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The Book of Betrayal

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It should have been a clean op. The tactics were reliable, the intelligence solid. With the more precise method of jump calculation, you could put the squadron on top of a basestar and shoot out its nukes before it had time to armor up -- kaboom. There was only one way the Cylons could have anticipated the attack.

More than half your Vipers destroyed, more than half your pilots murdered, but they fought like heroes and blew a hole in the side of the basestar before you called abort. Pegasus scouted the battlefield after the Cylons left, collected the scrap metal and the bodies. Not all of the dead were pilots.

"Do you know why you're here?" you ask Gina. You called her to your office.

"The op tanked," she says. "Frakking tragedy."

"You saw the specs, Lieutenant. It should have been airtight. We have an intelligence leak."

Gina stares at you intently, brow furrowed in concern. She has a knack for making you the center of her world. "You couldn't have predicted that, Sir."

"It's my job to predict it, to prevent it. Mine alone." Your hand hasn't left your thigh. It's six inches from the butt of your weapon, and you know the distance by heart.

"Sometimes you need to forget that," she says, "for a time." She unbuttons the jacket of her uniform. "Let me help."

"I'm done forgetting," you tell her. You push a photograph across the desk to her, a head you picked from the wreckage. When Gina looks up from the paper, wide-eyed, your gun is drawn. The head has her face.

"No human being could betray the last of her people to their enemies, send her fellow soldiers to die." The guards are in the door before you finish speaking. You watch the melee, the efficiency with which she kills. You shout, "I want her alive."

You'll stand with your fist against the glass wall of the cell and try to see a machine and not a woman. She'll be huddled on the floor, naked and battered. You'll remember this flesh, the places where the pulse beats under the skin. You'll let yourself in.

Not yet broken, she'll stumble to her feet when you enter. She'll cover herself with her arms and stare down at the gun on your hip. She won't flinch when you touch her. You'll examine her like the medic did, trace the ridge of her collarbone, the swell of her breast to the nipple. You'll count the knobs of her spine with your fingers.

"I thought I saw you glow," you'll say, and punch her in the kidney, next to the ladder of bone. When she doubles over with a yelp, you'll kick her in the face, and blood from her split lip will pool on the tile. You'll crouch down, run your thumb over her mouth, and it will come away red.

After Gina makes you come, her back is a map of the apocalypse. She stands against the wall, and you punch the fleshy part of her shoulder once for each pilot you lost since the war started. Then you start on her ass, once for each civilian you had to leave behind. The impact thuds through the muscle and up your arm, unravelling into your chest. You carry the guilt there, heavy like a stone.

She arches toward you, meeting your fist. You're no longer surprised by how much she can take, for a woman so slight. As you beat her, you watch her like you watch your ship. You follow her gasps and the way her body dances, pull your punches when you want to hit her harder, want to shatter yourself on her bones.

"Please," she says, "Sir," and she's wet when you reach between her thighs. You grab her hair and throw her sparring-wise, breaking her fall with a bent leg but not so much that she lands on the floor gently. She's face down, naked. You've put your pants back on, and your bra. You plant one boot on her shoulder blade, lean into it until you hear her wheezing. "Open your legs," you tell her. You replace your foot with your knee, keeping the weight on her while your fingers trace the crease of her ass from her tailbone to her cunt. She moans when you hook them inside her, four at once, stretching her around you. Your thumb is nudging her asshole, not her clit, you're hurting her on purpose, but she rides your knuckles and it doesn't matter. She's easy, this one.

When you feel her tighten, you brace your hand on her lower back to hold her down. Her spine is hot under your palm, curiously so, but you want her orgasm too badly to do anything but push harder through your knee and frak her.

Her diaphragm is compressed, and she struggles for air. "Come," you say, and as she does you lift off her so she can breathe. This is the life you give rather than taking.

You'll wonder if they know you were frakking her. That if you hadn't been frakking her, you might have seen it, and a hundred soldiers could still be alive, a hundred thousand Cylons dead. Not that your crew would dare to challenge you. The guards outside the cell will have their backs to you, resolutely indifferent. Gina will be sprawled out, palm pressed to her lip, coughing blood.

You'll kick her, square in the cunt. You'll kick her as hard as you want, as hard as you can. You'll tell yourself her cry of pain means nothing, that it's a simulation, a mockery of human suffering. You'll kick her again, and again, and again, trying to believe it.

She'll attempt to crawl away and you'll be on her, your gun blunt against the curve of her ass. "I should execute you," you'll say, twisting her arm behind her so that it will break if she moves. You'll slide the barrel along the margin of her thigh, watch the tip disappear into the shadow between her legs. You'll remember how she feels inside, hot and hungry, as you force the gun into her. Gina will scream.

"How did you contact the Cylons, Gina?" She'll shudder silently. She'll never tell you anything, and you'll know it. You'll know she'd tell you more dead and autopsied. "I'll fire this bullet into your belly, rip you right open." Your hand will shake. This is the life you give.

"Please," she'll choke. You'll know she shouldn't still have a name, to you.

The survival of your species is stamped in your body, in the catalogue of chronic aches that remind you that you're not as young as you used to be (when you were flying Vipers, when all you had to do was follow orders). You don't turn around as Gina puts her report on the desk in front of you, as she nudges your hand away from your sore shoulder. Her thumbs dig into the back of your neck with just the right amount of pressure, dipping under the edge of your tanks. You let your head fall forward as she maps the web of knots, releasing the muscle from each vertebra.

You never have to ask her to do this. Once, after she worked you over, you asked where she learned to give massages. You imagined a former lover. She laughed and said, "I must have been born knowing."

You don't look at her, but you stand up and reverse your chair so you're straddling it backwards. You strip your shirts and bra over your head, baring the length of your back to her. She counts out the day's losses in the gnarled places along your spine. You don't make a sound, but the tension trickles out and pools in your cunt.

"Are you going to do this again tomorrow?" Gina asks. "Kamikaze raids on Cylon cells? Calling it a successful op if more of them die than us?" You don't answer. Right now, you're more interested in her fingers between your shoulder blades. "You can't win by killing them a handful at a time."

"I'll have to find a way to kill them a shipful at a time." Your palm falls on the tactical diagram that's open on the desk.

Gina's hands reach your tailbone, and your torso feels like it's floating away from your hips. "I think someday you'll have to find a way not to kill them at all," she says.

If it were anyone else, you might saddle her with disciplinary shifts. You might toss her in the brig. But it's not anyone else, and with Gina, you let yourself be weary.

You turn around. "Don't think," you say. You unfasten your pants and push them down.

Gina kneels. You wonder if, when you ask her where she learned this, you'll get the same answer. You say, "We start drills for the new strike plan tomorrow."

It will be silent, except for the hitch in Gina's breathing. You'll slide down the wall and sit with your arms hugging your knees, soiled gun clutched in your fingers.

"Can you still talk to the Cylons?" you'll ask her blackly. "What are you telling them now?" You'll wipe the weapon on your pants, leaving streaks of red. "Why don't you tell them about the people you murdered? No software for feelings, toaster? WIll anyone care, when you die?"

You don't dwell on the holocaust, usually, but you'll think about it then, with a Cylon bleeding in front of you. "I mourn every person who died in the genocide." The wool of your uniform will be rough under your palm, woven of a thousand threads. "Like Laura Roslin," you'll say, without expecting it -- you haven't remembered Laura in years. It doesn't matter what you confess to a machine. "Laura Roslin was my lover, years ago. She was the Secretary of Education when you nuked the Colonies, that ambitious bitch. When I knew her, she was a teacher." You'll laugh, and the sound will rattle like a burned-out engine. "She certainly taught me things. She taught me not to give anything without knowing what you'll get in return. She taught me to be the harder one, never the one who's left wanting. I forgot that, with you. I won't forget it again."

You'll make her your penance. You'll have her tortured so that every day you can look at her broken body and be reminded that you flinched, and couldn't kill her. That you trusted her, in your moments of weakness. That you failed your crew and your people. You'll break her for you, not for her; pain means nothing to a machine. But you're still human, and you can't afford to be.

The new world comes, and Gina knows it. Even then, prone and brutalized, she'll know that you are the past, and she is the future. Laura Roslin doesn't know, but she will learn. You, Helena Cain, will be mired in the lessons of a darker time. I offer My word to My children, and those who cannot cleave to it will perish.