"Yes. Thank you, Janice."
She took the silken headscarf from the bedside table and slipped it on over what was left of her hair. She hadn't seen Bill since she'd been placed in a cryochamber on Barrayar and shipped out on the next transport to Beta Colony. Bill had stayed behind to help negotiate on behalf of the Colonial refugees.
Cancer was not an uncommon diagnosis on Barrayar, but their doctors thought she had a better chance on Beta Colony, which had a more advanced healthcare system. The Barrayarans had made the request to Beta Colony on humanitarian grounds and to her surprise, it had been granted.
A month later, she had awakened in a Betan hospital and begun treatment. Her type of breast cancer had been virtually eliminated on Beta Colony. Embryos were screened and those with that gene, and dozens of others, were simply not implanted in the uterine replicators used now to gestate children. (Women could choose to have babies the old-fashioned way, but why would they?)
It had been centuries since Betan physicians had seen a case of breast cancer, but the medical historian who had searched the Old Earth database for the treatment protocol sounded confident. So far, so good. Her lungs were almost clear. Her other scans had come back clean. She felt better than she had in months.
There was just one problem: she wasn't supposed to survive. Her miraculous cure wasn't part of the prophecies. Was she was a false prophet? Had she led her people astray? Her belief that their destiny was to find the Thirteenth Colony was so strong that she'd entered into a conspiracy to rig the last presidential election in her favor.
It didn't matter. She had already decided to confess everything to Bill and face the consequences.
As it turned out, no confession had been needed—Bill knew everything, about the rigged election, even the fate of the hybrid baby, Hera. Fixing the election had been wrong, she admitted that, but she might have saved them from a worse fate—a government run by a congenital liar.
"Baltar's been lying about everything," Bill said. The lies included covering up his own culpability in the destruction of the Twelve Colonies. His Cylon detector worked perfectly—he had lied to them about that. He'd known Boomer was a Cylon, another lie. With the help of the Barrayaran scientists, the entire fleet had been tested in less than a week. The results had shocked her, had shocked everyone.
"Saul. And Ellen." She didn't know what to say. "It's hard to believe."
"Yes." Bill looked in control but he had to be devastated. "They claim they had no idea. I've been told they're still in denial."
"And Tory." Tory was the last person Sharon would have suspected—the woman had been a Caprican political operative for years.
"Yeah." Bill stopped, closed his eyes briefly, then resumed speaking. "There is something else you need to know. To try to clear herself, Tory agreed to take truth serum."
Tory had told the truth all right. Not only had she confirmed her identity as a Cylon, she had confessed to helping Sharon rig the election results, and to helping hide Hera Agathon. Gods. "Does anyone else know?"
Bill shook his head. "Their secret police are keeping it quiet at my request. There's no point in making people more upset than they are already. But it's bound to come out eventually."
"Yes." Disappointing Bill was her worst fear, far worse than dying. How could she explain her actions? "Bill, I..."
He stopped her. "You don't have to explain yourself. We both know it was wrong. You think I'm so different from you? We all have regrets, Laura."
Much of what Tory had babbled about had made little sense to her Barrayaran interrogators, or to anyone else, but Bill said the investigation was ongoing.
The Cylons had been transferred to Beta Colony, which classified them sentient AI, prisoners of war. Bill thought their chances of release were slim, unless the Betan Science Division could figure out a way to reprogram them.
"They can't be trusted. They believe whatever they've been programed to believe," Bill explained.
"They're just like us, you mean?" she said, smiling.
Bill looked away, then changed the subject. "Barrayar will grant us asylum. There are two continents and their ruler owns the less populated one outright. He is leaning toward a hundred year, renewable lease. The terms are still being negotiated, but self-governance on a local level is on the table."
"That's...unexpected. Isn't Barrayar a hereditary dictatorship?"
"It is. The guy at the top, Gregor Vorbarra, isn't stupid. He sees the potential—he'd be sending an educated, highly motivated group of settlers to terraform his land holdings and increase his tax base."
"What about Earth?" She still believed Earth was their destiny.
Bill shook his head. "Maybe, for the holdouts who can earn passage. It's a long, expensive trip. Earth already supports nine billion people, plus there's no central government to petition for asylum. Barrayar has issues but..."
"Better a sparrow in the hand than a pigeon on the roof," she finished. Well, it was out of her hands. "What's next for you?" What about us?
"Your absence and Baltar's treachery created a leadership vacuum. Our people need me—they need us, more than ever. A huge challenge lies ahead, and I want you by my side, always."
"What are you really asking, Bill?"
He took her hand. "You know what I'm asking. But don't rush your decision. I want you focused on getting well."
After everything she had done, Bill still wanted her help. He still wanted her. She loved him. What else could her answer be?