Sharon smiled as she watched Hera playing. Her daughter hadn't noticed her yet, absorbed in building a tower and knocking it down again. Judging by the chatter between her and her playmate, there was a large battle going on involving Cylons, dragons, and cowhands. Who was doing the attacking and who was doing the defending wasn't clear, but Sharon thought she'd probably get the full story on the way home.
It wasn't the game that made her smile, though: it was the fact that Hera wasn't playing by herself.
The door opened again behind her, and Sharon glanced over her shoulder. Starbuck ignored her as she entered, eyes on her own daughter. Her face was tight with worry, as it had been ever since New Caprica. It (probably) wasn't a response to seeing her adopted daughter playing with Hera. Sharon was just glad she'd gotten here before Cally Tyrol did.
Cally had never done or said anything to Sharon that was worse than what others did. But Cally was the one who'd shot Boomer. Sharon didn't want to find out what Cally would do if she found her son playing next to a half-Cylon child. Or with, she thought, as Hera finished building up a tower and turned to Nicky, who reached over from his own blocks and knocked it over. He laughed, and Hera grinned and said something to him that Sharon couldn't hear.
"They all look like they're having fun," Sharon said.
"Yeah," Kara said, voice low. "Especially Nicky. Guess Kacey has a thing for younger men. I'll have to watch out for that." It was the kind of joke Starbuck might have made, before New Caprica, but it wouldn't have sounded forced, then.
"Maybe I should with Hera, too," Sharon said. It was the longest conversation on a subject other than work she'd had with someone besides Helo and Hera in three days.
"Yeah," Kara said. "You do that." She stepped forward. "Hey, kid, have a good time today?"
Kacey looked up. "Mommy!" she said, abandoning her game to give her adopted mother a big hug.
Hera saw Sharon. "Mommy!" Sharon braced for Hera's leap into her arms. "How was your day, baby?" she asked.
"Great!" Hera said. "We got new story today! And Kacey and me finded Erff! We let Nicky help even though he's little." She held up her hands, close together, to show how little Nicky was. "I draw you picture at home!" Paper was easy enough to recycle, but pencils and crayons and paint were hard to come by. They had some at home, but the crèche didn't, and Hera loved to draw.
"Sounds like fun," Sharon said, shaking her head. Hera's imagination never ceased to amaze her; there was nothing like it among the Cylons. Was it because Hera was a child, which no Cylon had ever been before? Or because she was half-Human? Or did something in Cylon society just kill inventiveness? She turned to the crèche worker, Brian. "Anything I should know?"
"No," Brian said. He gave her a hard stare.
Well, if anything were seriously wrong, Hera would have said something. She'd raised hell when the other children had been hurting her. "All right, Hera, let's go home. Daddy will be off shift soon. Why don't you tell him all about finding Earth when he comes in?" Sharon turned and walked out, carefully skirting around Cally Tyrol as she did so. While she'd been busy with Hera, Starbuck had left and Cally had arrived. But the Human woman ignored her as she bent over Nicky.
"… and I taught her Grandpa's song and then we changed the words and sang about colors instead, 'cause the words of Grandpa's song are confusing. Hera's favorite color is red, Mommy, but I like yellow better."
"Yellow, huh?" Kara said, pasting a smile on her face and nodding at people as she walked by. It felt fake—gods, it probably looked fake—but it was the best she could do. "Blue's my favorite color. Or black, like the space I fly through in my Viper."
"But black is cold, Mommy," Kacey said. Smart kid. "I like yellow 'cause it's hot. And it's at the center. You can't go through without the yellow, Mommy. Yellow's safe."
"I'll remember that, baby," Kara said. Along with all the other weird stuff Kacey came out with, now she'd finally started talking. Get her away from that monster Leoben, and she rarely shut up. Kara could never tell whether the crazy stuff was just a kid making shit up, or whether it was because she was the kid of a nutcase Cylon prophet, but either way she didn't ignore it. She didn't ignore anything about Kacey.
"Nicky doesn't have a favorite color yet because he's too little—he doesn't know what colors are yet—but he played with the brown and green blocks the most," Kacey continued. "And that's the color of Earth!"
"Yup," Kara said, glancing around to see if anyone had heard it. "Planets are generally brown and green, from space: dirt is brown, and most plants are green. Well, and if they've got liquid water they've got blue, too."
When she got to the cabin she shared with Sam and Kacey—it had been some kind of storage room before they'd taken it over—she looked around the room before stepping in and closing the hatch behind her.
"You do realize that Leoben's not here to snatch her away from us, right?" Sam said, looking up from the Viper manual he was studying. He'd been talking about maybe joining up to be a pilot, which Kara wasn't sure how she felt about (except that she'd damn sure never train him or command him). "And if Kacey's parents were still alive and in the Fleet somewhere, they'd have found us by now?"
"Yeah, yeah," Kara grumbled. It wasn't Leoben she was looking for. She was more worried that someone would figure out the truth and come to hurt Kacey. She put Kacey down, and the girl ran over to her step-father, climbing up on the bed next to him and staring down at the manual as if she could read it. What the hell, maybe she could. Maybe Leoben had programmed that knowledge into her.
"Want me to read it to you?" Sam said. "This chapter's about the landing gear. That's the stuff on the bottom of the Viper that it sits on when it's in the hangar bay."
Kacey snuggled up against him, and he looked up at Kara, shaking his head, before he began to read aloud.
Kara watched him, second-guessing herself for the thousandth time. Should she tell him the truth? That Kacey wasn't just some random kid Leoben had grabbed off the street to play house with, whose parents had probably died on New Caprica? That Kacey had, in fact, been cooked up in a tube somewhere in secret by Leoben using his genes and hers? Kacey's heritage couldn't stay secret forever; Kara's luck wasn't that good. Would it be better to tell Sam now, get him used to it slowly, so that when everything came out she wouldn't have to deal with him being as upset as everyone else? Or would it be better to wait as long as possible, give him time to love Kacey and be her father before he found out she was half-Cylon?
Cally waited until the Cylon and Starbuck were out of the way before picking up Nicky. The Cylon gave her the creeps, and Starbuck was even worse—it wasn't natural for her to be as nice as she'd been since New Caprica. And she radiated tension, these days, even more so than usual. Cally figured it was only a matter of time until she snapped, and didn't want to be there when it happened.
Nicky shoved his blocks around, frowning now that his playmates weren't there to build him towers to knock down, any more. He'd have to learn to build his own towers. Cally knelt beside him, showing him how, and they played together for a few minutes. When she was sure the two pilots were out of earshot, she stood up and shot the crèche worker a glare. "You let my kid play with the toaster?"
The guy threw up his hands. "Look, this is a cushy job. I'm not going to lose it because the toaster goes crying to Mommy Toaster, who goes crying to the Admiral, that I'm being mean. I keep a close eye on the bitch, and the second she looks cross-eyed at anybody I'm there. Your precious little angel isn't going to lose one hair on his head, but if the toaster isn't hurting him, I'm not going to step in."
"All right, I get it," Cally growled, bending to pick up Nicky. She settled him on her hip with a grunt—he was getting so big!—and headed towards home. What there was of it. She wasn't worried that the Cylons were going to hurt Nicky (unless "Athena" betrayed them, in which case they were all frakked). But her gorge rose at the thought of Nicky being in the same room with a toaster, never mind playing with it. If there were another crèche on board, he'd go to it instead of this one. But she couldn't complain any further; the Admiral had the final say on everything on Galactica (even child-care options) and he'd side with the toaster and Starbuck; and Starbuck would back the toaster over a deck hand, even one married to the Chief.
The one time Starbuck had blown up like she used to since New Caprica had been over Sharon Agathon. Someone had been mouthing off about what they'd do to her if she wasn't the Admiral's pet—no worse than usual—and Starbuck had knocked him into a wall. "What did you do during the Occupation, sit there with your thumb up your ass and glare at the Cylons real hard? While you were doing that, she was getting the launch keys for the ships. So you want to kill yourself some Cylons, be my guest—I've killed more Cylons than any two other pilots in the Fleet, even if you don't count the ones I've killed more than once. But not the one who's on our side!" Starbuck had broken the guy's nose and walked away. Since that day, people had gotten the message—don't trash talk the Agathons in Kara Thrace's hearing. As if the pilot's time on New Caprica had been so much worse than anybody else's. Where did that snub-jockey get off, thinking her pain was so much worse than the other survivors?
Nicky patted Cally's cheek, drawing her attention back to his babbling. "Sorry, baby, what did you say?" He only had a few actual words—it was mostly nonsense syllables—but Cally always rewarded him by paying attention. It was about all she could give him, with things as tight as they were.
"Wuv, Mommy," Nicky said.
"Did you learn a new word, today?" Cally said, beaming. "I love you, Nicky."
"Yeah, you're definitely saying a new word. Love, Nicky. I love you, Nicky." Cally smiled. "Your Daddy's going to be so proud! Maybe he'll even get his head out of his ass and start acting normally for the night."
Apollo was on her comms, telling her he didn't see a heavy raider, and neither did Galactica. It didn't matter; Kara wasn't sure she did, either, any more, but she did see color. So vibrant, so deep, it took her breath away. This is what she was trying to paint on her wall but could never capture.
"But black is cold, Mommy," Kacey said. Smart kid. "I like yellow 'cause it's hot. And it's at the center. You can't go through without the yellow, Mommy. Yellow's safe."
Kara blinks, and she's back in her Viper cockpit. She can see yellow at the center; it's calling her. But she has a responsibility to Kacey. If Kara dies, what will happen to Kacey?
If Kara dies, she can't screw anything up. Sam will take care of Kacey; she can trust him. More than she trusts herself. If Kara dies, she'll have peace, and Kacey will be safer.
And if Kacey is right, and the yellow is safe—if Kacey's been trying to tell her what to do when the mandala she's seen her entire life is before her eyes—she can't afford not to take this chance when it is offered to her. If this is her destiny, she can't screw it up.
Kara's been hanging from a thread for months, all her fear and anger bottled up inside of her, praying to any god who will listen for strength to keep from falling apart. For the first time, she feels like there might be a light at the end of this. Laying down her burdens is a heady thought.
"You can't lead unless you follow first," Kacey says. They're finger painting together in Kara's old elementary school. "You can't speak until you listen." She studies her painting, head cocked to the side, and wipes blue paint off her fingers. "You can't sing until you know the tune." She dips a finger in yellow paint, and dabs it precisely in the middle of the mandala. She smiles, and looks up at her mother. "You've always known the colors, Mommy."
"What do you mean?" Kara asks.
Kacey gives her a hug, getting paint from her smock all over Kara's uniform. "I love you, mommy. But Grandma's waiting for you."
The feel of Kacey's arms around her is almost as real as her flightsuit when Kara yanks her attention back to reality. "Starbuck, Starbuck, do you copy?"
"I read you, Lee," she says. He sounds frantic. She doesn't blame him; she's awful close to the outer layer of the gas giant's storms, and if she doesn't pull up soon she won't be able to.
"Pull up!" he says. "If you do it now—"
"Lee, I'll see you on the other side, and tell Kacey I love her," Kara says, and dives for the yellow.
Kacey was right. It was warm.
Sharon couldn't believe she was doing this, leaving Hera alone on Galactica while she and Karl followed Starbuck on a wild goose chase to find Earth. But if Kara was a Cylon, Sharon had a better chance of figuring it out and subduing her than anyone else. And, as the Admiral had pointed out, what other officers did he have who'd be willing to give Starbuck the benefit of the doubt?
But they were leaving Hera alone on Galactica. What would happen if they—no. They would be back, and Hera would be fine here. She held her tighter, Karl's arms around them both.
"Y'know, Hera won't be alone, here," Kara said, interrupting their reverie. "Kacey'll be with her, and Sam'll be looking after both of them." She held her own daughter tightly.
"Hera's half Cylon," Sharon said, voice low. The crèche workers weren't close, but she didn't want to take a chance. "Nobody's going to look the other way as Kacey gets beat up by the other children."
Something flashed behind Kara's eyes, but she just shrugged. "I asked if we could bring them with us but the Admiral said no."
"I'll take good care of both of them," Anders put in. He was standing behind Kara with his hand on her shoulder. Sharon had never seen him with Hera. Could she trust him with her daughter? Would he treat a half-Cylon child kindly?
Sharon closed her eyes. She was going to have to let Hera go, soon; now, actually. They needed to get going. Reluctantly, she put her daughter down, checking her over to make sure she was okay. "You have everything?" she asked. 'Everything' in this case was mostly clothes; Hera had a few toys, but Sharon wasn't going to take the risk that they would 'accidentally' be stolen or lost or damaged while Hera was living at the crèche. They weren't replaceable.
"Uhuh," Hera said. She opened her bag and pulled out a crumpled piece of paper. "Map for you, Mommy!"
"It's very pretty, thank you," Sharon said. It was a piece of abstract art, the kind Hera often liked to draw. There were dots and lines across it, all different sizes and colors, sweeping curves and lines surprisingly straight for a toddler's hand. "Is it a map to Earth?" It broke her heart—of course Hera wanted some part of the dangerous mission that was taking her parents away from her. Sharon didn't know how much she understood, but enough to be worried and want to help, at least.
"Uhuh," Hera said. "I drawed it! Kacey helped."
"Thank you, Kacey," Sharon said, turning to Kara's daughter, now standing with her mother's hand in hers.
Starbuck herself, Sharon noted, was looking at Hera's drawing with an intent expression. She didn't really think a toddler's drawing held the key to ancient prophecy and finding Earth, did she?
Kacey tugged on her mother's hand. "You gots to find the Cylons first," she said with authority, once she had her mother's attention.
Sharon and Karl exchanged glances. Yup, Kacey was Starbuck's daughter. Saying crazy things with absolute authority.
"I will be sure to do that," Kara said. She knelt and gave Kacey one final hug; Sam Anders wrapped his arms around the two of them.
"Okay," she said briskly when she was done, "Let's get this show on the road."
Kara thought about painting a mandala—it would be so soothing, she'd done it so many times. It had always been her response to the call in her head, and the call was stronger than ever. But she'd already confronted the mandala. She'd been through it, and the yellow at the center—the safe spot—was too small for anything but a Viper to get through. The Fleet couldn't take the same route she had.
Besides, she had something better to focus on. A fresh trail. Hera's map. The call in her head that led to Earth was fading, but it was still clear when she looked at the child's drawing. Or, at least, it had been up until this last jump. Now it, too, was fading. And it was time to give Gaeta the next set of coordinates.
She stared at the map, burning it into her brain, then tucked it beneath her mattress where no casual visitor might spot it. Sharon would be furious if she knew Kara had stolen it. Kara got up and headed to the bridge.
"Hope your gut's telling you good things, Captain," Gaeta said as she stepped up to the table. He eyed her sideways, as if he expected her to start spouting prophecy. Throughout their jumps there had found several further signposts from Scripture. Each one had wound the atheist tighter, as if he were holding his breath and waiting for the craziness to end. "I've got about four good possibilities along the general direction we've been travelling, and six long shots." He paused. "When we started out, you knew where we were going almost before I started the calculations. This time, I had to call you to the bridge. Starting to run dry?"
"For now, possibly," Kara said. "The gods don't get visions on command. But it'll come back." She said it with more confidence than she had. "If we've lost the trail for now, we can go back, fill the Fleet in on our course this far, and then head out to scout again."
"Like a game of follow the leader?" Gaeta raised his eyebrows. "That might work, if your … feeling comes back." His face was perfectly professional, as always, but Kara knew it burned whenever he had to admit that a vision or Scripture passage might be on-target. It messed with his precise, anal-retentive brain.
"It will," she said.
"So are we giving up and going back, then?"
"Not quite yet." She looked down at the coordinate sets in front of her. She thought of Hera's map, bringing it to the forefront of her mind so that she could see the coordinate sets through it. When she'd done this for the first few jumps, the right set had leaped off the page at her. It wasn't now. But … she closed her eyes and muttered a prayer to whoever was listening. Clearing her mind of all distractions, she looked again. Just her, and the map, and the coordinates.
Kacey tugged on her mother's hand. "You gots to find the Cylons first," she said, staring up at Kara.
Kara opened her eyes, and saw which set her finger had landed on. "This one. But let's be careful about it, okay? There's something … weird about it."
Cally wandered Galactica's corridors, clutching Nicky as if he were a lifeline. But he wasn't, was he? He was an anchor who would drown her.
They were all frakked. Frakked, so much worse than on New Caprica. Worse than those hellish few days after the end of the world with the Fleet fleeing every thirty-three minutes from the Cylons. The XO, the deck chief, and the President's closest aide were all Cylons ….
Why weren't they already dead? Were the Cylons toying with them? They must be. If Tigh were a Cylon, then the toasters had to have known everything about the Fleet's movements all along. They'd been toying with them like a cat with a godsdamned mouse.
And Nicky, her beloved Nicky. The one good thing in her life. The thing she'd been counting on even as her marriage to Galen disintegrated.
Cottle had lied, at the birth. It wasn't a boy. It was a toaster.
Her gorge rose within her. What was she going to do? What could she do? Nobody would believe that Tigh and her husband and Anders were Cylons, not after they'd led the Resistance on New Caprica. They were probably the three people in the entire fleet least likely for an accusation to stick. If Cally said anything, she would look nuts. Or as if her marriage had collapsed and she was accusing Galen out of spite.
She wasn't anybody's plaything. Nobody was going to use her. She wasn't going to let some toaster make a toy out of her, a punching bag. And Nicky … she'd always thought she would fight to her last breath to protect him.
Well. If he was dangerous, if he needed to be destroyed, nobody else would do it. Nobody else would touch a hair on his head. Whatever the reason for the Cylons obsession with children, whatever use they had for hybrids like Hera and Nicky, they wouldn't get him. They wouldn't be able to use him in their plans, not even Galen. He'd been manipulating her all along; he'd gotten what he wanted. But he would never get to use it.
She reached the launch tube. There was nobody around, which suited her just fine. She went to put Nicky down just inside the door, but her arms tightened around him instead.
He shouldn't be alone. And she wouldn't have to see what happened. She could trigger it from inside—there was a maintenance override. And she'd taken Galen's key. Gods, she couldn't think. She just wanted to go to sleep and wake up to find this whole thing was a bad dream.
Nicky patted her cheek, and she looked down at him.
"Wuv, Mommy," he said.
"Oh, Nicky," Cally said, tears choking her. "I love you too." She kissed his head, and grabbed the frame of the airlock to steady them.
"Wuv, Mommy!" Nicky was louder this time. "Wuv Dada."
"I know you love your …" Cally forced the word out "… Daddy."
"Yes," Cally said. "Your Daddy loves you." It was true, she realized. Whatever else Galen had done—whatever other games he'd played—he did seem to love Nicky. If toasters could love, Galen loved Nicky. That gave her leverage. She kissed Nicky's head again, and turned. Instead of stepping in to the launch tube, she turned and headed back home.
Galen was awake, when she reached their cabin, and he hadn't left to get medical attention. His head was still bleeding. Good. He should hurt.
"Galen," she said warily, as she stepped through the hatch, leaving it cracked open. Nicky wiggled in her arms, but she didn't put him down.
"Cally," Galen said. "You have to believe me, I'm not sleeping with—"
"I don't have to believe a word you say, toaster," she hissed.
His face hardened, concern sliding off into a glare she'd seen too often, lately.
"Have you told anyone?" he demanded, eyes darting to the open hatch beside her. He took a step towards her, but she opened the hatch more, tensing to dart out of it, and he stopped. Once he'd backed up a bit, she swung it most of the way closed. Still easy enough to get out of, but a little more privacy. Not that many people used this corridor.
"You led the resistance," she said. "Who would believe you're a toaster, just like the ones you were blowing up? That must have been a real laugh for you, sending people out with bombs strapped to them. Getting Humans to do your own dirty work, killing the ones most likely to fight. You didn't even have to get your hands dirty."
Galen collapsed to the floor as if he'd been hit. Cally stared at him. He really was an excellent actor; if she hadn't known he was a toaster from his own mouth, the shock and horror would have looked genuine to her. "No, Cally!" he said. "Gods, no! No, we didn't know we were Cylons until the Ionian Nebula, when the power went out! We'd all been hearing things, and we just … we just knew. That's where I was, why I was late—I was finding out I was a Cylon. And then I went right back to work. I would never endanger the Fleet. I would never endanger humans, you have to believe me."
Cally stared him down, because no, she didn't. "So, you're going to go right to the Admiral and confess everything, then."
"What? Why?" Galen asked. "I'm not a danger, and you know what they'd do to me. They might try to take Nicky from you, they did it before!"
"Boomer tried to hide that she was a Cylon. That worked out well." Cally hitched Nicky higher; her arm felt like lead, but she couldn't shift him—she needed the arm closest to the hatch free.
"I'm not a sleeper agent, I don't have any programming." Galen ran a hand through his hair and looked down.
"Dada!" Nicky said, squirming to get down. Cally grimaced; this was not the time to be distracted by a kid. She shifted to get a better grip on him.
"Until the Ionian Nebula, you would have sworn you weren't a Cylon. How's this any different?" Cally studied him. If it was an act, it was a good one. She would have said he couldn't act to save his life, but what did she know? She was only the woman he'd manipulated into serving as a brood mare for the next hybrid. "The Admiral let Helo and his toaster keep Hera, once they got her back," she said. "You think he won't do the same for me? And if you care about seeing Nicky, you'll turn yourself in. Because if you don't, you'll never see him again."
That got his attention, she noted with satisfaction at the hard look on his face. Now, now she had no trouble believing he was a toaster. "You already said they would take my word over yours. How would you keep him away from me?" His eyes bored through her like a Centurion's.
"About you being a Cylon." Cally smiled. It wasn't a nice smile. "No, if I went to the Admiral to turn you in, he'd laugh at my face. But if I went to Cottle and said you attacked me again, that I had to clobber you with a wrench to escape? If I told them at the crèche that you couldn't see Nicky because I was afraid you would hurt him? Who do you think they'd believe, the big bruiser of a deck hand or the woman whose jaw he once broke?"
"You wouldn't," Galen said, but he looked shaken.
"Dadadadada!" Nicky squawked, arms outstretched towards his father. The little monster just wasn't giving up. He never did like to see his father upset. Or his mother, for that matter. She took a deep breath, trying to calm herself. He could probably feel her tension.
"To protect Nicky I'd do it in a heartbeat. And Galen?" Cally waited until he met her eyes again. "If the only way to protect Nicky from you and whatever Cylon plans you have for him was to put him in a launch tube and fire, I would do it in a heartbeat." She bounced up and down a bit, rubbing Nicky's back. It seemed to help, a little, though he still wanted his father. Was it because of some Cylon program, or could he sense what they were talking about?
"But … Nicky's your son," Galen said.
"Yes." Cally swallowed, trying to keep her voice steady. "And I love him. Do you? Do you want what's best for him? Because we both know that he would be better off dead than a Cylon toy. If you want to protect Nicky, you'll walk right in to the Admiral's office and turn yourself in. You'll tell them everything you know about the Cylons. You'll destroy whatever sick plan they've got for Nicky and Hera and whatever other half-breeds there are out there. You'll change things." Oh, gods, let him hear her. Let there be some small part of the man she'd fallen in love with inside the toaster.
Galen's hands were pressing against the sides of his head like he was trying to crush his skull. Cally wondered if he could, with the Cylon strength he'd been hiding. It would solve some of her problems if he did. But what would she tell Nicky?
"The hour is getting late." His voice was distant, creepy. Cylons sometimes did that, on New Caprica; mostly the Twos, but occasionally one of the other models. Say cryptic things in weird voices.
"Yes, it's getting late. So it would be better to go now, rather than wake the Admiral up." When Galen didn't move, Cally wondered how much time she should give him to make up his mind. "It's past Nicky's bedtime, too."
"All right," he said at last.
"Dradis contact!" Gaeta's voice rang out the warning. "It's a Cylon Basestar!"
"Spin up the jump engines," Helo ordered, though Gaeta's fingers were already flying over his board before she opened her mouth.
Frak, frak, frak. Kara didn't countermand his order. She'd hoped that Kacey had meant a heavy raider or something more their size when she said to find the Cylons. They would be completely at the Basestar's mercy if they didn’t get away. Maybe she could come back in the Raptor once they'd escaped, see if the Basestar was still here. But the path they'd found had to get back to the Fleet, back to Kacey.
"The drive isn't spinning right," Costanza said, frowning at his panel. "Frak if I know why."
"It's too soon," Gaeta said, grimly, staring at his board as if sheer force of will would change the readouts. "They haven't had time to cool down since our last jump. We need at least another ten minutes before they'll spin up well enough to jump. Godsdammit, why hasn't this tub been getting decent maintenance?"
"What are the Cylons doing?" Kara asked. The small space was filling up with Demetrius' crew; the ones who weren't manning her systems kept out of the way, but it wasn't a warship. There weren't exactly action stations for them to take. Even the pilots couldn't do much besides suit up; if Demetrius was going to jump, they couldn't be out on the hull spacewalking to their Vipers.
"Apparently they want to play with their food, because they're not shooting at us yet," Gaeta said. "They're not even launching Raiders."
"Any idea what they're doing?" Kara turned to Sharon.
Sharon shook her head. "None."
"All right," Kara said. "Let's see if we can stall them at least long enough to get us out of here. Call them up." She reached for the captain's handset, and set it for speaker.
"This is Kara Thrace of the Colonial ship Demetrius," she said. "Thanks for not shooting at us."
She ignored Helo's wince, and the way everyone was looking at her in various degrees of dismay.
The silence over the wireless lasted long enough that Kara had time to hope it wasn't a Leoben who answered.
"Captain Thrace," said a Six at last. "This is Natalie. You are welcome."
Kara raised her eyebrows at Sharon. Natalie? she mouthed.
Sharon shrugged, eyes wide.
"Natalie," Kara said. "Nice name. Do Cylons have names, now?"
There was another pause, this one shorter. "My group does," said Natalie.
"That implies there's more than one group of Cylons," Kara said carefully. "You having yourselves a little disagreement there?"
Kara wondered how long she could keep the Cylons talking, if they were going to be giving away free information like this. "What kind of disagreement?"
"A disagreement over what the ultimate goal of the Cylons should be," the Six replied. "To that end, if you would be my guest on the Basestar, Captain Thrace, I would like to discuss the possibility of opening negotiations towards a ceasefire between our peoples."
"That mean a ceasefire between all humans and all Cylons, or just between humans and your faction?" Kara asked.
"At present, I can only negotiate for my own faction, although we hope that a reconciliation will soon take place."
"Right," Kara said. Was this what Kacey had meant? "Give me a minute to discuss this with my officers." She muted the mic.
"You can't possibly be thinking of going over there," Gaeta said flatly.
"I'm going, and I'm taking Athena with me in the Raptor," Kara said. "If there's a chance of getting them to stop chasing the Fleet, we have to take it. And if there's a chance they know anything about the route to Earth, we have to find out. I've been in their custody before, I know what I'm going in for. And Athena has the best chance of escaping if everything goes to Hades. Worst case scenario, we've bought enough time for you guys to get out of here." She wouldn't have explained anything to Gaeta, but she needed him on her side. She needed the little prick to support her when she asked the Admiral to give her the Demetrius for another scouting run after they got back. If they got back. "Here's the way we're going to do this. When Athena and I launch in the Raptor, we'll get the Vipers launched for a CAP. Don't provoke anything, but keep your eyes peeled in case things frak up." She turned to the pilots, who were crammed in anywhere they could find space. "Be ready to crash an emergency landing back on the Demetrius in case we have to jump suddenly." She turned to Karl. "Helo, your number one responsibility is to get the Demetrius safely back to the Fleet with all the course data we've figured out. If that means leaving us to the Cylons, so be it. You understand that?" She held his eyes until he nodded. "I know you have that boundless optimism, but don't be stupid about it. Think of it this way: your daughter will need at least one parent coming home to her. Got it?"
Helo nodded reluctantly.
She turned to Gaeta. "Got it?"
"Yes, sir," Gaeta said, lips twisting. "Anything else?"
"Yes," Kara said. "I know I can trust you to give Helo a kick in the pants if he needs it to get him to leave."
"Kara," Helo complained.
It was worth it to see the smirk on Gaeta's face. "My pleasure."
She unmuted the communication system. "If I were to come over to your Baseship, what guarantees will you give for my safety?"
"What guarantees could we give that you will accept? I give you my word that you will not be harmed aboard our ship, nor in transit to or from it, nor will we launch Raiders against your vessel or fire upon it unless you fire first."
Kara looked at Helo, who shrugged helplessly. What guarantees could the Cylons give? It wasn't like an exchange of hostages would work; the Cylons wouldn't care if one of their own died, because they'd just resurrect. And it would give a Cylon access to the Demetrius. What if they found the course data, or the rendezvous coordinates? What if they found Hera's map?
"All right," she said at last. "If you give your word that we will not be harmed, Lieutenant Sharon Agathon and I will come over in a Raptor."
"We will be awaiting you."
When the wireless clicked off, Kara turned to Helo. "The Demetrius is yours till I get back, Captain. Keep her in one piece, and get out safely if things get frakked."
"Good luck," Helo said as she and Sharon headed out.
To get to the Raptor, they had to spacewalk from the airlock to the smaller ship clamped along Demetrius's ventral side. It wasn't really dangerous, just annoying, and once they were inside they ran through the preflight checks and launched. The flight to the basestar seemed to take forever, though Kara knew that was mostly nerves. They were met in the Cylon hanger by an Eight with a wide smile.
"It is so good to have you back, sister!" she said as soon as the hatch was opened.
"Thanks," Athena said with some irony.
The Eight gestured at a Six standing behind her. "Alise can take Captain Thrace to Natalie to talk. You can go with her, but there are so many of us who would like to speak with you if you'd come with me instead."
"Lieutenant Agathon is not leaving my sight," Kara said. "I want to make sure the Eight I leave with is the Eight I came with."
The other Eight frowned at Kara before turning to Athena.
"You heard the Captain," Athena said.
"All right," the Eight said, giving in. "Please, follow me."
Kara kept a sharp eye out as they walked through the Basestar's corridors, but they seemed to have cleared away anything interesting. It was as sleekly industrial as she'd expected, with lots of red. The ever-present fountains and other water features were weird, though. Maybe that's where Leoben's obsession with rivers and streams came from?
In no time at all they were in a large, open room filled with Cylons. Though, oddly enough, only Sixes, Twos, and Eights. Kara's palms began to sweat at all the copies of Leoben. What if he said something about Kacey? What if the other Cylons already knew about Kacey? Leoben had said they didn't know on New Caprica, but what if he'd told them since? What if this whole thing was just to get her to tell them where Kacy was? "Get Leoben out of here," she said.
"How is Kacey?" one of the Twos asked. "Have you seen her destiny yet? She swims in the river, and the river's course changes."
"No," Kara said, shaking her head. "You held us prisoner for months. You played creepy mind games for months. You kidnapped her off the street so we could all pretend to be a happy family, you don't get to ask after her. And if you and all your 'brothers' don't leave right this godsdamned second I will walk out the door myself. Because I will not be in the same room with you."
"All I want is to know about my daughter, Kara," Leoben said smoothly, meeting her eyes. His voice was no louder than usual, but far more intense. "Surely that's not too much to ask?"
Kara had her sidearm pointed at his forehead before she even knew she'd drawn it. "Kacey is not your daughter!"
"Leoben, go," a Six said. Her hair was darker than most of the other Sixes, and she wore a business suit.
"This is a distraction we don't need. Time is short." The Six stared Leoben down. Kara's gun never wavered.
"All right," Leoben said. All of the copies of his model filed out.
When they were gone, Kara holstered her weapon. "Sorry about that," she said.
The Six looked at her with an excellent Triad face. "I am sorry for what you experienced on New Caprica," she said. "I am Natalie, and I speak for my people."
"I'm Captain Kara Thrace, and I can carry a message back to mine," Kara said. "You already know Lieutenant Sharon Agathon. But tell me, who exactly do you mean when you say 'your people'? What caused the split?"
"The final five Cylon models, Natalie said. "We still don't know who they are, but we have reason to believe that at least one of them is in your Fleet. That's why the Raiders stopped shooting in the Ionian Nebula: they realized it, and would not fire on our own kind. The Ones, Fours, and Fives wish to lobotomize the Raiders so that they can no longer make that decision, but fight the Colonial Fleet regardless. The Twos, Sixes, and Eights wish to make peace and find our lost brothers and sisters, and view lobotomizing our own kind as an abomination."
"And the Threes?" Athena asked. "What do they think?"
"We don't know," Natalie said. "They were boxed because they put their quest for the identity of the Final Five as more important than following the consensus."
"They were boxed? The whole line?" Athena's eyes were wide as she turned Kara. "It means they killed them all and didn't let them resurrect—their consciousnesses are stored in a box somewhere, they can be brought back, but they're not … really alive at the moment. It's only been done a handful of times that I know of, and only for individuals, not a whole line."
"All right, so you have this disagreement," Kara said. "How are you going to resolve it?"
"We hope to revive the Threes, so that they can be cast the deciding vote and break the deadlock," Natalie said.
"The Ones won't allow that," Athena said.
"You already know they're willing to kill their own kind," Kara pointed out. "That's why they want to keep fighting us! They don't care about the Final Five. And you already know they're willing to lobotomize the Raiders to force them to obey. These are not people who have your best interests at heart. These are not people who care about Cylon life. You're crazy if you think they'll just magically fall into line and help you wake up the Threes who will then automatically unite all Cylons. Why are you wasting your time with us? You should be racing to get the Threes back and figure out how to counter whatever the other guys are going to do next."
"It's not a civil war," Natalie said. "It's a disagreement which will be solved when the Threes are unboxed."
"If you're shooting at one another, it's a civil war," Athena said. "Starbuck's right. The Ones will treat it like a war even if you don't."
"We will take that into consideration." Natalie looked disturbed.
"You do that," Kara said. "When you've gotten yourselves straightened out, then come talk about ceasefires and peace treaties. Or, you know, better yet, just stop chasing us and let us disappear." They wouldn't be that lucky, Kara knew. But they were lucky enough to run into the only Cylon rebel basestar in the galaxy. They were lucky enough that a Cylon civil war seemed to be starting—even in a worst-case scenario, that would take some pressure off the Fleet. Maybe, just maybe, enough to let them break contact for good and find Earth, and never have to worry about Cylons again.
"Are you sure you don't want to put Nicky in the crèche for this?" Galen asked.
"Call me paranoid, but right now I don't want him out of my sight," Cally said. She kept scanning the halls, but none of the other Cylons she'd seen with Galen came into view. "He's young enough, he won't understand. Besides, if we took him to the crèche they'd put him down for the night, and then we'd have to wake him up and get him re-settled back home."
"Right," Galen said, some of the sourness leaving him. "He'd never get to sleep again."
They continued on in silence. Nicky was quieter than he had been back in their room, his head resting on her shoulder. She petted his hair, soothingly.
The little family was getting a few strange looks; the only place Cally walked behind Galen, normally, was on the hangar deck. And Galen had obviously suffered a head wound, but they weren't going towards sickbay. But she wanted him firmly where she could see him, and Cylons were tough. He didn't need stitches, and he certainly wasn't going to use it as an excuse to postpone this.
They reached the Admiral's cabin, and Galen paused, gathering a shaky breath. The Marine standing guard gave them both a long look.
"We need to see the Admiral," Cally said when Galen didn't.
"Is it official business?" the Marine asked, looking pointedly at Nicky.
"Yes," Cally said.
"It's awful late—can it wait until tomorrow?"
"No, it can't," Cally said.
"All right, I'll check," he said, turning to the intercom. "Admiral, the Tyrols are here to see you. They say it's official business that can't wait."
There was a brief pause. "All right, send them in," the Admiral said. The Marine keyed open the hatch, and Cally stared at Galen until he stepped through.
Inside, Admiral Adama and President Roslin were sitting on a couch together. Cally looked around enviously at all the space. He had a desk, a couch, a table and chairs, a bunk, a private head … before the fall of the Colonies, it wouldn't have seemed like much. Now … raising Nicky would be so much easier if they'd actually had enough space so they weren't tripping over each other all the time.
"Well?" Adama said, impatiently.
Galen hesitated. He wasn't going to speak, she thought. He wasn't.
Nicky raised his head from her shoulder. She'd thought he was asleep. "Wuv, Dada."
Galen smiled at him. There was moisture in his eyes. Why make a machine that could cry?
Galen squared his shoulders and faced Adama. This was the moment of truth. He could still deny it—hell, he could claim that she was acting weird and needed to be taken off duty, that he thought she was crazy—
"Admiral, Madam President, I have a confession to make," Galen said. He swallowed. "I'm a Cylon."
Cally let out a sigh of relief.
"Could you repeat that, Chief?" Roslin said coldly.
"I'm a Cylon, Ma'am," Galen said. "I haven't known for long, but … I know now. I haven't done any sabotage or spying, and I don't think I have any hidden programming. But. But you should know."
"Why do you think you're a Cylon, Chief?" Adama asked. He was frowning, but more as if he were wondering how to handle a delusional deck chief than anything. This was why she couldn't have come forward herself. If he didn't believe Galen's own testimony, he certainly wouldn't have believed her.
"Because I am one." Galen shook his head. "I know it sounds crazy, but … in the weeks before we approached the Ionian Nebula, I started hearing this weird music nobody else could hear. It kept getting stronger, and I couldn't figure out where it was coming from. When we reached the Nebula, it got a lot stronger. I followed it, and … I just knew."
"You remembered being a Cylon?" Roslin asked.
"Ma'am, I only remember being Galen Tyrol," Galen said. "I have no idea how or why or when. I know it sounds crazy, but I know. It's why I healed quicker than Cally did from decompression sickness after we were trapped in the airlock. I think … I think that's how I found the Temple of Five, and why I couldn't destroy it. It … it called to me, somehow."
Cally shot him a sharp look. And he said he didn't have any hidden programming! She shifted Nicky to the other hip, wishing she could sit down. Or better yet, hand him off to somebody else. She was just so worn. Thankfully, he was being almost preternaturally good, as if he realized something important was happening. Or … well, perhaps he was just tired.
"And the Cylons got to the Temple, because of it," Roslin said quietly.
Adama's fists were clenched. He believed, now, Cally realized. "What can you tell us about the Cylons?" Adama asked through gritted teeth. "Do you know why you were activated now? Do you know why they stopped firing at us the Nebula?"
Galen hesitated, jaw working. He looked over at Nicky. "Yeah," he said. "I'm … not the only one who was hearing that damned music. There were three others who followed it. It was when we saw each other that we knew. We had to leave to go to battle stations—one was a pilot. He said a Raider scanned him, and then it turned around instead of firing. I think he sent out some kind of signal to it. That's when they all left."
"Who are the other three?" Adama demanded, getting up and looming over Galen. He wasn't any bigger than the other man, and as a deck hand Galen probably had more muscle, but the Admiral was practically vibrating with anger.
"Sir, we're not dangerous!" There was desperation in Galen's voice. "We're all loyal to the Fleet. Learning that I'm a Cylon didn't magically change who I am and what I believe, and it didn't change anything for the others, either. That pilot saved us, saved the Fleet. Please, I don't want to make trouble for them. Do what you have to do to me, but I'm not outing them unless they want to step forward themselves."
"You don't get to make that choice, Tyrol," Adama growled. "You don't get to make decisions that will affect the safety of the entire human race."
"Maybe not, but you can't force me to talk," Galen said. "I'll give you everything I know, except who the other three are."
"But by your own admission, you don't know much else," Roslin said dryly. "You'll forgive me if I don't think your offer is enough."
"Sam Anders is the pilot," Cally said."
The others stared at her, as if they'd forgotten she was there. "Galen was acting weird, so I followed him. I saw them meet. Sam Anders is the pilot. The other two are …" she swallowed … "Colonel Tigh and the President's aide."
Adama stepped aside and smashed his fist against the wall. She hoped he hadn't broken it; bulkheads were a lot more durable than bone.
"Tory?" Roslin asked. "Tory Foster? And Colonel Tigh? And Anders?" She sagged, clearly struggling.
"That's the leadership of the Resistance on New Caprica," the Admiral said. "Talk about irony." He glared at her as if it were her fault his best friend was a toaster. She lifted her chin and stared back; he had nothing to complain about, not compared to her. Tigh was his best friend; Galen was her husband. He was the father of her child, for the gods' sake!
"If we hadn't been loyal, nobody would have gotten off the planet," Galen said. "If we were traitors, it would have been so easy to make sure Athena never got the launch keys. Gods, if I were a traitor I could have sabotaged this ship in so many ways over the years. Just slacking off on maintenance would've doomed the old girl, and without Galactica the Fleet wouldn't have survived."
The Admiral was still cradling his hand, but he looked like he wanted to hit the wall, again. He took a deep breath. "Right." He walked over to the bulkhead phone and picked it up. "Colonel Tigh to my quarters." His voice was perfectly even, but there was fury behind it. He set the handset back in its cradle and looked up at Galen. "You're going to the old Cylon cell. We'll have more questions for you tomorrow, once we've had time to think."
Roslin touched Adama's arm. "No, Bill, I think that wouldn't be wise," she said. She locked eyes with Galen. "Do the other Cylons know you've told us?"
"No," Galen said. "Though they might suspect Cally's figured it out."
"That gives us an advantage. I want to watch and see what shakes out, now that we know some of what to look for." She turned to Cally. "Your son, what's his name?"
"Nicky, Ma'am," Cally said. "Nicholas Stephen Tyrol."
"Have any Cylons ever paid him particular attention?" Roslin asked.
Roslin nodded. "I think we'd all like to keep it that way, wouldn't we." It wasn't a question. "Hopefully, as long as Chief Tyrol's Cylon nature stays hidden, that will continue. Put him in the regular brig, on some charge. Don't let anyone know we know he's a Cylon, and let's see what happens."
"Then what?" Adama asked.
"Then we figure out what comes next," Roslin said. "We've always known there were twelve models of Cylons, and we only knew what seven of them look like. Now we know that four of the ones we don't know are here on Galactica, and that we currently host not one but two hybrid children. This changes things. How, I don't know, but it does." She turned to Cally. "The Cylons are obsessed with children. I don't know why and frankly I don't want to, but it's vital to the safety of the Fleet that they don't get them. If you have any problems, if anything suspicious happens, if you need anything, let me know and I'll see you get it."
"Thank you, Ma'am," Cally said. Gods, to have someone to help her with Nicky! She felt like crying.
"I don't think there's any sinister plan for the kids, Madam President," Galen said. "I think Cylons just … like kids."
Roslin stared him down. "We'll see," she said. "But if there's any possibility these children are as special as the Cylons think they are, we want them on our side."
Kara could feel the weight of Sharon's eyes on her as they flew the Raptor back to Demetrius. It showed in the way she hunched her shoulders—so unlike the hotshot pilot who never backed down. That alone would've convinced Sharon that Kara was hiding something.
"They have got to be frakking kidding me," Kara said, focusing on her controls with much more attention than a Raptor should need. "I know Cylons are all about unity, but even in the middle of a civil war they think Cylon Togetherness is going to magically fix everything?"
Sharon ignored the red herring. "Leoben was telling the truth, wasn't he?"
Kara didn't turn to look at her. "Leoben lies, you know that. It's all metaphors and point of view and shit with him. I've never been pregnant."
"I know. But Kara, I know Leoben better than you. He was telling the truth. He believes Kacey is his daughter. So how did she come to be?"
What was going through Kara's mind? How hard was it for her to trust anyone with her daughter's secret? Then again, she had to know that Sharon was perhaps the most trustworthy person in existence, when it came to Cylon/Human children.
"Back on Caprica," Kara said at last. "When I was in the Farm. They took one of my ovaries to experiment on. Leoben got it somehow, and whipped up Kacey in one of the tanks you use to grow new copies of the existing models. That's why she looks older than she should be for when she was conceived. She grew in the tank faster than she would have otherwise. But everyone knows I've never been pregnant—I was never away from the Fleet long enough to give birth. So even though they were never able to find anyone who remembered her, and she looks just like me, everybody believed me when I said she was just some random kid off the street Leoben brought in as part of his mind games."
It was a matter-of-fact, almost off-hand recitation of events. The way Kara got when she was most desperately trying to protect or distance herself. As if clinical detachment would make the horrors she had suffered feel like they'd happened to someone else. "And she's safer if nobody knows she's half-Cylon," Sharon said. "Wish there was some way to pull the same trick with Hera." She paused. "But … one of the growth tanks? He just mixed your genes and popped them in the tank and it worked?"
"I don't know the details," Kara said.
"Why didn't he tell anyone?" Sharon asked. "My God! It would have made such a difference. It's what we've been trying to accomplish since the very beginning." Surely they'd tried it, during all the experiments and tests? How had Leoben managed what everyone else who'd ever tried had failed to do?
"I don’t know why he didn't tell anyone, but he was always going on about her destiny, about her showing the way. Guiding the guide."
"Guiding the guide, huh," Sharon said, contemplatively. "And has she been guiding you?"
"Yeah, she has," Kara said. She took a deep breath. "So has Hera."
"Hera?" Sharon's voice was sharp. "How so?"
Sharon could see Kara tense up even through her flight suit. "When she said that picture was a map to Earth, she wasn't kidding."
"You stole Hera's drawing?" Sharon had a sudden urge to throttle her. She'd been worried sick about that stupid thing. "Kara! How could you! It was the only thing of hers I have with me!"
"You'd rather we never found Earth?" Kara asked, defensively. "I couldn't have gotten us this far along the path without it. By the time the Demetrius had left the fleet, the signal I could hear telling me which way to go was too faint."
"You could at least have asked first, if you could borrow it." Sharon shot back. "And you're giving it back the second we're back on the Demetrius." She pressed her lips tightly together.
"I would have anyway," Kara said. "It's led me as far as it can. I think we need to go back for the Fleet, and hope that by the time we get back here with them, Kacey and Hera have come up with the next map we need."
Sharon took in a deep breath, let it out slowly. Earth was worth it. (She should still have asked.) "How do you read her drawing? I mean, I know she said it was a map, but it doesn't really look like any kind of map I've ever seen." How had Kara seen it, when Sharon hadn't? She was Hera's own mother.
"I meditate on it, and pray," Kara said. "Then I look at the coordinates Gaeta gives me, and pick the one that feels right. But it's getting fainter; I just hope that we can get her to make a new map will make it clearer again."
"So, not something you could teach anyone else to do." Sharon was disappointed.
"Hey, you can try it if you like," Kara said. "Maybe it'll help that your daughter's the one that made it."
"I'd like to try," Sharon said. They were approaching Demetrius, so she focused on her board to send Kara all the information she needed for docking. Not that it was terribly difficult, but landings were the riskiest part of flying, and clamping to a ship's hull was a maneuver she had little practice with. After they'd landed, they both checked their flight suits, to be ready for the spacewalk back to the hatch.
Sharon was at the hatch first, but she hesitated. Something had been bugging her, and she wanted to say it when they still had the privacy of the Raptor. "You know, one is a sacred number for Cylons."
"Yeah, because of your One God," Kara said impatiently.
"Two isn't a sacred number." Sharon shrugged. "But three is. Because God has three faces."
"Three's sacred for humans, too," Kara said. "Odd coincidence. Three faces? That's weird."
"No weirder than some of your gods," Sharon pointed out. "But the thing is … this is all mixed up with destiny. Two miracle children are the key to finding Earth. But I would expect it to be three, or one. Not two."
"You think there's a third Human/Cylon kid out there we don't know about?" Kara asked, with some surprise.
"There may not be now, but if it's possible for two half-Cylon children to be born with a destiny, why not a third?"
"Guess we should keep an eye out, in case you're right," Kara said.
Sharon shook her head. "You know, I never used to believe in destiny. I believed we were doing what God wanted, but that isn't the same thing. Then I figured out we were wrong, and defected, and everything has just seemed random chance. I may have to rethink this."
"I've always believed in destiny," Kara said. There was a far-away look in her eyes. "Leoben always says that all this has happened before, and it will all happen again. There's a saying like that in the Colonies, too. I've always known that, down to my bones. I can feel the weight of it, the inevitability of time pressing down. Everything repeats, the same mistakes over and over and over again. It's why I've always painted mandalas. Because the wheel is the only true reality there is." She shook her head. "But something's changed, Sharon. Something is different now. I can feel the cracks in the cycle, the possibility of something truly new. I don't know what's going to happen."
"Sounds nerve-wracking," Sharon said. "I'd have thought it would make you more on edge, instead of mellowed out as you have been."
"No, you don't get it." Kara paused. She looked up, and Sharon could see something in here eyes. It looked like hope, but Sharon couldn't be sure; in all the years she'd known (or remembered knowing) the other woman, she'd never seen Kara look hopeful. "It's not nerve-wracking," Kara went on, "it's the first time in my life I've ever really had hope. Because the future may not be written. The screw-ups and the pain and the same stupid mistakes over again—we have a chance to avoid at least some of it. If the great circle is broken …. Think of it, Sharon. Not repeating means there's a possibility things could actually get better. And I think, I think it's all because of Kacey and Hera. And whatever other child comes after them."
Sharon smiled. "The shape of things to come."
"Yeah." Kara smiled back. "Let's go home. They're waiting for us."