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Chapter Two: A New Machine

Title: Chapter Two: A New Machine
Author: boudiceaborn
Word Count: 3,688
Rating: T
Characters/Pairings: Laura Roslin, Caprica, Cavil
Summary: Resurrected Laura learns truths about her existence from Cavil and Caprica while Laura on Galactica gets a surprise visit.
Artist: katamarann
Link to Art: http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v397/katamaran/BSG/divisionbell.jpg
Notes: Thanks to mmegiry for the beta.

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



Basestar

Laura was awake. She had been keeping her eyes shut for several minutes, a lame attempt to ignore what lay beyond her eyelids—the antiseptic cleanliness and cool lights of the Basestar. Hearing a slight rustling, Laura could not subdue the impulse to open them and look around her.

The face she saw was old and slightly creased—too battered, Laura thought, to be Cylon. His eyebrows were bushy and unkempt, and there were prominent bags under his eyes. Slowly, as she examined his face, realization hit.

" ... Brother Cavil?"

As he opened his mouth in a feral smile, Laura realized that the eyes watching her from that rumpled face were black and devoid of expression.

"Hello, Laura. I've been waiting for you."

"What do you want?" she seethed at him, reacting against the fear that he incited in her.

"Why, the pleasure of your delicious company, of course. I could barely believe my luck when I found your pod. A brand new Laura Roslin, still in the packaging." His eyes flicked to her legs appreciatively, and Laura found herself tugging ineffectually to tighten her robe.

"Of course, later," he continued, cocking his head, "I'm sure you'll oblige me with a general summary of the plans of the Fleet leadership, in return for my hospitality."

"I don't negotiate with Cylons," Laura replied coldly.

He raised an eyebrow quizzically. "Still sticking to that tired line?"

"I'm not falling for your mind games," she replied. "You're expecting me to believe a Cylon was programmed to get terminal cancer?"

Cavil made a clucking noise in his throat. "Yes, your illness is a truly appalling vulnerability in the code. Wouldn't be the first one though: the Eights have a distressing tendency toward self-destruction, and the Sixes seem to share your inconceivable weakness for human men." The word human left his mouth like a curse. "But your new body is completely healthy, I assure you, and the ship will keep it that way." He smiled broadly again. "Isn't it such a relief to be cured?"

Laura stared at him dully, her mind racing to recall what little she had seen of the Colonial priest on Galactica. Where had he stayed? Who was he ministering to? Had he ever held services? What was he plotting in the middle of the most important ship in the Fleet?

She realized with a start that he was speaking again.

" ... doesn't it strike you as overly convenient, all your family being dead? Poor, friendless Laura Roslin, alone but for her powerful career and periodic fraks with the Colonial President? You were made to be the perfect sleeper."

"No! My father died in a car accident. I watched my mother die of cancer. My sisters were Sandra and Cheryl. They were real, godsdamn it. They had friends; people remembered them." Her voice grew smaller as if traveling from a long way away. "They weren't just in my head."

"Sure, sure." His voice was dangerously soothing. "And Sharon Valerii's family died tragically in a mining explosion—Troy, wasn't it? And I, my dear, am a renowned flamenco dancer."

"Frak you," Laura hissed.

"Please do." Cavil grinned wolfishly.

The look of revulsion that crossed Laura's face was immediate. "You're wasting your time, Cavil. You want something from me, you'll have to beat it out of me. Otherwise, get the frak out."

Cavil tutted gently. "My dear, you need to let go of this hostility. We're on the same side here. You might find that I can be very ... accommodating, if treated right. I won't even confine you to your room. Get out, see the place, stretch your legs. My boys will be right behind you. But I will expect your cooperation, Laura, and I'm a man who gets what he wants." He made a gesture and the Centurion guards fell back into standby just inside the hatch. Cavil strode to the hatch, turning to give Laura a lascivious bow before he stepped out.

Laura wondered how many Cylon agents existed within the Fleet. She had to get back somehow, to warn them. And ... to find out what had truly happened.

"I will get out of this place," she whispered to herself.

The Centurions watched her tears impassively, the sweep of their eyes never hesitating in their rhythm.

Galactica

"President Roslin!" The priest of Galactica's temple, Brother Cavil, emerged from the ecclesiastical storage room clutching a dust rag. "To what to I owe this unexpected pleasure?"

The slightly insolent glint in his eyes caused Laura a sudden but brief twinge of shyness. "Brother Cavil. I find myself in need of some spiritual assistance. Do you have some time to talk?"

"For you, I have all the time in the worlds." He gestured her over to a table and seated himself across from her. His eyes gazed intently at hers over the polished surface.

"This is hard," she admitted, embarrassed. "After ... Elosha ... I got used to having to interpret my faith alone. The Fleet needed me to be sure, so I was."

His angular eyebrows rose appraisingly. "I think I understand," he drawled, his baritone rumble soothing her even before his words had been understood. "Dying prophets are supposed to have all the answers. Don't get many friends either. And there's no protocol for when they suddenly stop dying!" He barked out a laugh that was softened by the touch he gently laid on her upturned palm. "So, what is your spiritual crisis?"

"I'm alive. I should thank the Gods. But it seems ... wrong. I woke up cured, not by faith but by some unnatural experiment."

"There's nothing unnatural about modern medicine. Maybe it just wasn't your time."

"No, I ..." Laura broke off, searching the priest's face. The details of her cure, including the existence of Sharon's pregnancy, were closely guarded secrets. "Dr. Baltar's research identified a ... Cylon compound ... that could fight the cancer. It was administered without my consent," she finished, somewhat defensively.

"I see," Cavil replied, drawing out the words with an intent look at her. "And you're worried that this ... compound ... might have rejiggered a few other things when it zapped the cancer."

"Perhaps, yes. Or that it might prevent the fulfillment of Pythia's prophecy. This is just not the way it was supposed to happen."

"You know what I think, Madame President? I think that what's bothering you is life, not that mysterious cure. I think you've been going about your business brimming with confidence, because you knew your destiny was to find Earth and to die. And then along comes fate, or the Gods, and they take away that certainty. Well, welcome to the world the rest of us inhabit! We have to wake up in the morning and find our own goals. We worship Gods who are considerably less involved in our day-to-day lives than your Pythia has been. We muddle through on our own."

Laura stared at him until he let out a sudden guffaw.

"Not what you were expecting to hear? I could have told you that Baltar and his cure were the sacred instruments of the Gods ..." He broke off in a laugh again when he saw the look that appeared on Laura's face.

"That idea frightens me too." He held up his hands and shrugged. "Find a life, start living it. If you develop red glowing eyes, perhaps we'll revisit the question. Until then, I'm sure you can find something to keep yourself busy," he finished dryly.

Basestar

It was like she was dreaming while still awake.

Laura's stiletto heels clicked frantically against the odd floor of the Basestar as she strode swiftly through the halls. Her body was acting as if she'd forgotten something; she peered around corners and turned to look down corridors not taken. Her eyes searched out nooks behind doors and crannies under tables. She was stumped. There was a delicate symphony behind her which she recognized as the repetitive cadence of the Centurions following her, but was too focused on her goal to turn and check. Instead, she drew her chest up and increased her speed. It felt good to push herself now that her body was whole again.

It was instinct rather than observation that led her to turn down a slightly darkened corridor just in time to see a flash of movement around the corner at the end of the hall. She charged onward. There was an ominous humming in the air, but Laura couldn't tell whether it was coming from the ship or her own momentum. She reached the end of the corridor and saw Boomer standing a few feet away holding a white bundle. The sight of the swaddled shape made Laura's stomach churn for some reason, and she leaned over waiting for the unexpected nausea to pass. When she looked up the Eight had disappeared.

As she looked around, disoriented, Laura realized that her surroundings had changed. The neutral gunmetal gray of the Basestar had been replaced by rich velvets, warm yellow wallpaper and cream columns. It was a palatial theater, one she recognized slightly from her foggy memories of Caprica. There had been a fundraising event there perhaps, a black-tie affair. She had looked around and appreciated the furnishings fleetingly, then resented the fact that she was there on business rather than pleasure. She had never thought of it since.

Laura didn't want to know what was in the bundle, but her feet would not obey her. She was now running along a Tauron carpet runner in red and purple, trailing her hand along the balcony as if it was energizing her. Across the railing she saw a stage below her, gleaming yellow hardwoods and rippling curtains. Something moved down there, a being so filled with light that electrons seemed to be beaming out of her. A Six model stood there, dressed in pure white, and as she made eye contact with Laura she put a finger to her lips in a warning and smiled.

Galactica

Starbuck had been going around in circles trying to put her finger on what was wrong with Laura Roslin. Her skin had lost that papery, translucent look the cancer had brought, and she had obviously been eating more recently. The wheelchair she used when getting to meetings was clearly a pretense, a prop used by the men around her to convince themselves that her recovery was not miraculous, a feigned weakness belied by Laura's clear voice and challenging gaze. And still, there was something off; the woman was deeply unhappy.

Without making a conscious decision, Kara had been taking the route to sickbay as she wondered about the President. As she rounded the corner into the recovery room, Doctor Cottle looked up and pointed a lit cigarette accusingly.

"No! You, out! I said no more visitors. She's having her last scan, and then she can go and take this ridiculous circus with her." He gesticulated widely at nothing in particular, then let out his breath in a rush as Starbuck held up an object in her hands beseechingly.

"Just need to give her this. Five minutes, max. You'll never know I was here." She laughed at the mock-furious face that Cottle pulled, then danced behind the sickbay screens hiding Laura from view. The moment Laura saw her, the buoyant cheer slid somewhat from Kara's face.

"Madame President!" The Captain masked her change in expression with a casual salute. "May I say, it is a pleasure to see you looking so good."

President Roslin smiled uncertainly. "I feel ... amazingly well," she admitted.

Kara leaned over and folded Roslin's fingers around something. "I can't think of a more convincing event," she whispered conspiratorially, "to show that the Gods really do answer prayers."

Laura opened her hand to find a small clay idol of Athena. "I held her every day when I prayed for you," Starbuck continued. "I figured if she likes you so much maybe you could send her a few prayers on my behalf." The last sentence was said with another cheeky wink, but the sentiment was sincere.

Laura seemed hesitant. "I'm ... Thank you Kara, I'm touched. Lately I've been wondering whether the Gods' will has been done." She smoothed the sheet on her bed absently. "Whether I'm still meant to be leading this Fleet, and to where."

Kara's eyes were warm but piercing. "We need you," she replied firmly. "We were all praying when we thought we were losing you. Perhaps the prayers made them change their minds."

Laura looked at the young soldier with immeasurable gratitude. "Thank you, Kara. You have no idea how much I needed to hear that."

"Or maybe the Gods were just too scared to piss off the Doc," Starbuck finished loudly, forcing the atmosphere back to levity.

"I'm not deaf, Captain Thrace," came a booming voice from outside the curtain. "And your time is definitely up!"

Basestar

Caprica was surprised to find a visitor who wasn't Cavil, which revealed just how accustomed she'd become to his unwelcome appearances. The cadence of his visits had become so regular she had begun to count her days by them, only to be disrupted by the recent arrival. This time, the woman formerly known as President Roslin stalked warily into her room. The guileless eyes of Laura's Centurion guards mechanically inspected the area as they stepped through the hatch. Truth be told, Caprica was somewhat intrigued by what Roslin had come for; there were just so many possibilities. What do you ask of the enemy you've become?

The other woman shared details of her life and death on Colonial One, halting and wary. She was out of place here, dressed in the bathrobe and with a face full of confusion. Still, she was alive. Healthy, even.

Caprica smiled. "You look well."

Laura snorted, a hard look coming to her face. "I would have been better off dead."

"But then you would not fulfill God's plan for you."

"I am on a Cylon ship. This is not part of the Gods' plan for me." She strode closer to Caprica. "Do you remember your deaths?" It seemed like a question asked solely to change the subject.

Caprica looked hard at the older woman, but Roslin was purposefully looking past her. "Some of them. And some of my sisters'. Dying is hard, but sometimes not as hard as waking up again."

Roslin let out a brief, untranslatable noise. "Tell me about them. The deaths."

"I died in the attacks on the Colonies. That was my first." She steeled herself, quenching the flashes of memory. "There was a bombing on Caprica that landed too close to Gaius's house. Other times before that I'd been shot, stabbed, drowned—"

"No," Roslin interrupted. "I don't want a laundry list. Tell me about them." She enunciated the words more carefully this time.

Caprica uncrossed her legs on the cot, angling herself toward Roslin's stiff form, and adjusted her dress straps. This ritual always helped to calm her mind, to remind her of the right path. It put Roslin on edge, of course, which was part of its attraction.

"Dying is easy." She relished the contradiction to her earlier words. "It's finding something worth dying for that's the hard part."

She saw Roslin perk up, noticed her tendons flex yearningly. The woman's martyr complex had been obvious, but Caprica was surprised by how single-minded the President had become, how vulnerable to being led.

"My death on Caprica was planned. It was my duty to make sure the data got out, to bear witness to the effectiveness of the attack. It was programming, nothing more. It meant nothing. But then, just before the shockwave hit, I looked into Gaius's eyes and I finally realized if I didn't save him, somehow my next lives would become meaningless, too."

Six smiled as she saw Roslin cowed by the response. Death was nothing. It was a basic Cylon tenet, one of the greatest, and it was a rare gift to be able to introduce it to a fledgling sister. Even one as tenuous as Roslin.

Laura's face betrayed her puzzlement. "Every time you died, it was to advance the Cylon cause. Every death was meaningful. Dr. Baltar had already delivered the access you needed—he was as expendable as one of your bodies. And you're telling me you saved him because you had feelings for him?"

She nodded slowly, letting her sadness flit openly across her face. "Gaius and I are in love. I show him the right path, show him God's love. Only through me will he be saved."

She faltered, her eyes flicking to the impassive red eyes above them. Impulsively, she reached forward with her hand. "Come with me."

Laura's forehead creased as she glanced at her guards. "But where?"

Caprica smiled winningly. "Take my hand."

Hesitantly, Laura touched the woman's palm, and suddenly their surroundings changed. Laura was sitting on the edge of a fountain. As she looked down, she gasped in delight. "The Riverwalk! I loved it here." Her voice drifted off, and Caprica could see the shadows of memories play across her face. Laura was wearing a purple skirt with hand-stitched flowers, and her hand was splayed against the concrete of the fountain edge.

There were none of the usual noises, no children playing or intimate lunch conversations nearby. Caprica walked toward Laura through a square devoid of people. She was wearing a white sheath dress, and the sun danced on her blonde waves and toned skin. She smiled lovingly at Laura.

"The Centurions can't follow us here. Their minds aren't advanced enough."

"What is this?" Laura breathed.

"A projection—a space supported by our minds." Six looked around carefully. "The Riverwalk, on Caprica? Did you like it here?"

Laura nodded. "I ate my lunch here almost every day." She patted the concrete of the fountain, tears threatening to spill down her face. Then she looked up at Caprica's face. "I saw you here once, with Baltar. What were you saying before, about Gaius?"

Caprica took a seat on the fountain beside her. They didn't have enough time to say all they needed to. "Gaius needs me, on Galactica. He shuts me out; I can feel it. He's not following God's plan. Gina has him preoccupied."

"The Cylon from Pegasus?" Alarm grew in Laura's voice as she considered the implications of Gaius Baltar collaborating with Cylons in the Fleet.

"Yes. We must find a way to return to the Fleet, but the other models would never support that."

"Cylon politics?" Laura inquired.

Six inclined her head in agreement. "God will provide us with another way, but we must be patient." She smiled beatifically. "Cavil will suspect something if he sees us meeting. You cannot visit me again." She stood and began walking away.

"I don't want to leave here," Laura admitted, submerging one hand experimentally in the cool water of the fountain.

"And Laura?" Caprica's voice grew serious as the scene around them started to fade. "Your mind chose for us to come here. Only a Cylon could do that. You are accepting your truth." Her voice was warm with approval.


When she returned to her room she found Cavil standing in front of the door, his arms crossed.

"Did you think I wouldn't notice your meeting of the minds with that nutty Six?" His face was dark, tensed, his voice a bark. However menacing his lounge lizard act had been, his unmasked anger was far more threatening. "You think she's got any more tricks up her sleeve than you do? Did she look like her God's been answering her lately?"

Laura did her valiant best to appear unruffled by his fury. "Caprica and I had met before. We were just exchanging pleasantries."

His mouth was suddenly very close to hers, his arm pressing her body against the bulkhead. "I thought we had come to an understanding. I was so very generous with you. I see now that you were not worthy of my trust."

"I have a very different definition of trust, Cavil," she hissed through tears she didn't realize had started.

"You are a Cylon!" Cavil was starting to shout. "Act like one! Do the job you were made for. You know what we need."

Laura realized with surprise that he was right, that she knew where the Fleet was heading, even though they'd been floating blind last time she was on Galactica. If she chose to, she could show him everything.

"Maybe I am a Cylon." She almost choked on the words. "Whatever I am, yours isn't the side I want to be on. And you'd better lock me up well, Cavil, because I won't frakking rest until I kill every last one of you."

There was an expression of deep revulsion on Cavil's face, and he grabbed Laura firmly by the shoulders. He shoved her inside the room, handling her as easily as a weak kitten. As she heard the door's lock mechanism slide closed, Laura saw that the room had been changed in her absence. The dresser, the mirror, the fuzzy white slippers: all gone. The luxurious bed that stood in the room's center had been replaced by a hard cot that highlighted the room's emptiness.

Laura sank down wearily onto the canvas-covered frame of the bed, feeling a dangerous pulsing in her head.

I am a Cylon.

I have two copies.


Swirling in her mind were star maps and phrases from Pythia and faces from the memorial wall. Her forehead felt hot and tight, as if part of her was expanding into somewhere that had no room for it. Laura tried to envision her childhood image of the shore, the people waiting for her, but found that the faces slipped away just as she visualized them. Despite the austere décor, the walls of her cell felt very close now. Wrapping her arms protectively around herself, Laura lay motionless on the cot for several hours, clinging to the memories that had betrayed her and longing for Galactica.

Tags: chapter two, full story
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