Author: Lizbeth Marcs (liz_marcs)
Summary: Sam has learned that it’s better to be a crow than a bird of prey. Strangely enough, he’s okay with that.
Fandom: Battlestar Galactica (2003)
Spoilers: Definite spoilers for the New Caprica arc at the beginning of Season 3; vague spoilers through the end of Season 3.
Title, Author and URL of original story: Tessellation by fahye
Part 1 is posted here.
He can’t even begin to imagine why the Toasters thought sending a Bullethead out with each Skinjob was actually a good idea. A Skinjob alone, or even several Skinjobs together, would have made sense. They look human, and he knows they can act kind of human when motivated. The illusion of flesh and bone might’ve been enough to get some people to drop their guard. The accompanying Bullethead is going to shatter any illusion of humanity the Skinjob tries to project. First of all, centurions look like they’d rather kill a human than be on the same planet with one. Secondly, there’s no mistaking what they are or what they’re programmed to do.
What really makes the whole thing seem comical — or would if the Toasters didn’t have their claws wrapped around the collective necks of the human population — is that there’s no need for the centurions to ride shotgun. Sam knows from firsthand experience that one Skinjob could take down at least dozen people with its bare hands if anyone even thought of posing a threat.
Still, the Toasters’ stupidity works out to his benefit. The sound of a Bullethead’s ponderous, metallic tread provides ample advance warning. All he has to do is hear that repetitive ker-chunk, ker-chunk, ker-chunk and he’s changing directions or diving into the closest empty tent to wait out the threat of getting yanked into some insane interview about Human-Cylon relations.
His tactics for avoiding the tours are a resounding success, even if his search for Kara is not. Part of it is because he’s simply run out of whispers and rumors he can chase down. The other part is because there are so many damn Cylon listening tours circling the camp that it’s all he can do to steer clear.
Once the rumor mill lets him know that the Toasters are done interviewing everyone who lives near the central pyramid court, Sam retreats to it and takes a permanent seat on the jury-rigged bleachers. The regulars keep teasing him to join a pick-up game, but Sam simply waves them off. He needs to think of a new angle of attack if he’s going to find Kara. Playing pyramid would be too much of a distraction.
“Still nothing?” a female voice asks in his ear.
Sam startles and half-turns before he realizes that it’s Ellen.
Her lips form a moue. “Well, that look tells me all I need to know. Scoot over.”
When he doesn’t move fast enough, she gives his upper arm a shove to force him to give her room.
“C’mon, I don’t bite.” She hiccoughs something between a giggle and laugh as she climbs up next to him. “Actually, I do bite, but you have to ask nice. I don’t think you’re ready to ask nice.”
“Look, I’m really not in the mood—” Sam begins.
“Now, now that’s not entirely true,” Ellen soothes as she threads an arm around his and leans her head on his shoulder. “You are in a mood.”
Sam freezes. Unbelievable. Ellen’s coming on to him. Short of going one-on-one with a Skinjob, this is the last thing he needs.
Ellen lifts her head to look at him. She doesn’t bother to hide the fact that her appraising eyes are cataloging everything about him from head to toe. “When was the last time you washed?”
That question is so unexpected that it catches him completely off-guard. “What?”
“Wash, shave, eat for the Gods’ sake.” Ellen waves her free hand with irritation. “Does any of this sound familiar to you? I’ve seen Picon fishmongers look better than you look.” She wrinkles her nose and adds, “They smell better, too.”
“Did your husband send you?” Sam asks with irritation.
Ellen snorts, as if she has never heard such a ridiculous idea in all her life.
Sam shakes her off. “I’m supposed to believe that you’re here, on your own, because you’re worried about my health.”
Ellen’s hands dance through the air, effectively waving his complaints off as meaningless. “Oh, believe what you want, but do you think Saul’s sparing a thought for you?” she loudly asks. “Pleeeeeaaaaase. He’s far too busy to care about you.”
Sam rolls his eyes and turns his gaze back on the pyramid court just in time to see Jammer steal the ball away from Duck. “Still involved with his band, hunh?” Sam bitterly asks.
“Band.” Ellen wrinkles her nose as if the word smells bad. “Don’t get me started on that.”
Ellen heaves a theatrical, world-weary sigh. “Resigned.”
Sam once more returns his gaze to his unwanted companion. Somewhere between her sitting down next to him and this moment, Ellen’s aged 10 years. She appears lost, scared, and so uncertain as her gaze rakes across the tents arrayed around the pyramid court.
“This was our fresh start, you know,” she says in a low voice. “For once, Saul wouldn’t be thinking of that damn ship more than me, and I was going to…I don’t know. I wanted to be human, instead of just being the XO’s wife. Do you know what an XO’s wife does?”
“No. No, I can’t say I do,” Sam answers.
Ellen huffs a breath. “Neither do I.”
Sam tilts his head in an effort to see all of her face instead of just a profile. “Hey, a lot of people were looking for a new start when they came down here. You’re not alone.”
Ellen turns her head to look at him. The brave smile shaves a few years off her face. “No, I’m not. That’s why I was looking for you.”
“Oh?” Sam cautiously prompts.
“See, I was thinking…well, what I mean is that a little birdie told me that a certain Cylon is one of the ones doing those listening tours of theirs.” Ellen pokes his upper arm and adds, “Or should I say, a certain model of Cylon.”
“I don’t follow.”
“Boomer. Sharon. Eight. Or whatever she’s calling herself these days,” Ellen says. “You know who I’m talking about, right?”
The light dawns in Sam’s mind. “A Sharon. Like the one who helped us on Caprica.”
“Exactly like the one on Caprica, or maybe I mean exactly like the one who was on Galactica before that other one showed up.” She waves a dismissive hand. “Who can keep up? It’s so confusing figuring out who’s who. Anyway, when I heard about her making the rounds, or maybe I mean when I heard about one of her clones making the rounds, I immediately thought of you. You’re not getting anywhere running from one end of the camp to the other, so I think that maybe you should just ask one of them.”
Sam uncertainly scans the knots of people as they hurry their way past the pyramid court. “I’m not sure that walking up to any Skinjob and just asking them is a good idea. The last thing I need is to draw attention to myself. I blew up an awful lot of them on Caprica.”
Ellen regards him with a frown. “The Cylons didn’t round you up like they did Saul and the others, so maybe they don’t know that you were in the resistance.”
Sam lowers his voice and leans toward Ellen. “Except there’s at least three of them who actually saw me after I tried to blow them up. One of those was a Sharon model.”
As Ellen seems to ponder this information, Sam is struck by the idea that she’s smarter than most people give her credit for. He’s certainly heard enough stories about ‘the XO’s wife’ whenever Tyrol and Kara would get to drinking and start trading Galactica memories. In those tall tales, Ellen’s always a two-bit floozy, something of a fool, and a lot of trouble. This is the first time he and Ellen have exchanged more than pleasantries and, for the life of him, he can’t see that Ellen in this Ellen at all.
“Well, if they know about you, they know about you. Not too much you can do about that. I think it says something that you haven’t been picked up yet for one of their pep talks.” She suddenly frowns. “Although…” She shakes her head as her voice trails off. “No. Never mind.”
“What?” The question comes out a little more harshly than Sam intends.
Ellen takes a deep breath. “Maybe they took Kara to keep you in line.”
Sam dismisses it out of hand. “Kara’s actual military and I’m not, so that makes her a bigger target. Besides, I definitely got the impression that the Leoben grabbed her for personal reasons. It’s probably revenge. From what I’ve been able to gather from your husband and Tyrol, the last time Kara dealt with a Leoben it got spaced right after its interrogation.”
“Laura spaced him, not Kara,” Ellen points out. “Last I checked Laura’s still walking around camp and teaching in that school of hers.”
“Now we’re starting to talk in circles,” Sam grumbles.
“Do you want to find your wife or not?” Ellen asks.
Sam glares at her.
“Even if they don’t know about you, you’ve probably already drawn attention to yourself anyway, running crazy like you have,” Ellen says. “Besides, you said yourself a Leoben model walked right into your tent, so they must know she’s married at the very least. I can’t imagine that they don’t think her husband wouldn’t at least try to find her. For all any of us knows, they’ve been watching you run in around circles and they’re just waiting for you to walk up to one of them and ask. You’ve tried everything else, so I don’t see what you’ve got to lose.”
Sam scrubs a hand through his hair. Ellen is making too much sense for comfort.
“Now, as it so happens,” Ellen leans in close, once more threading an arm around his, “The chief saw a Sharon just an hour ago and immediately got word to me about it. He said that if you run over to the neighborhood around freighter Gemenon Movers right now, you’ll probably catch her.”
“Thanks,” Sam mutters as he stands up.
“What? Leaving so soon?” Ellen asks in a loud, bright voice.
Sam matches her in volume, if not in cheerfulness. “Errands to run.”
“Oh, well. I’m serious about on that one-on-one pyramid lesson. Drop by my tent. Any time,” she calls after him as Sam flees the pyramid court.
He can’t resist grinning like a loon as he threads his way through the crowd to reach his destination. A little hope — not to mention real evidence that Tyrol’s keeping his word — goes a long way.
It doesn’t take long to reach the Gemenon Movers. After 20 harrowing minutes as he runs from tent to tent, the too-familiar ker-chunk, ker-chunk, ker-chunk finally reaches his ears. He looks to the heavens, mouths a few silent words of thanks, and chases after the echoing sound.
When he finally catches up with the Bullethead making all the noise, he has to fight the urge to fall to his knees and praise Artemis for a successful hunt. Walking not more than a few meters in front of him is a genuine Sharon with its metal companion.
“Excuse me!” Sam calls out to it as he jogs towards the pair. “Hey! I want to talk to you!”
There’s the sound of metallic clangs and humans screaming as the world momentarily blurs and turns inside out. Before Sam can even begin to figure out what’s going on, a Bullethead is stranding at attention in front of him.
“Whoa!” he yells as he stumbles back a dozen steps. “I just want to talk!”
The centurion leans forward, enforcing the illusion that it’s looming over him. Sam freezes as the visor light hypnotically moves back-and-forth across its faceplate, even as the rest of its body remains preternaturally still.
While his heart beats out the warning thump-thump-thump, Sam swallows and stutters, “R-r-r-r-really. Just talk, okay?”
Even though there’s no way to physically tell, Sam has the strange notion that the Bullethead is puzzled by his very existence.
“It’s all right!” a female voice calls out. “It’s all right, no one’s getting hurt!”
You might want to tell that to this guy, Sam thinks as he forces himself to keep his hands where the centurion can see them.
The Sharon appears next to the centurion. Its eyes flick to Sam before it turns its full attention to its companion. “It’s okay,” it says as it places a delicate, white hand on the centurion’s breastplate. “We’re supposed to be talking to people, remember? The past doesn’t matter anymore.”
Oh, frak. That one statement tells Sam that the Sharon knows very well about his activities on Caprica.
The centurion stands upright and swivels its head so it can look down at the Sharon.
“It’ll be fine. Let me talk to him,” the Sharon coos at its companion and pats its breastplate. It looks almost like it’s soothing some overeager guard dog instead of placating a metal killing machine.
There’s a distinctly robotic sound as the centurion sharply turns around and treads a half-dozen steps away. Once it reaches a point that it probably judges to be far enough, but not too far to spring into action if there’s trouble, it simply stops.
The Sharon turns its attention to him. “I know you.”
Sam can feel the last of his hope drain away. “You were the Sharon I met in Caprica City. In the parking garage.”
“No. That wasn’t me. We haven’t met, but I remember you.” The Sharon’s voice is at least polite, if not quite warm. “I’m sorry about the reaction from the centurion. He recognized you and thought you were threatening me.”
With what? A handful of dirt? Sam wonders. He bites back the retort. He has to behave, for Kara’s sake. “I don’t plan on doing anything to anyone,” he forces himself to say. “I just want to talk to you.”
When the Sharon smiles its pinball-perfect smile at him, Sam can almost see the software command lines spooling out behind its eyes. It’s apologizing and smiling because it’s been programmed to know that humans do that to smooth over misunderstandings and make nice. It’s pretty frakking clear that this thing doesn’t understand why these everyday niceties are done, only that they have to be done if it ever wants to make friends out of enemies.
In that moment, Sam understands that this is all empty theater; he can see it so clearly that he wonders how anyone is ever taken in by a Skinjob. They’re not just copies of each other; they’re copies of the Cylons’ idea of what a human is. Until they day comes when they live like humans, breathe like humans, love like humans, and die like humans, they’ll never really know what being human really means.
The very thought brings him to the edge of tears. He tells himself that it’s because his hopes have been dashed, rather than a hint that on some level he actually feels bad that the Skinjob is reaching for something that it’ll never achieve.
“Are you okay?” the Sharon finally asks. It takes a tentative step forward and closely studies him. “Are you ill? You don’t look well. I’d be more than happy to accompany you to doctor—”
“My wife,” Sam hoarsely interrupts. “I’m looking for my wife. She was taken by a Leoben model the day you landed and she hasn’t been seen or heard from since.”
The Sharon looks confused. “A Leoben? There aren’t any on the surface as far as I know. Are you sure?”
“I’m sure. Kara identified the model by name before she was led away,” Sam lies.
The Sharon looks startled. “Your wife’s name is Kara?”
“Kara Thrace,” Sam answers. “I thought I’d ask you since Kara knew a Sharon. On the Galactica. That Sharon was a raptor pilot, I think.”
The Sharon tilts its head in a way that Sam is powerfully reminded that this thing in front of him is not human. He wonders if the questioning look on its face is because it’s somehow communing with the other Skinjobs. He wonders if it’s looking for information, or if it’s getting instructions on how to lie to him.
Suddenly, a broad grin breaks across the Sharon’s face. It’s as perfect, as empty, and as meaningless as its earlier reassuring smile. “I know Kara.”
Sam is floored. “You’re Boomer?”
The smile disappears. “No. I mean, I am Sharon, but not in the way you think. What I mean is, I remember Kara, but we haven’t—”
“Met. Yeah, I’m beginning to see how that works,” Sam interrupts. “Are your people holding her?”
The Sharon shakes her head. “As far as I know, no. But none of us Eights are involved with that kind of thing. I’ll check for you, and we can get word to you…will tomorrow be okay?”
Do I have a choice? He really shouldn’t complain. He didn’t expect to get this much consideration from any Cylon, let alone from a sister to the one he tried and failed to blow up.
“Where do you want me to go to get the information?” Sam asks. The second the question is out of his mouth, he realizes that he may have been set up. He’ll never be able to find Kara if he’s tossed in a cell.
“We’ll find you,” the Sharon says. “Just give me your name, and we’ll send someone to your tent.”
Sam lets out a breath he didn’t realize he was holding. Instead he says, “Thank you.”
He almost means it.
“Hello? Is anyone in there? Hello?”
Sam startles awake, half expecting to see Kara sitting in the corner with her cloak of crow feathers, blood-covered hands, empty eyes, and terrifying accusations. I don’t belong here. I’m not circuits and software. I’m not like you.
The female voice is still calling out. “I’m looking for Kara’s husband. His name’s Sam Anders, I think. Has anyone seen him?”
“In here,” Sam hoarsely calls out. He shakes his head to clear it. “I’m Sam.”
There’s a pause. “Is it okay if I come in? You sound like you just woke up.”
The woman outside his tent doesn’t sound like a Skinjob. Her voice is too alive somehow.
“Give me a second. Sorry about keeping you waiting. Let me just pull on some pants.”
“Oh. Okay.” There’s another pause. “I hate to rush you, but people are staring.”
Sam zips up his fly and grabs a jacket to throw on over his t-shirt. “I’m decent.”
When the woman pops her head into the tent, Sam almost falls over. He can’t believe it. It’s a Sharon.
The Sharon appears to be as shocked as he is. Its eyes widen and a hint of a smile tugs at the corner of its lips. “It is you. I thought they had to be wrong, because…this is unbelievable.” It shakes its head. “I should’ve known that Kara would come back for you since she gave you her dog tags, but married? Wow.”
Sam’s confusion deepens.
“Starbuck. Married,” it — no, she — no, it — repeats those words like it’s trying to make sense of them being together in the same sentence as it walks all the way into his tent.
“Do we know each other?” Sam asks. It’s a stupid question, he knows. They all know him; they all remember him. He should’ve asked—
“Yes, we’ve met,” the Sharon smiles at him. “In Caprica City.”
Sam stumbles backwards and lands in a chair.
“Hey, hey,” the Sharon says as it rushes over to him. “It’s okay. I don’t blame you. I was actually thinking about doing the same thing; you just beat me to it. Actually, you wouldn’t have beaten me to it if I knew where I could get my hands on any explosives.”
Sam stares at her. “Don’t take this wrong way, but I’m having a hard time figuring out who’s who, so…”
“Yeah. I remember what that’s like,” the Sharon nods.
The Sharon looks away. “It’s…it’s a long story.”
“I’d be happy with just a short version.”
The Sharon’s smile is crooked and imperfect, not at all like that perfect, empty-headed expression the other Sharon flashed at him yesterday. This one understands, in the same way that Helo’s and Kara’s Sharon understood back on Caprica. Sometimes you do things just because you do.
“Short version? I was the Sharon you met in the parking garage,” the Sharon explains.
“You let me escape,” Sam numbly says.
The Sharon shrugs. “You saved me from getting boxed. Besides, if you caught me earlier in the day, I would’ve helped you blow up the coffee shop. Once you put on the uniform, you never take it off, I guess. Before I woke up in a resurrection chamber, I was a raptor pilot on the Galactica. Adjusting to life as an Eight? That hasn’t been easy.”
Sam can feel his eyebrows crunch low. “You didn’t know?”
It — no, she, definitely a she — looks down at her hands. “No. I had no idea. I knew something was wrong. I had a feeling I was about to hurt someone. I even tried to stop myself, but…everyone said it was post-traumatic stress. From the attack. From the around-the-clock patrols. From leaving Helo behind on Caprica. From the exhaustion. A million other things. Then,” she looks up and adds in a tiny voice, “I shot Adama. I didn’t even know that I did it until they told me I did. I was really glad to find out that he’s okay now, but…it shouldn’t have happened. I should’ve never let it happen.”
He can hear the hurt, the loss, the betrayal coloring her voice. He can’t imagine what it must’ve been like to dedicate her life to killing Cylons, only to find out in the end that she was a Cylon. It’s not a nightmare he’d wish on anyone.
Sam tests the waters, for what he’s not entirely sure. “I’m sorry. For your loss.”
The Sharon regards him with puzzlement. “I guess it wasn’t really a loss, even if it felt like it at first. It was just a change. I’m not…I wish…” she helplessly waves her hands as her voice trails off.
Sam can’t help but feel bad for her, despite the fact that she seems to be part of the Cylon Occupational Authority. She doesn’t act right, she doesn’t sound right. He wonders if she was caught up and dragged kicking and screaming into this mess. He wonders if maybe this situation would be a whole lot worse if she wasn’t there tempering the Toasters’ natural inclinations.
Her shoulders sag and she sighs. “I wanted to come here. I wanted to find you. And I wanted to help them understand what they did to us and what they did to themselves. This,” she waves around the tent, “should have played out better than it has, but the way they just showed up on your doorstep…I knew there’d be problems. I even told them there’d be problems if they showed up with basestars and overwhelming numbers, but they wouldn’t listen.” She looks at the sliver of sunlight slicing into the tent through the flap as she wistfully adds, “I gave in and agreed to it. I let hope blind me too much, I guess. I just wanted to come home.”
Sam officially doesn’t know what to think about her or her confession. If he heard her right, the Toasters arrived with a full complement of basestars, drove off their military protection, invaded their new home, and then started insisting that bygones will be bygones just because one little Skinjob wanted to be human again? The absurdity of it is enough to make him laugh, or cry. This Sharon is probably the closest to being human as any Skinjob is going to get, yet it seems pretty frakking clear that she still just doesn’t get it.
It’s disappointing for Sam to realize that this Sharon is just another bird of prey after all, but at least she’s a bird of prey who seems willing to give him what he wants.
Much as he wants to let loose and let her know exactly what he thinks of the whole New Caprica frak-up and her role in it, he has to focus on what’s really important. Sam clears his throat and forces the conversation back to the issue at hand. “I hate to rush you, but I’m pretty sure the centurion you’ve got standing guard outside my tent is drawing attention. No offense, but I really need to know where—”
“Oh, I didn’t bring one,” the Sharon interrupts.
Again, Sam is taken by surprise. Every time he thinks he’s figured out this Sharon, she says something so unexpected that she confuses him. “Thanks for that,” he cautiously says.
She makes a face. “I always thought it was a bad idea to bring them with along. Another issue where they won’t listen to me. I keep telling them to send the centurions off-planet because they don’t just look threatening, they are threatening. But there have been…incidents.”
Sam immediately thinks of Tyrol and his “band.” Looks like they’re already making an impact, albeit not exactly a good one.
“They’re not big incidents, just a series of little ones. A few bottles have been thrown. Trash. Outhouse sludge in one instance. At best a few of them got dirty. No one’s even been hurt.” The Sharon rolls her eyes to signal that she thinks her fellow Skinjobs are overreacting to the very real simmering hatred among the planet’s human population. “But it’s making them nervous, so the centurions not only get to stay, they’re now accompanying them whenever they spend extended periods of time walking around the camp. I tried to explain to them that they have to expect hard feelings and that they have to learn how to deal with it without resorting to something this extreme, but I was overruled. Again.”
It’s right about then that Sam has to fight the urge to pick up something heavy and beat the Sharon into her next resurrection. He wonders if there’s anything he can do or say that won’t get turned into yet another eruption of self-pity. This visit should be about finding Kara, but the Sharon seems determined to play the poor-pitiful-me card. She’s so thoroughly spent the brief spasm of sympathy Sam felt for her that it’s all he can do to remain polite.
“We’re all having a hard time,” Sam says. “But you could start building some good will right here if you tell me where Kara is. A lot of people, not just me, would be really grateful to you if you freed her and let her come home.”
The Sharon winces. “We don’t have her.”
Sam’s on his feet and in front of the Sharon so quickly that it takes a beat for his brain to catch on that he had moved. “I know what I saw.”
The Sharon helplessly spreads her hands. “I linked with the mainframe as soon as I was told about you. We don’t have Kara. I even went to the models that deal with detainees, and they aren’t even aware—”
“Wait. Did you say that you’ve got detainees?” Sam interrupts.
The Sharon waves a dismissive hand. “Lay that one at your president’s feet. A few advisors are helping him review the cases, since it’s pretty frakking obvious that some people are behind bars because they said something he didn’t like.”
Sam wants to be very sure that he’s clear on this point. “I’m assuming that Cylon advisors are reviewing the cases, and not human advisors.”
“His human advisors were the ones that supported his actions,” the Sharon baldly states. “I don’t think they’re the best people to review those cases, do you? To be fair to the president, most of the people who are in holding cells are there because they committed actual crimes. There are at least a dozen cases where the charges look like they’ve been trumped up, or the sentences seem a little harsh for the crimes they supposedly committed. ”
Without more information, Sam has to concede the point. He remembers hearing rumors that Baltar was starting to crack down on political dissidents, but opinion was divided. Some believed it, despite the dearth of solid proof. Others outright refused to believe it, because they doubted that the vice president, Zarek, would put up with it given his own experience as a political prisoner.
“But back to what I was saying,” the Sharon says. “We don’t have Kara. I don’t know where she is, but we don’t have her.”
“Maybe she’s being held under another name,” Sam begins.
The Sharon shakes her head. “Every name in the database can be matched to a real person in the holding cells.”
“Did you do a prisoner headcount yourself?” Sam asks.
“Of course I did,” the Sharon says with irritation.
Sam takes a step back and studies her anew. “You don’t trust the others.”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” the Sharon mutters. She moves as if she’s about to turn away, but Sam reaches out and grabs her by the arm to stop her.
As she stares down at his hand with surprise etched on her features, Sam asks, “If you trust the others, then why go check the cells yourself?”
The Sharon shakes her head. “To double check. That’s all. I was in the military, remember? I know that information sometimes gets lost, shuffled into the wrong file, or falls through the cracks. Even when I was flying raptors, I knew to use my own eyes before clearing anything. This is exactly the same deal.”
Sam drops his hand and watches her.
“It is the same thing, only it’s people instead of raptors,” she defensively states. “For all I knew, Kara could’ve been picked up as part of the sweep for ex-military personnel and got thrown into a cell to cool off when she caused trouble. I knew Kara and I know that she’d cause a scene if she were dragged off the way you said, so I knew it was very possible scenario.”
Sam can’t bring himself to doubt her sincerity on this point, so he can only assume that the Sharon was not as conscientious as she claims. “You checked all the cells? Even the empty ones?”
The Sharon throws up her hands. “Yes. All of them. Every last frakking one, occupied or not. The only place I didn’t check was the living quarters on the top floor, but I don’t have to tell you that she’d be noticed if she was there, so there was no point in checking. Unless they’re hiding her in a wall, she’s not there.”
“Could this Leoben model be holding her somewhere else?” Sam desperately asks. “A secret cabin in the woods, maybe, or a cave, or just—”
“There are no Leobens on the planet’s surface,” the Sharon interrupts. “All of them, and I mean all of them, are on the basestars.”
“I know what I saw,” Sam argues.
“And you said Kara identified him by name,” the Sharon wearily adds. “But believe me, that was the second thing I checked right after searching the holding cells. I know that model voted to come to New Caprica. They even argued for it. But as soon as the basestars reached orbit, they announced that they weren’t going to settle on the planet. None of them, not one representative, has ever stepped foot on the planet’s surface.”
“You mean there’s no record of one,” Sam corrects her.
The Sharon grimaces. “Fine. There’s no record of one. But, again, if there was a Leoben walking around, he’d stand out because he’d be the only Leoben on the planet’s surface. And before you ask, no, I don’t think he’s hiding in the camp and passing himself off as human, either. Everyone knows he’s a Cylon, so he’d be pretty easily recognized.”
Sam shakes his head. “But a Leoben wouldn’t actually have to come into camp if one of them is keeping Kara in the hills or in the woods.”
“Then where’s he getting his supplies?” the Sharon asks.
“Hunting? Picking berries? He can get water easily enough, so that’s not even a problem,” Sam ventures.
The Sharon snorts like she’s never heard anything so insane. “I suppose he could, but if a Leoben was holding her in some cabin in the woods, do you honestly think Kara wouldn’t take advantage of those long absences to escape? He’d still be picking his first basket of berries and Kara’d be running through the woods, barefoot and naked if necessary.”
A vision of Kara limping out of the breeding farm on Caprica flashes across Sam’s mind. She not only managed to escape, she also managed to blow the hell out of the breeding complex, despite the fact that she was under much closer watch than a single Skinjob who’d have to leave for extended periods to get food and water.
He hates the fact that everything the Sharon says is not only logical, but also tracks with everything he knows about his wife.
“Could the Leoben have whisked her up to a basestar?” Sam knows he’s reaching by asking the question, but it’s the only stone left unturned.
The Sharon’s shoulders slump, and Sam knows he’s scored a bull’s-eye. “I already thought of that possibility, too. There’s no record of it in the system, and my initial inquiries aren’t promising.”
“But it’s possible,” Sam presses.
The Sharon looks away. “It is. I haven’t confronted any of the Leobens, yet, but there are other models on the basestars, including a few Eights. All the Eights I’ve talked to tell me that they haven’t seen Kara. Short of searching each and every basestar myself, it’s as close to sure as I can be that she’s not in orbit above us.”
“But you’re not sure. No matter how much you say you trust the others, you aren’t 100% sure you can believe them,” Sam insists.
When the Sharon’s eyes whip around to glare at him, Sam realizes a little too late that he’s said exactly the wrong thing.
“I trust an Eight to tell me the truth,” the Sharon emphatically says.
Just like you trust them to listen to you? Sam wonders. He doesn’t dare ask that question out loud. He knows he’s already pushed the Sharon as far as she’ll go. Unless — no, until — she has hard evidence that one of her fellow Skinjobs has lied to her, she probably won’t budge.
In the end, all he can do is retreat. He holds up his hands, and takes a step back. “Okay, okay. You were Kara’s friend, so I’m trusting you to do what you can. Just…what I’m trying to say is that…well, from what I heard one of the Leoben models might have a personal vendetta against her. This is a big planet orbited by a pretty big fleet of ships. If he’s determined to get back at her…”
“He could work the system well enough to hide her from me for at least a little while,” the Sharon finishes for him. “If all of the models in his series are in on it, he’ll have more than enough expertise to help him cover his tracks. Yeah, I know. That’s why I’ll keep looking.”
Sam lets out a breath. “I appreciate it.”
The Sharon’s smile is encouraging. “Don’t worry. If he’s got her, I’ll find her. This isn’t the end of it. Not by a long shot, okay?”
“I’ll be in touch,” the Sharon says as she snaps a nod and turns away.
Sam allows himself to relax. He’s not sure he can trust her completely, but he suspects that she’ll keep her word. There’s no denying the affection she has for Kara. He’s counting on that human connection to override whatever program is lurking in her head.
The Sharon pauses as she reaches for the tent flap.
Sam snaps to attention and watches as her shoulders tense and she drops her hand.
“There’s something else,” she says so quietly that at first he isn’t sure she spoke.
The Sharon turns around. There’s a distinctly unhappy expression on her face. “Before I left Colonial One, I was told to deliver a message to you.”
“A message,” Sam softly repeats. “From whom?”
The Sharon licks her lips and swallows. “The others. Like I said, there’ve been incidents and they’re nervous.”
That’s when he knows. Maybe she’s telling the truth about not finding Kara, but he suspects that even if she had found her — even if she does find her at some unspecified point in the future — they’re never going to let her go. By locking up Kara, who’s easily the more dangerous of the two of them, they’ve as good as thrown him into the same prison cell.
He should’ve known that his past was going to bite him in the ass at the worst possible time.
“They know about you. About Caprica. And the resistance.” The Sharon uncomfortably hunches her shoulders like she’s expecting an explosion. “They want you to promise that you won’t do the same thing here.”
Sam knows that his smile is tight and small, so it’s a surprise that his voice sounds normal to his ears. “You said yourself that everything’s different now. You’re different, the circumstances are different. Why would you be worried about me returning to old habits?”
The Sharon straightens her shoulders and her stance subtly changes, like she’s a soldier standing at parade rest. “A lot of them don’t believe that humans can change. I’ve told them people change all the time, but deep down they don’t really believe it.”
“So why not arrest me now, just to be safe?” He knows it’s a dangerous question to ask, but he can’t seem to care.
The Sharon’s only reaction is a tic between her eyebrows, like the question has thudded home in the most painful way possible. “It’s like you said. Everything’s different. If they arrest you because you defended yourself on Caprica, and not for anything you did here, then that means nothing’s changed and nothing ever will change. I won’t let that happen.” She shakes her head an emphatically adds, “I won’t.”
“Can you stop it if they decide to overrule you?” Sam asks. In light of her earlier complaints he knows he’s twisting the knife, but he can’t help it. He’s never been so furious in his life, although he’s not sure who he’s really angry at — himself or her.
“As long as the worst thing that happens is thrown bottles, they won’t overrule me,” the Sharon promises. “But if it gets worse than that, I can’t even begin to predict what they’ll do.”
Sam wills his smile to look natural. “Then I guess I’ll have to keep my nose clean.”
The lie rolls so easily off his tongue, that Sam knows that they all might as well be back on Caprica.
Sam pokes his head into Tigh’s tent and asks, “So, is this a closed triad game? Or can anyone play?”
“If you’ve got the stones to bet, I won’t say no,” Tigh gruffly responds without looking up from his cards.
Now that the passwords have been exchanged, Sam feels welcome to enter the tent all the way. He expected to see Tigh and Tyrol sitting at the card table, but the woman is a surprise. “Ummm…” he begins.
The woman looks up from her cards. “I’m keeping the seat warm for Laura.”
“And you are?” Sam asks as he takes the one empty seat at the table.
“Tory Foster,” the woman responds as she once more studies her cards. “I was Laura’s aide when she was president. These days I’m her teacher’s aide at the school.”
“And what is Madame President up to that’s so important that she couldn’t join us for our nightly game?” Tyrol lightly asks.
Tory snorts. “A Doral visited the school today. Right now he’s chewing her ear off about improving the environment. When I left, he was offering to visit again with,” she makes a show of comically shuddering, “paint chips. He thinks if we paint the classroom interior using cheerful colors it’ll lift everyone’s spirits.”
“Unh, did someone tell him that before you can paint a classroom, you actually have to have a classroom to paint?” Tyrol asks.
“Shouldn’t there be, I dunno, an actual school building before you get to the classroom part?” Sam asks.
“Cynicism doesn’t build schools.” Tory primly folds her cards and tosses them to the center of the table. “Although empty promises don’t either, so maybe I should stop selling cynicism short.”
“Are we going to stop yapping and start getting down to business?” Tigh asks. He tosses his cards to the center of the table. “This hand stinks. I want a new deal.”
“I hear that,” Tyrol agrees as he tosses his cards to the center. “Since Sam's the new member of our triad club, I nominate Sam for dealer.”
“I, unh, I don’t think that’s such a good idea,” Sam stutters. “I need to get caught up on everything you’ve been doing.”
Everyone pauses to stare at him like he’s gone insane.
“What he means is,” Tigh slaps the unused portion of the deck on the table in front of him, “is that you get to shuffle the cards this round.”
“Oh. I knew that,” Sam says as he reaches to gather the discarded cards in the center of the table.
“So, chief, how many do we have today?” Tigh asks.
Tyrol looks to the ceiling of the tent and crosses his arms. “Business is slow. The latest count gives us 248.”
Sam pauses in his shuffling to look at Tyrol.
It’s never as many as you hope, but it’s always more than you expect.
Who said that? Someone told him that once. He’s pretty sure it was on Caprica, but for the life of him he can’t remember if it was before the attack or after. He can’t even remember what the statement was in reference to. It could’ve been about finding survivors in the mountains, but it also could’ve been about game turnout.
“Unbelievable. 248. That’s a crying shame,” Tigh softly growls.
“It’s only been two weeks,” Tory says.
“And we are being careful about recruiting, sir,” Tyrol says. “We don’t want to draw attention to ourselves, so we have to move slower than I’d like. We have to assume the Toasters are watching everyone who’s ever been in the military.”
“We shouldn’t have to ask,” Tight mutters. “People should be lining up. They should be volunteering. Beating down our doors. They know there’s only one way this is going to end. Good Gods, how much more proof do they need? For those frakking Toasters to blow up another planet? They have to know this message of peace, love, and understanding bullcrap is going out the window as soon as one Cylon stubs its precious toe on a pebble.”
“People are afraid,” Tory points out. “And like it or not, most people have never had more than a fist fight in their entire lives, let alone held a gun.”
“The human race is at stake, and people are worried about getting their hands dirty?” Tigh shakes his head.
“I think they’re more worried about getting their hands blown off,” Tory remarks as Sam begins to deal.
“That’s the problem with some people,” Tigh grumbles. “All they care about is being safe and being fed. If they don’t have to work for it, so much the better. They’ll just sit there and make no fuss as long as their bellies are full. No thought to the future at all.”
Sam pauses in his dealing as he frowns at the colonel. He could swear that he’s heard Tigh say this before, although that’s impossible. Tigh moved down to the planet’s surface the same day the Toasters invaded, so his conversations with the man have been limited. Certainly they’ve never discussed something like this.
“I don’t think it’s that people are necessarily afraid,” Tyrol remarks as he picks up his hand. “I think they waiting to see what’s going to happen. They don’t want to rock the boat unless the Toasters start killing people.”
“So because people don’t want to rock the boat, we all have to sit quietly in our cages until the day we die,” Tigh says.
The sense of déjà vu is overwhelming. Sam knows he’s heard Tigh say this before. How many people does he know that speak with a heavy Aerelon accent?
“Well, I say, ‘Frak that.’” Tigh’s clearly on a roll. “I know these bastards. I’ve fought them in two wars. Two. They don’t change. None of them. Ever. They’re just circuits and software. Now, something may have gotten into their programming or somesuch and made them go haywire, but they’ll revert to type. Just you wait and see. We have to get them before they get us.”
“Not getting any argument from me,” Tyrol says.
“Not from me, either,” Tory says as she regards her hand with a frown.
Tigh glances at Sam as he picks up his cards.
“I’m here, aren’t I?” Sam asks.
“That makes you one of the few,” Tyrol says. “I’m beginning to get the idea that most people are willing to let someone else do the dirty, dangerous work.”
The memory finally clicks in Sam’s head. He can’t stop himself from giggling.
“Something funny?” Tigh asks with a glare.
Sam brings himself under control, but he can feel the crazy grin spreading across his face. “Do you know what they call a bunch of crows?”
“That’s easy,” Tory says. “It’s a flock.”
“No. It’s a murder,” Sam says. “The correct answer is ‘a murder of crows.’”
“What kind of nonsense is this?” Tigh grumpily asks.
“The thing about crows is they’re smart. You can’t ever predict what they’re going to do when they start working together.” The words are pouring out of Sam’s mouth, as if they’ve been waiting all this time to burst free. “And they don’t hold with being caged. Put them in a cage, and they start misbehaving. That cage can be surrounded by predators, and they can know that the second they’re out they’ll be killed, but they just don’t care. They’ll keep fighting until that cage gives, no matter what.”
Tigh grunts at this, but the look on his face seems to indicate that the thought doesn’t exactly irritate him. “So, a murder of crows, hunh?”
“Yes, sir,” Sam answers.
There’s a beat of silence.
“A murder of crows. It sounds like the name of a rap group,” Tyrol remarks.
“I was going to say death metal,” Tory counters.
Tyrol grins at her. “I can’t see you being a death metal fan.”
“Shows what you know.” Tory grins back at him. “Rap? You? Really?”
“I’m a man of refined and varied musical tastes,” Tyrol sniffs.
“Are you two going to crack jokes all night? Or are we going to get serious and play this game?” Tigh asks.
Tyrol looks up. “I’m in.”
“You know both Laura and me are in,” Tory says.
Sam looks around the table, taking in the sight of Tigh, Tyrol, and Tory. The last time he was this sure that he was doing the right thing was the day he married Kara. He always knew, deep down inside, that there was nothing more important than protecting the human race from them, by any means necessary.
This is his place. This is where he really belongs.
Every crow needs a murder and this, apparently, is his.
Strangely enough, he’s perfectly okay with that.
He knows that Kara will understand.
“I’m in,” he promises.