Word Count: 5,081
Characters/Pairings: Laura, Cavil, Ellen Tigh
Summary: Cavil has a surprise for resurrected Laura, which leads to her escape.
Link to Art: http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v
Notes: Thanks to lauramayw for the beta, and mmegiry for battling alongside me against the official show timeline.
Chapter One | Chapter Two | Chapter Three | Chapter Four | Chapter Five | Chapter Six | Chapter Seven
Chapter Eight | Chapter Nine | Chapter Ten | Chapter Eleven | Chapter Twelve | Chapter Thirteen | Chapter Fourteen
There was one moment of clarity, unattached from the drug-induced fog on both sides of it, causing it to stand out brightly. The Opera House and other impossibilities slowly faded away to leave Laura with the illusory reality of the Basestar. And Cavil.
He was staring at her with the badly restrained glee of a little boy on Saturnalia morning, one who had already sneaked down to the piled gifts to poke holes in the wrapping paper.
"Good of you to join us," he said, looking down at her with such malice behind that smirk that she struggled to her feet despite the pounding behind her eyes. "Get up. We're going on a little field trip."
It took all her effort to follow behind him with any semblance of serenity, the rhythmic clunk of the Centurions behind her and Cavil's constant whistling as he swaggered in front of her doing nothing to help the ache in her head and the fear in her heart.
Concentrate on each step, one foot in front of the other. Don't think about what he is taking me to or what is making him so happy (the debris of the Fleet floating in space, the planet in flames or Bill's lifeless body at her feet). One foot in front of the other. Just one foot in front of the other.
"Now this is the way things should be," he was saying. "Humanity makes Cylons, Cylons kill Humanity, and it should stop there, but then Humanity runs away, so Cylons have to chase Humanity. Sound familiar to you? Sure, it may be just a retread of what just went on before, but then again there is a reason the classics never die." Then, as they reached the hanger bay, he added as if it were an afterthought, "By the way, your boyfriend came back. Oh, sorry." He turned to leer at her. "Her boyfriend came back."
"Admiral Adama attacked the planet?" Ice cold fear washed through her body as she halted, only moving again when the metal footsteps behind her gave no sign that they wouldn't walk right over her.
"Quite a spectacular show, I have to give him that. Very impressive. You should have been there. Oh wait, I suppose you were." She narrowed her eyes as he turned again to grin at her as metal soldiers flanked them. "You ever seen a Battlestar carry out an FTL jump inside a planet's atmosphere? Well, I guess you did; it would be hard to miss that! Gotta admit, the guy's got balls. Certainly gave our brothers and sisters a shock. Luckily, they will be waking up shortly. Pity I can't say the same for the humans who died."
A straight answer would be far too much to hope for, as much as she wanted to slap the information out of him. They entered one of the Heavy Raiders, and the bit of her that had been listening carefully and analyzing what he was and was not saying was able to make itself heard over the screaming horror her imagination insisted on playing out. She took refuge behind a cold smile. "But some of them did get away, didn't they?"
"Eh, some," Cavil said with a too-careless shrug. "Humans are like cockroaches, and we took a little sustainable damage doing pest control. And the Basestars … it turns out bits of Battlestar really scuff the paint work." She could see him watching her carefully for her reaction, and she would be damned if she would give him the satisfaction. She was left to ponder that information as the Raider's engines roared into life.
He left her in a small room both identical and not at all like all the previous rooms. The lighting, the furniture, the ever-present red light—all was the same, but in the background the room throbbed with a power far greater than had been on the Basestar.
"I have a welcoming committee to organize," had been the last thing he had said before closing the door.
The door opened, and she was face-to-face with a figure from a long-lost life.
Ellen Tigh, in a white terrycloth robe, hair still damp, eyes closed, was sitting calmly on a pristine white sofa. Behind her was a doorway through which Laura could just make out a soft black edge of a tub and the viscous liquid contained within.
Ellen Tigh was a Cylon. A Cylon, just like you are, a treacherous little voice reminded her.
Ellen Tigh. A Cylon.
"My Gods," Laura uttered in a low voice. A spiteful burst of laughter announced Cavil's presence in the room; he leaned against a wall with a hateful smirk on his face.
"Oh come on! I've been looking forward to this little reunion all day. A little more drama, please."
Laura ignored him; she was getting good at that. Instead, she looked for any sign that this was some cruel joke, a hallucination, or anything. The woman on the sofa was sitting so quietly, Laura found it impossible to reconcile her with the brash, loud and quite frankly unbelievably irritating wife of Galactica's XO.
She took a step forward, but the sound was enough for the other woman's eyes to flutter open, and Laura found herself meeting a calm if slightly confused gaze that, from this particular woman, she would have found unsettling—had she known what settled felt like ever since she woke up. Since you died, that little voice said, making itself heard once again.
"Laura?" Ellen frowned at her for a beat of bleary confusion, before being replaced with a look of understanding.
"Ellen." How could she react to this? She retreated behind the cool presidential mask, the one that had stood her in such good stead the first time she had come face-to-face with Ellen Tigh, careful smile in place.
"How did you ...? Of course, resurrection." Ellen slowly ran one hand through her hair. "Yes, of course it would have worked. You were the first, after all."
"Merely the prototype before going into full production," Cavil said with a disdainful sniff. "And a very flawed prototype at that."
"Afraid she'll steal your thunder, John?" Ellen said, and there was a flash of the old, familiar Ellen behind it.
"Oh, hardly. Even this pathetic body of mine hasn't been riddled with cancer," Cavil replied.
Laura was deep in enemy territory, captured, lost and alone for so long. But it was the thought of Ellen Tigh, of all people, knowing more about her than she did that chilled her to the very core. Arms neatly folded in front of her, she turned from Ellen to give Cavil a small, icy smile.
"You went to a lot of trouble bringing me here just to insult me," she said.
"Oh I'm sorry, I didn't mean to hurt your feelings," Cavil sneered, casting a look over her that left her with the desire for a shower. "And I'm sure your new one is a fine improvement. But I brought you hear for a happy reunion, since Ellen saw fit to join us."
"Why don't you ask her how she ended up here?" Cavil said, ignoring Ellen and instead focusing on Laura with his artificial friendliness. "It is hilarious. But why stop there? There's a whole heap of stories to tell. Like how she and the rest of the Final Five were so quick to dump you on the first humans that came along."
"That's not true, John," Ellen said, and Laura wondered why she was reminded of numerous parent/teacher conferences—at the other side of her desk, sullen children and embarrassed, contrite parents. Ellen was looking at her in appeal, Laura was surprised to see. "That's not what happened to you at all. You were so young, little more than a baby."
"At least we didn't have to suffer that indignity," Cavil said. "Childhood, urgh. Such a waste of time."
"You needed a family, a proper upbringing." Ellen ignored him. "The Centurions, they insisted on it."
"Turns out that was a blessing for you," Cavil said. "Considering what she"—he pointed at Ellen—"inflicted on her own children!"
"We didn't inflict anything on you!" Ellen replied. "We gave you life, we gave you free will, the ability to dream, to love."
"Human weakness," Cavil said, all sham amusement gone. "You corrupted us with human weakness!"
Laura felt as if she were several pages behind everyone else, but she would be damned if she was going to just sit and passively listen to this family feuding. Her head was still pounding. She felt the loss of her glasses as she drew herself up and looked at them both with a well-practiced glare.
"Was I brought here just to play therapist?" she said. "I don't see this how this can lead anywhere productive."
"I thought it would be nice for you to see a familiar face," Cavil said. "I'm sure you both would have a lot to catch up on. Ellen has a lot to say, don't you Ellen?" His face took on an ugly look as the other woman just looked back at him with a small, sad shake of her head.
"John, don't do this. Hasn't all this suffering been enough?"
"Not while you still have the gall to look me in the eye and refuse to repent for what you have done to all of us!" He turned to Laura. "All of this is because of her. She betrayed her Cylon children, and then do you know what she goes and does on that frakkin' mud ball? Turns around and betrays the humans to us. Gave us lots of nice information about what their pathetic resistance was up to, so her husband had to kill her."
Laura expected Ellen to deny it, the excuses ready, but instead Ellen just gave a soft sigh. "I was wrong, but I did it for Saul," she said, and Laura was surprised at her calmly stated guilt. "To keep him alive."
"If not one hundred percent intact," Cavil sneered. "But the one-eyed pirate look does suit him."
It was impossible to get all her questions answered. Not with Cavil there, raging about betrayal and the suffering Ellen had caused.
"What about the Fleet, Ellen?" Laura said. "How many got away?"
"I don't know." Ellen closed her eyes. "Saul, he ... it all happened so fast, and then I was ... I don't know."
She did not get to spend much time with Ellen after that point. Cavil made sure of that. He allowed her just enough information to suffer over, she knew. Then she was marched back to her room by her chrome jailers, and she was lost beneath the surface of madness once again.
All the colors were gone, washed out and faded and all the darker in comparison with the richness of the Opera House that continued to haunt her.
With the logic of dreams, a turn down one corridor had led to open air. She could hear waves lapping against sand and the breeze was tugging at her hair, but when she breathed in, instead of the smell of salt and fresh air, there was only the dead scent of a long-abandoned home, the windows boarded up and the floorboards creaking beneath her feet.
As gray, lifeless sand fell under her feet, the footprints disintegrated in the wind as soon as they were formed. As she walked there was none of the confused urgency of the Opera House, no child disappearing around corners or slamming doors. None of the foreboding as she hurried down the stairs or watched from the balcony.
The cold wind reached her bones. Out across the bay she could see indistinct dark shapes beyond the water, too even to be natural but refusing to be identified. She could feel the sky push down on her, and she folded her arms in a futile attempt to keep out the chill.
There was a stranger on the beach alongside her. She did not look up as Laura approached; instead, her eyes remained focused on the tiny scrap of green she held between her fingers. It was the only piece of color to be found.
The woman was a stranger to Laura. Dark, straight hair framing her face, pale and gaunt, the woman stared out unseeingly at the ocean, not reacting to Laura's presence. She didn't react to the wind plucking at the jacket too big for her frame, the wind that brushed sand like ashes at her feet as the roar of the surf became louder and louder.
Laura could feel the vibration of the surf through her feet, the rhythmic pounding like a heartbeat, a deep, impossibly large heartbeat, and it was inconceivable to her that the stranger could not hear it. But the pale shadow of a woman continued to stare ahead at something Laura could not see.
The ever present hum of the Basestar was all around her. It almost felt like a familiar friend welcoming her as she awoke. The red light continued to watch her, but to her relief, there was no Cavil to loom and leer over her this morning.
If it was morning. At least in the Fleet there had always been constant meetings and press conferences to count the hours by. Here the random druggings hindered any sense of time she could possibly have.
As she put on her clothes, hands resting for a moment to enjoy the feel of the luxurious material of the jacket, she wondered whether the "other Laura" was in a meeting doing such a thing now. So many people with so many tedious problems that absolutely needed to be seen to by the President. So many hours spent nodding her head and looking carefully concerned as she listened to a droning voice reel off lists of facts and figures.
She would have given anything to have been sitting there at that moment.
She only tried the door handle out of habit, and so only managed to avoid falling out into the corridor by throwing out her hand to catch herself against the suddenly open doorway. Stepping back into her room, she actually closed the door behind her in her confusion. Leaning back against it, she waited for the sounds of footsteps, metal or otherwise, but there was no sound beyond her own ragged breathing and the steady, soothing hum of the ship.
She carefully turned the handle and gently nudged the door open. There were no Centurion guards to greet her, just the blue and white lights of a corridor identical to every other Basestar corridor she had seen.
How long had the door been left unlocked? She could not remember how long ago it had been since food had been brought to her, and surely it would have been noticed if it had happened before then.
Unless this was a trick. Some new mind game of Cavil's. He could be watching her right at that very moment, laughing to himself at her hope of escape. She was in half a mind to slam the door shut.
Let him play his games.
But curiosity won out, and she finally took that final step out into the corridor, walking briskly as if that could make up for the fact that it had been harder to cross that threshold than it really should have been. She busied herself with testing door handles and listening for the sound of approaching footsteps. All the while, the gentle vibrations against her bare feet provided a soothing background. The first door she came to was locked, same as the second. She felt a brief thrill as the third gave way, only to discover an empty room much like the one she had been kept in. Moving on to the next one, Laura had to wonder why it was so important that she be kept locked up. Perhaps Cavil worried she might discover how boringly pretentious Cylon decorating was.
More locked doors and empty rooms. Laura was no longer hesitant as she tried them. Logic dictated that there had to be something other than empty rooms on a Basestar. Logic dictated that she should have come across at least some Cylons by now. Had she been left on an abandoned ship?
Abandoned, but not alone. She could feel her, the Basestar, the Hybrid at the heart of the Basestar. Closing her eyes she could feel the pull of her, a feeling that was alien but not unfamiliar.
She felt her lack of reaction at such familiarity should worry her.
Gray, slanted walls, the buzz of the lightbulbs and the sterile taste of carefully recycled air. Her heels clicked against the metal of the walkways. People walked by, faces out of focus but uniforms of green and blue familiar. Her hands idly reached out to try each hatch she passed, cool beneath her touch, either tugging against the unyielding metal or the reassuring clunk and squeak of the turning wheel.
The next room had an unlocked door. Looking inside, so used to finding nothing, Laura needed a second look before she realized this one was not vacant.
"Have you come back to ask again? It doesn't matter how many times you ask, John, it can't change anything."
With her back to the door, Laura had mistaken her for one of the Godfrey models until she spoke. Ellen, large as life and very much not a hallucination, arms raised and doing some sort of exercise with a surprising grace, though the bottle sitting on the floor within arm's reach was reassuringly in character.
"Ellen?" Laura could not keep the incredulity from her voice as she stepped forward into the room.
Spinning round at the unexpected voice, Ellen gaped at her in shock. "Laura? My God! Are you all right? He wouldn't tell me anything."
The concern seemed genuine, none of the sickly sweet insincerity that Laura remembered. Ellen drew her into a hug, and she did not know how to respond to that.
"I'm ... fine." As well as could be expected, but she was not going to attempt to answer that question honestly whoever asked it, least of all Ellen.
Ellen Tigh the Cylon. Oh Gods.
"I'm fine." She stepped back as soon as Ellen let go, disguising the movement with a quick smile and turning to make sure the door was closed behind her. "Are you?"
Ellen gave a bitter laugh. "Turns out my life is as frakked up as one of those ancient tragedies, but other than that I can't complain." Heading for the bottle she took a deep swig, then to Laura's surprise held out the bottle to her. "But John has been considerate in one respect."
The alcohol burned down her throat with the fire of the finest Leonis vodka. With a cough she handed it back to Ellen, who knocked back another gulp with ease. "I'm glad to see the Cylons made sure to stock up on the good stuff before annihilating the Colonies."
"John always was a planner," Ellen said bitterly. "Always had his priorities in order. Though he's scraping the bottom of the barrel now. So, has he gotten so desperate as to beg for your help in getting resurrection? It'll take all five, as I keep telling him."
"He hasn't asked for my help in anything," Laura said. "He hasn't told me anything. And doesn't he already have resurrection technology? You resurrected, and I ... did." It was difficult to choke the words out. It was one thing coming to terms with it inside her head, but actually saying it out loud?
"Yes, well, he's had a little problem since then. From what I gathered, there's been a difference of opinion." Ellen sighed sadly as she sat down on the couch. "No more resurrection. The Hub is gone. And maybe it's for the best. But can he see that? He only sees what he wants to see."
Laura looked at her closely, noting the pain in her eyes and the tired tremble of her hands, and for the first time she allowed herself to look beyond the silly, irritating drunk woman she had first met at an awkward dinner party long ago. Sitting down beside her, she took another drink when Ellen wordlessly handed her the bottle.
"So, you died," Ellen said eventually.
"So I've gathered."
"The cancer. One minute Bill frakking Adama is asking the Fleet to pray for you, then you're up and about like nothing happened. They must have cut that miracle too close. It makes sense, in theory—resurrection still takes place after the body technically dies and then is revived, resulting in duplicates of the same brain pattern. We were working on a fail safe to stop that."
"Admiral Atheist Adama asked the Fleet to pray for me?"
"Darndest thing. Worked, though."
"I doubt he would have seen it that way."
"Course not. Anyway, he was too busy being just so damned happy you were still alive."
"Putting on a good show. I was still around to be a pain in his ass."
"You didn't see the two of you on New Caprica, making doe eyes at one another. Nearly made Saul sick."
"I can't get my head around all this." Laura closed her eyes and leaned back into the couch. "Being there but being here. I'm not nearly drunk enough to make sense of it. How do you manage?"
"Have to admit I'm not going to be much help there. Only ever been one of me active at one time."
"Thank the Gods for that." Her own laughter was an alien sound after not being heard for so long, bubbling up uncontrollably she pressed her hand to her lips to try and stifle the sound.
"If you're going to insult me, you get no booze," Ellen said haughtily, then ruined the effect with a snort of laughter. "Though I shouldn't be giving you booze anyway. You are younger than me. Or older, maybe, I can't tell. It's hard enough to keep all this straight sober!"
It had felt good to laugh. She found herself missing it when it died down and reality reasserted itself. Reaching over Ellen for the bottle, she watched the remains of the liquid cascade down the inside of the glass as she rested the back of her head against the couch and briefly wondered when she and Ellen had both ended up sitting on the floor.
"I have no idea what's going on," she said eventually.
"What's to know? We're sitting and the drink has gone."
"I meant more about ... everything else. Dying, being a Cylon, my whole life being a lie."
"Your life wasn't a lie, Laura. Cylons, humans, we're really not all that different."
"You mean apart from the whole coming back from the dead thing?"
"Oh, that!" Ellen gave a dismissive wave of her hand. "That went all the way back to Kobol. We didn't come up with it; we just rediscovered it. Back on Earth, we were living and dying just like Humanity."
"Wait!" Laura's eyes snapped open and she lifted her head up to stare disbelievingly at the other woman. "Earth? What do you mean Earth?"
"Earth, the planet Earth." Ellen sounded worryingly sleepy. "The place where we came from, that Earth."
Closing her eyes again, Laura rubbed at her temples. "I'm confused. I thought we ... humans, they created the Cylons."
"They did, first of all back on Kobol. Humans created Cylons, who became the Thirteenth Tribe and left for Earth, before the Twelve Tribes then left for the Colonies."
She had not thought she had anything left to be ripped from her. But as she sat and listened to Ellen recount the story behind the Cylons, she could only think that the Gods had a sick sense of humor.
And that it wasn't fair that there was no more alcohol left.
"So, let me get this straight. Billions were murdered because you didn't love Cavil enough?" She could only look in disbelief at Ellen, who had the decency to look remorseful.
"Of course we loved him. John, he just couldn't see that. He got so ... caught up in anger and hate. As old as he looks, deep down he's still a little boy."
"A little boy who practically destroyed the human race." Laura felt bile rise up in her throat and she had to get to her feet to pace. "The Centurions … we thought that this was our fault, our mistakes coming back to haunt us, and that didn't excuse it, but Gods, it was understandable. But this ..."
The walls, the lights, that damned red light looking at her. It was too confining, she was trapped, a prisoner. She wanted to go home. Ellen, looking at her with godsdamned pity, was not helping matters. Coming to a stop at the other side of the room, she stared at the lights in the wall until they filled up her vision and she could trust her voice again.
"And where do I fit in all this?" Rounding on Ellen, back straight and expression neutral, she was just dealing with another Fleet Captain who would not listen to reason or another earnest Lieutenant who would not get to the point. "This grand scheme of revenge. Did I slight him in some way? Maybe I insulted his taste in hats."
"No! No, Laura." Ellen moved toward her as if she were about to touch her but must have seen something in her face to make her think better of it. Instead she gave a bitter laugh. "You ... I think he has no clue about you. He likes to talk about his noble machine heritage and how his ancestors were abused and mistreated, but you are closer to that than him. You had more right to anger and vengeance against the human race than he ever did."
"But I don't remember anything about that," Laura said. "All I knew was growing up with my parents, and then my sisters. And then the worlds ended." She laughed angrily. "And it's one frakking joke after the other. But I had a family, and memories, and they were real."
"Yes, they were. Of course they were." Ellen looked down at the floor as if for answers before looking back at Laura. "What happened with you ... we had nothing to do with creating ..." She hesitated as Laura glared at her, before continuing, "... creating you. So you don't have to worry about having to call me mother or anything like that. You know we traveled to the Colonies in the hopes of stopping a war, but instead we arrived in the middle of one. Humans had fallen into the same trap that we had, so we knew we had to try and end the war before it went as far as it had on Earth. And so we found the Centurions. And you. You were just a tiny scrap of a thing. You should have been dead; all the others were, but you always were a stubborn thing. The Centurions, well, they so desperately wanted to make the human models, and you were the closest thing they had to that, but they were killing you."
Laura continued to just stare at the other woman with emotionless eyes, and Ellen shook her head. "So we saw our chance to negotiate with them. They would end the war, we would all leave, and we would help them create human models. You were dying, but we still had resurrection technology, and it wasn't hard to adapt it."
"All right." Laura gave a brusque nod of her head. "So you did that. Then why ...?"
"Did we abandon you? I know that's what you're thinking, even though you'd never allow yourself such human selfishness to admit it out loud. You were just a baby, needing care that we couldn't give you. You needed a family, parents who could just focus on raising you, not carrying out promises to stop a war. We could have given it a shot, but the Centurions, they wanted you to have a family. I think they felt guilty after almost killing you while trying to keep you."
Guilty. Huh. Robot soldiers feeling guilty was a ridiculous concept to Laura. But it also felt right, deep down. That was disconcerting.
"Well, isn't this nice." The snide voice interrupted them from the doorway; she had not heard it open. "Managing to get along so well. And I had the boxing ring all set up. It wasn't easy to fill it with gelatin, you know." The same snide tone of voice, but as Cavil entered the room, Laura could see there was a focus behind those dark eyes that chilled her. "Sorry to interrupt the female bonding, but there are more important things to discuss. The salvation of our race, for one."
He turned to Ellen, all dark business. "The Simons are prepping the OR; I think you'll be impressed with the progress we've made in memory recovery. Might take a while."
"I'm sure you'll make the procedure as long and painful as possible," Ellen said with disinterest.
"You're mistaken if you think I enjoy this. And since you won't let Madame President in on the secret, you've given me no choice." Before departing, he left them with one last parting shot. "But I'm not heartless. You two enjoy having pillow fights, or whatever it is you girls do during slumber parties, while I get ready to cut open your brains and take resurrection from there."
Again, Laura was forced to look on helplessly while events pushed on without her. Both she and Ellen could only sit and wait for the next line to be fed to them. Another familiar face, one who brought to mind Galactica and Kobol and a horrifying decision made on her death bed. But this one ...
She suddenly had an image of a figure normally so strong, an angry red line down his chest and the shock of fear that had surprised her with its strength when she first saw him prone in that hospital bed.
But when the young woman led them to a Raptor instead of an operating room, Laura felt an emotion she had not felt since she had died.
She was going home.