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11 November 2009 @ 04:52 pm
The Thread of Ariadne, Ch. 11  
Chapter Eleven

Sam wandered into the room the Cylons had made into a small auditorium. Thea had told him they were showing a movie from the Colonies and he was curious what they'd found.

He was bored out of his mind. It had been three weeks since Bulldog had left, and there was nothing to do but the same routine. He played pyramid and triad, lifted weights, and spent an hour a day with Sheryl and some other Eights learning their yoga moves. He'd read the books the Cylons had scavenged about babies, managing to terrify himself with all the things that could go wrong, and turned to lighter reading instead. After the inexplicably boring two-volume history of Tauron, he'd finished "The Tragic Heart of Melia" yesterday. Hopefully Thea could find the sequel somewhere, since he refused to believe Melia didn't eventually get back to her betrothed somehow.

In the meantime, he'd had not a flicker of a vision or whisper of anything strange, which with any luck, meant they were still going the right way. It was pleasant and restful to be free of the touch of whatever, but it also felt like a vacation that was going to end eventually. He was starting to get restless and anxious, feeling like he was missing something.

He stood just inside the curtained archway of the entry able to see the shining hair of the Sixes and Threes above the seats, and he looked at the screen.

It took no time at all to figure out the movie was terrible - there were a bunch of people running around screaming. It took seeing the girl in the skimpy blue dress to remember he'd seen the movie before. He'd even dated that actress for awhile. Two scenes later, while watching lurching zombies chase her around, he remembered her name: Nyala. He and Nyala had gone to opening night together and he'd left his seat halfway through to take stims in the bathroom to make the rest of the movie tolerable. Later, high on stims and drunk at the after party, he'd stripped off his clothes to swim in the pool, which he only remembered because someone had taken his picture and sold it to the 'net.

Thinking about how close he'd come to drowning or overdosing or other stupid ways of dying in the years before the Cylons came back, he put his head down on the chair back in front of him. 'Gods, Anders, you are luckier than you frakking deserve.' It felt like penance to force himself to stay there and watch Nyala's character get brutally hacked by zombies in the worst effects that three cubits could buy.

At first he thought it was the terrible sound quality of the movie, but in a rare quiet moment he heard it more distinctly -- the buzzing was back. He turned slowly, trying to get a direction on it, but it was difficult with the movie so loud.

Moving into the hall, he stepped from the darkened room through the thin curtain, and -- he was somewhere else.

There were bright golden lights in his eyes. He turned, finding himself in a large, open space. Squinting, he could see beyond the lights to rows of padded seats that climbed into high balconies.

He stumbled into the sterile, cold corridor of the baseship and hit the wall opposite the doorway with his hand before he could stop himself, feeling a weird vertigo from the unexpected vision.

Blinking, he shook his head, trying to understand what he'd seen. Some sort of theater? What the hell was that supposed to mean?

He found himself looking around for the lion, wishing he could see it again instead. But the lion had vanished when he'd gone to the beacon, and it hadn't come back.

The buzzing was still there, though. He went down the corridors in both directions, and it didn't change. He tried taking the lift down to the bottom of the core. He smiled awkwardly at the Cylons who were there when the doors opened, but he stayed in the lift, realizing the sound was coming from somewhere past the jump drive where he couldn't go.

"Frak," he muttered as the lift went back to his level. "Would it kill you just to tell me?"

There was no answer, just the constant buzzing. He put his hands over his ears but that didn't help.

Head and ankle both aching, and weary of playing this game he'd already played, he went back to his quarters. Thea was still watching the movie, so the room was empty.

He picked up the bottle of yellow pills and tapped two into his palm to help him sleep.

Dozing when Thea crawled into bed, he moved over when she poked at him. "That was ... horrible movie," he slurred, and yawned.

"Yes, it was," she agreed, and kissed him. "We'll have to search the datastream and see if the other ships salvaged anything better."

"Pyramid games," he suggested sleepily. "Panthers-Warriors finals. Now that was a game..."

"I'll see what I can do." She chuckled and curled up against him, arm across his chest. Her warmth lulled him down to sleep.

* * *

He was aware of the buzzing before he was fully awake. It pulled him out of bed and he'd gotten nearly to the door before he realized he didn't have on any clothes.

Shaking his head, he dressed and went to brush his teeth. Always though, the sound was there in his mind, like an itch right between his shoulder blades, making him anxious.

"Sam?" Thea leaned up against the door frame behind him when he raised his eyes to her reflection in the mirror. "Are you okay?"

"The sound's back," he told her. "I think I better follow it."

"All right." She disappeared from the door, and when he came out, she was dressed and putting on her shoes to join him.

He followed the noise that morning, prowling through the corridors with Thea tagging at his side. But it started to get frustrating, as he realized that although there was a clear direction, the direction kept changing, jumping from one arm to the other of the ship.

Near lunchtime, Thea's hand closed around his arm. "Sam, it's outside the ship." Her voice was tight with excitement and her eyes were bright.

"Can't be," he answered, shaking his head. "I think it's just random. It keeps coming from different directions."

She shook her head and reminded him, "The baseship rotates. Taking that into account, the direction's been consistent."

"Oh, right, I knew that. Frak." Feeling stupid, he scrubbed a hand through his hair, trying to focus. It was as if the sound was someone permanently whispering in his ear, and it was distracting. "Then we should go to the control center. That's more in the middle and maybe I can get a better idea of the direction there, instead of following it around the ship like a moron."

She patted his back. "You're not. You just don't have all the information. C'mon, let's grab something to eat on our way."

Food made him feel less twitchy and he was able to face the other Cylons in the control center calmly to tell them that he was getting another path to follow.

"Is it Earth?" Natalie asked, bringing up what they all wanted to know.

"It's the path to Earth," he corrected and shrugged. "More than that, I don't know. But I know we're supposed to go that way." He turned his body to orient on the sound and pointed his finger in the right direction.

"Then we follow it. Everyone agrees?" Natalie asked, glancing around at all the gathered Cylons. Even Doral didn't voice any objection, Sam noticed, though his mouth tightened in disapproval.

It wasn't an exact science, getting a course from what he was hearing, but over the next few days he was able to correct it until they had the right heading locked in.

But even after he could feel it was correct, the sound didn't stop. It softened, but the buzz gave him a constant headache, making him tired and snappish. The pain pills at least helped him sleep, and eventually he found a place where the sound faded into the background.

* * *

The metal surface of the Raider's wing beneath his back was hard but pleasantly warm. Sam projected his boat around him and drifted with the gentle rocking of phantom waves and a cool breeze in his hair. He felt no pain, no anxiety, only peace. The Raider's croon didn't drown out the buzzing noise, but he was wrapped in the cocoon of the drugs and the Raider's purr and it seemed far away.

It occurred to him idly that he was snuggling up to a lethal killing machine. He was stroking its hard carapace with his left hand, petting it like it was a dog. But he didn't care; he was already crazy, after all, and why not do something that made him feel better.

The unconditional loyalty and devotion was a balm to his spirit, which felt ragged with confusion and exhaustion. Raiders didn't expect miracles from him; they didn't expect him to do anything. They knew what he was, so he didn't have to lie. They didn't care about Earth, or his frakking destiny, or that his mind was unraveling. They were just happy to be with him.

His solitude was ruined by Thea's approach. "Sam?"

He heard her voice and pretended he didn't, wishing she would go away. The sound of her heels came nearer, until she had to be standing just beyond the wing. "Sam?"

The boat and the sunlight disappeared, and chill reality pressed in on him again. Annoyed, he refused to acknowledge her.

The Raider's feeling changed. It grew wary and protective, and the purr became a growl. He patted the Raider, telling it to calm down, worried that the Raider would mistake his irritation for threat and hurt her.

"I'm awake," he answered.

"I'm sorry to interrupt," she said. "I know you're resting. And I'm glad of that. But you haven't eaten all day."

"I'm not hungry." He didn't open his eyes. He needed rest and quiet more than he needed food.

She heaved a breath of disagreement, but went on to something else. "Also, there's a problem with our course."

"It's right," he said. "I can feel it." Even here, where the sound was muted, he knew they were on the path.

"We have to change it."

"Change it?" He sat up. She was worried, her teeth holding her lower lip as she looked at him. "Why?"

"Because it's leading us straight into a stellar nursery. We'll have to go around."

"No, we can't." He slid down off the wing to stand near the Raider's head, one hand on the top of its head.

"We have to," she insisted. "The radiation is too strong. Come; take a look for yourself."

'Be back,' he reassured his pet, and patted its head before he followed Thea out.

In the command center, at the back, someone had put up an image of their course. Dust and glowing gases swirled hypnotically, pulling him near, and it took him a moment to tear his eyes away and see who else was there. Leoben, Sharon, Natalie, and D'Anna were at the main datafont, another Six and Four were at the back one, and Doral was waiting at the far forward one.

"You see the problem," Natalie told him. "A scan showed us the gamma radiation is far too strong for the ship. We'll have to go around."

"No, we need to go through it," he insisted. "That's the way we have to go."

"It's impossible," D'Anna said, shaking her head and she looked disappointed, too. "It'll kill the ship."

"Then," he hesitated, casting in his mind desperately for some alternative. "I'll go through it myself."

"In what ship?" Thea asked. "A Heavy Raider would be just as affected. Remember, our technology is biological; all our ships would be harmed by the radiation, and the smaller ships have even less protection. If you were in a purely metal Colonial vessel - you might make it. Maybe. But not a Cylon ship."

D'Anna added with a touch of smug satisfaction, "But you gave our only Raptor to Bulldog. We have no choice but to go around."

Sharon said, "It should only add a few days on to our trip. We're still ahead of the fleet."

"No," he shook his head adamantly and his stomach seized up, just as it had with New Caprica. And exactly like that, he knew it was going to happen anyway. "We shouldn't."

"You can pick up the course again on the other side," Natalie reassured him.

"What if I don't?" he asked. "This isn't a sure thing. It's not something I control, for gods' sakes."

"You won't lose the path," Leoben said. "If it's truly your destiny, you'll find it again."

Sam was far from reassured by that, not when he was feeling the same wrong about going around as he'd felt about New Caprica. Maybe he would find it, but something was going to go bad first.

"It doesn't matter," Natalie pointed out in her usual hard, practical way. "We can't go through that. If the ship dies, we're all dead."

Thea's hand slipped around his arm and she leaned closer. "Sam," she murmured for his ears alone, "the baby. Radiation that strong could harm her. We're not as shielded here as we'd be on a human ship."

He nodded, knowing she was right, and yet ... and yet... he still felt sick and he wished there was another way. But there wasn't. "All right. Since we've got no choice."

"We've plotted a course," Sharon said. "Ready?"

"Ready," D'Anna put her hand in the datafont. "And ....JUMP!"

Everything around him quivered, as if he was underwater. Then flashed to someplace else.

Cold metal walls and harsh light turned into a much larger space. Bright golden lights shone in his face but not bright enough to hide rows of padded seats. More seats formed balconies in the audience of some sort of theater. He was standing at the edge of the stage, as if he'd just come up the steps from the audience.

He turned the opposite direction and saw five glowing figures onstage, standing before white drapes. They were all wearing white robes with hoods that hid their faces

He took a step toward the hidden figures, and the baseship was abruptly before his eyes again. He staggered, as the room swam and whirled around him, and he threw out his arms to catch himself.

His hands splashed into the liquid of the datafont and one hand pressed against the bottom to hold himself up.

Intense cold shot through him, ice stabbing him inside his bones, and he heard himself crying out in pain.

The lights blinked and went out, leaving only the red glow of the datastream in the walls. Cylons were shouting at each other - sounding panicked as the ship jumped again.

And again. But he saw none of it.

Cold metal walls and harsh light turned into a much larger space. Bright golden lights shone in his face but not bright enough to hide rows of padded seats. More seats formed balconies in the audience of some sort of theater. He was standing at the edge of the stage, as if he'd just come up the steps from the audience.

He turned the opposite direction and saw five glowing figures onstage, standing before white drapes. They were all wearing white robes with hoods that hid their faces.

And to his left, at the edge of the stage, there was a tall wooden door, framed on both sides by long white satin drapes.

He started toward the hooded figures, his steps slow but determined.

Hands around his waist yanked him away from them, pulling him back into the stark glare of the baseship.


He blinked furiously, trying to orient himself, and put his hands to his head gasping as the noise screeched, louder than before. "Oh, gods."

"Sam?" Thea asked anxiously. "Are you okay?"

He was on the floor, he realized, his back against her, as though he'd fallen. The noise was a drill in his brain, loud and insistent. "Oh, gods, it's so loud. Can't you hear it?"

Thea wrapped her arms around him and rocked back and forth, shushing him, with her cheek pressed to his shoulder.

"Report," Natalie said, and a babble of Cylon voices answered her, over-laying each other, buried in the phantom noise.

Thea looked up and cut it off with a hard voice that broke through the muffling sound around him. "What the hell was that?"

"The Hybrid jumped us. At least three times beyond red line," Natalie explained. "We're not even in range of that star cluster anymore."

"She went crazy," Sharon said.

"When he fell in the datafont," Leoben said, and Sam could feel Leoben's gaze on him, weighing and wondering. Sam knew he should be concerned about that, but he just couldn't care, not with that whine in his head.

"And now we're lost," D'Anna said, in disgust.

"I told you," Sam whispered and could barely hear himself. "I told you not to do it."

Leoben came closer and knelt on the floor in front of him. "What did you see? You saw something during the jumps."

"I... I don't know. A theater. I don't know what it means." He bent his head and put his fingers to his temples, trying to squeeze the noise out. "It's so frakking loud. Gods, make it stop."

"What's our heading?" Natalie asked. "You need to tell us where to go, Sam."

"I don't know. I can't tell."

"Listen to the sound," D'Anna ordered him. "Find where it's coming from."

He could barely hear anything else. He shook his head helplessly. "I can't. It's just there."

"But you-- " Natalie started.

"Give it a rest, sisters," Thea snapped. "He can't do it right now. Leoben, talk to the Hybrid, see if she can retrace her path."

"And find out what error did this," D'Anna ordered. "If we can't trust her to jump properly, we might have to take her off-line. She shouldn't jump without instructions."

"You assume she had no instructions," Leoben replied calmly, "but I will check. Rest, Sam. You must show us the path."

"Come on," Thea pushed Sam forward enough to clear space to kneel behind him and then pull him up to his feet. "Let's get you to bed."

He had to hang on to her all the way to their room. He stumbled gracelessly at her side, unable to concentrate on anything else but the phantom sound filling his head. It was all around him, with no direction, just random pounding and loud buzzing that set his teeth on edge.

In the bedroom, he twisted free of her to go to the table and fumble at the pill container. He shook three into his hand, nearly dropping them all on the floor, and swallowed them dry.

Thea exclaimed in dismay, grabbing the container from him, "Sam! You didn't take three --"

He seized her wrist in one hand, tight enough to make her gasp, and pulled her close to look in her eyes. He told her with gritted teeth, "You don't understand, it's like a fire alarm in my head. I need it to stop."

"All right." Her free hand stroked his cheek and down his chest. "Calm down," she urged softly, and he realized he was gasping, unable to catch his breath. "We'll get through this, too. We're far from wherever we're supposed to be, that's all. You'll get us back on the path."

He let her go, so she could use both hands, caressing his skin so he could remember his body. It didn't help the sound, but it did help him breathe. When she had him undressed, she pushed him back onto the bed and followed, stretching across him and kissing him as if she could single-handedly drown out the voice of god.

And for one moment of blessed relief, she did.

Then the drugs kicked in, and he fell asleep, sinking deep to avoid dreams.

On to Chapter Twelve: The Thread Frays

Merry F: samuel andersivanolix on November 27th, 2009 01:28 am (UTC)
I believe Melia gets back to her betrothed too, damn it. Something happy has to happen in this story, right? Right? *worries*

I love Sam's Raider, daww. I want one. But poor Sam.

Also, I wonder if Leoben ever gets tired of being the Hybrid's interpreter.
lizardbethlizardbeth_j on December 1st, 2009 08:18 pm (UTC)
Sam was THISCLOSE to writing Melia fix-it fic, if those visions hadn't got in the way. :)

poor puppies. *pats Sam and his Raider*
Merry F: samuel andersivanolix on December 2nd, 2009 12:43 am (UTC)
Now I feel this close to wanting to write Sam writing Melia fix-it fic...darn you, Liz!