DISCLAIMER: Battlestar Galactica is the property of Glen A. Larson, Sci-Fi Channel, R & D TV, Sky and NBC Universal.
SERIES/SEQUEL: This is the fifth story in the 'Hide and Seek' series, following Water, Act of Contrition, You Can't Go Home Again and Six Degrees.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Flesh and Bone
Laura awoke, breathless. Her dream had been vivid and disturbing. She had been in her night clothes, running through a forest -- being hunted. Hands had pulled her to temporary safety and had pressed her against a tree. She had recognized the savior in her dream as the Cylon that Commander Adama had encountered on Ragnar Station. The Cylon had seemed to be trying to tell her something -- something important -- but, before the message had been delivered, reality pulled her from Morpheus' hold. Once again, she cursed her illness and her chosen treatment. The hallucinogenic side effects of Chamalla were well known. She knew the longer she was on the medication the more prominent the side effects would become. She wondered, briefly, which was better -- the Chamalla or the cancer.
She was still trying to settle her frayed nerves when Billy interrupted her thoughts and informed her that a Cylon had been found aboard the Gemenon Traveler.
Kara watched as a drop of perspiration slowly made its way from the Cylon's hairline, down its temple and onto the table. Studying the machine as it sat there with its head down, Kara couldn't help but be impressed by the Cylons' attention to detail. These human copies were physically perfect in every way. She smiled darkly, knowing that perfection would be to her advantage. In an interrogation, a person's physical responses were something she could count on. Human brings were predictable in that way. Since the Cylons went to the trouble of making these copies so much like people, Kara had somewhere to start. 'If it can sweat, it can bleed.'
She stared down at her cane in disgust, knowing it would automatically reveal weakness to the enemy, but, also knowing that it couldn't be helped. She squared her shoulders and, with a deep breath, entered the room. One of the first things she noticed was the rank odor coming from the Cylon. 'Well, he certainly smells like he's been stowed away for weeks.' Silently cursing the Cylons' attention to that particular detail, she dropped her paperwork on the table, hoping the noise would cause the Cylon to flinch. When it didn't react at all, she asked, "Sleeping?"
"Praying," it responded, picking its head up off the table.
"I don't think the gods answer the prayers of toasters."
"God answers everyone's prayers," it said with a small smile.
She ignored it when it introduced itself. She was here to interrogate it, not become its friend. She had no intention of answering its questions or telling it who she was. One of the most powerful weapons she had was her ability to keep the Cylon in the dark. She needed it to wonder who she was and what was going to happen. She needed it off balance.
The trouble was, it wasn't off balance. It wanted to control the coversation and, by extension, the situation. Any questions she asked went unanswered and were countered with questions of its own. Quickly becoming annoyed by his non-answers and insistent need to know who she was, Kara decided to let him stew for a while and got up to leave. She had almost made it to the door when its voice stopped her in her tracks.
"Are you Lieutenant Starbuck? Yes, you are. I knew it. I was right. I was right. I saw it. I've seen it."
She turned and looked at the Cylon. The smug, self-satisfied look on its face was both infuriating and disturbing. "Happy now?"
"It all makes sense now, doesn't it? Now we can talk. Now we can talk about a lot of things."
Aboard Colonial One, Laura was about to disconnect from the conference call she had shared with Kara and Adama when she asked, "Commander, just out of curiosity, why did you send Lieutenant Thrace to interrogate this Cylon?"
"You asked me to send someone who wouldn't be easily confused or manipulated by this machine. Kara Thrace is the most stubborn, and, in some ways, the most cynical person I have under my command. If it can get into her head, it can get into anyone's."
"I see. Thank you, Commander. Keep me informed."
"Of course, Madam President."
Laura knew full well how stubborn Kara could be, but also knew she was more tender-hearted than she would show most people. She didn't like the thought of Kara alone in a room with a Cylon. She liked even less that the Cylon wanted to be in a room with Kara.
Laura's eyes were once again drawn to the picture of the Cylon, Leoben. She found it strange that she had been dreaming about him just moments before he had been discovered in the fleet, but since it was disclosed that the Cylons could mimic human form, everyone had been on edge, not knowing who to trust. The general paranoia pervading the fleet and the unpredictable effects of the Chamalla extract were probably combining in her dreamscape, manifesting her own fears.
'Yes. That has to be the reason.'
"God, you stink. Can I get some air in here? Between you and the humidity...."
The Cylon's words echoed in Kara's mind as she made her way back to the interrogation room. They were the words of her mother. Every time Kara would be banished after a supposed infraction of an arbitrary house rule -- without light, without food -- and then released after an unpredictable number of days, her mother would say, 'God, you stink. Can I get some air in here? Between you and the humidity...' and Kara would be free again, until the next invisible line, unknowingly crossed, would send her back to her prison.
The words it used couldn't have been a coincidence. This Cylon seemed to know things about her. From Commander Adama's after action report on what happened on Ragnar Station, she knew Cylons could share information collectively, but the only people who knew about her periodic imprisonment were Kara, her mother and, presumably, this Cylon. Kara ruefully wondered if her mother had been a Cylon.
'That would certainly explain a few things.'
Kara took a deep breath, preparing to enter the interrogation room for the second time. Thinking about her mother wouldn't do her any good. She couldn't let the Cylon distract her. If it was telling the truth, there was a nuclear warhead hidden on one of the ships in the fleet. She needed to find out where, no matter what she had to do, or it could destroy them all. As the guard was about to open the door, she turned to him and said, "Wait about ten minutes, then bring me a tray of food."
"So you pray to Artemis and Aphrodite?"
Kara sat with a look of studied indifference on her face. She had no intention of giving it any information it could use against her. The problem was, it didn't seem to need her to tell it anything. It already knew. Although, it was only half right. She prayed to Artemis and Athena. Kara wondered if the Commander was right and Leoben was just guessing.
"To know the face of God is to know madness."
Kara couldn't help but lean back, close her eyes and sigh. She had seen madness. She saw it every day growing up and it certainly wasn't the face of God. Kara listened as Leoben told her that it knew things -- saw things -- that she didn't and wondered if all the Cylons were programmed with this self-important, religious crap.
"I have a surprise for you. I have something to tell you about the future."
"Is that so?"
"It is, but we have to see this through to the end." His enigmatic smile made Kara wonder if he already knew what the end was going to be.
When the guard arrived with her food, Kara saw the hungry look in the Cylon's eyes. She smiled to herself, pleased that the Cylon was reacting just as she hoped it would. She made an attempt to eat while Leoben went on about faith and swimming and streams. After a few bites she pushed the food away with a derisive comment about the galley and waited. She wanted to make him ask for it and she knew that he would ask. He was too hungry not to ask.
"Do you mind?"
Kara shrugged with a small smile and pushed the tray forward a few inches. Now that she had made it ask for what it wanted, she wanted to make it reach for it. She watched with satisfaction when its fingers strained to make purchase with the tray as it eagerly slid the food over to itself.
"I'm starving. I haven't eaten for days."
"Kind of bad programming, isn't it?" she asked as she watched him eat. "I mean, why bother with hunger?"
"Part of being human."
"You're not human," she said with some frustration. She wondered about the Cylons' desire to act like humans. At first she thought it was just a way to get closer to their enemy, infiltrate the Colonies and bring about the destruction of the human race, but the more Leoben talked the more she realized that the war was only part of the Cylons' plan. They didn't just want to act like humans, they wanted to be humans. They wanted to feel things, to experience them as only humans can.
'Well, if that's what you want, that's what you're going to get.' She nodded to the guard behind Leoben and watched as a blow rocked the Cylon.
"Did that hurt?" she asked with mock innocence.
"Yeah, that hurt."
"Machines shouldn't feel pain. Shouldn't bleed." Kara allowed herself a small smile as she raised her eyebrows and continued, "Shouldn't sweat."
"Sweat. That's funny. That's good."
"See now a smart Cylon would turn off the old pain software about now, but I don't think you're so smart."
"Maybe I'll turn it off and you won't even know."
Kara nodded again and another blow rained down on the Cylon.
"Here's your dilemma. Turn off the pain and you feel better, but that makes you a machine -- not a person." Almost wishing it were possible for her to flip a switch and avoid all the pain that life had handed her, Kara continued with a distant look, "See humans beings can't turn off their pain. Human beings have to suffer. And cry. And scream. And endure, because they have no choice. So the only way you can avoid the pain you are about to receive is by telling me exactly what I want to know. Just like a human would."
"I knew this about you. You're everything I thought you would be, but it won't work. I won't tell you anything."
A part of her was looking forward to making this Cylon pay for destroying her home -- killing her people. She looked at its face and saw nothing but what he respresented -- the new face of a soulless enemy. An enemy that they had defeated once before and that deserved to suffer for the wanton destruction of twelve planets and the senseless deaths of billions of people. She couldn't make all the Cylons pay, but she could certainly make sure this one did. She felt the familiar blood lust flow through her veins. It was something all combat personnel faced -- the thrill of the hunt, the joy of the kill. She barely kept her emotions in check as she answered the Cylon.
"Maybe not, but then you'll know deep down that I beat you -- that a human being beat you -- and that you are truly no greater than we are. You're just a bunch of machines after all."
"Let the games begin."
She sat back and watched with satisfaction while the Cylon was pistol-whipped by the guard. 'You want to be human? Be careful what you ask for.'
Kara sighed and tried to blink away her fatigue and frustration. She had been at this for hours. She was tired, she was hungry, her knee hurt like a bitch and she distantly thought that if she had to listen to one more word about bodies of water, she was going to beat the Cylon over the head with her cane. Time was running out. She had to find out if there was a bomb or if Leoben was lying. The Fleet was counting on her. Adama was counting on her. Laura was counting on her.
As she thought about the next phase of the interogation, thoughts of Laura made her close her eyes as she imagined the look of disapproval she would see in her eyes if Laura knew what was happening, and what would hapen, in that room. The older woman wouldn't understand what she was doing -- why this was necessary. She would probably be sickened by the tactics that Kara was using. Laura was too kind, too idealistic, to ever condone torture -- even of a machine. At this point, Kara wasn't sure she, herself, condoned what she had doing to this Cylon.
Kara forcefully pushed thoughts of the older woman, and her own conscience, out of her mind as she considered the next part of her plan. She needed the information, regardless of how she got it. She needed to raise the stakes. "You have a thing about rivers and streams, don't you? I think we should indulge you in your obsession."
With another nod, the guards left the room to prepare the next phase of the interrogation, leaving Kara sitting across the table from the coldest eyes she had ever seen.
"You realize I could kill you before they came back in the room? I could get to my feet, rip your skull from your spinal column, crash through that door and kill the guard in less time than it's taken me to describe it to you?"
"Then why don't you?" she challenged.
"It's not the time."
Kara had barely finished rolling her eyes at what she assumed was the Cylon's false bravado before Leoben was up and moving. He broke free of his handcuffs, tossed the table aside and had Kara pinned to the wall in the blink of an eye. The pressure on her throat was causing her to feel light-headed and black spots were beginning to swim in front of her eyes. His strength was unbelievable. He was holding her off her feet with one hand and holding a steel door closed with the other. The guards on the other side of the door were pushing, trying to get in, but the Cylon wasn't even straining to keep it closed. He looked her in the eye and smiled, enjoying her fear.
"I have a surprise for you."
In that moment Kara was as certain as she had ever been that she was about to die. Then, just as quickly as he had attacked her, he let her go, allowing the guards who had entered from the other entrance to wrestle him down, even though she knew he could easily have thrown the men off. She knew from Adama's report about Ragnar Station that, even incapacitated by the nebula's radiation, this Cylon, or, rather, a copy of it, had almost killed the Old Man. Any worry of her treatment of a prisoner went out the window when she was faced with the very real possibility that Leoben could back up any threat he had made. She couldn't let Leoben gain an advantage again.
"You frakked up, pal. Now the gloves come off."
"I'm not afraid of dying."
Kara let out a frustrated sigh at Leoben's persistence. "Somebody has programmed you with a fairy tale of God and streams and life ever after, but somewhere, in that hard drive that you call a brain, is a beeping message. Error. Error. Does not compute. I don't have a soul, I have software. If I die, I'm gone."
Kara watched as Leoben was once again held under water longer than a human could stand. On her signal, the guards dragged him out of the water and threw him to the ground where he lay gasping for air. She looked at his bloody body and had to admit a certain admiration for his endurance.
"I have a soul. I see patterns. I know you. You're damaged. You were born to a woman who believed that suffering was good for the soul. So you suffered. Your life was a testament to pain. Injuries. Accidents. Some inflicted upon others. Others inflicted upon yourself. It surrounds you like a bubble but it's not real. It's just something she put in your head. It's something that you want to believe because it means that you're the problem, not the world that you live in. You want to believe it because it means that you're bad luck. You're like a cancer that needs to be removed. Because you hear her voice every day and you want her to be right."
Kara listened to the Cylon lay her life bare in one succinct, strangely peaceful, speech. She felt her anger build with every word, replacing her reluctant admiration. Even if this Cylon did, somehow, know about her what right did he have to talk about it? She didn't like to think about her mother. Her mother had given her nothing but a damaged soul and hands that ached when it got cold.
As she listened to Leoben, Kara thought about her life, recognizing the truth in his words. The anger she couldn't quite control. Taking dangerous risks, without worrying about the consequences or the broken bones that would result. The high she would get from a fight or sex. It was all the same -- a way to sooth her demons, at least for a few minutes. None of it was ever satisfying for very long. None of it gave her any peace.
She had heard people talk about inner peace, but she never understood them because she had never felt it -- even with Zack there was always something missing, something just out of her reach. He was eager and attentive and she knew he loved her. She had loved him, too, as much as she was capable of, anyway. For the first time since her father had died, she had allowed herself to be close to someone, but, still, she was always waiting for the other shoe to drop. She always fully expected the ceiling to come crashing down, so she could never be at peace with him.
She thought that was the way things would always be for her until that night -- that night so long ago with Laura. She remembered feeling at peace briefly -- in that moment between consciousness and unconsciousness, the woman's soft curves pressed against her own as she drifted in that utopian juncture right before sleep claimed her for the night. She remembered tracing a gentle orbit around the woman's navel with her fingers, like a moon circling Caprica. In that moment she had been filled with a feeling of safety and security. It was a feeling she had craved all her life, but had never felt again -- may never feel again.
That bleak thought caused a roiling pit of ache and need and anger and despair to erupt in her stomach. The only outlet for its release was gasping for air in front of her.
Laura looked at herself in the mirror, a tendril of hair in her hand. She smile fondly, remembering Kara fingering that same piece of hair that night a lifetime ago on Caprica. Still lost in memory, she reached for her hairbrush. When she returned her attention to the mirror she was startled by a second face looking back at her.
"I have something to tell you."
She started awake and quickly looked around her cabin, half-expecting the Cylon to still be there. Her gaze turned inward once she confirmed she was alone. These dreams had to mean something. They had to be more than mere coincidence. The Cylon needed to tell her something and, if the dreams were any indication, Laura needed to hear what he had to say. She stood and flung open the curtain between her quarters and her office.
"How long before this supposed bomb goes off?"
Billy suppressed his surprise at the President's abrupt entrance and tone. He looked at the clock and then answered, "Less than an hour."
"I want you to get me a shuttle. I'm going to the Gemenon Traveler. I want to see the Cylon myself."
"Madame President, you need to reconsid---"
"Don't even start. I don't want to discuss this. I've made my decision."
"Not until I get you a security detail."
Laura waited while Billy arranged for her security guards. While she did need to see the Cylon herself, Laura was also filled with an almost overwhelming desire to see Kara. She had been worried since the phone call they had share with Commander Adama. At the time she had hoped for a moment in private with Kara, just to be sure the younger woman was all right, but Adama's presence had made that impossible, but soon she would see the young woman herself.
"Enough! For frak's sake, let him breath!"
Kara had never seen anyone able to take this much abuse and still remain silent. With another nod of her head, she dismissed the guards who had been holding Leoben's head under water. Once again alone with the Cylon, she shook her head, trying to understand this man in front of her.
"Your sick. You're not a person. You're a machine that's enjoying its own pain."
Leoben looked at her calmly and said, "All of this has happened before and all of it will happen again."
"Don't quote scripture. You don't have the right to use those words."
"You kneel before idols and ask for guidance, and you can't see that your destiny's already been written. Each of us plays a role. Each time a different role. Maybe the last time I was the interrogator and you were the prisoner. The players change, the story remains the same. And this time -- this time -- your role is to deliver my soul unto God. Do it for me. It's your destiny and mine. And I told you I had a surprise for you. Are you ready? You're going to find Kobol. The birthplace of us all. Kobol will lead you to Earth. This is my gift to you, Kara."
Kara stared at him. She understood his implication. He had given her a gift and he expected something in return. He was asking her to kill him. Begging her to kill him. She had killed before, of course, but it was always from the comfort and isolation of her Viper cockpit. She had never looked any of her kills in the eye. She had never seen them as people. It was contrary her training. Against her will, somehow, in the last eight hours, she had stopped seeing Leoben as a machine and had begun to regard him as a person -- or, at least, as a sentient being.
She remembered seeing the fear in his eyes when she told him he was too far out and his soul couldn't make it all the way back to God. She had felt that same fear when she was a child. She had felt that same fear when she had been stranded on that planet after her Viper had gone down. It was the fear of being isolated, completely cut off from everyone. It was the fear of never being able to get back where you belonged. And it was that fear that made her believe everything that Leoben had said.
Kara was so lost in thought she didn't notice the loud clanging of the door to the interrogation room being opened.
"What the hell is going on here?"
Kara felt her stomach fall as the sound of Laura's voice brought her back to the reality of why she was in this room in the first place. She looked at the bleeding, wet figure sitting in the chair in front of her and knew that she had failed -- again. For eight hours she had used every interrogation technique she knew of to break him and, while she had learned so much, she hadn't learned anything about the bomb.
"What exactly is it that you are doing here?"
Kara tried to ignore the thinly veiled disappointment in Laura's eyes as she defended her tactics. She tried to push way her own disappointment as she was forced to admit that, despite everything, she still had no idea where the nuke was.
"You've spent the last eight hours turturing this man -- this machine, whatever it is -- and you don't have a single piece of information to show for it."
Kara took a moment to look through the window at Leoben, the effects of the torture he had endured plain on his face. She had to make Laura understand that this wasn't just about a bomb anymore. There were larger and more complex issues at hand than the location of a single weapon.
"He thinks he can see the future. Says he knows our destiny. Our fate. He says we're going to find Kobol and that it's going to lead us to Earth."
Laura saw the slightly lost and confused look in Kara's eyes as she looked back at the prisoner. She silently cursed the young woman for her hidden, soft-hearted nature. She silently cursed Adama for putting Kara in a position to be partially responsible for what would happen next. She silently cursed herself for what she knew she was about to do.
"Clean him up. There's not much time."
"Yes, sir." Kara could only nod as she turned to follow the President's order.
As Leoben walked toward her, his gait hampered by his shackles, Laura tried to decide what tactic would be best to get the truth out of this Cylon. In her teaching years, she had learned that kindness often took you farther than anything else. With that in mind, she decided that playing good cop to Kara's bad cop was the best option. She knew she was playing a dangerous game with a deadly enemy, but she didn't see any other choice for the moment.
"I apologize for what you've been through. Take his restraints off."
Kara shared an uncertain look with the guards when she heard Laura's request.
"Do it!" Laura said in her most cammanding tone, knowing she couldn't afford to appear weak in front of this prisoner.
The more forceful order from the President could not be ignored, so Kara slowly edged her way closer to Laura as Leoban's hands and feet were freed from the shackles. She wanted to be near if Leoben tried something. She could still feel Leoben's hands around her neck and wanted to be able to protect Laura, if protection was required.
Laura looked at the Cylon who had haunted her sleep. She knew this was their last chance to get the information they needed in order to ensure the safety of the fleet. "This conflict between out people's doesn't have to continue. It can stop here -- with us. We have to trust each other. Trust me. I think you kow you can. Tell me what I need to know and you will live."
"The warhead doesn't exist."
Kara didn't hear the rest of what Leoben said. The only thing that mattered was those four words. Those four words meant everything Kara had done over the last eight hours was for nothing. Those four words meant she had tortured a man for nothing. Those four words meant she had sacrificed a portion of her humanity for nothing. In a haze of confusion and disappointment, she left to check with the Old Man, already knowing they hadn't found anything.
"I see. Thank you for the truth." Keenly aware of Kara's departure and the defeated slump to the young woman's shoulders, Laura tried to focus on what she had to do next. Her thoughts were interrupted by Leoben.
"Don't be too hard on Kara. She was just doing her job. The military -- they teach you to dehumanize people."
Laura narrowed her eyes when the Cylon called Kara by her first name. She had feared from the conference call earlier that this Cylon was going to be able to get inside Kara's natural defense mechanisms. The fact that they seemed to be on a first name basis and the lost, sympathetic look in Kara's eyes whenever she looked at the Cylon seemed to confirm those fears. Any further worry about the young woman's state of mind were lost as Leoben lurched forward and grabbed Laura in a firm, but, somehow non-theatening, embrace.
She saw the guards raise their weapons, startled by the Cylon's sudden move.
"Stand down," Laura said as she held her hands out, not wanting to be shot by an over-eager Marine. As her heart rate was returning to normal, the voice from her dream whispered in her ear.
"Laura, I have something to tell you." She held her breath, knowing that she was finally going to hear the secret that had been left untold in her dreams. "Adama is a Cylon."
When his words registered, she immediately pushed the Cylon away from her. She began to shake her head and mumble as though the words she had heard didn't make any sense. She looked back at the Cylon's face and saw a smug, self-important smile. Distantly, she noticed Kara return and move to stand next to her.
When Kara came back, she knew something had happened while she was gone. The tension in the room was palpable and Laura looked rattled. Concern for the older woman took over and she walked to Laura's side as quickly as her cane would allow.
"Are you alright?"
Laura heard the note of concern in Kara's voice and she immediately felt more balanced. She wanted nothing more than to lose herself in the calm of Kara's presence, but knew the Cylon was watching them and she needed to keep her focus on the situation. "I'm fine. The warhead?"
Looking at this Cylon, Laura found herself, like so many other times in the last four weeks, in a position she had never dreamed possible. She had never wanted the power of life and death over anyone, but since the power had been thrust upon her she had no choice but to make the hard decisions -- the decisions that no one else wanted to make. It was her job and, although she had never asked for it, she had to do it to the best of her abilities, no matter what the toll on her soul.
"Put him out the airlock," she said with a strength that surprised her.
"What? You can't do that. Not after he told you the truth." An order of execution was, quite literally, the last thing Kara had expected Laura to say.
"Yes, I can and I will," Laura said. Seeing the confusion in Kara's eyes and, although she wanted with all that was in her to be gentle with Kara, she hardened her voice and forced herself to continue, "Leiutenant, look at me. You've lost perspective. During the time I have allowed him to remain alive and captive on this ship, he has caused our entire fleet to spread out defenseless. He puts insidious ideas in our minds -- more lethal than any warhead. He creates fear. But, you're right he is a machine and you don't keep a deadly machine around when it kills your people and threatens your future. You get rid of it."
Kara could hear the truth in what Laura said, but couldn't accept it. Killing someone, or threatening to kill someone, was only useful if death mattered to the person being threatened. If she had learned anything in the last eight hours, it was that death didn't matter to Leoben. The only thing of consequence to this man was the journey of his soul -- a journey that, for better or worse, he had entrusted to her.
"He's not afraid to die. He's just afraid his soul won't make it to God."
Kara watched Leoben in the bay, his hand pressed against the glass, reaching toward her. She couldn't shake the feeling that, while what they were about to do was wrong, there was no other way for the day to end. Leoben had been right from the beginning. This was a destiny that had to be fulfilled. She had to send him back to God. Cautiously, and without regard to whomever may be watching, she limped forward and slowly brought her hand up to the glass to meet his.
Kara stood looking at her hand as it touched, and yet not touched, Leoben's and for the first time in her life she looked her enemy in the eye as he faced his own death. She was struck by the sense of peace she saw. He seemed to accept his fate, as if it was exactly as he expected it to be, which, of course, it was.
Laura felt more than saw Kara begin to hobble forward toward the Cylon. She watched with regret as Kara lifted her hand to meet the Cylon's, a thick layer of glass the only barrier. Not wanting to delay the inevitable, Laura gestured toward the guard who would open the outer bay doors and expose this man -- this machine -- to the vaccum of space.
As alarms sounded, stood transfixed by an image identical to the one in her dreamscape as Leoben's body was sucked of of the bay like a rag doll, flipping end over end until he was out of sight.
As the guards shuffled out, Laura watched Kara as she stood, her hand still pressed against the glass, staring at where Leoben's body had been.
"Yes, Madam President?" Kara cocked her head in acknowledgment, but didn't turn to face Laura.
"I have business on the Galactica. I need to see the Commander. Would you like to join me for the trip back or would you prefer to wait for your shuttle to return?" Laura asked carefully. She could tell the young woman was shaken by everything that had occurred and, as much as Laura wanted Kara to talk to her about what had happened, she wanted to give the younger woman the opportunity to have some time to herself if that's what she wanted.
Kara turned and looked at the woman who had just spaced Leoben. She saw Laura in a new light. This 'kindergarten teacher' who had become the leader of her people had just killed a man -- a machine, she reminded herself. Laura had had the courage and the fortitude to make a decision of which Kara thought the older woman incapable. It seemed that, in just a few short weeks, Laura Roslin had learned the art of war better than she herself had in all her years in the military.
"I'll join you, Madam President."
The trip to the docking bay was silent, each woman immersed in thought. Aboard the Colonial One shuttle, they sat in the rear compartment, alone.
"Kara?" the President asked, concerned for the unusually silent woman.
"He wasn't what I expected."
"How so?" Laura was concerned about the flat note in Kara's voice, but grateful the young woman was talking.
"He knew things about me, about how I grew up. How is that possible?"
"What kind of things?"
Kara looked at Laura, eyes filled with pain, before shaking her head. "That's not important. It's private. Or that's I thought, anyway. How could he know things I've never told anyone?"
"I don't know. The Cylons are experts at manipulating people. They can't be trusted, Kara. They think if they sow enough seeds of doubt, we will turn against each other," Laura said, thinking about Leoban's assertion that Adama was a Cylon. While she didn't want to suspect the Commander, she was forced to admit the possibility.
"But we only know what three of them look like. Three out of how many? How can we possibly know who to trust?"
"I know I trust you. Trust me," Laura said, taking Kara's hand in hers.
Kara searched Laura's eyes for the truth of her statement, knowing she had said almost the same words to Leoben just before she had ordered his death. Satisfied with the earnest, genuine look in Laura's eyes, Kara nodded almost imperceptively. She looked down at their joined hands and wrestled with the things Leoben had said.
+++It surrounds you like a bubble but it's not real. It's just something she put in your head. It's something that you want to believe because it means that you're the problem, not the world that you live in. You want to believe it because it means that you're bad luck. You're like a cancer that needs to be removed. Because you hear her voice every day and you want her to be right."+++
He had been right. It was her mother's voice that caused her to keep happiness at arm's length. Every time she had been confronted by something would make her happy she had made the choice to believe it was too good to be true She had chosen to believe that happiness and peace were more than she deserved so she had distanced herself and not grabbed hold of the opportunities that were right in front of her.
Looking back up at Laura, she knew this was her moment to choose. She could choose to fulfill her mother's prophecy or she could choose to take the chance to rediscover the peace that she had only known when holding the woman who sat next to her. She took a quick glance around, ensuring their privacy, before leaning toward Laura and capturing her lips in a gentle, almost reverent, kiss. When she pulled back, Kara had the beginnings of her trademark grin on her face.
"I've wanted to do that for a month."
Laura smiled and said, "I've wanted you to."
The two women sat back, still holding hands, as the shuttle prepared to land on the Galactica.
Laura sat at her desk on Colonial One, her mind reeling over everything that had happened over the last few hours. She had done things of which she had never thought herself capable. She had killed. He was a machine, yes, and the enemy, but still, he was a sentient being and she had killed him. One thing that disturbed her was that it was the right decision. Laura knew that part of her job now -- part of her life -- was making the decsions that no one else wanted to make. Even if those decisions seemed cold and heartless. Even if those decisions damaged her soul. What disturbed her the most, however, was that the image of him hurtling out into space was identical to what she had seen in her dream. She had no idea how that could happen or what it might mean.
She closed her eyes, remembering the horrified look on Kara's face when she had ordered the Cylon's death. Something had happened in that room between the Cylon and Kara -- something that shook the leiutenant to her very core. Somehow the Cylon had information about Kara's past -- information that the young blonde thought she could keep hidden from the rest of the world -- information that would only hold power while it was still a secret.
Laura looked at the phone on her desk, wondering if what she wanted to do was right. Releasing a breath, she picked up the phone.
"Yes. Can you get me the captain of the Gemenon Traveler, please?"
Laura waited, nervously tapping her finger on her desk, for the connection to be made.
"Yes, Captain. I'd like to thank you and your crew for everything you did to catch and detain the Cylon today."
"It was certainly our pleasure, sir. Anything we can do to help secure the fleet."
"Of course." Laura hesitated, before asking what she really wanted to know. "Captain, was there a recording made of the interrogation?"
"Yes, although we aren't really equipped for that sort of thing, so it is audio only."
"I'd like you to send it to me."
"Lords of Kobol, hear my prayer. I don't know if he had a soul or not, but if he did, take care of it."
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