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10 November 2009 @ 11:09 pm
The Thread of Ariadne, Ch. 8  
Chapter Eight

Kara entered the admiral's quarters, wondering what the summons was about. The admiral was there, with Roslin and Cottle, to her surprise. No one else. She greeted them, feeling puzzled, and at the admiral's gesture, sat on the couch.

"You've run tests on the beacon, Doctor?" Roslin asked.

The beacon? Kara frowned curiously. She knew from Gaeta's tests that the beacon they'd found in the nebula was very old, and almost certainly was a relic of the Thirteenth Tribe. Its power source was still active, and it was still sending out a signal. The pulse was regular but seemed to carry no other information, which everyone had been very disappointed to learn.

Cottle nodded. "Yes. We found organic material on it, small amounts inside and out."

Roslin leaned forward, looking a little excited. "Traces of the Thirteenth Tribe?"

Cottle shook his head. "Much more recent than that. I found intact cells, and there was enough to get a DNA match." He glanced at Kara, who knew what he was going to say the moment before he said it, "Lieutenant Anders handled it."

Kara could only stare, trying to think. He was alive. This was proof. Real tangible evidence, not just possible Cylon tricks, that those four months of hell and that little flicker of doubt and denial and hope had been right all along.

"I thought the lieutenant was killed at the beginning of the occupation," Roslin said, frowning in confusion. "How is that possible?"

"Lieutenant Agathon learned on New Caprica that Anders was taken prisoner," the Admiral answered, rather stiffly. He was still angry about Hera, Kara thought. "But we've had no confirmation of that until now."

Roslin didn't let his annoyance bother her. "So then he's been a prisoner all this time. But he touched this artifact?" Roslin asked, shaking her head. "How? Why?"

The admiral had no answer.

"It was very clean," Cottle added. "The interior had some other denatured organic residue. I'd guess they had him decontaminate it. Though I don't know why they bothered, since it ended up back in space. But for whatever reason, after it was clean, he rubbed his skin on the outside," he sounded disapproving at the foolishness.

But Kara had an idea why he'd touch something stuck in space for millennia with his bare hands. "It's a message to us. So we would know he's alive," Kara suggested. She could imagine scenarios of how that beacon had gotten back in space for the Colonies to find, and none of them ended well for Sam. Surely the Cylons hadn't given it up easily. "And to tell us the Cylons got here first."

Roslin nodded slowly, frowning in thought. "So they're ahead of us. How much?" she asked Cottle.

He shook his head, shrugging. "Hard to say, but not long. Days. A week. Not more than two, probably."

Kara's gaze swung to the admiral's painting of the First Cylon War, staring at it blindly. So close. If they could go a little faster, they could catch up...

"We know something else," Adama added. "If they're ahead of us but on the same course, they're trying to find Earth, too." His eyes went to Kara, and she could see he knew about the rest of it, how D'Anna had said the Cylons knew about Sam's gift. They were keeping him alive to get the way to Earth from him.

It made her stomach hurt imagining it, and so she tried to push it away, saying, "They know the Sacred Scrolls, too. They could've used the same clue we did."

She didn't like the way Adama's face seemed to have the words like "months of captivity" and "torture" and "no choice" floating around on it, but at least he didn't say them aloud.

Then she realized she knew a lot more than she had before, which meant she could finally do something. She snapped straight. "Sir, I request permission to plan a rescue extraction of Oracle."

Adama didn't say anything for a moment, and Roslin butted in, "Can we put the whole Fleet at risk for one man?"

Adama's eyes cut to hers, glasses flashing. "I will not leave one of my men a prisoner of the Cylons, if I can get him free." His gaze returned to Kara. "Request granted, Starbuck. You plan the op and I'll give you a go-no-go." He lifted a hand before she could rise. "On one condition: you give me your word that if the answer's no-go, you'll abide by it."

She hesitated only a moment. "Yes, sir."

"Then you're dismissed. Let's bring Oracle home."

"I will, Admiral," she promised, and left.

* * *

Athena agreed to help when Kara told her what was happening. "I'm glad it's true," she said, pushing the little model baseship across the table of the situation room.

"Yeah," was Kara's only acknowledgment. Getting him back, that was the important thing now. "A single baseship is no match for Galactica. So, let's say we disable the baseship and board. What kind of resistance would we see?"

"Centurions. Each ship carries a different number, ranging from fifty to hundreds. Only about twenty are active at any given time, though. We would have a few minutes before they could join the fight. Also, each ship has a resident population of about thirty, maybe forty."

Kara nodded, pleased. That was do-able. "Where's the brig?"

Sharon shook her head. "There is no brig. He could be anywhere in the residential core."

"Frak." Kara tapped the baseship model with a finger, thinking. It wasn't as big as Galactica, but that was still a lot of ship to search. "Could you do that thing you did before with the launch keys, to connect to the ship and find him?"

"If I was onboard, yes, I could look in the datastream," Sharon agreed.

"Okay, you'll have to be in the boarding party then." She made a note on her paper, and then felt eyes on the back of her neck and turned to see Lee coming in.

She folded her arms, feeling vindicated, and announced, "Sam's alive. Doc Cottle has proof."

"I heard," he said and came closer. "I wanted to say I was sorry. You were right."

Which was good to hear, but she certainly wasn't going to tell him that. "Well, will wonders never cease? Lee Adama, admitting I'm right?" she mocked.

He opened his mouth to rise to her bait, and then shut it again, with a small sigh and started over. "I changed Oracle's status to POW," he told her, and she was unprepared for the sharp jolt of pain hearing that gave her, even though it was a lot better than KIA. "And you have whatever help you need. But, I also have to remind you that the current mission for scouting food sources has to come first."

"I know that." It wouldn't do much good to rescue him and bring him back to a starving fleet. The fleet was already rationing everything. They'd left a lot of things, including food, back on New Caprica.

He held up a hand. "All right, just making sure. I'll leave you both to it, then. Let me know when you've got a plan. Lieutenant," he greeted Athena briefly before leaving.

In the silence that followed, Kara stared down at the small model basestar. POW. She knew what the Cylons had done at New Caprica to prisoners -- it stared at her every time she looked at Tigh and his single eye or that empty place on the deck where Cally should've been. "Sharon... what are they doing to him?"

Sharon didn't answer for what felt like forever. "I don't know. But one of the things Cylons understand very well is how pain motivates humans. I doubt they've done nothing."

It wasn't what Kara wanted to hear, but it was nothing she didn't expect. "I dream about him," Kara confessed. "Vivid dreams. True dreams. Like you with Hera, they've told me he's alive, since New Caprica. But in them, he'll never tell me if he's hurt or how to rescue him."

"You've been dreaming of Sam?"

She toyed with the baseship. "Almost every night he comes to me - sometimes my old apartment, sometimes here, sometimes a temple I've never seen... and we have sex and he tells me he's alive. And even though I know in my dream that I'm dreaming, it's real. It's -- hard to explain," she faltered, not knowing the right words to explain.

But Sharon was nodding her understanding. "In my dream of Hera, I kept chasing her through a --"

"A theater," Kara interrupted.

Sharon's eyes widened in astonishment. "How do you know that?"

"I dreamed of it, too," Kara said. "I saw both of you. That's how I knew Isis was Hera. It was a message from the gods, to get Hera back to you."

"Thank you for listening," Sharon murmured. "I have my baby girl back. And she's happy and healthy, and we're a family. It's... everything I ever dreamed of, Kara, thanks to you." She reached out and squeezed Kara's arm lightly. "We'll get Sam back for you. He said when he punched out that he'd see you again," Sharon reminded her. "And you will. He knew about Hera, and he knew about this. Have faith."

"I do." How could she not? The dreams had sustained her until now she had proof. And now she had the best gift of the gods by far -- now she could fulfill her promise to rescue him.

* * *

In the ready room, Kara addressed the gathered pilots from behind the podium after a deep breath.

"Some of you who were on New Caprica may not know that Sam Anders became a pilot, call sign Oracle, or that he and I were flying CAP when the Cylons came. His ship was destroyed by a Heavy Raider. He punched out in time, but the Fleet had to jump and we couldn't go back. He was presumed killed. However, as many of you have heard by now, Doctor Cottle found traces of Oracle's DNA on that beacon we picked up from space. That means three things: first, Oracle's alive. Second, he's a prisoner of the Cylons. And third, we're going to rescue him. We know the Cylons aren't far ahead of us and they're on roughly the same course. But in order to carry out a rescue we have to know exactly where that baseship is. Galactica has to stay with the fleet, so I need Raptors to jump ahead and try to find it.

"I know the odds aren't good of running across them. I know it's like hitting a needle in a moving haystack. This is in addition to the food source search, so it's purely volunteer basis. But... if we find that ship, then we will trap it, and we will disable it, and either they give him to us or we board it and we take him back." Her fingers tightened around the podium and she felt that touch of absolute confidence as she vowed, "I will bring him home. If you want to help do that, then see me and I'll give you your coordinates to search."

Before she'd even stepped from behind the podium, there was a rustling noise, and when she looked up, she saw that everyone in the room had stood up.

Her mouth dropped open in surprise, and she caught Duck's eye. He glanced over his shoulder at the other pilots then smiled at her. "I think I speak for everyone, Captain -- we're in."

Barolay was standing of course. Hotdog and Kat and Ninja, they'd known Sam, they'd flown with him, so that made sense. But... She glanced at Redwing, who had never even met Sam, and frowned at him in confusion.

He answered simply, "He's one of ours, Captain. I saw what those bastards did to prisoners on New Caprica."

Kara's breath caught in her chest. Her gaze flicked to the side and saw Lee standing there, too, just inside the door. He nodded once when he saw he'd caught her eye.

She looked away hastily and forced herself to breathe and square her shoulders. "Thank you all. Good hunting."

Then she got the hell out of there before anyone said something that would get to her even more.

* * *

Finding a needle in a moving haystack was probably generous, Kara reflected glumly, looking at the display showing her results of a week of searching. She knew where the Cylons weren't, but not where they were.

Hearing a footstep in the door she looked up to see Helo coming in. "Hey."

He leaned over to see the screen displaying the overlapping circles that represented each Raptor's dradis bubble. "How's it going?"

"Space is big," she muttered irritably. "But it's not this frakking big. One of the Raptors should've tagged them on dradis."

"Maybe they're not that close to us," Helo suggested with a squeeze of her shoulder. "Or maybe they were jumping. Dradis won't catch them if they're not in real-space."

"I know, I know. Damn it." She let out a huff of a breath and rolled her head and shoulders, trying to loosen up. And, as she had hoped, Helo took the hint and rubbed her shoulders. She shut her eyes and sighed. "Now I know what Sharon sees in you... "

"Funny, Thrace." But he didn't stop. "Kara, we know they're out there. We'll find the ship."

"I know." She had faith she would eventually, but she wanted 'eventually' to be right frakking now. It had already been too long. She changed the subject to something less annoying. "How's Hera doing?"

She could hear the smile in his voice. "Great. It's... amazing. A few nightmares, but hell, who doesn't have those?"

Kara froze. She didn't - not anymore. Her dreams the last two weeks had been ordinary - surreal and quickly forgotten. She hadn't had one of those painfully real dreams since the beacon had come onboard Galactica. She hoped it was because they'd found the beacon and physical proof Sam was alive; and not that something had happened to him.

Helo continued to prattle on about Hera, and Duck's kid Sammy, and how they were gonna get married someday or some such parental silliness. Kara let the words wash over her, until Helo mentioned something about Baltar.

"Wait, what was that?"

"You hadn't heard yet?" Helo asked. "He's in the fleet somewhere."

She frowned. "Gaeta said he'd been left on New Caprica."

"Apparently not. Or else someone else is using his name, agitating against Roslin. But he's accusing her of food hoarding, which, you know I hate her, but that's just stupid enough to be Baltar. Anyway, the main thing is he's claiming how Hera's going to lead us to salvation because she came back from the dead."

Kara chuckled, shaking her head. "Where the frak did he get that? And people are believing it?"

Helo shrugged, looking distinctly uncomfortable. "Some, I gather. So the admiral's put some extra marines around her at daycare. I don't know ... I guess I'd rather people believe she's something good than a freak. But still, I hope they find and arrest his ass soon."

"Yeah, no kidding."

* * *

That chance came a week later when word reached the admiral that Baltar was hiding on the Prometheus. Kara still chortled at the memory of Gaeta's face - he really had been sure Baltar was dead.

Adama had put her and Helo in command of the arrest, probably because they were two of the people he could trust not to "accidentally" kill Baltar on the way back, and while she was glad for the trust, she worried at the thought of invading one of her own ships.

Kara tightened the straps of her tac vest and glanced at Helo. He looked grim, jaw muscle tight, as he checked his sidearm.

"You ready?" she asked.

He nodded and shoved the sidearm into its holster. "Yeah, let's do this." He didn't look as if he particularly wanted to. Kara didn't either, especially since for some unfathomable reason, someone on the Prometheus appeared to be sheltering Baltar.

The two of them left the locker room and met the marines, led by Gunny Mathias, on the deck.

Mathias gave them both nods. "Captains."

Kara nodded back. "Gunny. One moment." She turned to the marines. "You all know the orders, but I have to say it again: these are our own people. We are going to arrest Gaius Baltar, not hurt or kill people. If they resist giving him to us, you must use non-lethal force only. The Fleet cannot afford another Gideon. You know your orders. Move out."

"Move out!" Gunny ordered and they turned and went into the two waiting Raptors.

Kara's glance met Helo's and they headed into Racetrack's Raptor. "Ready?" Racetrack asked, as Helo closed the hatch.

"Ready, Racetrack. Go when ready," Kara answered.

The two Raptors headed for the Prometheus. It was a notoriously lawless place, and if anyone was hoarding, it was probably Prometheus, but it had been pretty quiet since New Caprica, when Captain Franks had taken command.

The captain was an older woman, with short blonde hair and a trim, dark blue civilian uniform. She eyed the marines with suspicion. "There's no need for this."

"Yeah, well, better be safe than sorry. Someone's been hiding Baltar on this ship," Helo said.

"I had no idea he was on this ship. He registered with the name Gaius Elantis," she explained.

"And you didn't think to check the name against the Fleet manifest?" Helo demanded impatiently.

"I've been a little too busy to worry about my refugees pretending to be someone else," she snapped.

"Or he bribed you to look the other way," Helo added with disgust. She didn't exactly rush to deny it, and Helo shook his head. "Just take us to him."

"We want this to go smoothly and quietly," Kara added, amused that Helo was being the hardass. Usually he was the good guy and she was the hardass. Baltar talking about his daughter was irritating him more than he was letting on.

Franks nodded once. "Fine. This way." She brought them through a heavy hatch into a wide corridor that stretched the length of the ship. It was packed with crates and boxes, machinery for transporting it, and people moving it around. They all spied the incoming marines and melted out of the way. Kara wondered exactly how illegal it all was, that everyone feared soldiers from Galactica.

Franks led them to a closed hatch and paused. "He's in this compartment," she said, nodding her chin. "He has some young women in there with them. Try not to upset them too much."

Kara wondered if she meant prostitutes and moved toward the hatch with the intent to get this over with.

But Mathias spoke sharply. "Captain! Squad, door."

Chagrined, Kara realized her error and moved aside to let Mathias' men open the hatch and go in. Two of the marines moved in to open the door, and two more went through, weapons drawn. The rest followed with swift efficiency and Mathias followed, shouting, "Nobody move!"

Of course, people did - there was the sound of screaming and yelling, both men and women, as the marines secured the compartment. Mathias ordered both the civilians and her soldiers in that cool voice of hers, and very quickly got everyone settled. Then she called, "Captains. The compartment is secure."

Kara went in, Helo at her heels. There were seven women in various states of undress lined up against the wall, and in the middle of the floor stood Gaius Baltar, heavily bearded as if he hadn't shaved since New Caprica, but it was definitely him. Kara recognized the darting eyes; they went from her to Helo and then off to the side as if he'd heard something.

"Gaius Baltar, we have a warrant for your arrest," Helo declared.

It was as if Baltar didn't even hear him. He smiled at Helo, and started speaking quickly, "Agathon. Yes, I remember. I never really thanked you for doing what you did on Caprica, did I? Yes, I should've, really, though I guess it turned out to be fate, didn't it? Without your trade, you would never have met your lovely wife and then she would've never given birth to the child Hera."

There were gasps from the women by the wall, and Baltar confirmed for them, "Yes, this is Karl Agathon, the father of the only human-Cylon hybrid, who will bring peace between the two races."

Helo stalked up to him, fists tight, but instead of belting Baltar as Kara would've done, Helo grabbed him by the collar. "Shut up. Stop talking about my daughter like that."

Baltar just stared up at him, wide-eyed. "But it's true, Helo, it is, and you know it. She's special. I've seen it, too."

"Seen what?" Kara demanded, taking two steps nearer in spite of herself.

He managed to twist his head to look at her, tightening the collar around his neck. "On Kobol," he gasped. "I saw a crib, bathed in golden light. I heard a voice tell me ... she was going to save us. But then she died, but now she's alive again, and --"

Helo shook him. "She was never dead! She was kidnapped. She was right there on New Caprica the whole frakking time!"

Baltar's eyes darted to the side and then looked straight at Karl, and he was smiling eagerly. His hands grabbed at Helo's tac vest. "Roslin did it," he said. "Roslin stole her. Because she knows the same thing I do, that Hera prophesies a new era of peace. But Laura Roslin fears that era, Karl," Baltar told him. "Laura Roslin needs the war, she needs to hate the Cylons because it gives her power."

"Shut up," Helo threw him at the marines in disgust.

But Baltar wasn't done. "You know I'm right. You know it! Who's the one who stole a baby and stole an election, and --"

"Shut up," Mathias ordered him, and gestured her squad. "Take him out! We don't have to listen to the traitor."

Baltar shouted on his way out, "Helo! You love a Cylon, so did I. That's not a crime! It's how things are supposed to be!"

The marines took Baltar, and Captain Franks followed outside. Two of the women approached. "You're Hera's father."

"Look, whatever he said, she didn't come back to life. She was never dead, she was just missing, okay?" Helo told her impatiently. "So don't listen to whatever self-serving crap he was trying to sell you."

"But she is half-Cylon, right?"

Karl took a deep breath and answered evenly. "Yes. My wife is a Cylon. She left her people years ago to join us." Not waiting for any response, he turned on his heel and stalked out.

Kara followed him quickly, darting a glance up at his face. She knew that tight jaw. "He's just trying to save his own skin, Karl."

"I know that."

"So don't listen."

"I'm not," he said shortly, but she could tell he had, at least a little, when he burst out in the middle of the corridor, "She's just a little girl! We've barely got her back, we're trying to learn to be a family, and we're still in the middle of Roslin and Baltar's pissing contest. Gods damn it!"

Kara patted his arm. "Ignore him. And her. Just be a family."

The news that Baltar had been found went around the Fleet like the plague, with some nearly rioting for his head on a platter. Roslin put him in the brig to wait for things to cool down, and Kara started hearing rumblings of a trial.

Helo took her advice as best he could, going back to Sharon and Hera and his duty. But Kara found she couldn't ignore Baltar entirely, because she knew Baltar was right about Hera being special. Did that make him right about the reason? Was Hera Agathon going to bring peace with the Cylons?

She gnawed at the question in her mind, wondering. The idea of peace at all seemed ridiculous on the face of it. And yet...

* * *

She was sitting on the carpeted steps of the theater where she had seen Hera. The grand entry hall was deserted, and the main doors leading into the audience were closed. She was about to get up and start looking around, when she heard a voice ease into the silence.

"Hello, Kara."

She turned to see Sam seated on the top step, and she shifted upward to join him. It felt odd and surreal to be sitting there, fully dressed, both of them looking down into the empty hallway with him at her side rather than trying to frak him. Yet, oddly, she felt no desire to, she just wanted to sit there peacefully beside him. She didn't even feel alarmed or curious when she saw that the carpet pattern was formed of little nested circles - red, yellow, blue- repeating onward as far as she could see.

"You had a question?" he prompted, smiling a little.

"Um, yeah, I guess. Does Hera have a destiny?"

His smile widened, but he didn't turn his gaze from the empty hall and the large closed doors. "You don't usually ask questions you already know the answer to."

"She has a destiny."

"Everyone has a destiny," he corrected and added in a voice of soft wonder, "It's beautiful, Kara. There is a stream to life and a pattern of creation that will be wondrous to behold when it's restored to its proper and right shape."

"Restored?" Kara repeated, frowning.

"You will help restore it, Kara. That's your destiny. But there's nothing to fear." He turned to her, and there was something in his blue eyes that put a chill down her back. "It's wonderful."

For a moment she gazed into his eyes, feeling her way to understanding. He wasn't speaking like Sam, and now he didn't quite look like Sam either. "You're not Sam, are you?"

He touched her cheek with his warm fingers and his smile was nothing like Sam's. "I never said I was."

For a brief blinding instant she had the impression that Sam's face was just a mask, and she caught a glimpse of some unknowable power beneath it. Then it was gone.

She blinked and woke up, back in her rack. She stared at the bottom of the rack above her, sleepless, until it was time to rise for her duty.

On to Chapter Nine: The Dog Whistle
Merry F: karaivanolix on November 27th, 2009 12:59 am (UTC)
Eeee, rescue mission! \o/ Even though I know it has to end messily whether they succeed or not, I get all excited for things like that. Head!Sam gives me the shivers, though.