The first time Samuel T. Anders kills a Two, he doesn't know it has a number. He doesn't even know it has a name, not that he'd use it if he did know. One thing he can't afford is to humanize these godsdamn machines. It's already hard enough shooting the frak out of things that look and sound and act human, but if he starts giving them names... no frakking way. That means acknowledging them as equals and the minute that happens, he's lost the fight.
The first time he kills a Two, he's not sure the thing's a Cylon. He wouldn't even know Cylons look human if it wasn't for that night mission he took with Barolay, where they found those twin toaster motherfrakkers bulldozing human remains into a mass grave, where they found Brother Cavil in the pile. He and Jean, they had this moment of oh, frak when they realized what was going on, but it didn't stop them blowing away those robots. They looked different from the Two, who he finds wandering down a street in Pilgrim Bay, not too far from the hospital. Whenever they see people they stop. They stop and look and ask themselves if it's a face they've seen before and if it is, they know it's fair game. They've seen three human-looking Cylons right now: the ones manning the bulldozers, the tall shapely blond lady, and now... now...
Gods. To look at them, you wouldn't know. You'd have no frakking idea. He motions to Sue-Shaun, his partner on this recon mission, to be as quiet as frak until they figure this one out. Sue, she's cool and collected, shakes her head: that's her signal. No, not human, and he trusts her. She's got a sense about these things after a couple weeks on this rock running resistance. Slowly, carefully, he lifts his submachine gun and points it at the guy.
"Let's take this Cylon out before he knows what hit him."
With a nod, Sue-Shaun raises her own gun.
The guy in the ugly shirt stops, looks around, holds his hands up in that universal gesture of innocence. "Don't shoot, don't shoot," it implores, searching blindly for the source of whatever sound it heard that tipped it off. "I'm just looking for the hospital."
"Uh-uh." Sam shakes his head. They were down here a week and a half ago and the place was a ghost town, completely deserted. If there were people left, they'd have found them back then. Before they started tracking toasters here, but the Cylons, they're machines. They have recognizable patterns and habits and what they do is send in a bunch of toasters to do recon, then they send in a bunch of the ones that look like the ones he and Barolay saw that night. Clean-up crew. They get rid of the human remains about as efficiently as possible, cargo them up to the woods near Delphi, burn them there. There are no stray humans here.
"Say your prayers, toaster." Gods, this bothers him. He doesn't like having to kill but it's better than being killed and he knows it, and he can't let his people know how frakking unhappy it makes him, 'cause they've only been here a couple weeks and he's not stupid. He knows this is the way it's gonna be, and they have to do what they've always done, which is shoot til they can't.
"Toaster? Is that what we're calling them now?" Cautiously, it takes a step forward. "I'm not a Cylon."
That does it: no sympathy, no frakking sympathy.
"Anders, isn't it? Samuel T. Anders?"
If that's supposed to give him pause, it doesn't.
"We heard you survived. I have a question for you: what is the most basic article of faith?" It pauses, looks behind itself, looks back. "That this is not all that--"
One shot. All it takes is one frakking shot: he's getting better at this. One shot to the head, and his people are right. These things bleed just like humans.
Sue-Shaun jacks up her gun. "Motherfrakkin' toaster."
"You were sure about that one, right, Sue?"
She nods vehemently. "Yeah, Cap, I was sure. The only ones who claim they're not Cylons without being asked are always Cylons. That would've sealed it even if I wasn't sure at first."
"Yeah." He nods, but it's an unsavory business, killing something. The only saving grace, as far as he's concerned, is that if it's a machine it was never truly alive. So he couldn't have actually killed it, right? Just... just shut it down.
What the humans don't understand is that while there are many copies of each model, they are all discrete beings. He's here in Delphi; he's up on the Gemenon Traveler, he's on the basestar, he's in Caprica City. He's even on Galactica, hidden away where no one sees him, working on decoding encrypted wireless frequencies. And each copy has its own agenda, its own experience in this life, however brief.
The second time he's killed by Samuel T. Anders, he's also in lockup on the Gemenon Traveler being interrogated by Kara Thrace. One of them isn't necessarily connected to the other in the moment; they'd need the data stream for that. But the basic tenets of the Leoben personality -- of his personality -- were cast in stone before their bodies ever stepped out of the resurrection tanks.
In Delphi, the Resistance forces find him coming out of the library, where he was reading up on the history of encryption. That's supposed to be his specialty, that and a good mind-frak, although he finds that description unsavory at best. The only problem with wearing this body is that he's been seen before and that means this face is no longer safe. If only they could change it, but then he wouldn't be Leoben any more. He'll take the death, however unpleasant and however often it recurs, because the trade-off is that he gets to learn from it. With every resurrection, he gets to learn something and he alone, out of all his Cylon brothers and sisters, has realized that learning is the key to becoming more human. They think it's love or reproduction, but he knows better.
"Samuel T. Anders," he says with a forced little smile. "Let me ask you something: what is the most basic article of faith?" If he can talk fast enough, he might be able to get the whole thought out this time. "This is not all that we are."
(On the Gemenon Traveler, another Leoben says the same words to Kara Thrace, at the same moment, with the same intent. The echo ripples through time and space and somewhere, all the Leobens waiting to resurrect know that this is happening.)
"See, the difference between you and me is, I know what that means and you don't. I know that I'm more than this body, more than this consciousness."
On the streets of Delphi, Samuel T. Anders, former pyramid player, rolls his eyes and the set of his jaws tightens.
On the Gemenon Traveler, Lieutenant Kara Thrace, her leg aching and her stomach growling, rolls her eyes and laughs.
"A part of me swims in the stream but in truth, I'm standing on the shore."
On the streets of Delphi, he feels the heat of the submachine gun leveled at his heart. On the Gemenon Traveler, he feels the scorn of a proud, proud woman.
"The current never takes me downstream."
In Delphi, there's no further conversation. This time, he takes the bullet right to the heart. Unfair, he thinks, he's unarmed, but that's never stopped a murder before. On the Gemenon Traveler, Kara Thrace -- Starbuck -- eats and pretends she's not listening to his words, but he knows better.
When the Caprica-based Leoben downloads into a new body, he will inform all of his brothers and sisters that the Resistance members are onto them and can't be bargained with, unless it's by someone they never, never suspect of being a Cylon. The Gemenon Traveler Leoben will be gone by then too, although his resurrection lags behind his planet-based brother by an hour or so. His lesson will be different: Kara Thrace has a weakness, and her weakness is her need for faith. It's something he doesn't sense in Samuel T. Anders, but Anders has also taught him a different lesson: the former pyramid player values his loved ones above all else. For them, he will do anything.
It's a good data point to have. A soft, laughable, human data point, but an undeniably valuable one.
When the Gemenon Traveler Leoben is airlocked, their two consciousnesses pass in the data stream, acknowledge each another, and parse the death experience for new data. They love each other, brothers that they are, and there is comfort in sensing one another as they download. Neither of them minds dying. All it means is that there's still so much more to learn.