammed her way into the Colonial One consensus room. Baltar wasn't there, which wasn't a surprise, but Caprica was, even though she was usually with him these days.

Doral glanced her way. "Someone's in a temper."

"Sharon?" a Six asked, curiously.

Sharon folded her arms and looked at One and Three, as the probable culprits. "Where is Tom Zarek?" she demanded.

"Why?" D'Anna asked. But she shared a glance with Cavil, and Sharon knew she was right.

"I'm told he hasn't been seen in the city since we came," Sharon said. Galen had asked her what she knew. She hadn't been able to resist introducing herself, when she'd seen him on the street. It had been the most uncomfortable and awkward conversation she could remember having, but she thought they'd reached some understanding. Asking about Zarek had been his unsubtle test of whether she meant the Cylons' purpose. "So where is he?"

"He refused to work with us," Cavil said, with a shrug. "You were there."

She stared at him. "You told him he was free to go."

"He knew I was joking, even if you didn't," Cavil said, with his usual condescension that made her wish she could smack the whole model line.

"What did he do?"

"He refused to cooperate," Three said as if that was all they needed.

"So what, then? You've put him in a cell somewhere?" Sharon demanded.

Doral snorted. "Even the humans consider him a terrorist. Of course we didn't let him go."

"He's the vice-president!" Sharon objected. "We can't keep him in custody, when he didn't do anything wrong!"

"He blew up a government building," Three said.

"On Sagittaron, thirty years ago! Because his people were being treated like slaves. Are you expecting to turn the humans into slaves? Is that why you're so scared of what Zarek might do?"

"He told us he was going to fight us," Caprica said, looking uncomfortable. Sharon rounded on her, shocked that she was apparently part of this, too.

The other Six on her left nodded, and added, "It's for their own safety as much as ours. He thinks violence is the answer, and doesn't care about human casualties."

They were correct, but they were rationalizing, and it made Sharon a little ill. "Where?" she demanded again.

Three moved forward, and Sharon thought of a snake, sidling closer before it struck. "That information is restricted to internal security, which is not your department."

Sharon thought back to (non-existent) drill sergeants in Basic and straightened her back, meeting Three's eyes. "I am on this consensus. I speak for the Eights. Where is he?"

Unexpectedly, Four answered from the corner where he had been observing silently, "The central building has been made secure. He's there. He has adequate food and water."

Sharon listened with appalled disbelief. "The central building is supposed to be administration and apartments. Not a prison!"

"Only one small section," Caprica reassured her. "And only temporarily. We'll continue to build apartments for them."

Sharon shook her head, looking at her friend and then turning to address them all. To plead. Even though she knew they weren't going to listen. "Instead of throwing a man in prison for spitting in our faces, we should set him free and give him a place to live. Confound his expectation by showing compassion. Let's show Zarek and all the humans that we're here to help, like we said. This is confirming what he already believes."

Cavil snorted with disdain. "Which is all well and good, until he starts confirming what we believe about him, but with guns and bombs. I don't know about anyone else, but I don't want to have to resurrect after being blown up." He gave a theatrical shudder.

Sharon made one last appeal, looking at Caprica and her sister Six. "I had my doubts, but now I don't. We need to let him go, before this gets out of control."

At least the Sixes shifted as though her words were reaching them. But Caprica said, "Zarek's only one man. Even Gaius doesn't think he'll ever work with us. But we do need to be careful and keep it at one, or we risk turning them against us even more. Building more housing units, food, clean water -- all the necessities will help them understand we're here to help raise them out of the squalor they're living in."

When Sharon found herself looking around for a Leoben to support her, even though she knew perfectly well all the Twos had refused to come down to New Caprica, she knew she'd lost.

She swallowed hard. "Imprisoning their leaders isn't the way to win their hearts." She remembered what Anders had said, with his blue eyes alight with conviction, and murmured, "Maybe he's right; we don't belong here."

Cavil and D'Anna exchanged a glance. Caprica pressed her lips together, met her sister's eyes and then nodded at Sharon a little sadly.

"If we can get to actual Cylon business?" Doral asked, with an impatient sneer. "Instead of doing the bidding of a human who should be in the cell next to Zarek?"

Sharon folded her arms and subsided. They weren't going to listen to her. She'd tell Galen that Zarek was being detained because he'd made threats against the Cylons. Maybe she'd also happen to mention where he was being kept.

What Galen did with that information wasn't Cylon business.

* * *

Thea led him by the hand and then told him to open his eyes. He already knew he was in one of the landing bays, feeling the open space around him. But he did not expect to be facing a Pyramid goal.

He grinned with pure delight, and Thea grinned back, very smugly. She held a black ball in her hand which she handed to him, and teased, "Happy eighteenth day anniversary, Sam."

Instead of thinking about how he'd been on this ship almost three weeks, he turned to see who else was there. Drea, two other Sixes including the brown-haired one, Leoben, and three Eights were all watching him, with various stages of indulgence, as he took the ball from Thea. "How?" he asked. "Where did you find it?"

"I found the specs in our database," Thea answered. "A Centurion built it. It's completely regulation. I know there's only one so it's not a court -- "

He seized her arm with his free hand to stop her from apologizing. "It's perfect. Thank you." Quivering eagerly, he knew he had to try it. Limping forward to where the foul line would be, he turned the ball in his fingers, took a deep breath to calm himself, and threw. He knew it was perfect the moment it left his hand, and was grinning before it even hit the hole. The sound of it clattering down the chute mixed with the sound of applause from the gathered watchers.

As one of the Eights retrieved the ball, he turned to Thea. "You want a turn?"

Another of the Sixes handed her a second ball, and she smiled. "Show me what to do?"

He ended up sitting on a table a Centurion brought in and giving impromptu lessons on how to throw. It was odd but interesting how even within the same model, some were better than others. Everyone seemed to have fun, laughing and teasing each other as they practiced throwing while he helped them with their form. He was certainly enjoying himself more than he had for weeks - it wasn't often that he had an open license to put his hands on women's bodies. The bodies were the same, which was a little strange at first, but he'd been on the ship long enough that it was becoming… normal. Which could have been frightening if he let himself think about it too much, so he focused on how attractive both the Sixes and Eights were and he physically adjusted their position or stance more than he needed to.

"What is this?" an indignant deep voice demanded, and it echoed off the far walls.

Sam clapped for Drea, who had just made a goal, and turned his head to see one of the Fours staring at them.

"Pyramid," he held up the next ball for explanation. "Teaching them how to throw. You want a turn?"

Four didn't answer the question. "And why," Four asked the other Cylons, "are you learning how to throw a ball for a human game?"

"Why not?" Thea asked. "We have an expert right here, why shouldn't we learn to play? Sam offered to teach us."

Thea moved closer, standing between him and Four, and leaned her hip against his knee. Her hand fell on his thigh and her fingers rubbed idly.

Ever since her impromptu confession, he'd realized how much she was always touching him. For a few days, she'd stayed apart, but quickly things had returned to normal, with her fingers in his hair or touching his hand. At first he felt odd about it, but since she didn't try to touch more intimately, he decided it was better to let her. And if there was a selfish desire to feel wanted and safe in that decision, he ignored that, too.

The other Sixes didn't seem to notice, or if they did, they smiled and kept away as if Thea had some sort of claim. Some of the Eights looked a little wistful and they tended to be touchy-feely as well.

But Simon saw Thea's hand and her closeness, and his brows drew together in a deep frown. The disapproval puzzled Sam, since he'd thought all the Cylons would be jumping for joy at the prospect of getting another Cylon into the sack with a human. When Simon spoke, it wasn't about Thea though. "First Triad, and now pyramid?" he said.

"Everybody already knew how to play Triad," Sam pointed out. It was odd that they all knew the basic rules to Triad, but none had played before he suggested it. "I just wanted a game."

They'd started with three players, but last night the game had grown popular enough to need a second table and small metal rivets for stakes. One of the other Fours had peeked in last night, but left without joining in.

Simon folded his arms and glared at Thea's hand on Sam's leg. "While you're being cozy with the human," he said to her, "you should know that one of the humans shot and killed a Three on the surface this morning. She was supervising Centurions building new living quarters."

Thea glanced at Sam, alarmed and sad. Sam was neither - he shrugged. "I'm surprised it took this long. What else did you expect?"

"Gratitude," Simon said flatly. "To not get shot at while we're helping."

Sam's temper sparked at that and he inhaled a deep breath, trying not to snap back. He set his fingers on the ball, and hurled it overhand. It hit the goal basket with a loud clang, making everyone jump, and tumbled loudly down the chute to the give-back. No one moved to retrieve it; they were all watching him.

Then he faced Simon again, jaw set. "After killing millions of people in the Colonies, you're gonna have to work a lot harder than a little food and a few houses to earn any sort of gratitude. It's not that easy. There's a lot of hate that's gonna take time to go away. If it ever does."

"If it's so futile, why should we even try?" Simon demanded.

"I said it would be hard, not impossible," he returned. "And you do it because it's right."

"Because it's what God wants us to do," one of the Eights added.

Simon waved a hand impatiently, and ignored her. "What about you?" Simon asked, and his eyes narrowed in suspicion at Sam. "Other humans are trying to kill us, and you're teaching your enemies to play games. Are you that much more forgiving? Or do you have a different plan to destroy us?"

Sam knew he was walking a minefield, and considered his words. He couldn't lie and say he forgave the Cylons, because he didn't. Thinking about the Colonies raised up that cold rage he'd lived in on Caprica, so he put it on the list of things to not think about. He answered finally, "If I was down there, yes, I'd be one of those shooting you. But up here, I see things differently. I'm not here for vengeance." He shrugged and let out a soft sigh. "I'm not trying to destroy you through Pyramid or Triad. It's just something fun to do."

The games were something to keep him occupied while he waited for something to show him why he was here. But now that the humans had started their resistance on New Caprica, he had the cold feeling it was coming closer.

Simon confirmed it the moment he opened his mouth. "The consensus has requested greater Centurion presence to deter attacks."

Sam drew a breath. "You mean encourage attacks, because that's what they'll do."

"No, because the colonial authority has a new law that anyone caught with a weapon will be taken to detention."

Detention was just a fancy word for jail. It would start with jail for weapons possession but it wasn't going to end there.

Thea glanced at Sam, looking alarmed.

One of the Eights said, "If they have weapons, obviously they're dangerous and they want to make trouble…"

"Exactly," Simon agreed. With another frowning look at Thea's hand, which was now curled around Sam's arm, he left.

Sam stared at the pyramid goal, all his delight in it gone.

"Sam?" Thea asked softly and leaned close, her cheek against his shoulder.

"It's starting," he murmured. "Everything I feared. It's coming true."

The Eights exchanged a look of mild alarm. "We should talk to Sharon," one of them said.

"You don't need to talk to her," Drea said impatiently. "You know what she'll say. Our mission here is love, not escalation."

"But the humans are killing us," another Eight said, brow furrowed in worry. "They won't stop with one Three."

"No, they won't," Sam agreed flatly, and a deep, shocked silence fell. "But that's the price you pay for being here. You resurrect; the billions of humans on the Colonies didn't. They're gone -- wherever they went, they can't come back from it. If you want to help the humans, you need to remember that they have a reason for hating you." He kept the anger from his voice and tried to speak calmly. The last thing he wanted was to provoke them into defensive hostility, but their concept of what was 'fair' was screwed up. "There are only forty thousand left, maybe in the entire universe. That's all. So they're desperate, and desperate people do desperate things."

They all looked thoughtful. The light brown-haired Six nodded and straightened, looking resolute. Her hair was longer than most Sixes and it softened her features, though Sam thought she seemed harder inside than Thea. He tried to give her different names in his head, but none of them seemed to fit. She was unique on the ship with her different hair color, so he found he didn't really need one.

She declared, "Then we need to keep from making them more desperate. We'll have to make the others listen."

The Sixes and Eights seemed confident that they could do it, but Sam knew nothing had changed.

He looked down at his hands, and they tightened into fists as the memory fell across his eyes again in all its grey, cold horror…

the dead thrown in a pit like trash, commingled limbs and staring eyes… blood everywhere but not enough to hide their faces… so many people he didn't know, but some he did, like Stinger and Cally and Zarek … and he had to step on the bodies to climb out

His head snapped up and his eyes opened, but saw nothing, forcing himself to look at the memory again and again. Duck and Buzzer's bodies had been in the chamalla vision, that was why he had begged them not to go down to New Caprica. But he didn't see them in the image of it anymore. They weren't there.

They had stayed on Galactica, so they couldn't be on New Caprica. They weren't going to die.

"Sam?" Thea asked, breaking into his reverie. She was frowning at him curiously but with anticipation as well, as if he'd seen something to help them.

Which he had.

He seized her hand with a sudden excitement. Hope flowed like liquid light in his veins, giving him energy so he could barely contain himself and stay seated. "It's not inevitable," he told her and then cast his gaze on all of them, unable to stop smiling. "The future -- it changed. It's not what I saw before. That means the others don't have to die. We can save them."

Maybe not all of them, but if he could save some, it would go a long way to making all of this worth something.

* * *

Kara left the rec room with the rest of the bottle and decided to go back to her rack. Maggie was telling Sharon that old story about Helo streaking naked to the academy commons on a dare. Kara didn't want to hear it again, and she was pretty sure she was going to hit somebody if she had to watch him sucking face with Sharon any more.

She needed someone to drink with, but the halls were quiet. Duck wasn't around. He was probably rubbing Nora's feet or some damn thing. Kat was on CAP. And everyone else was listening to that frakking story.

Resigned to drinking alone in the rack room, she fumbled the hatch open and blinked at the sight of someone sitting at the table in the middle. For one brief instant, her heart surged with hope - until her brain caught up with her eyes and the disappointment was like acid.

"Barolay?" she asked in surprise. Barolay had never gone down to New Caprica, instead staying on Galactica. As people had left, she'd all but taken over munitions. Kara hadn't seen her much lately.

The redhead seemed a bit hesitant as she spun a tall metal flask on the table. "Starbuck."

"What - uh - what brings you here?" she asked, while her stomach knotted with dread. There was really only one thing, one person, they had in common. And Kara desperately did not want to deal with it.

She opened her bottle and took a swallow.

"I want to … I want to see about qualifying to be a pilot," Barolay blurted.

Kara stared at her, not sure she'd heard right.

"I know you need pilots," Barolay said, and her hands turned the flask again. "Kat showed me the simulator yesterday. I pulled a sixty-eight on my first flight. I know I could do much better a second time."

Kara was about to automatically tell her that they weren't recruiting for nuggets and nobody had any frakking time to train anyway. She got as far as opening her mouth. Then she snapped it shut again.

Jean opened the flask and took a swallow of whatever was inside as she waited.

"Why?" Kara asked.

Jean lifted her gaze to Kara's. "A team's gotta fill in from the bench when a starter gets pulled from the game." Her hand tightened on the flask. "If I can't hack it, that's fine, I swear I'll go peacefully. I just… I have to try."

And for a moment, before she looked away, Kara saw the reflection of the same deep pain Kara felt. It occurred to her that Buzzer wasn't going to be able to fill a slot in the flight roster any time soon. She could do the classroom training. In fact, maybe they should see if there was anyone else they could draft into being a nugget and filling some more of their planes.

Kara nodded slowly. "All right. I can't promise anything, but I'll ask the admiral for you."

"Thank you; I just want a shot."

Kara took another drink and decided she was drunk enough to ask. Not that it mattered anymore. "Were you in love with him? Is that why you want this?"

Jean shook her head and added forcefully, "No. Nothing like that. He was my team. I wouldn't have traded that for a frak or two." She got a distant look in her eye and her finger traced the edge of the table. "We met when we played on the Wildcats. He didn't care I was a benchwarmer and he was a rising superstar. We were friends. Then later, when he got traded to the Bucs, I thought it was gonna be great to play together again. But the championship frakked with his head. Some people, they get everything - and they lose themselves in it." She paused and then asked abruptly, "You know he was doing stims, right?"

Kara reared back, shocked. "What? No, that can't be --" But her words stopped as she realized it explained the change in his stats after he'd been traded to the C-Bucs. She'd written it off as age and bad coaching. She nodded. "No wonder his scoring turned to shit. How'd he get away with it?"

Jean shrugged. "He didn't. That's why Virgon dumped him. But C-Bucs management didn't care, as long as he played and put people in seats. But of course, moving to Caprica City made it worse. He'd party after a game, frak anybody who looked at him twice, and then take stims the next day. Sue-Shaun dumped them down the toilet, but he always had more. She and I and Hilliard worried he'd end up taking something worse. That or he'd crash that stupid boat he liked so much. Gods." She stopped abruptly and drained her flask, setting it down with a breath.

Kara listened, feeling something inside break a little bit more. She had heard about his tabloid exploits and even tried to ask about the drunken arrest and the serial dating, when he'd rarely been seen with the same woman twice. He'd smirked at her and been really annoying, distracting her so adroitly she'd never realized he was hiding anything. She'd never guessed he'd been a stim junkie. But now that she knew, she wanted to talk to him about it, and she couldn't.

"But then," Jean went on, speaking more to her flask than to Kara, "when the toasters came - he found himself again. That bullshit was gone, and he dropped the stims cold. He was focused, for the first time in years. And my Gods, it was like the frakking sun came out. We would've all died for him on Caprica."

Kara tried not to remember that she knew what Jean was talking about. That was the Sam she knew - charismatic, intense and burdened by what he knew and all he'd seen - not the stim-addled playboy.

After a small, bitter laugh, Jean added, "Hell, I guess most of us did. I don't know.... maybe it's better this way."

"What? What makes you say that?"

Jean just raised her eyebrows. "You think life's gonna get better for our ragtag fleet? What I can guess about the future's bad enough, without actually knowing. At least he didn't see his own end - thank the Gods for small mercies."

Kara just nodded and took another drink, hoping the numbness and forgetting would start soon. All this talk was reminding her that he wasn't going to be coming through the hatch with that bright, goofy grin on his face any time soon.

Jean stirred abruptly, straightening and scooping up her metal flask in one hand. She hurled it overhand forcefully at the wall - miscalculating and hitting the frame of Hot Dog's old bunk instead. The metal clashed and the flask hit the floor.

"Damn him anyway," she muttered and rubbed her face with both hands.

"Here," Kara reached across and put the bottle in her reach. "Have some more. It helps."

"No, it doesn't," Jean said, with a heavy sigh, but picked up the bottle anyway.

Kara fingered her dog tags, feeling the one that wasn't hers and the ring that hung with it. Jean was right - drinking didn't help, not when she was sober. But at least it let her forget for awhile, and she needed that.

* * *

"This is so frustrating," one of the Eights said, with a laugh. "I want to show you the plan for the walkway, but you can't look at it in the datastream."

From his perch on the high stool, Sam glanced down at the liquid of the datafont and wondered if he could... Every time he was in the command center the temptation grew to put his hand in it, but he was afraid it would work and blow his secret. But someday they were going to leave him alone with one and he was going to try it.

For now, playing to their expectations, he touched the liquid - it was cold with a strange slippery texture - and pulled his fingers out again, wiping them on his pants and making a face that made the Eight and Thea chuckle. "Yeah, maybe paper would be better."

But he was relieved he couldn't look. They had started to ask his opinion on everything from apartment layouts to rationing, and while he appreciated that they were trying to help the best way they knew, it made him uneasy to realize they wanted his stamp of approval. Just because he knew what was wrong, didn't mean he knew what was right.

He forced a bit of a smile at her. "I think that sounds like something Baltar's administration should look at anyway. Give them something to do," he said as a joke, with a smile, and she chuckled, but when she moved away, he looked down to the datafont, frowning.

He had to get the Cylons and Humans to work together. But if the Cylons worked too closely with Baltar, that would only make Baltar look more like a puppet. Maybe instead of Baltar, they could get some sort of citizen committee to work with the Cylons…

His stomach roiled in abrupt nausea, and he broke out in cold sweat, clamping his lips together. He clutched the edge of the datafont to keep himself upright.

Something was wrong. New Caprica still filled him with that sense of dread, but this… felt different. A warning that working with the Cylons was going to make things worse? Gods...

"Sam?" Thea moved close beside him and put a hand on his shoulder. "Are you all right?"

"Something's bad, I can't tell what," he pushed out between gritted teeth, and inhaled deeply, releasing the breath slowly and rolling his shoulders to rid himself of the tension. "Just another useless ominous warning," he added sourly.

Her fingers rubbed at the back of his neck. She murmured, "We try to make things better. That's all we can do right now."

He shut his eyes, focusing on her touch to relax again. After a few breaths, he was feeling more like himself.

The sound of approaching Centurions outside the entryway broke into their moment of quiet. At first he wasn't concerned, until he saw Thea's alarm and realized this was not normal. She shared a glance with the brown-haired Six at the main operations console and as one, they moved toward the center of the room.

Four Centurions marched into the control center, followed by one each of the other human-form Cylon models: One, Three, Four, and Five. Two Centurions didn't stop and instead, came right toward Sam with deliberate intent. Heart leaping, Sam stood up but he was back against the station with nowhere to go.

His hand groped for his sidearm reflexively, but of course he wasn't wearing it.

Two Centurions wrapped their metal fingers around his upper arms. It was an unfeeling grip, careless of bruising, but he bit his lip instead of giving the invading skinjobs the satisfaction.

"What are you doing?" Thea demanded. "Stop!" she ordered the Centurions, who paid her no attention and brought him across the floor to where the other Cylons were gathered.

Her darker-haired sister echoed the protest, "You can't do this!"

Cavil looked at them and said flatly, "Actually, we can."

This was a copy of D'Anna he hadn't met before, but the attitude was familiar as she explained, looking at Sam with a smile on her lips, "We took a vote. We four agreed that this human is a corrupting influence and must be removed immediately, for the good of the Cylon."

"What?" Thea exclaimed. "That's ridiculous!"

"You took a consensus without notifying us?" Leoben demanded and moved to stand next to the Eight and the two Sixes, facing the other four.

"We knew how you would vote," Five said. "It wasn't necessary."

Leoben narrowed his eyes at Cavil. "This is your doing. Such under-handed maneuvering is more human than Cylon."

"At least I'm not the one keeping a human as a pet, pretending he's an emissary from God," Cavil retorted, rolling his eyes.

"He knows things," Thea protested. "He knows being here is a mistake!"

"He would say that, wouldn't he?" Cavil challenged. "He's a human who killed hundreds of Cylons on Caprica. He hates us. Of course he wants us to leave. Look at yourselves!" he demanded, waving to the Sixes and Eights and the one Leoben in the room. "So eager to be human you buy what he's selling. Well, let me tell you a fact, my brothers and sisters -- you are not humans; and no amount of coddling his delusions is going to make you human. But since you seem incapable of doing the smart thing, we're going to do it for you."

The other Six glared at Cavil and said in a low, dangerous voice, "Don't do this."

He smiled at her. "It's already done."

"You're interfering in something you can't begin to understand," Leoben warned.

"Did the Hybrid tell you that?" Cavil mocked.

Thea raised her eyes to Four, pleading, "You're not going along with this. You can't. You helped Sam; you know he speaks the truth."

Four glanced at Cavil and back to her. "The human's dangerous."

"Take him," Cavil ordered the Centurions, who then started to pull Sam toward the exit.

"No!" Thea ran forward, stopping abruptly when the Centurions lifted their opposite arms and pointed weapons at her. "You wouldn't dare!" she gasped at Cavil.

D'Anna answered Thea with a poisonous smirk, "It wouldn't be the first Cylon murder, would it, Six?"

"Because you wouldn't listen," the Eight shot back.

Cavil snorted. "Oh, we listened and listened and listened to your chatter, until we all agreed. But now we've found the humans again and it's a new ball game." His smile at Sam was rather jovial. "Right? Isn't that the phrase? Human sports are full of so many clichés, I get them confused."

Sam answered steadily, "The game's not over 'til the final buzzer sounds. I like that one the best."

"This is the final buzzer, human," Five told him, cold and satisfied, and lifted a hand. "Take him out."

Thea looked distressed now, watching Sam with desperate eyes and her hands clasped together. "Don't forget!" he told her.

The Centurions pulled him to the door and he twisted his head to look back into the room. "We're not supposed to be here!" he shouted, pulling futilely at the metal grip. "We're not!"

The sound of the Sixes shouting, "Sam!" trailed behind him in the corridor. But it was a despairing, helpless cry, not one that promised any sort of aid.

Sam got his feet under him, limping, and caught his breath. "What are you going to do with me?" he asked. "Where are we going?"

The skinjobs walking behind him ignored his questions. Eventually he realized they were heading to the docking bay. The bay was empty except for one Heavy Raider waiting there, and without pausing, the Centurions took him toward the open ramp.

Sam stared at the sensors of the Heavy Raider, trying to catch its attention. Help me. Listen to me. Help me. But it didn't respond. Then he was pulled up the ramp into the belly.

The light inside was dim and red, and though he didn't have to duck, the space felt close and tight with dark walls that had a strange, damp sheen to them.

Standing between two Centurions, he felt small and short, and his heart was still racing. It seemed they didn't want to kill him, since the Centurions could've just shot him in the command center.

"Keep an eye on our brethren," Cavil told Four and Three. "Make sure they don't do anything stupid."

"Of course," Three agreed and her gaze moved to Sam, and she smirked at him again. "Enjoy your new home."

The ramp closed leaving him with the Centurions, Cavil and Doral. Another Doral poked his head around the barrier at the front -- he was dressed in some kind of black flight suit. "Ready?" His eyes showed a bit of interest on seeing Sam, but looked to Cavil.

Cavil told him to go and the pilot disappeared again in the front. The engines started with a loud purr and the Heavy Raider launched upward.

Cavil came near to Sam. "All right, now that they're all gone, you can tell us. You figured out this ploy on Caprica, didn't you? Caprica Six and Sharon Valerii were easy marks, weren't they?"

Sam dampened his lips. "It's not a ploy or a trick. It's the truth."

Cavil glanced at Doral and lifted a brow -- Doral's hand whipped out and punched him. Reeling backward, jaw exploding with pain, Sam gasped when another fist hit his stomach and the side of his ribs. Strung up between the Centurions, there was nowhere to go, and trying to pull free only threatened to dislocate his shoulders or break his arms.

But worst of all, Doral kicked him right into the healing fracture of his shin with the toe of his boot. The scream ripped from his throat as pain spiked through him like icy shards. Bright lights popped behind his eyelids, and he desperately wanted to faint, but it was an eternity of awareness instead.

It faded enough for him to realize the beating had stopped. He was shaking, repeating 'frak' and 'Gods' like a mantra, and he sagged in the grip of those skinny metal fingers, aching and weak. He kept his leg off the floor, and dragged in panting breaths that turned to painful coughs. He couldn't wipe his mouth and settled for spitting on the floor, but the sharp acrid taste of bile and blood remained in his mouth.

Then he looked up to see both of the skinjobs - Cavil watched with interest, Doral with more than a touch of satisfaction. Sam remembered shooting Cavil in the head on Caprica and wished he'd killed him more slowly. Gods, what had that frakker done to his leg? He couldn't feel anything beyond the shattering pain that rose up with the least movement. "Frak you," he hissed through clenched teeth. "Beating me isn't going to change the truth."

Cavil smiled at him. "I see why they find you appealing," Cavil remarked. "You're attractive and you speak with conviction and, God knows, the Sixes and Eights especially love those things. Two will listen to anyone who claims to know the word of God, because he's just as crazy as the Hybrids are. But thankfully the rest are more sensible and we can now get back to a reasonable plan. Without you, the others will follow along - that's what they do best," he sneered dismissively.

A shiver went down Sam's spine, realizing that he was with the two Cylons who not only thought he was a liar, but really seemed to believe he was corrupting the others.

He cleared his throat and asked hoarsely, "What are you going to do with me?"

"I don't want to act in haste - that's what humans do," Cavil said. "So, for now, I'm just going to tuck you out of the way and wait. If the rest of the consensus remains stubborn… well," he smiled a little, "There are other uses for you."

Sam grimaced. That was just great. He was going to be a prisoner and a triad card to use against the other Cylons if they didn't toddle along after these two sadistic frakkers.

He had no idea where they were as the ship landed - could be down on New Caprica or anywhere - but it turned out to be another baseship docking bay. This time there were only Centurions, another Cavil, and another Doral waiting on the platform.

"Brother," the two Cavils greeted each other with a nod. They were dressed very similarly in gray and even though the Dorals were in different suits, their expressions were exactly the same. It made Sam suddenly aware that the Cylons he'd been living with for the past two weeks might be different. These seemed more… Cylon-like. More like copies, whereas the Sixes and Eights looked identical, but he could feel that each was just a little bit different....

"It's ready," One said and turned to lead the way.

Sam knew the baseship well enough by now to know that the Centurions were dragging him to the edge of the central core, toward one of the arms. He saw only Centurions and two other Fives who stared at him coldly before continuing on their way.

They went through one of the many identical sitting rooms, this one furnished with a couch and clear dividers, down a short hall guarded by two Centurions, through an open door and into one of the showering rooms. This one had only one entry and was all white, from the panels of light in the ceiling, and the smooth walls, to the slightly rough floor. The floor had a small, round metal grate at each end, for the drains, and there was a shower nozzle on each wall.

The Centurions turned around so they- and he - were facing the door. One of the Cavils and Doral stood there, and Cavil smirked at him. "We're a little short on brig space, unlike a human ship. So you'll stay here."

Sam glanced around at the shower room. It wouldn't be that bad. At least he could wash himself and drink and there was enough room to stretch out to sleep….

He should've known better.

"Hold him there," Cavil ordered the Centurions and stepped back. A translucent panel slid across the opening, leaving Sam alone with the two shiny Centurions in a glaring white room.

He pulled against the Centurions' grips on his wrists. "Let me go," he demanded. "I order you to let me go." They didn't, so he turned his hand and yanked. In response to his nearly slipping the hand free, they tightened their grip and lifted his hands higher above his head, pulling his shoulders. "Frak. Let me go!"

As soon as he was secure, the Centurions paid him no more attention, and except for their red eye lights moving back and forth, they went completely still.

He calmed himself, taking deep breaths and closing his eyes against the light. At first the aches and throbs threatened to overwhelm him, but he tried to focus past them. He turned his head toward the Centurion on his right, opened his eyes to stare at it, and willed it to hear him. He was trying to find that same sense of connection he'd had with the Raider. Trying to feel the Centurion too and make it listen.

But there was nothing. No matter how hard he tried, or how long he stared at them, it didn't work. They were steel and wire and electricity - and they couldn't hear him.

When the door panel opened again, hours later, he'd finally given up trying to communicate with them. He'd given himself a headache, his hands were numb, his shoulders were knotted, his body ached, and none of it hurt as much as his right leg whenever he put any of his weight on it.

Doral was alone. At first Sam was glad to see someone he could actually talk to - until he saw the thin rod in Doral's hand.

"What -- ?" he started and had to clear his throat. "What do you want?"

Ignoring the question, Doral stalked up to him and glared. "You are not a messenger from God. You are nothing, human. You have corrupted the Cylon, a cancer growing in our heart. I will rip it out if I have to, to make it stop." His face, normally so bland, was filled with cold rage.

He struck, quick as a biting viper, laying stinging strips across Sam's stomach and ribs. Sam already had his jaw clenched against crying out, unwilling to give the frakker the satisfaction. He flinched and a gasp escaped him, especially when another blow fell on a bruise from before.

Doral looked at him, sneering, "Tell me it's a lie. Admit that you want to destroy us, and this was part of your human plan."

"Human plan," he repeated hoarsely, and chuckled dryly, giving in to the need to cough. "I wish. Nothing human planned this. Gods, or your Cylon God, I don't know, but --"

"God has nothing to do with you. Turn him."

The Centurions turned and pinned him to the wall. Doral pulled up Sam's tanks to expose the bare skin of his back, and then hit him some more.

Face pressed into the dry smooth wall, his breath whistled harshly through his teeth, and he sucked air when he could. But it was hard to hold onto that determination when pain was a haze that seemed to surround him.

He was shaking and his knees folded at some point, so the Centurions were the only thing holding him up. When it stopped, he didn't notice right away, caught up in the effort not to yell or cry.

Then Doral told the Centurions to let him go. He slipped down the wall, unable to catch himself when he could barely feel his arms.

The Centurions left in a whirr of motors, and Sam lifted his head, thinking he was alone.

But Doral was still there, watching him with a lip curled in disdain, and hatred in his dark eyes. "You're our prisoner, Sam Anders. There is only one of you, and many of us. The Centurions don't tire and they feel no mercy. You can't escape. You will break -- the only question is how long it will take and how much you'll suffer first."

He walked out, still immaculate in his blue suit, and the translucent door slid shut behind him.

Sam curled up on the hard floor, trying to find a tolerable position. He shut his eyes against the glare, but sleep kept skittering out of his grasp. He couldn't think, couldn't sleep, couldn't pass out, he could only lay there and pray it stopped soon, as he shivered through bouts of cold and waves of pain from his abused body.

Eventually, he started to come back to himself. His throat was dry and he realized he could do something about that, since he was in a room with running water. And maybe the cold water would help the swelling. It still took a long time to make his body listen. It didn't like the idea at all and fire-shot darkness passed over his vision when he moved. He stayed on one knee, awkwardly half-crawling, to get beneath the nearest shower head, and used the wall for leverage to stand, feeling like lifting his arm was tearing the skin from his back.

He moved the temperature gauge to cold and turned the water on.

A slow trickle came out, little more than a fast drip. He put his mouth under it to drink, but it wasn't enough to shower. The other faucets were the same.

Bastards had turned off the water, except for the drip. Frak.

He settled back on the floor, a relatively unbruised part of his back against the wall.

Shutting his eyes, he tried to breathe past the fear bunched up in his middle and think calmly about his new situation. He had water, so even if he didn't get food, he would last a few weeks. He hurt, but he didn't think Doral had done any permanent damage, except maybe to the bone in his leg. He was probably going to have to switch the wrap from his ankle to his leg and try to immobilize it, but later, when the mere thought of touching his leg didn't make him want to vomit.

The Cylons didn't want to kill him, not yet, but they wanted him to suffer. They could come in here every day and beat him again, just for kicks. They could torture him worse until he told them the truth, and then they'd do it some more for daring to pretend he was a Cylon. And eventually he'd find out the hard way if he was going to resurrect or not.

But none of that was what he was supposed to do. What he needed to do was get out of this room and find his way to a friendly Cylon or maybe a Raider would give him a lift to New Caprica. It was a showering room, not a brig cell - there should be a way. Once he was out, he knew his way around the baseship well enough.

However, as he explored the room in his slow halting way, he found it was not going to be that easy. The walls seemed solid sheets of some smooth, coated composite, molded into four shower nozzles, and the ceiling was too high to reach. The door was an obvious weak point -- it looked like translucent glass but when he hit it with a fist, it quivered like some sort of plastic. A high-velocity weapon might shatter it, but his fists weren't going to work, and kicking was going to have to wait until his legs were better. If only he had his ammo belt from Caprica and the small brick of G-4 he kept in one of the pockets...

He pried off the little grates to the drains, hoping to find an escape, but the pipe was too small. So he used the far one as a toilet, and rinsed the drain as best he could by leaving two of the nozzles on.

Then, exhausted, he sat down again, aching everywhere and wishing he had a whole pile of those yellow pills.

Was this a test? Could he find his way out of here if he looked harder?

Had the Gods abandoned him for failing? Or had he fulfilled his destiny already?

Was the Cylon God doing this? Were there no Gods at all, and he was just frakked in the head?

One thing was certain: this was the beginning of the wrong he had been feeling from the beginning, for New Caprica.

Being right was cold comfort as the hours and days crept past, with no way out he could find. Pain was constant, the only companion he had for a long time. His isolation was broken finally - given his beard growth, it had to be at least three days later - by silent Centurions bringing him bitter mash to eat. It was the most unappetizing food he could imagine, but he was hungry enough to scoop it up with his fingers and eat it.

The next day or so they came back with more of the same, and then again. After each visit, he scratched a mark into the wall with his drain cap, and counted the marks as if they were days, though with the glaring lights and his completely frakked sense of time, he had no idea what they really represented.

Each time the Centurions opened the door, he stared at them, trying to reach them, but there was never a flicker of awareness. He talked to them out loud too, unable to stop himself even though he hated the way his voice started to edge into desperation. He imagined Cavil smirking out of sight around the corner and occasionally shouted for the frakker to show himself, but he never did.

It occurred to him that he could die in this cell, and the toasters might continue to bring food to the cell and never notice. Sam found himself wishing Doral would come back, even if it was to beat him again, just to prove he wasn't forgotten. But he was left alone.

Sleep never seemed restful, full of nightmares of bulletheads shooting at him, fire surrounding him, or being buried alive in a pit full of corpses.

While he was awake, he escaped into daydreams of Kara and Pyramid and his old life on Caprica.

to be continued...

Chapter 3 here

Comments are love! :)
leafmeal: mementoleafmeal on January 2nd, 2009 01:49 am (UTC)
More soon, please!

This is just so well thought out. It feels true to Sam and the other characters. I'm loving Cavil's creepy disdain for the Sixes and Eights. (Well, not "loving" it, but I like to see plausible conflict between Cylons beyond what we get on the show...)
lizardbeth: Trucco - mine!lizardbeth_j on January 2nd, 2009 08:30 am (UTC)
thanks! more Sunday, if all goes well. Holidays were not the best time to start posting, duh. *head desk*

Cavil is one hella creepy dude, oh yes. no question.