Fandom: Battlestar Galactica
Word count: 2401
Notes: No, I have no idea where this concept came from. Yes, I'm aware that it's creepy as fuck and distressingly lacking in pilots.
belomancy (n): fortunetelling through the use of arrows
Counting time to a heartbeat that isn’t yours – thun-ka-thun-ka-thun – a muffled rattle in your empty spaces, in your bloody cavities, an alien beat.
You woke up with moist shivers chasing each other across your skin and a scream caught between your teeth. The scream was a name – Dee – and the name was everything. Through the fog of your thoughts, that much stood clear. Then something else flew at your opaque consciousness and collided head-on: a gun, a wound, your chest. Dee. A gun.
You took in a breath of pure panic and expected the air to whistle through the hole that wasn’t there. There was pain but it was the wrong sort of pain - a tight ache across your torso, no stab of fire.
“Hey, easy, easy.” Someone was speaking to you. You couldn’t see them; your eyelids refused to budge. But the voice was soothing and familiar, though not familiar in a soothing way. You noticed other things, too: the cold electric thrum of metal and acceleration, the stink of chlorine, the way your limbs moved as though in honey.
“Where –” Coughing aborted the sentence, and you winced at the dead, raspy feeling of your tongue and throat. One eyelid pried itself open, then the other.
“Home. Don’t worry.” The back of her head was a brown blur, dipping in and out of your field of vision. Slowly coming into focus. “You’re a little ahead of schedule, but you’re home now.”
And then she turned and was Sharon Valerii, and the world came a little unstuck.
It’s cold, which is a useful thing. You’re wearing a green jacket that puffs up around you like steam and keeps you just as warm, but more importantly it disguises your body shape. Big dark glasses and a hood; it’d take a sharp eye to recognize you, and they’d have to be looking. Which they aren’t, of course. People see what they expect to see, and very little else.
There are tendrils of smoke cutting across the sky, almost invisible, grey on grey. It isn’t Caprica, and from the looks on the faces around you, nobody is doing a particularly good job of convincing themselves that it’s an adequate substitute. Voices bright enough, but brittle. It’s a weaving dirty mess of a place, and nobody so much as glances twice at you as you find your way.
You arrive. The room is small.
You wonder, briefly, whether you were expecting anything different.
“I’m not a Cylon,” you said, because that was what one said. Clutching precedent like an oxygen mask; trying not to inhale. Drips of gel fell from your chin. Despite all evidence to the contrary, despite Valerii’s faint smile...that was what one said. You remembered the shocked denial on Doral’s face, on Valerii’s own, and you remembered the fear – the contempt – that you had felt at the time.
You were flooded with the irrational urge to apologise. All the stars of eternity danced behind her eyes, her lovely eyes, and you knew that the apology would be meaningless.
Stars dancing. Not just her eyes, then, but flickering on and off in your periphery. Spikes of painful light.
“I think I need to –”
You threw up, but there was nothing to throw up. That body had never eaten a thing. That body had no gunshot wound, no blood pooling in the mouth and lungs. So you retched awkwardly, shaking and shivering, stomach muscles pulling tight for the very first time, until your vision cleared.
“Better?” Valerii asked sympathetically.
“Let’s get you out of there.” A new voice, rich and female. A tall blonde knelt down, and it took you a moment to recognise her from the circulated pictures of the Cylon that had been aboard the Pegasus. Her hair was smooth and shining, not bedraggled, and there was health and concern in her face. “I realise that this is a shock. But believe me, everything will be much easier for you now.”
You doubted that.
“I doubt that.” Another brief bout of retching, but your voice was stronger. You sounded wetly obtuse; almost defiant.
“Can’t you see the future?” she said, her voice gentle. She could have been talking to a child. A newborn. You tried to muster a laugh at the irony of it but suddenly realised that you were crying, that you had been crying for a while, that the lukewarm damp pooling on your cheeks was not just the horrible gel but your own tears.
“No.” You weren’t denying her, but it didn’t matter. She nodded and wiped your face, serene and careful.
You let them clean you, dress you, but couldn’t quite stop crying. You shoved the back of your hand into your mouth and hiccupped around it, tasting steel and salt and a weird hint of citrus. It was ridiculous. All of it. You weren’t a Cylon and maybe you’d been shot and maybe you hadn’t and the future was just as unstable and clouded as everything else.
There is a copy of the Scrolls lying on a wooden chest. You remember her face, tired and relieved, and the gentle slide of her fingers along the Arrow of Apollo. Your memories are largely devoid of the customary human gaps and decay, all your experiences crystallized into a perfectly readable frame.
This has happened before and will happen again: this is her lifespan, coming to a sudden sharp point of illusory cessation. Nothing really stops. Time and space and memory and the will of God, spread out flat like a scroll. You have almost forgotten what it was like to be blind to such things.
“Can’t you see the future?” you ask the empty air. Your breath makes mist.
Busy silence. You take it for assent.
“This wasn’t supposed to happen,” D’Anna Biers said. “Obviously.”
You’d been surprised, of course, but D’Anna Biers is a Cylon couldn’t really hold a candle to I am a Cylon in the surrealism stakes, so you just sat and tried not to listen.
“Such a waste of an agent.” Aaron Doral. “And one so well-placed, too.”
“Not wasted yet.” Biers smiled at you, and you felt the irrational urge to duck out of her line of sight. “One plan has failed, but I’m sure Number Two’s ‘death’ will open up many new possibilities.”
You closed your eyes and perhaps you would have prayed, if you were given to praying. Nobody touched you or spoke directly to you, and that was enough. Words filtered through; plans, options, references to past present and future. You were wearing new clothing for the first time since the world ended, and if you concentrated on the feel of the fabric against your skin and the sunshine on your eyelids then processing the importance of the words could be postponed.
You thought about Dee, carefully smothering your last memory of her – chaos and anger, embarrassment and jealousy – with earlier ones. The observation deck. Her laugh, which was rare. The slim warmth of her hands. The light in her face as she showed you her single precious book; Saggitaron history, thick and beautiful and with the old tribal insigna on the cover. The archer, his spine bent back in the same angle as his bow, his fingers curled around the string and his arrow poised to whistle into eternity.
There’s nothing to do but wait and listen to your heartbeat, try to analyse the way it speeds up and slows down. But the patterns aren’t yours to see; the gifts are similar, but distinct. You note the sheen of sweat almost visible on your palms and the prickling chill across the backs of your hands. Adrenalin. To begin with you thought it strange that the replicas should be so exact, that everything messy and inefficient should be included, that you should not improve upon the natural systems.
But that’s not the point. Was never the point.
The humans played at Creation, and look where it got them. You’re merely a faithful reproduction, perfect in your imperfections.
It struck you very suddenly one day whilst you were killing yourself that there must have been a moment when Billy Keikaya came into existence as a human entity, and you had no idea when it was. Everything swirled in an obsessive orbit around Laura Roslin. She never met your family. Maybe they never existed. Maybe she was the only real thing about you. How could you tell? All you had were memories, and they meant nothing considering the context.
So that was your legacy from the human life: a set of neural connections lacking in sure origin or potential reinforcement. Billy Keikaya, brought up to be polite and efficient and awkward and likeable. Brought up; just a figure of speech. Programmed and sent on your way. Courtesy and quiet political perception written in the code of your bones and your veins, trickling out across your arms with the rest of the tiny synthetic traitors making up your blood.
It was a wonder they left you alone for long enough for you to track down the blade.
You started to feel cold.
Cold and a bit dizzy and weirdly transparent, as though the air had forgotten to move around you and was just passing straight through, tickling your atoms with its own. Something was slipping away, and you weren’t sure if the you that was having the thought was leaving with it or remaining anchored to the body. Through the darkness, time was beginning to open up like a – like a – like a metaphor that was, frustratingly, just too large for your mind to encompass.
Molecules of soul rushing through filtered pipes, faster and faster, and just before you died you were spli/
i . n . t . o
You’re standing in a slanted shadow near the door when she enters, coat discarded so that you fill less space. She doesn’t see you. She starts removing layers and blowing on her hands to warm them, that familiar line between her eyes bespeaking higher issues churning in her mind. She always was one to bring her work home with her.
Her back is to you. You reach out and knock gently on the door, twice, an effortless illusion of arrival.
“Hello, Madam President.”
She can’t see your face and you can’t see hers, but she’s smiling. “I haven’t heard –”
– that name in a while. You know her, you know her so well, and you would have known her even better in time. The mission was so perfect; the plan was so very, very good. It’s a pity that it could never come to fruition as it was meant to, but improvisation is part of what Cylons are. What you are. Human improvisation with inhuman capacity to act, which is why this parody of a war was doomed from the beginning.
And this moment, now, is perfectly right. You can see the pure note of destiny in her open mouth as she turns, as realization falls over her face like a lead veil.
All plans are God’s.
You woke up. Cold again, gasping again, a new set of organic tissues to abuse and exploit.
“Gotten that out of your system?” Three said. She sounded amused.
You considered it.
“Billy.” It’s hardly even a discernable word, the syllables are so choked together.
I haven’t heard that name in a while.
(You don’t say it.)
“Oh, gods, Billy...”
A small smile. “Did you miss me?”
It’s petty, but you watch the emotions lap at her lips and lay waste to her politician’s composure, and you feel better. You weren’t aware that you had any misgivings in the first place, but there it is.
She’s staring, frozen, lacking the control to run and the ability to look back and see her life plummeting towards this one moment.
Now that you were willing to talk, Leoben had a lot to say to you about destiny.
(For some reason it was hard to attach the number: you looked at him and saw Ten but then that slid away and left Leoben Conoy. He was so full of unpredictability and flux. So human. A little too human, perhaps.)
“This has happened before,” he said.
“This will happen again,” you returned.
“I can see it.”
“Everything repeats –” he began, but your heart was pounding with the magnitude of what was unfolding before you and you had to speak before you exploded with the glory of it.
“No, I can see it. The future.”
“This is your path, Two,” and he reached out and took your hand, pleased. “This is who you have always been, and who God wants you to be. You are so important to us.”
You wanted to ask him if he really meant what he was saying, because his palm in yours had lines across it, patterns that meant something, and maybe he could see them and maybe it was just you – your gift, your vision – and maybe he didn’t know what he would become.
“I understand now. It’s all a matter of perspective,” you said, and smiled at him. It was that body’s first smile, and it felt strange.
“Eternity is our perspective,” he said. His own smile was worn comfortably by his face. It had more lines surrounding it, deep and dangerous. “Death is just a landmark.”
You didn’t ask him how long it had been since you first died; you now understood the subjectivity of time, and you’d long ago given up trying to keep a constant measure.
“Good,” Leoben said, across your thoughts, “good,” and he laid his fingers across your lips before the question could escape. He smiled. “We have a job for you.”
You weren’t given any specifics. You could have picked up a knife in the marketplace. There’s a rough mirror off to one side that could make some nice shards. Knowing Laura Roslin, there’s probably a gun somewhere in the room. But physical strength is a new sensation and one you’re still young enough to want to explore.
She does step back when you step forward, but belatedly, and your legs are longer.
The skin of her neck is soft and powder-warm. Under your fingertips her pulse is wild, thun-ka-thun-ka-thun.
“I’m sorry,” you tell her.
(You were brought up to be polite.)