DISCLAIMER: I do not own the Battlestar Galactica TV series or Battlestar Galactica: Razor, or Ender's Shadow, and I sure don't make any profit from this. Too bad…
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is a sort of character vignette of Kendra Shaw, with some dialogue from the special episode Battlestar Galactica Razor and from deleted scenes I found on the Scifi.com website. No real pairing, though there are some slightly slash-y references to Admiral Cain and Starbuck.
SPOILERS: Mostly Battlestar Galactica Razor, and a few I suppose for 2nd or 3rd season? What are we at now? I've actually missed a lot of recent episodes.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Human After All
By Lafitte


"…We humans do, when the cause is sufficient, spend our own lives. We throw ourselves onto the grenade to save our buddies in the foxhole. We rise out of the trenches and charge the entrenched enemy and die like maggots under a blowtorch. We strap bombs on our bodies and and blow ourselves up in the midst of our enemies. We are, when the cause is sufficient, insane."
Ender's Shadow, by Orson Scott Card

"History will have to make its judgments." --William Adama


Kendra didn't think it showed, the way she watched the Admiral. Dark eyes committed her actions, words, and moods to memory, in the faint hopes that if she memorized this woman, soaked her into her own skin, then Kendra might be able to take on her toughness like the kind of clunky armor the Cylons used to wear. Back before they started inhabiting human bodies and lives and names, and made betrayal personal. It's why, she thinks, Admiral Cain was so good at fighting the Cylons; like them, she could cover herself with a hard angry shell and shutter her eyes from doubt when needed. Slowly, Major Kendra Shaw has gotten better at doing the same, rebuilding her body and mind, growing tough.

Nobody seems to notice this because nobody, after all, can read the woman's mask. They don't see her as anything but brave, efficient, cold, fearsome, heartless—she sees it in their eyes when they talk to her, the same glimmer of horror and unease mixed with admiration that Col. Fisk wore when he looked at her on the Scylla, after the gun fire had faded into echoes. They look at her, now, the way they used to regard Admiral Cain.

Except for Starbuck. As they both hide out in the kitchen, she spies the least tremble in Kendra's ramrod posture and blank face and knows that it is nothing but a mask. Smiles in that frakking infuriating way, leans closer to her, and for a fleeting moment Kendra wonders if the Viper pilot is going to kiss her. She's not sure what she would do if that happened.

Starbuck is the definition of unpredictable, her predatory gaze and cutting words throwing the major's rational mindset into a whirl that even drugs won't settle. Kendra can't help watching the blonde, finding her as fascinating and troubling as Admiral Cain once was.

What bothers her most is Starbuck represents who she could have been, with the same fierce, determined recklessness and tendency towards self-destruction. They are evenly matched, and given enough time and pressure they might demolish each other—or maybe combust together, as the heat in Starbuck's eyes hints. Either way it would be explosive. Yet Kendra possesses something that the Galactica pilot lacks: the Admiral's razor, reminding her that when times get tough, she must retract her self back into hardness, into smooth killing force.

That is why she gives Starbuck the knife, right before forcing her to leave the Cylon base. To give up that part of herself, and to pass it on to someone who will need it more. The other woman doesn't seem to understand, at least not yet, but if anyone can someday understand Kendra's life and the choice she makes now, it is Starbuck.

"Why don't you tell me how you got to be such a frakkin' hard-ass?" Starbuck asks her, half in exasperation, half in respect.

Kendra knows what she's really asking, and knows that the answer would be too long, given the barrage of fire and the blood trickling from her wound. It has to do with the Admiral, the sound of gunshots on a civilian ship, and the beautiful face of betrayal. All the events which have brought her to this moment, this ship, and which have forged her into a weapon, could not be explained so quickly, but she tries anyway.

"I never thought this would be my life," she says.

"None of us did," Starbuck retorts. She is giving Kendra a way out, telling her that she isn't her mask, that the events they'd lived through made them this way. Not her fault that she has become as brittle and sharp as a death-thin knife.

But it will be Kendra's fault if she cannot manage to do this, if she doesn't press the button and detonate this nuke. This is her last chance to make it right, no matter what the Cylon does or says. Maybe he is right about Starbuck, and she'll bring about the end of the human race—but Kendra has seen into that woman's eyes and known the fire burning there, stronger than her own smoldering anger. If there's anyone who can defy the Cylons and the gods themselves, it's Kara Thrace.

The hybrid Cylon's withered, clutching hand reminds Kendra, oddly enough, of her grandfather. He was a pious man who used to tell her stories about the gods, sparking her interest in the classics; he also told her that the Lords of Kobol judged everyone when they died. Right now she hopes they are still backlogged with all the millions who perished on the colonies, including her grandfather, so maybe they won't get around to judging her. She knows she has a lot to pay for. The Cylon somehow knows this too, asks her whether she wishes to be forgiven.

"Yes," the major replies, voice harsh, though she doubts it is possible. Too much blood spilled by these shaking hands.

But perhaps, somehow, destroying this evil creature with words of prophecy in his decaying mouth and saving the souls back on Pegasus might balance some of her worse deeds. It isn't a cowardly way out when it ensures the survival of others, is it? she wonders. Because Kendra would rather be seen as anything—traitor, outcast, murderer—other than a coward. And though her heart pounds painfully and her stinging wound only reminds her of the life seeping from her body, she will sacrifice herself if it makes her actions worth something.

That is what separates her from the Admiral, she thinks, and from this ancient Cylon trying to poison her last thoughts. Starbuck saw it, though no one else did: that even beneath the hard, dented, but razor-sharp armor, Kendra is human enough to commit a sacrifice beyond all reason. She is afraid and full of doubt but she will still press this button. She has admired, almost even loved, a woman whose actions may have been despicable and inhuman. She will not let the Cylons take away the last shred of hope to which humanity clings, however irrationally.

The muscles in her hand contract and she expels one last breath, thinking that Admiral Cain was wrong about something: even a razor has imperfections, seen from a microscopic view, and it can break under enough pressure. A weapon has no fear, no regrets, but Kendra fears what is to come and regrets what she has already done. Now, however, is the last time she will have to carry this mask and be something more than human.

The End

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