Kara huddled into the pilot seat of the Raptor as they coasted towards Caprica, running on silent and letting momentum get them as close to the planet as possible. Beside her Helo was leaning into the side of the cockpit, politely ignoring her attempts to nap, the last 48 hours of chaos keeping her from actually sleeping. Every time she shut her eyes and tried to blank her mind all she could see was explosions and floating metal, unnaturally loud for the vacuum of space as she remembered picking up on the empathic backlash that had followed Zak’s spiral to the ground. She carefully pushed the thoughts to one side and breathed deeply through her nose as she waited for the memory to fade and her mind to relax.
Giving up on getting any rest she slid from the seat and moved into the main area of the ship to start moving through a series of well practiced stretches. Fatigue making tremors wrack her muscles as she held each position and her muscles ache and twitch as she tried to move smoothly from one position to the next.
“You should sleep, Helo.” She said as she rose from the final position to find the man watching her reflection in the main console. “Stims will only get us so far and they work best if you’ve actually had a little sleep.”
“Who could sleep now?” He questioned, waving a hand at Caprica, the sky mockingly clear, giving them a perfect view of the devastation the nuclear warheads had caused. After a moment he shifted, twisting in his seat to actually look at her.
“I don’t know, a Cylon?” She laughed bitterly,
“Do you think they realised how much damage they would cause? Do you think Genocide was their aim or are there Cylons sat out there shocked at what they did, at the damage they caused?” Helo asked quietly,
“They only look human, don’t mistake that for humanity and expect regret or horror. The Cylons are machines, synthetics with a faulty line of programming.” She hissed, the horror, shock and revulsion of those who came before her feeding into her own frustration.
“But what’s the purpose? Why wipe us out? What cause could that serve? Think tactically, what do they win by getting rid of us? They had a whole solar system and anything they could explore and conquer on their side of the Galaxy.” Helo asked, stretching his legs out to rest on the seat opposite him, easily falling into their well practiced habit of debating something back and forth to fill the boredom of long flights.
Kara started the next set of stretches as she considered her answer, after a few positions she finally replied, “Our mines are already established, our cities are already built. The right kind of nuclear device and the Cylons can just move right in and start living.”
“Assuming that the Cylons want the same lifestyle as us. You’re right we can’t assume that because they look like us they imitate us in everything. If we can’t expect empathy why should we expect the same desires?” Helo shot back quickly as he massaged his forearm with a frown.
“You should really sleep,” Kara said almost as an aside before moving to sit in the pilot’s seat again, climbing over Helo’s legs and then lifting them into her lap. “Ok, so they don’t want what we want, they have no desire to live in the style we did…. Then all this can be is destruction for the sake of destruction. Angry children smashing their parents’ stuff.” Kara let her eyes dart away for Helo’s when he dropped his gaze to look at the floor. She looked back that the planet below them before finally sighing “We chose to play God and then turned out backs on what we had made. We neglected our children, wouldn’t you want revenge for that?”
As she finished talking they both flinched back into their seats as though sitting a little lower and speaking a little quieter would help the Cylon ship directly above them pass overhead without seeing them. As the Baystar began to move onto patrolling the next quadrant, Kara leant forward and flicked the engines on. She heard Helo stop breathing beside her as they both waited for the Baystar to turn and attack them. The Raptor lurched and then moved forward smoothly, entering the pull of the planet. Helo twisted back to his console and began quickly following the movements of the Baystar.
“Moving away with no change, 90 degree rotation to head towards the polar cap, moved 15 along the z-axis holding position to scan, 90 degree rotation to pass over the capital.” In one long breath before eventually gasping in, “And entering the next quadrant. Crash zone clear for landing.” Kara nodded and as Helo tugged the restraint harness on she flicked the engines into free movement mode and began to treat the Raptor like the far more nimble Viper. She slammed the towards the ground with reckless abandon, only skill and practice allowing them to land safely.
As soon as the Raptor was settled on the ground she unstrapped and without waiting piled out of her seat. She heard Helo following her, pausing to collect the camo cloth to shed the Raptor as he came. She hit the cracked ground hard and raced across the few meters separating her from the crashed Viper that she had landed as close to as possible.
She started to drag the damaged armoured panelling out of the way, digging through the charred scrub and the churned soil that had been thrown up by the crash, her jackdaw crossing fully into the physical plane to help pull branches and the odd clump of soil out of the way. Helo arrived next to her with a curse as she managed to uncover the top of the clear cockpit, the rest of the cockpit and the nose of the ship buried deep, where it had screwed itself into the ground with its mad spiralling.
Helo caught her shoulder and tugged her backwards until she tumbled back, sending them both to the ground. He wrapped his strong arms around her and held her for a moment until she took a deep breath and snarled at him.
“Ready to listen?” He asked softly as she realised that before the snarl she had been shouting. She nodded, the back of her head brushing against his chest. “Okay, we need to slide it out of the soil, but even with a Sentinel’s strength, we can’t move it as it is. We need to strip the panelling off as far as we can reach.”
“If it isn’t too damaged we should load it into the Raptor. The Chief’s going to find it pretty difficult to make repairs without a ship yard to send replacement parts.” Kara muttered as she crawled out of Helo’s grip and pulled a multi-tool out of her flight suit pouch.
They worked in silence, ignoring the sickening scent of char that reached them when they disturbed the inner panelling. Helo held Kara’s feet as she slid down into a hole they had dug beside the ship to release the nose and surrounding panels. When she pushed herself back up and out he helped her to her feet. She looked over at the pile of salvage they had made and smiled softly at the yip she received from the fox that had once more joined them. Without a word being exchanged they took their places on either side of the skeletal ship they had made.
“One, Two, THREE” she shouted the last word as she let all the strength that she had been ignoring since coming online engage. They both roared as the ship shifted, caught and then finally slid free. Kara slipped and hit the ground hard as the Viper landed flat on the ground, the clear cover finally shattering as though this last indignity was too much for it to bear. She scrambled to her feet and scaled the ship to reach the cockpit. She grabbed at the flipped seat and cut the restraints free before heaving it out of the cockpit to crash into the ground. She faintly heard Helo swear as she barely missed him. She stood looking down into the cockpit in shock before finally muttering, in a voice that rose to a shout,
“He’s gone. It is empty… There’s nothing here!” She twisted and dropped back to the ground, reaching the seat even as Helo did. They both span it and checked it over before looking at each other in horror.
“‘Parachute is still in here…”
“Ejection lever hasn’t been triggered…”
“The cockpit was in one piece…”
“It was buried underground…”
They said in quick succession, overlapping each other until Helo eventually asked,
“Did we check the pit?” in a slightly horrified tone. They both looked at the pit before slowly walking to the edge to look in at the panelling that had fallen in. Kara slid down one of the panels and carefully began to sift through the wreckage. The smoke keeping her from using scent to search for Zak. After passing a few of the intact panels up to Helo to be added to the pile she leant back against the edge of the pit and looked up at Helo.
Kara took the hand that she was offered and let Helo pull her up so she could sit on the edge of the pit. She pulled one leg up and sat with her forehead resting against her knee for a little while taking deep, carefully paced breaths. Eventually, she pushed to her feet and wiped her hands down the front of her thighs before nodding silently at the pile of salvage, grabbing the first panel and loading it into the Raptor. When the pile was fully loaded she grabbed the two slim radiation kits they had brought and a slightly bulkier med kit out of the kit bins and slid the door shut.
“We should split up, you head towards the camp we saw to the west, I’ll make for the command base. We’ll meet in the Karfa building,” she pointed at the spire barely visible in the distance ” at dawn tomorrow. Tell anyone at the camp that they should meet us here in… Three days? Do you think that’ll give us enough time to steal a few Raptors?”
“You’re assuming I’ll find a pilot.” Helo said drily, “Mind you I think I can just about remember how to fly one of these things so that gives us two ships at least.” Kara rolled her eyes at him as she threw the radiation kit over and started to walk away.
“Every twelve hours and if you aren’t on time tomorrow I’m leaving your ass here.” She shouted over her shoulder, pulling the first dose of radiation treatment from the kit and shooting it into her thigh as she walked away.
As the dark outline of the base walls appeared in the distance a flash of white caught her attention and Kara dropped to the ground, flattening herself into the bracken at the edge of the path she was following. After a few moments the white resolved itself into the fox and as her jackdaw descended from the sky she rolled to crouch on the ground.
“You,” she said to the fox with an exasperated sigh “are a liar or a time waster. You let me spend all that time digging around in a stinking hole and he wasn’t even there! What’s the point in you if you aren’t helpful?” The fox yipped and pranced away from her when she reached out to scuff a hand backwards over its fur. The jackdaw dropped to perch on the ground in front of it and fluffed himself up as he danced from foot to foot protectively.
“And don’t get me started on you. Aren’t you meant to be a spirit GUIDE? All you do is turn up and taunt me. I thought the pair of you were tricksters because Zak and I like pranks, not to play games with me! Is this some twisted game? Are the gods watching from on high and laughing every time you lead me a little further astray? Is that it?” She shouted leaping to her feet and marching past the pair of animals on the path. She ignored the caws and barks from behind her until eventually she span around and with tears in her eyes yelled. “Are you Hermes? Is that it?” She rolled her head up to yell up at the sky. “You could at least have left me the body! Isn’t it enough that you took my home? I’m already a joke, when I die people will tell stories of the Sentinel who lost her whole tribe! Failed them all! Couldn’t you have shown me the mercy of letting me grieve or have him for a while.” She dropped to her knees and rolled into the ground, her head pressing against the packed soil as she finally sobbed and raged. She smashed her fist into the ground and sobbed until coughs wracked her body and the sun was long past the zenith.
Finally exhausted she rolled onto her back and flinched when a rough tongue swept over her cheek, wiping the tears away. She shut her eyes and dropped one arm over her face letting herself rest for a moment, just a moment.
A sharp pain had her flinching awake even as a heavy weight pressed onto her chest to keep her from bolting upright. She flicked her eyes open to find the fox perched on her chest as the jackdaw danced back and forth in the path, the steady crunch of metal joints setting a well known fear that was not her own running through her. She crawled on her belly until she reached the small corpse at the side of the road and waited for the small group to pass. She opened her senses as they drew closer and inhaled deeply, wondering if they had taken human prisoners when the smell of hot flesh and fear reached her. She stayed on her belly, not willing to risk meeting another human Cylon even when the spicy, rich notes of Guide drifted towards her.
As the group came over the rise she let her sight stretch out until she could see the Colonial uniform of the Cylon prisoner. She held her place. Breathed slowly and steadily as the group passed and when they were also set out of sight she slid to her feet and ghosted behind them.
She dropped into a ditch as they reached the base and waited for the gates to slide closed before slowly crawling closer. Sliding through a narrow waterway, twisting sideways and forcing her way between the bars separating the ditch from the interior of the base. She bit her lip as her hips grated and bruised as she wriggled them through the almost too small space, only the slipperiness of her flight suit letting her glide through. With a last kick, she slid to the end of the tunnel and waited to figure out the pattern of the guards.
As the sun dropped behind the walls of the base, Kara slowly stretched and worked the crick out of her neck before sliding from the narrow tunnel that she was wedged into. Keeping low she dashed across the parade ground and slid into the deep shadows of the weapon store doorway as the metallic Cylons looped back around to her side of the building.
She waited. The Cylons paused in the centre of the parade ground and with a mouthed, but silent curse, Kara pressed back into the shadows a little more. The Cylons turned, all six moving as one. Kara forced her eyes to stay open and held her breath. They lifted their arms. Kara locked her knees to keep from crumpling to the ground. She bit her lip. They moved across the parade ground towards her and as one saluted. Kara frowned and the door she was leaning on opened, crushing her into the wall and leaving her hidden between it and the wall, a foot and shoulder appearing around the edge of it as one of the human Cylons leant half on the wall, half on the door.
“You are a fool. They will never accept you and the others will destroy you.” A familiar female voice said. Kara frowned and let her head drop to her chest as she tried to place it.
“I never asked to take this role, I’m not one. of. you… Dedicated to some madcap cause in the hope of winning the love of your ‘one true God’.” Kara’s eyes flew open and she barely bit back the gasp of shock as Zak spoke. “You all have this ancient cause and you expect me to … To embrace it like it’s mine. But I’m not one of you. You made me and then abandoned me with Humans. You hate them for abandoning you and yet…“
“You were born! But you are still Cylon, the next of our kind. The future of our people and you need to play your part.” The woman said again.
“Sharon,” Zak half shouted, Kara bit her lip and squeezed her hands together painfully to keep from slamming around the door to see if the female Cylon truly was identical to Boomer. “You destroyed our future.” He laughed disbelievingly, “If you truly wanted to be able to make both sides of the pairing then you shouldn’t have wiped them out in the last war.”
“We left you a match.”
“Leave Kara out of this!” Zak shouted, a thud following as Sharon gasped with pain.
“Female Sentinels always throw more Sentinels during periods of tribal distress, especially when there is a shortage of Sentinels.” Sharon panted, “If you play your part then there will be no need for more destruction.”
“I’m going to kill you all.” Zak growled slowly, “I refuse to be a puppet in a war you started. If I am a new evolution. A new kind of Cylon. Then I refuse to pick up the mantle of death and destruction that you created.” Kara heard his voice waver and knew that there would be tears of anger on his lash line, she smiled affectionally without intending to. “Just because I am the continuation of your line doesn’t mean that I have to follow your beliefs.”
“Don’t come crying to me when they kill you again,” Sharon said mockingly, her fingers curling around the edge of the door above the curve of Zaks’ shoulder so she could slam it shut as they walked away. Kara bit her lip to keep from whimpering in pain as Zak pressed into the door, holding it open and keeping Kara hidden, firmly.
“They didn’t kill me. You did.” Zak spat at Sharon. The fingers uncurled from the door and Kara could hear boot heels crossing the parade ground as Sharon crossed the parade ground to join the metallic Cylons where they waited before leading them away.
After a moment the weight lifted off the door and before Kara could brace to attack an arm reached around it, grabbed her, tugged her into the weapons store and then released her to cover her mouth. She kicked out at his legs and bit down on the fleshy part of his hand as the door slammed shut behind them and he released her with a gasp of pain and a whine,
Kara span to face Zak and levelled her weapon at his head. “I don’t know much about Cylons but I’m guessing a headshot will kill most things,” Kara said calmly as Zak held his hands up, eyes wide as he stared at her.
“I’m not on their side. I didn’t know what they were going to do! I swear, Kara, I didn’t even know any more about them than you. Kara…”
“Shut up. SHUT UP!” Kara shouted, keeping her weapon steady despite the tears starting to escape. “What did you do with my Zak. Did you collect his body to copy him? WHAT THE FRACK DID YOU DO WITH MY GUIDE!” She yelled moving forward and slamming the Cylon into the metal cabinet behind him, muzzle of the gun pressed into his forehead.
“Kara, it’s me.” He breathed softly,
“You copied Boomer, you can’t fool me into thinking you can’t copy people.” Kara growled.
“They didn’t copy Boomer. Sharon is just… Another version of the same model. But there is just one me.”
“Zak didn’t survive that crash. Too much blood. Too much char.”
“OK, I’m not… Exactly… The Zak you knew. But I am… Could you stop threatening me? You know I’m not good with thinking with a gun to my head.” He stuttered.
Kara tilted her head and took a deep breath. Smelling only fear and honesty she stepped back and hopped up to sit on one of the chests lining the opposite side of the room. Zak took a shuddering breath. “I died, I remember locking the bond off then hitting the ground. I died. And then I woke up. And they explained it all. That they … Bred me, half Cylon, half human. Planted me in the human family they stole the genetic material from. Believe me I did not ask about that. And then abandoned me. There is only one me. Something about the Guide-half human thing keeps there from being more than one of me at a time, they can build, grow…. Clone… a new body to download me into but they can’t activate more than one of me at a time. You must be able to tell I’m not the same as them, that Cylons are different to humans I’m different to both of them” Kara stared at him. She flinched as the jackdaw and fox appeared but didn’t look away from Zak.
“I can’t tell any of them… Us… Cylons, Humans… Half-breeds apart. I met one he smelt like a guide, tasted like a guide but its like he was hollow.“ She eventually confessed, tone low and soft as the fox headbutted her before yipping and hopping across the room to wind around Zak’s feet. Kara took a deep breath and slowly relaxed the tight hold that grief had would around the tattered edges of the bond. She reached out for it and followed the smooth and undamaged bond to the end. Her gun clattered to the floor and as she reached out blindly Zak stepped into her arms and she pulled him close. “You don’t feel hollow, I can feel you.”
“Kara, I want to go home.” Zak half sobbed into her shoulder.
“You’re a Cylon. Zak… I want to believe you but you’re a Cylon.” She eventually whispered.
“I’ll do anything you need me to. Take any test, answer any questions, sit in a gods damned lead box cell until you are certain that I can’t communicate with any other Cylons. Just don’t leave me here.”
“Okay.” Kara eventually breathed, pulling back a little but not letting go. “Okay, we need to take as much kit as we can carry and head into the City. I’m assuming that the Cylons crawling all over this place means that everyone else is dead?” Zak nodded before silently opening a kit bin and tossing a carryall at her.
– – –
Kara released Zak’s hand as she jumped and slid out of the hole they had made in the weapons store roof. She reached down and pulled the two heavy carryalls up to rest next to her before twisting to sit looking out at the horizon, her senses expanding and assessing the location of every living, or synthetic living, thing in their vicinity. When Zak appeared next to her she motioned for him to follow her as she grabbed a bag and ran stooped over to the edge of the roof. She glanced over and the looked side to side for a better place to jump down, as she gave up and prepared for the fall Zak pressed a hand to her shoulder and whispered,
“Let me, I figure I can handle the drop better, part Cylon has to win out with some benefits right?”
“Please stop saying that.” Kara whispered back as she backed away from the edge a little to give him room. Zak shrugged and as he slid over the edge of the roof to dangle by his fingertips he replied,
“Not saying it isn’t going to make it less true.” Before letting go, Kara peeked over the edge as a quiet curse and a wash of pain flowed over her from her Guide. “I was wrong. No benefits. Just going to lie here in pain for a minute,” he whispered so quietly that only Kara could possibly hear it. Kara rolled her eyes and let the first bag dangle over the edge as Zak stepped into position to catch it.
As the last bag was dropped to the ground Kara dangled over the edge before kicking off slightly and letting go. Zak caught her in a tight grip, the landing making them both grunt at the force. He dropped her to her feet and as she came upright she pressed a kiss to his face.
“Not saying it greatly decreases the chances of my skin crawling off my body from Tribal memories and of other people taking it into their heads to kill you.” She swung one of the bags over her shoulder, pointed herself in the direction of the Karfa building and started to run towards it.
“You think the Tribal memories are getting to you? Try being in my head for an hour, the Ancient Guides are trying to talk me through dissecting my own brain to figure out how the Cylons did it.” Zak muttered, falling into place with her easily. Kara glanced sideways at him and reached out to catch his hand. Holding it loosely as they raced towards the city, trying to beat the sunrise.
“The scar is gone.” She said as they crossed the first road ringing the city bounds. Her fingers tracing lightly over the place where there had once been a large network of scars left behind by the prank gone wrong that had made them fall in love.
“I know, it doesn’t even look like my hand, sometimes I see it when I’m eating or taking a piss.” Kara felt him shudder slightly before tugging his hand out of hers and pulling his sleeve down over it. “There’s a part of me that wants to get rid of it entirely and another part that wants to sit down and carve the scars back into my skin. How fucked up is that?” Zak burst ahead of her suddenly, putting room between them to avoid having to talk. The bond turning almost cold before softening and letting Kara reach out to Zak blindly to soothe him. She waited for a while and then realising that she couldn’t think of a way to help him she caught up and nudged Zak back in the right direction.
Zak paused when they reached final crossing into the city outskirts and stopped Kara from crossing the bridge. Kara frowned at him until he pointed at the far edge of the city proper. Kara scanning the horizon before finally spotting a glimmer on the top of a tower block, she focused until she could see the Cylons properly and murmured.
“They’re just stood there. Not moving. Not looking around.”
“Power conservation, they will still notice the movement,” Zak replied softly, tugging Kara to the west.
“How far can they see… Detect?” Kara asked as she followed him.
“Not as far as a Sentinel but far enough that I don’t want to get closer.” Zak paused, before sighing “Can you see something we can sneak down the side of, or better under, to keep out of their vision?”
Kara tilted her head and looked along the edge of the city, “Yeah, there’s a utilities bridge about a mile away that we could crawl along. I hope Helo came in from the other direction.”
“Helo? Where did you leave him?” Zak twisted to look at her in surprise “And it probably wouldn’t help I suspect that there are some watching in every direction.”
“Well, it was hardly the best use of time to both go looking for the same thing. I sent Helo to look for civilians while I looked for military.” She gasped as they ran towards the crossing.
“No, wait.” Zak snapped, turning to run backwards. “So you just decided to wander around Cylon central on your own and hope that you both manage to make it back to some arbitrary meeting point?”
“It’s not arbitrary! And I outrank you, turn your ass around and run properly instead of mocking my planning, Nugget.” Kara snapped light-heartedly.
“Yes, sir.” Zak laughed as they reached the bridge and dropped to crawl over it. Kara rolled her eyes at his back before following him into the city.
They looped around the few building between the Karfa building and them, pausing at the corner when they spotted that the door was smashed open. Kara scented the air before huffing in annoyance,
“Human or Human Cylon I can’t tell!”
“Try and pull out a scent deeper than that skin, there’s metal in their bones. They aren’t affected by radiation so there will be no blockers in their system.” Zak soothed, stepping towards her and wrapping his arms around her and pulling her tight against his chest. He rested his head on her shoulder and pressed his lips against her neck. Kara rested back against him and scented the air again, sifting through the scents more thoroughly. Zak’s steady warmth keeping her from chasing it too far and losing track of the real world. A familiar, bitter, poison like scent rose to the top and eventually she tilted her head and realised the overlying scent was overwhelmingly Helo.
“We’re good, it’s Helo but your right I can smell the blockers. Let’s hope that that works with metal in bones.”
“It will.” Zak said comfortingly, squeezing her tightly before finally letting go and letting her tug him towards the building.
They crept through the building until they reached the top floor and pushed the door open to come face to face with the muzzle of a gun. Kara caught it before it was levelled at them fully and twisted it out of Helo’s grip, spinning it and offering it back. Helo looked them both up and down before backing off.
“You look very… Healthy, Zak.” He said with a frown, Kara responded quickly before Zak could even start to answer.
“Cylons had him, turns out that they can fix people up pretty well. I guess it helps to start off the interrogation with a healthy subject.” She smiled grimly when Helo winced.
She let go of Zak, giving him a firm look before moving to the window and looking down at the abandoned spaceport below them. “So, how many did you find?”
“Twenty, but they were from another, bigger group, they were the ones who volunteered to run a raid on the city and try and find a way off the planet. They’ve headed back to gather as many as they can. The more we can carry the better, they have one commercial, a retired Raptor and three Viper pilots who were on some kind of retreat to commune with Artemis, plus the three of us and we should be good.” Helo replied quietly as he grabbed a hand-drawn map from one of the tables that littered the room and added a few notes. Kara looked over his shoulder and with a glance back at Zak took the map from him.
“Patrol routes and sight lines, right? Zak can finish that while you help me figure out what we can steal.” Kara tossed the map over her shoulder and pulled Helo closer to the window. “So I’m thinking big. You and Zak grab one of the Raptors each and I’m going to steal Colonial One.” She grinned pointing at one of the large Carriers used for moving members of the Korum and the President.
“And where exactly are you planning to hide that to get people on board?” Zak asked,
Ignoring Zak’s sensible question Helo decided to pout,”Well, that’s not fair! I’ve always wanted to fly in Colonial one.”
“Oh, Helo, I hate to shatter your dreams but you’ve never been able to handle the big boys. Best leave that to me.” Kara grinned, nudging him with her hip before answering Zak, “That is where our three Raptors come into play. I don’t intend to hide when we are loading. The Cylon bombs were big and dirty, and they set off a few volcanoes. I’m going to take that beautiful beast down there and perch myself in an ash cloud until you let me know that we are ready to leave.”
“So we call you to pick up the refugees and then the Raptors make out that we are evacuating and lead the Cylons in a merry chase to keep them from spotting you. Sounds like fun” Helo grinned before leaning a little closer to whisper, “will you let me fly her when we get home?”
Kara just laughed, “Two days, Gentlemen. Zak, keep watch and see if you can figure out what they can see from their positions and start working out the best route to get to the ships. Helo, sleep, if you take any more stims we won’t have to get you a Raptor to fly in.” She ordered as she pulled two couches together and settled in. As she drifted to sleep she focused on the bond and carefully tried to persuade her mind to wake her up if anything changed. A gut feeling telling her that leaving a Cylon, half-human or not, to watch her back was a bad idea.
A soft whispering woke her long after the sun had set, only the wash of floodlights on the airfield coming through the windows lighting the room they were in. She slowly focused on the whispering and realised that Helo and Zak were mid-conversation.
“… I don’t really remember. I remember crashing and then” Zak’s shadow shifted on the wall as he shrugged “I woke up with the Cylons.” Kara chewed her lip worriedly as Zak continued, ” It was all pretty confusing, one minute I’m thinking I’m a dead man, the next I’m waiting for the Cylons to start torturing me and then there’s Kara. And that’s it really, I wish I had some amazing and slightly horrifying tale to spin but the truth is I was unconscious or confused for the whole… What, two days it took you to come for me?”
“Three, I think. Believe me, boring is probably better. You can make something up to impress the other nuggets later on in the war.” Helo muttered from the nest of pillows he had made.
“Play up the crashing to Caprica in a spinning Viper with one wing, then gloss over the boring bits until you get to my dashing rescue.” Kara added, stretching and yawning before peeling herself off the couches to look over Zak’s plan.
They crept from the building and quietly scaled the fence between the road and the airfield, each of them pausing as they reached the top to check for Cylons before dropping down and waving the next over. They dropped to lie in the long grass at the base of the fence as they waited for the small group of metallic Cylons to pass. As the last one passed out of sight, Kara rose to her feet and with a run and hop jumped onto the top of one of the Raptors in the centre of the field. She settled down to lie flat along the top, carefully hidden by the communications array. She motioned for Zak and Helo to join her and watched the Cylon patrol carefully until she felt the Raptor rock under her slightly as Zak climbed in. She winced at the metal on metal scrape of the next Raptor along’s door opening before sliding down to the ground and giving both men a thumbs up as they settled into their Raptors.
She crouched down and scurried towards the Carrier, half a field away from the Raptors. She hid behind a landing brace as the Cylon patrol looped around the field and started to head back towards the buildings. She slid open the maintenance hatch on the bottom of the ship and carefully climbed through the workings before kicking open an interior panel to get into the cockpit.
She clicked the radio on and started to prepare the carrier for liftoff, Frowning at some of the switches before reaching under the pilot’s chair to pull out a cheat sheet. As she reached the last section of the checks the radio burst to life,
“They’re behind the buildings,” Helo said, seconds before Zak said the same thing.
“Let’s go then, you have about two hours before my engines start to block from the ash.” She replied, hitting the last switch and bracing for the jerk and pressure of the Carrier lifting off the ground. She quickly hit the right elevation and shot forwards into the ash cloud a few miles in front of them before knocking the ship into auto-pilot hover. She settled back to watch the distance flares of red and gold as the volcanoes continue to spew ash and molten rock into the air. For a moment before getting to work on the FTL and onboard computers, the radio chatter of Zak and Helo looping the Raptors in and out of the ash as they waited for the refugees to reach the agreed meeting zone fading to a comforting background noise.
Kara shut her eyes and reached out for the bond, inspecting it carefully, trying to spot and flaws or wrongness to give away that this Zak was an imitation rather than her Zak. She turned it over and over in her head, tugging at sections and pushing into the cracks from where it had snapped when Zak crashed. She pulled away and left it be when she felt a brush along the edges of her mind and heard a mental whine of pain at the prodding. Instead, she watched her jackdaw hop up and down the length of the carrier inspecting every seat until a new voice joined the radio chatter.
“We found the Raptor you mentioned although I have no idea how you expect us all to fit in here, even if we take all this scrap out.” The woman said,
“We have plan for that, get your people to sit in the corpse then get back in the Raptor and wait for instructions.” Kara ordered quickly before adding, “Helo, let me know when you are ready for me.” The confirmation came back quickly and Kara shifted out of the pilot’s seat to the co-pilot’s and flicked the engines into a cleaning cycle in preparation for moving off.
“OK, We are away, Starbuck. Let us know when you hit stratosphere and we’ll join you for the jump.” Helo said, his voice a little strained. Kara shifted the carrier forwards to the edge of the ash cloud and waited until she saw the Raptors split up and start heading into space.
She dropped down and slowly brought the Carrier down to rest on the ground. Inexperience with the model making her extra careful when she hit the last meter or so. She sighed deeply as the landing braces activated and the auto lander kicked in, jumping out of her seat to race down the Carrier. She threw the door open and kicked the stairs down, the base of them barely hitting the ground before the first person was hopping up them.
The last person darted up the stairs, hitting the stair retractor has he reached the top in a motion that spoke of years of habit, held his hand out and introduced himself as a carrier pilot.
“It’s been a while since I flew this exact version but I figure that I have to be a bit more sure of what I’m doing than a fighter pilot.” Kara just raised and eyebrow at the man and motioned him to the cockpit. Following him and throwing herself into the co-pilot’s seat.
“So I already programmed in the FTL jump and I stripped out the networked computer so getting off the planet is going to be a two person job.” She muttered to him, reaching back to knock the door shut, separating them from the passenger section.
As they finally reached open space, Kara tapped the radio,
“We’re out, prepare to jump as soon as you reach us.” She waited for the confirmation to reach them before sliding out of the seat and stretching up to tap the FTL drive on. She watched the sensors, the raptors and the Baystar appearing from around the back of the planet at the same time. She cursed, quickly knocking the FTL in to fast launch cancelling the count down and overriding the safety protocols. She hit the radio to shout,
“Not waiting, Jump. Jump!” As the Baystar launch pods opened as the first Cylon raiders began to appear above the Raptors. She held her hand over the switch until she saw the first flash of a FTL jump and felt her bond with Zak stretch and pull taunt at the sudden distance between them. As soon as they were clear she nodded to the pilot beside her and slammed her hand down onto the drive activator. The Carrier smoothly sliding forwards before Kara felt the odd pressure of FTL crash through her, she dropped her head down onto the console in front of her and whined low in the back of her throat until the pressure was gone.
She looked up just in time to see the Galactica rotate towards them, pulse weapons at the ready.
“Actual, this is Starbuck. Now guns blazing is what I usually call party but I prefer it when I’m on the other side of the firing solution.” she said quickly, switching to the general comms that the ship used.
“Welcome home, Starbuck. How exactly are you planning to get back on board, I think Colonial One might be a little big for the Chief to manage to get down one of his tubes?” The Admiral replied after a quick exchange of codes.
“Oh, well I figured that Zak could dock his Raptor to the Carrier and I would just hop on over.” She grinned as she waited for a response, the docking light on the console flickering green to let let them know that the connection was secure. She hopped to her feet and slapped the pilot on the shoulder before running the length of the Carrier to the airlock.
She climbed into the Raptor and slipped in next to Zak, pressing a kiss to the side of his head as he concentrated on undocking.
“You need to vent the atmos before you can do that” she muttered at him,
“Don’t distract me.” He shot back tightly, tapping the switch he had just activated off and reaching over to vent the atmosphere from the airlock. “I remembered… Eventually” Kara laughed and reached over him to change half of the settings and activate the thrusters.
“After three runs at flight school with me as a tutor, I should hope so. Swap” she muttered, sliding over to sit in his lap when he refused to move, and starting to manoeuvre the ship towards the Galactica. Kicking Zak’s long legs out of the way when she needed more room to do the detail work of lining up with the tube.
“What do we tell them?” Zak asked, wrapping his arms around her and resting his head on her shoulder to watch the landing process.
“Nothing. You tell them exactly what you told Helo and nothing more.” Kara said as they waited to wheel into the Deck, turning slightly to kiss him properly.
“What if medical can tell?”
“They couldn’t tell before and they can’t tell that Boomer is a Cylon… It’ll be fine. Telling them you burnt your hand pretty badly and they replaced the skin, that should cover the lack of scar.” She added as they wheeled onto the Deck and came to a rest next to where the Admiral was waiting. Zak squeezed her tightly and pushed her to her feet so he could stand. As the door opened, Kara nudged him in front of her and forwards into the transport area so that the Admiral could reach straight in from his position right in front of the door and tug Zak against him.
Kara looked over their heads and smiled at Lee as he ran across the Deck from the ready room towards them,
“Well, I know that you didn’t want to be left with the position of CAG but I didn’t expect you to be so desperate to hand it back.” She said jokingly as he reached them. The Admiral pulled back looking Zak up and down for damage before pushing him off towards Lee with a mutter of,
“Medical, now.” Before turning to Kara, he waited until Zak was out of earshot before asking, “How?”
“Cylons,” she muttered with a shrug “They can make skin so real that I can’t tell the difference, it’s not that much of a leap to guess that if they can make skin they can fix it or replace it. I’m quite happy to let the doc figure that one out.”
“Is he going to be OK?”
“As much as any of us will be, we’re going to have to work out the Sentinel and Guide thing by instinct and rumours, but we have each other.” She said softly, “We can’t stay, there is nothing left here. But I don’t know where else we could go.” The Admiral wrapped an arm around her and slowly lead her off the Deck.
“We follow the legends. We go home.” He said softly, “We’re going to find Earth.”
Behind her Kara heard the Chief loudly swear and drop something heavy sounding as loud yip from the fox and a cackle from the jackdaw rang out across the deck.