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17 December 2013 @ 04:37 pm
Black Sails at Dawn 3/?  

Kara went up to the podium, ready for the briefing, and her eyes went to Sam. He was back in Colonial Fleet tanks, with his own dog tags again. He was sitting in his old seat, with Duck to one side and Barolay to the other, and for a moment it was as if no time had passed since that year they'd been rattling around in this tin can.

"Attention on deck!" Hotdog called out, and she nodded to him before addressing the group.

"Morning. I'm sure you've all noticed we've got Oracle back with us today."

Duck and Barolay and some others let out cheers and catcalls. Sam raised a hand high in response, waving it around.

She continued, teasing, "So we'll have to see if he can still fly after lounging around in a Cylon spa for almost a year."

Barolay snickered and bumped Sam, teasing, "Yeah, you and I haven't flown against each other yet. Bet you'll be eating my exhaust."

"After you crash and burn, babe," he retorted.

"What about the toaster he knocked up?" Pike demanded. "I hear she's on the ship."

Kara was the only one who saw Sam's jaw tighten and eyes go cold and flat, but Barolay put a hand on his forearm to keep him in his chair.

Ordinarily she'd say Sam was too smart to let Pike's loud mouth provoke him, but then again, he'd kept a sidearm with him while he was tending the baby, so he was already feeling defensive. Kara decided she'd better get in between before they got in a fight. "She is," Kara answered calmly. "She's in the brig, as she's been since she and the other one, a Leoben model, helped Sam escape."

"Her name is Thea," Sam added, quietly and without looking at anyone, but his voice carried to the back of the room. "And my daughter's name is Iris. Thea and Leoben saved my life. They followed me; they came here because of me. I would hope, knowing how much they helped me, that all of you would help me protect them."

A brief silence fell, and the only objection was some impatient rustling. But no one was brave or stupid enough to say no. Duck said aloud, "Of course, Oracle. We're family."

Kara looked at the gathered pilots and her fingers tightened on the edge of the podium, hoping that bringing Sam back wasn't going to put the team under too much pressure. Maybe one Cylon spouse and one hybrid baby were all that some people were inclined to accept.

She hoped not, because she knew Sam would choose the side that protected his child, no matter what. So it was her job to integrate Sam into the squad again, so the squad would accept him -- as Duck said, he was family, too. It was time everyone remembered that. She cleared her throat. "Now, if we can get to the day's business. We've got a promising source for Fleet refueling operations, which the Old Man wants to scout for hostiles..."

"How you doin', Oracle? Found the throttle yet?" Kara's voice joked over the wireless.

Even as he pushed it to catch her, he answered dryly, "I think so... oh there it is." And he put on the afterburners to zoom past her at close range, taunting her so she couldn't resist.

"Oh, no, you don't." She started to chase him before she announced, "Duck, you have lead to check out the gas giant. I have to teach our nugget here a lesson."

Laughing, Duck answered, "Wilco, Starbuck."

"Oracle, change heading for the moon. Let's see what you remember."

Grinning, he turned to go that way. Out here in the stars, flying felt like playing pyramid in a full stadium. It was all speed and adrenaline humming in his veins. He pushed his Viper to the limit, competing against Kara as best he could, as they raced through the craters and canyons of the old chunk of airless rock.

He let go of everything else, concentrating only on flying. No memories, no visions of doom, no babies, just him and Kara against the black. She pursued, and he evaded, not quite managing to turn the tables on her, but still twisting free at the last minute several times.

"Damn it. Hold still!" she exclaimed in frustration.

He laughed, and dove to the deck again, nearly managing to lose her. But she came after him, daring a tighter turn, and he heard the high pitched warning of weapons lock when he leveled off.

"Ha!" she crowed. "Got you! Didn't see that one coming, did you?"

"Damn it," he groaned, disappointed. But he still smiled when she pulled alongside. "Next time, I'll make that twist, too."

"Sure you will, Oracle, sure you will," she taunted. "I'll just find another way to beat you. You're old and slow," she teased, and he could see her grin through the canopy.

"Oh, ouch, I've never heard that one before," he retorted dryly, rolling his eyes. He'd been getting young players trying to taunt him with those words since the Wildcats; the older he got, the less it bothered him. "Game over? Or do you have to test me some more?"

"You pass," she answered, now serious. "If anybody was thinking you can't hack it, they don't anymore. Welcome back, Oracle."

The words pleased him more than he had expected. "Feels good to be back," he murmured. And it did. The Viper cockpit felt familiar in a way that the Galactica didn't.

"Good. That's enough for today," she turned back toward the ship and he saw the blaze of her thrusters before she said, "Race you to the barn!"

"Hey!" He kicked in the afterburners, knowing he was never going to catch her with such a headstart, but he followed her laughter in.

On the way, he lifted his head to look out at distant stars. Wondering. Earth was out there somewhere, probably not too distant.

But nothing called to him

"Damn, you're slow," Kara grinned at him cheekily as he climbed down from the cockpit. "I've been here for ages. Right, Chief?" she asked Tyrol, who was coming near to get his report. He didn't quite look at Sam.

"Of course, Captain," Tyrol answered. "Any problems, lieutenant?"

"No. It flew fine. Just like the one I had before."

"Good." Tyrol walked away, leaving Sam wishing he could say or do something. He remembered being friends, or at least allies, and it felt wrong now to feel this distance, even though he knew they weren't friends here and now.

"Oh, look, there's Julia. Come meet her, Sam. She's the one who saved Hera off New Caprica." Kara marched off, toward a familiar woman waiting by the main hatch.

"Kara," Julia smiled a greeting at her, but turned her eyes on Sam. "I'm sorry to bother you again, but I promised to deliver a message."

"Again?" Kara asked. "You already know each other?"

"I had to ask him," Julia murmured in explanation. "About Kacey. And she's going to live, Kara. She's going to see Earth. Thank you," she said again to Sam. "You... gave me hope. That's a precious gift. And I can't thank you enough."

He shrugged, now distinctly uncomfortable. "You said you had a message? From who?"

She glanced to the side and then pulled them away from people, into the shadows underneath the observation catwalk. Kara followed. Julia murmured, "From Baltar."

"What? He's in the brig," Sam said, frowning. "Why the hell does he want to talk to me?"

"I don't know, he didn't speak to me directly. Since I'd met you, I volunteered to pass the message."

"But why would you do anything Baltar wants to do?" Kara asked.

Julia faced her, an earnest expression on her face. "Have you read his book, Kara? He makes a lot of sense in it; he says things I've always believed true. We'll never heal if we keep looking backward. Not all Cylons are our enemy. New Caprica failed because we weren't ready; but our future is together, in children like Hera and Iris. Right, Sam?" she turned back to him suddenly. "That's what it's all about."

"Baltar says that?" Sam asked, frowning. Julia nodded.

"He knows the truth. So you'll go see him? I'm sure you have a lot to talk about."

"I..." He didn't really want to get involved in Baltar's trial. It was bad enough he was seen as a Cylon sympathizer, without also being a crony of Baltar's. But if Baltar was spreading word that both races had to work together, that was the same as Sam's mission among the Cylons. "I will."

Julia smiled brightly at him. "Thank you. I'll let the others know."

She hurried off, and Kara rounded on him. "You aren't really going to visit him, are you?"

He shrugged, wishing this weren't so distasteful. "Look, I know what he did. I know all of it. And I know he's trying to save his own skin and shift the conversation away from New Caprica. But ... if what he's saying makes things a little safer for Iris and Thea, then I have to at least hear him out."

Kara heaved a sigh but didn't disagree. She shook her head at him in rueful amusement. "This from the guy who told everyone who would listen that Baltar was full of crap and New Caprica was going to fail terribly."

"I know, I know," he groaned. "C'mon, let's go change."

On the way to the locker room to stash his borrowed flightsuit, Sam wondered what Baltar really wanted. Sam had been on the ship for more than a month, and this was the first he'd heard about Baltar wanting to talk to him.

Kara broke into his musings. "So Julia asked you to tell her the future? Does that happen a lot?"

"Too often. And I have to tell them no." The worst were the people who thought his refusal meant they needed to bring a bigger gift.

"Maybe that's what Baltar wants -- for you to tell him his future."

He snorted. "Don't need a special vision to know that, not with Roslin itching to airlock his ass."

She chuckled. "No, guess not." As Sam sat down on the bench to pull off the boots, she asked softly, "Sam? Have you ever seen anything about me?"

He froze, struck by the question. But he rarely saw anything about other individuals, and nothing about Kara. "No." He swallowed and dampened his lips. "Do you want me to try?"

"Can you do that now? Actually get a vision when you want?" she asked and sat next to him on the bench.

He shook his head and gave a tight shrug, aware suddenly of how close she was. "Not usually. But I don't usually try either."

"All right. Leoben keeps telling me I have a destiny. So let's hear it." She smiled cockily, throwing down the challenge.

Remembering what he'd once seen of Galen's future, he hesitated. "I don't know if this is such a good idea," he murmured, staring into her eyes. "It could be bad."

"How bad could it be?" she retorted, but her voice faded to a whisper as he reached out and touched her cheek with his fingers.

Let me see something, let me give her something in return for what she gave to me, he prayed, trying to open himself to the voice of God again and see something for Kara.

But he didn't actually expect anything to happen.

The light of the ship brightened, making her hair shimmer golden. Behind her, the grey metal of the lockers faded away for blue sky.

"Sam?" she whispered, her eyes widening. "You see something? Really?"

"You're on a planet," he murmured and he kept staring because he didn't want to blink and lose it. "I see sky. The breeze is salty like the sea. I think... I think it's Earth. God, you're so beautiful in the sunlight..."

He leaned closer, drawn by those liquid eyes, and she watched him with slightly parted lips, her quickened breaths touching his skin. His hand cradled the side of her face, fingertips in her soft hair. She tipped her head toward him, and the touch of her hand was warm on his thigh.

The banging and groaning of the hatch opening made him start guiltily, and he dropped his hand. Duck and Hotdog came in, laughing about something. Sam turned away, throwing his boots into the locker and trying to catch his breath.

When Duck got close, he paused and looked at him and Kara, sensing something was off. "Everything okay?"

"Sure." She stood and slammed her locker closed. "Why wouldn't it be? Thanks, Sam. Um, you're cleared to fly all but long CAP missions. Lucky you."

She forced a smirk and left.

Duck asked again, looking from the hatch back to Sam. "You sure everything's okay?"

"Yeah." Nothing had happened. Nothing was going to happen, so long as he stayed away. And certainly nothing had happened that he could tell Duck about. Frak. But then he thought of Kara and Earth. "I ... saw something." Hotdog drew nearer at the words, so Sam looked up at them both. "You two are my friends, so promise me something -- I don't know when, I don't know how, but Kara will stand on Earth someday. Follow her."

Duck nodded somberly, believing him. "I will." He put a hand on Sam's shoulder. "You okay?"

Sam forced a smile. "Fine. Just tired." Taking a deep breath, he closed his locker. "I have some things to take care of. Thanks." He squeezed Duck's shoulder, patted Hotdog's back, and followed Kara out the hatch.

In the corridor, he turned toward the brig. Instead of going to Thea though, he went down the way to the marines standing guard on the outer door. "I'm told he asked to talk to me."

They conferred but apparently had no specific orders to keep him out, while there was a standing order allowing him into the brig as a whole, so they unlocked the door and let him in.

Unlike Thea and Leoben's special-built Cylon cells, Baltar's was much smaller with room only for a small table, cot, sink and toilet. Instead of the wire-mesh composite walls, this one had bars across the front.

Baltar was writing at the table. He was unshaven and long-haired, but he smiled broadly when he saw Sam. "You came!"

Sam moved closer to the bars. "I wasn't sure if I should or not. What do you want?"

"Just to talk. I loved a Six, too, did you know that?" Baltar asked. "That's why I'm here. Because I loved her."

Sam interrupted, impatient, "If you want to know whether I know anything about your future, the answer's no. And when I did tell you what I knew, you didn't frakking listen. Nobody ever frakking listens," he added bitterly.

Baltar tilted his head. "They can't, can they?" he asked. "We're all a part of god's plan. You and me, more than anybody."

"You?" Sam retorted. "It wasn't god's plan to get people killed on New Caprica. That was nothing but your ego. You collaborated --"

"They held a gun to my head!" Baltar exclaimed. "What could I do?"

"You could've said no."

"Like you did?" Baltar snapped back. He stood up and approached the bars. "See, it took me a little while to figure it out, but I remember in the occupation how some of the Cylons talked about needing approval of their various projects. I couldn't figure out who they were getting approval from, since it wasn't the Cylon consensus on the surface, or me. Then I realized, it was you, the one they called their oracle. You were telling them what to do up on that baseship. If I'm a collaborator, then so were you."

Sam's stomach lurched with guilt and then anger surged up to replace it. "Yeah, they wanted me to tell them what to do, for a couple of weeks. And you know what I got for it? Beaten half to death and put in a white box smaller than this cell."

He leaned closer and murmured, "When I was rescued by my friends, one of the Sixes on my baseship confessed to me one night. She told me what she had done. With you." It was very satisfying to see Baltar's eyes widen as Sam whispered through the bars, "She told me the reason the other Cylons call her Caprica and why they say she's a hero of the Cylon. So if you start talking about me or my daughter, I will give that story to Laura Roslin and that's all she needs to make sure you die. Do you understand? Do not frak with me. We're nothing alike."

He turned to get out of there, angry at himself for letting Baltar get to him. He made it to the door before Baltar's desperate voice called after him, "We are, Sam! We're alike, we're both tools of God. She told me I had to survive, I had to give in to save them. The angel told me."

Sam's hand froze before rapping on the door to tell the guards that he wanted out. Angel.

"She says you know what I'm talking about."

Sam lowered his hand and turned around. "Who? Who says?"

"She says," Baltar said with a significant glance to Sam's left. "She's right there." His eyes tracked something Sam couldn't see, until it should've been at Sam's left shoulder.

For a moment, Sam almost believed him, then he snorted, wondering why he was buying into this. "There's nothing there."

"Of course not, she's in my head, but that doesn't mean she's not real, does it?" Baltar laughed nervously. "She says she's an angel of God. Sometimes."

The echo of what "Kara" had told him made same uncertain again. Was it possible Baltar really was seeing something? He closed his eyes and concentrated, projecting his boat around him, hoping to see her. Was she here? Was she talking to Baltar, too? And why did that make him feel sick to his stomach?

But he only saw Baltar in the projection, not a mysterious messenger of God. He let the projection go. "I don't see her. What does she look like?" he asked, bracing to hear Kara.

"Like one of the Sixes, but... more. "

Like a Six? Like Thea? He started with surprise, remembering a vision with Hera and two entities who looked like Six and Baltar himself.

"You've seen her, too," Baltar realized, watching his face. "You really do see her. Then I'm not crazy. She's real."

Frakking hell, how did he get manuevered into this? But he had to admit it was good to find someone else who had the same thing happen to him. Sam sighed. "I thought it was a vision. And I've only seen her looking like a Six once; the rest of the time she looks ... like someone else."

Baltar's relief changed to surprise. "She doesn't look like a Six? But I thought, because you love a Six, too, that you would see the same face." His gaze searched Sam's for a moment. "Oh, of course, I should've known. She likes to prey on our longing, and that means she's someone else for you." His gaze shifted to the side as if he was listening to something and then smiled. "Kara Thrace, isn't it? That's who you really want."

"None of your business," Sam said sharply, but knew he was only confirming Baltar's suspicion.

Baltar smiled and changed the subject, now that he had Sam's full attention. "Did you read my book? It comes from what she's told me about destiny and God. We all have our parts to play. For me, it was to bring about the Flood. Only in destruction of the corrupt and decadent could we find renewal eventually."

Sam's lip curled. "So the destruction of the Colonies was a good thing? Is that what you're telling yourself?"

"Necessary, not good. It would've happened in the First Cylon War, long before my time, except the Cylons stopped for some reason. Only facing the end will we finally reach out to our enemies and find a new way. I had to do it. And when it's your time, you'll have to do it, too."

That made a chill slip down his back, which made him angry. It wasn't for Baltar to know these things. "You're wasting my time. You're not telling me anything I don't already know."

Sam started for the door again, but again Baltar stopped him, declaring, "You have to cleanse yourself of sin. That's what she says." Sam turned to see Baltar frown and ask the empty air, "What are you talking about? What sin?" But he apparently got an unsatisfactory answer, because he pouted a bit, and faced Sam again. "Does this make sense to you at all?" His eyes shot to the side and widened in alarm. He shook his head in protest. "No, I can't say that."

Then abruptly his head smashed right into the bars as if it had been pushed, and Sam jerked backward in surprise.

"Okay, okay," Baltar said desperately, "I'll tell him." Still against the bars, he lifted his head to look at Sam, not without sympathy. "I'm sorry. She says ... she says ... you have to die."

Sam remembered a dim orange light, the smell of thick incense, and his blood on the stones, and he felt no surprise, just weariness. "I know," he whispered.

He turned and Baltar didn't say a word to stop him as he left this time.

He hesitated outside Thea and Leoben's cells, but he knew they'd see too much, and he couldn't talk to them, not yet. He wandered the corridors, until he ended up outside the chapel.

Inside it was deserted, lit only by the presence lamp on the main altar table. He let the hatch shut quietly behind him and looked at the unlit candles and incense sticks, and the small medallions and idols that were all people had left of what had once been grand temples in the Colonies.

"As it should be," a familiar voice said behind him. "Our day, too, is passing."

He whirled around to see Kara there -- not the flesh-and-blood Kara he loved, the other one. She was wearing Kara's clothes, but her hair was long and most obviously, she seemed to have a light shining on her as she stood there and watched him.

"Why didn't you tell me yourself? Why tell Baltar?"

"That wasn't me, Sam."

"There're two of you?"

"We're not the only ones either. And she claims I'm the one who interferes." She sniffed disdainfully, then circled him, ending up at the side of the altar. "Beware of her, Sam. She wants you to follow your destiny."

"Isn't that what you want?" he asked, frowning in confusion.

"I want you to choose freely, understanding the truth. And one of the things they would have me hide from you is that Iris shouldn't be alive." She waved a hand and the candles on the altar sprang into small golden flames. "She frightens them."

He smiled mirthlessly. "Because she's a Cylon?"

"Because she's a miracle."

He wanted to believe that, but he knew what Iris really was. She wasn't a miracle; she was a hostage. What God gave, He could take away if Sam didn't follow the path. He stared at the candles until the lights blurred in his vision. "Is it true?"

"Is what true?"

"Is it true?" he demanded, lifting his face to her, anger burning inside. "What she said. Tell me, damn it, is it true?"

She didn't have to ask what the other being had said. "You know it is. All living things must die, Sam. And you, because of what you did, you have to choose it."

"I have to kill myself?" he asked, not really surprised.

But she was shocked and took a step toward him, shaking her head with her hand outstretched. "No! Suicide is a sin. But when your time comes, you must surrender to true death. No evasion, no immortality, no resurrection- acceptance. And then, you will have the chance to end the cycles. If you fail, your four companions have their chances as well. If all five of you blow it, then the cycle begins again."

Overwhelmed, he could only stare at her, until he finally found his voice. "Why? Why me? What did I do?"

"What didn't you do?" she returned, with a wry smile. "You over-turned the pattern of creation and threw it on the floor."

"Because we created resurrection on Kobol," he said, not taken in by her levity. He didn't really have to ask the question; he knew. "We cheated death. And it led to that horror you showed me on Kobol. That was our crime, wasn't it? Our sin?"

He remembered the bodies and ruins on Kobol. He had brought war to a place that had none, and in fighting for more life, had brought more death.

Her face crumpled with sudden sympathy, and she was suddenly before him, holding his face between her hands. "No, my love, don't you see? You were right. Death isn't always the right choice, no matter what the others say. And life is never wrong. You taught me that. Your choices were made in love. And they are choices. There is more than one path. Remember that and don't despair. I'm here to help you." She kissed him, then pulled back with her hand on his cheek. "Be patient and I'll see you soon," she promised.

Then, she was gone, with the only trace of her in the lit candles and the lingering feel of the press of her lips against his.

'More than one path.'

He prayed that was true, because right now he saw no way out of this.

Crossposted from DW There are comment count unavailable comments over there. Feel free to comment wherever.