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11 November 2009 @ 04:02 pm
The Thread of Ariadne, Ch. 9  
Chapter Nine

Sam threw a chip in for the hand and picked up his cards. None of the players talked as they looked at their cards, and in the quiet Sam heard that noise that he'd been catching randomly for a few days now.

"Would someone mind telling me what that buzzing is?" he asked.

Thea cocked her head and frowned at him. "Buzzing?"

He hesitated and everyone fell silent again to listen. "There," he said, catching the faint crackling hiss. "That."

Sharon and Sheryl exchanged a glance. "I don't hear anything strange," Sharon said.

He answered, "I don't know if it's strange. It's just annoying. Like a burst of wireless static or an electrical buzz."

Thea looked apologetic and touched his arm. "I don't hear it."

"You're just used to it, I guess." He shrugged, not wanting to make a big deal of it. He picked up four chips and threw them in the pot for his bet. "Never mind. It's not important."

It was still there, though, and now that he was paying attention to it, it was more distracting. He played badly, recklessly going all-in with nothing, and Caprica called his bet, smiling like she knew he was bluffing.

He tossed down his garbage cards and pushed back his chair. "So much for that." Ignoring the game going on behind him, he decided to track down the sound.

Listening seemed to make it a little louder, but it was still hard to determine a direction. Triangulating on it helped, and he thought it was coming from somewhere inside the wall.

"Sam, what are you doing?" Caprica asked, and he twitched with surprise, realizing she was standing beside him. He hadn't noticed her moving.

"The sound's in there," he pointed to the wall in front him. "C'mon, you have to hear it."

She frowned and shook her head. "I still don't hear anything."

"It's right there!" he insisted, tapping on the wall, just beneath the pulsing red datastream.

But even though she listened, he knew she wasn't hearing it. A cold prickle of unease brushed his neck, and he glanced back at his triad partners, meeting Thea's concerned glance. "None of you hear it?" he asked. "It sounds like this..." He imitated the sound as best he could, an irregular buzzing hiss.

Thea listened and then stood up and joined him. "I don't hear anything." She put a hand on his arm and slid it down to take his hand, tugging him away from the wall. "Come on, it's late. Let's go to bed."

He resisted. "You think I'm hearing things."

She dampened her lips with her tongue and said carefully, "I think you've been through a lot, not very long ago, and you're tired, Sam. That's all."

Caprica added, "It's probably a side-effect of the neural amplifier."

"That was two months ago!" he insisted, but with four of them unable to hear it, he had to admit that it was more likely that the sound wasn't real.

"It'll fade," Thea reassured him.

After shaking his head, trying to get the sound out, he forced a smile. "I hope so, because it's irritating as frak."

He had his second clue that it was imaginary when the sound didn't go away when he left the room, as it would have if the source had actually been in the wall. In the bedroom, it seemed to be coming from overhead someplace, which was even worse. Straining to locate the sound had also given him a pain in both temples, so he grabbed the bottle of pills from the table and popped one, hoping it went to work quickly.

"Sam?" Thea asked in concern, "Is your leg bothering you again?"

He shook his head. "That sound's giving me a headache." He sat on their bed and looked at her. "You really don't hear it?"

"No, I'm sorry." She knelt behind him and rubbed his shoulders, coaxing his head down so she could work her thumbs into his neck. "Goodness, you're stiff here. No wonder you have a headache." Then she stopped, fingers warm on his skin. "Sam, what if this is like the lion? Maybe this is another clue."

He shrugged. "It's a noise. At first it was coming from the wall, now it's up in the ceiling; it's just random. It doesn't make any sense."

She perched on her heels next to him and took his hand. "Neither did the lion until we knew what it meant. And you haven't had a vision since we found the beacon."

Which was true and also disappointing. He hadn't seen "Kara", hadn't seen the lion, and hadn't felt anything mystical happen beyond the vague sense that they were going the right way. It was enough for Thea, who had hid the chamalla and refused to give him any more. But it wasn't enough for him, and it was getting to be not enough for D'Anna and some of the others, who seemed to still believe he could call up a vision whenever he wanted one.

"I don't know. There's not much to it." He didn't like not knowing; it felt as if he was fumbling around in the dark, when he should know the answer. He'd known the lion would show him the path, but he didn't know anything about this sound.

"Maybe it's not time yet. Last time the lion was pulled from you -- this could be more how it's supposed to work."

He grunted, feeling rather sour and annoyed about the whole thing. "It's probably just me. A remnant of the amplifier, as Caprica said."

"Maybe." She hesitated, looking at his face, and then changed her tone, teasing, "Or maybe..." her smile broadened as she drew a finger down his chest, "you just need to focus your attention on something else?"

Her finger didn't stop at his belt and he had to agree: her method of distraction worked very well. Whatever that sound was, the sounds she made and the feel of her drove it away.

For a little while.

* * *

The next morning he made it all the way to breakfast without doing anything too weird, until a smiling Eight put a bowl of farina cereal down in front of him. The sight of the white mashy stuff pulled him back into the bright cell and the days of pain, and his insides instantly heaved. He shoved his chair back so hard it fell over, and he barely managed to make it to the bathroom before he threw up.

After, he washed his mouth out and stared at himself in the mirror, holding on to the edge of the sink. Gods, he had to get a grip. "Pull it together, Anders," he told himself sternly. "It's just frakking cereal. It's over. Long over. You're fine."

Except for talking to himself and seeing and hearing things that weren't there, but that kind of crazy seemed more normal than freaking out at cereal.

The reminder was enough. He caught a tendril of distant sound, like a buzzing coming from the inner wall.

"Oh frak, not again."

But, not wanting to go back to breakfast and face curious or pitying stares, he went out to the main corridor and started to follow the noise, since it seemed to have a clear direction this time.

Thea and Sharon found him. "I told them not to bring you that again," Thea said. "It was a new rotation; they didn't know."

Sharon added, "She didn't mean to upset you. She'd like to tell you she's sorry."

He shrugged off both of them. "I don't blame her. It's my own frakked up head, I know that."

The sound was coming from that way, but also down. That meant down at least one level toward the core.

"What's wrong?" Thea asked.

"I hear that noise again, so I thought I'd follow it," he said, with false casualness. "See where it leads. If anywhere."

The two women tagged after him and he could feel the looks and shrugs they exchanged behind his back, letting him do his crazy thing. He almost wished they'd try to discourage him, since he knew he was acting like a madman, listening to phantom noises. But instead, they helped him navigate the ship and its abrupt dead-ends. He couldn't tell where they were going, as he chased it down identical corridors like a ghost, but it was definitely trying to lead him someplace.

He passed other Cylons on his way, managing the supply rooms and doing maintenance. He passed through a room where three Eights were doing yoga naked and didn't appear to realize he was there. He passed another room where he heard soft Six voices, one sobbing and at least one other comforting her. He paused, wondering if there was anything he could do -- Thea touched his arm for his attention and shook her head.

The sound pulled him on, until abruptly it changed and became a clear tone, straight ahead in the corridor. He broke into a run, leaving his friends momentarily behind.

"Sam - " Thea called after him, but he didn't stop, hurrying through the doorway into a darkened room. By the light of the reddish datastream in the walls and the single light shining down in the center, he saw two Centurions guarding a large metal cage.

Sam stumbled to a stop, staring. There was a man inside the cage, and he stirred, lifting his head at the noise in the entry.

Sam tried to tell himself the prisoner was a Four, not wanting to accept what he was seeing, until the light fell on his face and Sam had to admit he didn't recognize him at all.

"What the hell?" He came toward the man. "Who are you?"

The prisoner said by rote, "Senior Lieutenant Daniel Novacek, call sign Bulldog, serial number 23449." Then he squinted up at Sam with mild curiosity. "You're new."

"You're in the Fleet?" Sam demanded. "What ship?"

Novacek frowned at him, then answered wearily, "You know this already." Then he shrugged. "The Valkyrie."

Sam shook his head, not familiar with the name, but it was definitely not part of the Fleet. "How long have you been here?"

"You'd know better than me," Novacek countered. "Forever."

Thea and Sharon entered then, and Sam turned to confront them. "What the hell is going on?"

Thea was looking at Novacek curiously, as though he was an exotic animal in a zoo. "I had no idea he was still here."

"Still?" Sam repeated. "Why is he here at all?"

"We found Lieutenant Novacek attempting to spy on us across the Armistice Line, and he was captured," Thea explained.

"The Armistice Line?" Sam asked, getting a very cold feeling in his gut. "Before the attacks? Are you serious? He's been here years?"

She nodded, and her expression turned regretful, as if she'd only just realized what had happened.

"Oh, gods. I want him out of there and sent to Galactica," Sam declared.

Thea and Sharon both looked askance at him. "We need a consensus to do that," Sharon said.

"Then get one," he told her curtly. "It's past time this man was freed."

"You'll need to convince them," Thea said. "Sharon and I can't get him free on our own."

"Fine." Sam moved forward and knelt on the floor, facing Novacek. "I'm going to get you out of there."

"Who are you?" Novacek looked confused, and Sam couldn't blame him. "Are you a new Cylon? You look like that guy who played for Virgon."

Sam winced. "Oh, Gods, now I know you've been out of it awhile. I am that guy, though I got traded to the Bucs. I'm Sam Anders of the C-Bucs, and more recently, junior lieutenant Anders, Viper pilot." Not to mention a whole bunch of other things he was keeping to himself. "I wish I'd found out you were here earlier, but I'm going to get you home as soon as I can, I promise."

"You're Colonial Fleet?" Novacek asked. "Then, what are you doing with them? You don't seem like a prisoner..."

"I was, but these Cylons saved me," he answered. "They're different. They follow me now."

"Follow you?" Novacek repeated like he'd gone crazy. "Why?"

"That's complicated." Sam grimaced wryly, and tried to explain. "I... I'm an oracle." And it still felt embarrassing to say that aloud, as if he was admitting to being a con artist. He cleared his throat. "I get visions. One of them led me to them. And one led here. To you. I'll get you out of here as soon as I can."

He stood up, didn't want to leave, but after touching the cage to seal his promise, he left.

Out in the corridor, Thea warned, "It's not going to be that easy. Novacek was a spy. We had every right, even under the treaty, to capture him."

He didn't even pause. "I don't care. He's getting out."

She hurried after him. "I'm just saying the others are going to resist."

"Yeah, well, I'm resisting right back. Call the consensus in the command center. Let's do this."

It was time to test his own power on this ship, and see whether they truly followed him or his cage was just bigger than Novacek's.

* * *

The consensus was made up of four Sixes, Sharon and Sheryl, Leoben, D'Anna, Simon, and a Doral. The fourth Six wasn't one of the usual Sixes around him, and he couldn't remember meeting her before. Since Thea, Caprica, and Natalie didn't seem bothered by her being there, he gave her a brief smile of welcome, but she had her hand in the datafont and didn't notice him.

The sight of Doral still made his chest tight, but knowing that the Doral who'd hurt him was dead helped him stay cool and greet this one with a nod.

Sam faced them, and laid it out flat. "There's a human prisoner on this ship named Daniel Novacek. He's a Colonial officer you captured years ago and he's been held prisoner ever since. I want you to free him and send him to Galactica."

"He was a spy," D'Anna not surprisingly was the first one to try to block it. "He knowingly crossed the Armistice Line in a stealth-equipped craft to spy on us."

"Well, you knowingly crossed the Armistice Line to drop nuclear bombs," he snapped back. "Not to mention you must have crossed it even before that to plant your infiltrators," he gestured at Caprica, and very carefully not at Sharon, even thought that was true, too. "So that's no justification at all. He needs to be set free."

"We don't know where the Fleet is," Natalie said.

He looked at her in disbelief and annoyance. "Are you trying to lie to me or do you really not know? Because they're right behind us. A few days, maybe a week. Give him a ship and some food, and he can find them."

"He ought to be dead," Doral said, then turned to Thea. "I'm disappointed in you, Six, revealing the prisoner's presence here to the human. Though I guess I shouldn't be surprised given your closeness," he sneered.

"I didn't tell him!" she objected.

"She didn't have to," Sam said. "I followed that sound I've been hearing for a week now, and there he was. You have to free him and send him to Adama."

"You have no place on the consensus, human," Doral told him shortly. "You're an advisor, that's all. We don't have to listen to you."

Sam opened his mouth to announce he did get a vote, since he was a Cylon, but shut it again. He had no proof except his word, and there was counter-proof in the baby and surviving the virus. Some might believe him, but others wouldn't. Even if they all believed him, they might be less willing to listen to him. It had to be far more impressive to be one special human voice of God, rather than just another Cylon.

Instead he countered, "If you're not going to listen when a vision tells me something, then what the frak am I doing here? I might as well go sit in a cell next to Novacek."

Leoben stepped forward and shook his head at D'Anna and Doral. "He's right. We made a decision at New Caprica to follow the path of God as Sam reveals it to us."

"Besides, you shouldn't even need it to be a vision," Sam pointed out irritably. "You should free him, because it's the frakking right thing to do."

"And," Sharon added quietly, "because we need to show Adama and the Fleet that not all of us are their enemies. We tried that on New Caprica, and we failed. We need to keep trying, and the best way to do that is with one of his men. Bulldog served under Adama on the Valkyrie."

Simon shook his head once. "They'll debrief him about us."

"That's what we want," Sharon told him. "We want Bulldog to tell Adama that we're not all murdering monsters. That some of us want peace." Her sister Eight nodded in firm agreement.

"That's not what I meant," Simon added. "He saw Anders free, in company with you and Six." His dark gaze met Sam's. "Are you sure you want him to tell the Fleet you're with us? They hated Baltar on New Caprica for collaborating."

'Collaborating'. That struck like a whip, because he knew Simon was right. Some humans were going to believe he was collaborating with the enemy. He shivered and felt sick to his stomach. Collaborating with the enemy went with another word: treason.

But that was only if he answered to human law, and he was sure that ship had sailed long ago. Whatever he was answering to, it certainly wasn't human.

He drew in a breath and answered evenly, "Then we'd better make sure Novacek knows you're not the enemy."

"The humans are the enemy," Doral persisted and Sam forced down the urge to punch him in the face. Was it going to take all of the Fives on the edge of death for them to bend, just a little?

"Or more to the point, we're their enemy," D'Anna said, stepping forward. "They'll never accept peace. Not after what we did. This dream of peace is just that, a dream."

"Maybe so," Natalie said, turning to confront her with her hands on her hips. "But better a dream of peace than killing. Those of our kin who died without resurrection are just as dead as the humans. But the humans will be reborn in the cycle of time, not us."

"What?" Sam asked, startled. "But I thought your god -- "

"No," Thea put a hand on his arm and shook her head. "Why do you think God commanded us to find a way to procreate? Because if we lose resurrection, there's nothing for us if we die. We end."

That struck Sam as both profoundly unfair and frightening. For the first time, he felt unsettled about what would happen if he died. He was used to Colonial scripture which was clear that he would be reborn in another turn of the wheel, and possibly at the end of time be rewarded with Elysium. But if he was a Cylon, and he couldn't resurrect, was that really just the end? Would he cease to exist? He knew some humans believed and accepted that, but it made him feel very cold.

"Not all of us agree with that interpretation," Leoben said, folding his arms and looking stubborn. All of the Sixes glanced at him pityingly, as though he didn't understand anything. "We have souls, so ours must be reborn in the cycle of time as well."

Before they got completely off track, Sam shrugged off his post-mortem dread and went back to the point. "Debate the status of your souls later; free the prisoner now. Send Novacek to Adama. Let him become proof of our intentions."

Sharon declared, "The Eights vote we send Bulldog to Galactica."

"We agree," Leoben said promptly.

"We disagree," Doral said.

"We disagree," D'Anna added.

"We disagree," the Six without a name said. Caprica, Thea, and Natalie all turned to look at her, with open surprise.

"What?" Caprica asked, narrowing her eyes at her sister.

"No, sister, the Sixes agree," Thea said. "Change your vote."

The other Six returned her look stubbornly. "No. Some of us question how the three of you make all the decisions for us, without seeking agreement or even so much as explaining to your own sisters what you're doing."

"What's there to explain?" Caprica demanded in frustration. "Sam's vision led him to the prisoner and so we agree with his release."

"'Sam's vision' that you blindly follow. You take names, you sleep with the human, you follow everything he does -- are you even Cylons anymore?" the Six accused bitterly.

Thea stiffened in offense. "You sound like a One, not us," she spat. "It is our way to follow the plan of God. So tell me, sister, which of us has proof that she follows the will of God? The one who doubts, or the one blessed with a child?"

Natalie put a quelling hand on Thea's arm to calm her down and addressed the recalcitrant Six. "Sister," Natalie said soothingly, "I understand that you and some of our other sisters have concerns. We can talk about this, in our own stream. All of us. But right now the choice is simple -- God wishes us to free the human prisoner. You need to withdraw your vote."

"No," the Six shook her head. "We talk first. You won't take us seriously if we give in to you."

"Well, I'm not changing my vote," Thea declared, narrowing her eyes at the rebel Six.

Sam noticed that Doral was smirking, pleased by this break in the Sixes. Had he had something to do with this, or was it just a side-effect of the Sixes' growing individuality?

"What happens now?" Sharon asked, confused. "Do all the Sixes cast their own votes to figure a majority?"

Leoben answered, reluctantly, "It has never happened before, but there is a procedure. If any model has a disagreement during consensus, the split vote is not counted. So it stands two for, two against." His eyes slid to Simon and his shoulders slumped a little, because, like Sam, he knew Simon wasn't going to vote to release the prisoner.

"Then our prisoner stays," D'Anna said smugly.

"Sister," Simon said, and everyone faced him at the reproving deep tone. "The Fours did not vote. We agree to release the prisoner."

Everyone was surprised, but D'Anna was incredulous. "You agree? But you've always been against following a human, or any of the visions --"

"Until their accuracy was proven to us," he corrected. "The Fours are satisfied that Anders is what he claims. Also," he added, his lip twisted with distaste, at D'Anna, "I find it unreasonable that you would torture him to pry out a vision, which you followed zealously, but you now turn your back because you don't like where it leads. Each vision is a test -- we failed with New Caprica and taking Anders captive out of fear. We must not fail again."

Sam stared in shock at Simon. What the hell had just happened? The Sixes - staunch supporters - had just broken, while the Fours had declared themselves allies. He couldn't just sit there and stare -- Sam stirred himself and went to him, extending a hand. "Thank you."

Simon hesitated, but then clasped his hand.

* * *

Sam led a group of Cylons back down to Novacek's cage. Sharon went to unlock it and hold it open. "Lieutenant," she invited. "Please. We're sending you to the Colonial Fleet. You're free."

Warily, Novacek left his cell, looking all around, as if he suspected a trick, and his eyes never rested on any particular Cylon, until he stopped in front of Sam. "You did it."

"I'm sorry I couldn't do it earlier."

"And we're sorry for any poor treatment you might have had while you were here," Caprica added. "We're still... learning the right things. Sam's trying to teach us."

"Tell that to Adama," Sharon added. "Tell him and the president and everyone else, that we're learning. We don't want to be enemies. That's why we're freeing you."

"Adama? He survived?" Novacek asked.

She nodded. "He did. And you can tell him your story as soon as you're there. We'll take you to the docking bay. We have a Raptor for you."

"You'll see the back packed with bags. That's farina cereal," Thea explained. "It's our gift to the babies and children of the Fleet." She rested her hand on her stomach, a soft light in her eyes.

Sam had agreed to Thea's idea- not only because a gift of food when the fleet might not have much was nice on its own, but also it got four hundred pounds of that crap off the ship.

In the docking bay, Sam went to the ramp alone to say goodbye to Novacek. "You sure you're not coming?" Novacek asked lowly. "We can make it out of here."

Sam chuckled. "In that bucket of bolts?" He glanced at the two Raiders on the other landing pads, and felt their pleasure like a lazy cat purring that he'd come to visit. "We'd never get to the bay door. You have to go alone. But I do have a favor to ask." Sam reached out and tucked his own dog tag in Novacek's hand. "Take this as proof. Give it to Captain Kara Thrace. And tell her... " He hesitated, wondering what the hell he could say. He swallowed back the lump in his throat, and stuck to the only thing that was true. "Tell her I love her. And I'll see her soon."

Novacek held up his fist, clenched around the tag. "I will." He saluted, which forced Sam to give him one back, and Novacek snorted. "I can tell you never had a proper DI, rook." He looked into Sam's face, frowned and murmured, "You should get out of here, before these toasters drive you crazy."

Sam forced a laugh. "Yeah, well, it's too late for that. I'm where I have to be, and soon you will be, too. Lords of Kobol watch over you, Bulldog."

"You, too, Oracle. I owe you."

Sam shook his head, refusing the debt, and stepped off to the floor.

Bulldog closed the hatch. Sam joined the Cylons to watch at a safer distance as Bulldog prepared for departure. Sam waved as the ship lifted off. He hoped Galactica didn't blow up the Raptor in space, but that was up to Novacek. Hopefully Adama would at least be curious about his old buddy's reappearance and the unarmed Raptor.

As he watched it head for the exit, he clasped Kara's tag on its chain around his neck. It was his last remaining talisman from his life before. His fingers rubbed at her name and the etched symbol for the Fleet, and wondered with a sense of inevitability when that too would be stripped away from him.

On to Chapter Ten: A Message from the Thirteenth Tribe

Merry F: leoben maelstromivanolix on November 27th, 2009 01:09 am (UTC)
I love what you're doing with the Fours; it makes a lot of sense, a lot more sense than what the show did with them until "The Plan".

Dogtag shoutout! *squee*

Also, this:

"Not all of us agree with that interpretation," Leoben said, folding his arms and looking stubborn. All of the Sixes glanced at him pityingly, as though he didn't understand anything.

I couldn't stop laughing at that! I love the Six/Two dynamic so much; ever since Natalie snarked at him in "Faith", I've wanted more of them bantering.