Prisoners to the Dark
Six weeks since he had taken the Presidential Oath. Utter drivel, of course. Nothing to it, really. Sure... it was a stirring set of words, but really... what did it all mean? Especially now. Especially since he no longer saw... whatever she was. Since Gina.
Who was he trying to fool? Nothing mattered, since Gina. The motions were all that kept him going. The drugs the only thing that kept him sane. The girls the only thing that kept him... feeling anything at all.
Gaius thrust away the unwelcome thoughts, striding through Galactica's corridor after his latest meeting with Admiral Adama. The personnel outflow to New Caprica had already begun. And now, it was time for him to catch a Raptor home.
Home. He considered the word briefly before discarding it. To the surface, then. He entered the hanger deck, his Marine escort trailing faithfully behind. When he reached the Raptor, he was vaguely irritated to find his pilot already at the controls, the ECO already in his seat. Shouldn't they be at the door, eager to greet their President? He considered demanding the respect that was his due, but the irritation sank into the numbness and disappeared, just as everything else did. Instead, he simply entered the ship and took his seat, staring blankly at the sea of lights at the ECO station.
Gods... GOD, she'd been beautiful. So determined. So brilliant.
"Raptor Four, requesting launch clearance."
Gaius blinked, the light baritone breaking into his thoughts. "Pardon me?"
"Just requesting clearance to leave, sir."
"Lieutenant Agathon?" It was the man's voice, he was sure of it. But it just didn't sound... right.
"Yes, sir." The voice was expressionless, devoid of any of the vitality that had seemed so much a part of big lieutenant, even back at the beginning when he had chosen to stay behind. No. When he had chosen to die so that 'Doctor Baltar' could live. But that hadn't quite worked out for him, had it? Oh, yes, he understood exactly what was wrong with that voice now. The Gods certainly had a way of making even the best results a bitch to live with.
There was a flash of pain as he remembered the baby... the child of destiny so cruelly taken from him. And, of course, from Agathon. He had a moment to be glad that Agathon hadn't had to learn of the 'airlock' conversation with Roslin. A quick burn of rage flitted through his chest as he thought of it. He shifted slightly so that he could see the side of Agathon's face.
"Lieutenant Agathon," he coughed, struggled briefly with the words. "You have my deepest sympathies... on your daughter." He swallowed hard. "My deepest condolences."
"Yes, sir." Agathon's voice didn't change, his face did not so much as twitch a reaction. He might have been replying to a statement of the price of algae on New Caprica, for all the emotion there. There was the faintest thread of surprise, though. It was the same surprise Gaius saw in the eyes of the ECO, who noticed his frown and hurriedly turned back to his station. Gaius returned his attention to Agathon's face, studying him closely.
Oh, yes. This... this was something he recognized, these days.
That poor child.
Gaius closed his eyes, seeking the soothing balm of darkness as the Raptor lifted from the deck, headed for space. Immediately Gina appeared behind his lids, huddled in the corner of her cage on Pegasus, staring at him with tearstained cheeks. Gaius jerked, eyes opening wide in an effort to clear the vision from his mind.
"How... How is Sharon?" He ventured.
Now that got a reaction.
Agathon snapped around in his pilot's seat, eyes hot, lips tight. "You don't..." The words died on his lips as he looked fully into Gaius' face. The Marine guard tensed, ready to intervene, but whatever Agathon read in him had him calming. His eyes narrowed on Gaius's face, his own features softening with... was that compassion?
"She's as well as can be expected, sir." Agathon took a deep breath, the brief flash of emotion fading back into expressionlessness.
"Helo. Traffic on our one." The ECO interjected.
Agathon turned back to his view screen. "Yeah. Got it."
Gaius' attention was still locked on the lieutenant's profile, or at least what he could see of it. In an instant it transformed into that of Lieutenant Valerii, face streaked with tears as she left Agathon to his death on Caprica. To the curve of Gina's cheek as she turned her back on him to walk to the bedchamber, scars shining wetly in the light. He blinked hard, shaking it loose again.
"Lieutenant Agathon. I'm terribly sorry about this, but I believe I have business I quite forgot to complete on Galactica. I need to return." His voice was stronger than it had been in days. Agathon glanced over his shoulder, then gave a minute shrug.
"You can't be serious." Adama stared at him with irritation and barely concealed contempt from the depths of his chair. Gaius smiled at him brightly, refusing to give in to the subtle showmanship and keeping his position standing near the hatch.
"I assure you I am, Admiral. I wish to see Sharon Valerii. To speak to her." He paused, hardening his voice, making it a command. "Immediately."
Adama glared. Gaius could practically hear the man's teeth creaking; his jaw was locked so tightly. He stood, the deliberation in his movements speaking volumes about his distaste for dealing with his President, but he opened the hatch. The Marines stiffened to attention, as did Agathon. Adama lifted his eyebrows.
"Thank you for waiting, Lieutenant," Gaius said, forestalling Adama's question. "I'd like you to accompany me to Sharon's cell, please. I don't know how long this will take, and I will want to leave immediately upon finishing my discussion."
Agathon frowned, looking at the Admiral for confirmation. Adama hesitated, then gave a minute nod. Agathon spun on his heel to lead.
"This way, sir."
Gaius hadn't been in this cell since before Cain's death. He'd forgotten how stark and bleak it was, though compared to the terrifying brightness and stench of the Pegasus'... He brought himself back to the present with an effort. This cell was barren except for the simple cot and the woman on it. She lay flat on her back, hands crossed on her stomach, staring at the ceiling. Even with her presence, the cell had that same sense of emptiness as Gina's had. As if the body remained but the person had left.
Gina had fled.
Gaius would bet his last cubit that Sharon hadn't. No. Sharon had simply... withdrawn.
Agathon went for the phone, lifting the receiver to his ear while knocking on the glass. The movements were automatic, clearly speaking of weeks of repetition. Sharon didn't move, refusing to acknowledge their presence by so much as a flicker. Agathon rapped again more loudly.
Gaius pursed his lips. "That won't be necessary, Lieutenant. I intend to speak with her directly." Agathon stepped back to let Gaius pass, shooting another uncertain glance at Adama. Adama simply watched impassively, likely hoping that Sharon would become violent and rid him of Baltar for good. Gaius laughed silently to himself. The prospect was actually somewhat attractive, come to think of it. "I'll speak to her alone, gentlemen." It was clearly a dismissal.
The Marine checked for confirmation from Adama, then shrugged and followed his commander out. Agathon retreated to the hatch but remained stubbornly just inside, his whole demeanour definitively stating his intention to stay. Gaius smiled faintly. Adama and the Marines were of course in the observation area. The privacy they had been afforded was only an illusion. If she... or he... were to try anything, they could be back inside in moments. Still, Agathon's protectiveness was charming. He had a sudden image of the man standing between a squad of heavily armed Marines and sickbay, armed with nothing but courage, a holstered pistol and his determination, and the smile fled.
Perhaps 'charming' was the wrong word.
He entered the cell, walked slowly the length of the mesh-sheathed glass wall, wondering how to begin. What could this woman give him? Could she help it make sense? He stared at the glass, seeing Gina's broken body reflected there. He closed his eyes, turned away from the memory.
"Lieutenant Valerii..." His voice rasped uncomfortably, and he cleared his throat. "Sharon."
She didn't respond, as gone from him as Gina had been.
"I wanted to tell you... I wanted you to know..." Perhaps she could hear him, where ever she was. Perhaps he could reach her. He needed her to hear him. "How very sorry I am." He took a deep breath, refocused on the woman in front of him. "How very sorry I am about the loss of your daughter." He looked away, missing Sharon's eyes snapping to his face, but heard Agathon reacting to the sudden menace, heard his hurried steps to the open door, heard the low voice, soothing, saying her name. He set those things aside, continued as if nothing had changed. "I believe Hera was the start of a new age. That she was a symbol of our future. The first of the children of the Gods." It had been his job to protect her, to keep her safe. Would God forgive his failures?
Sharon's eyes had narrowed, her face still and dangerous, but she was listening. At the door to the cell, Agathon eased into the room but didn't interfere. His face was pale, and Gaius wondered idly just what he was thinking. Probably that it wasn't Sharon he would need to be protecting, if Gaius kept talking. At the hatch, one of the Marines had his assault rifle at the ready, finger on the trigger of the explosive round that would blow right through the glass.
"She was beautiful." Gaius met Sharon's eyes squarely, his tears entirely real and threatening to blur his vision. "When she died, a light went out in the universe. I wish..." He swallowed hard. "I wish it had been different."
Sharon slowly sat up and turned to face him cross-legged on her cot. She looked haggard, her usually lovely hair lank around her face. When she spoke, her voice was rusty with disuse.
"President Baltar." She coughed a little, licked dry lips. A quick glance around showed a previously hidden small table on the far side of the cot with water and food on it, items she had clearly been ignoring except for necessity. He saw Gina's hand, crabbing weakly across the floor to the slice of fruit, and had rush of nausea. He pushed the memory away. Sharon spoke again. "I believe you." He heard Agathon's indrawn breath, quickly hushed, as if the other man was afraid of breaking the spell. Most likely, he was.
Gaius turned back to the glass and began to slowly pace its length, counting the steps. There were nine. Pegasus' cell had been bigger. Thirteen steps, there. He'd counted, so many times, while he'd been working with ...
"Sharon." Focus, damn it. "What is your last memory before you were... activated, on Caprica?"
Sharon's face closed down, her eyes left him to focus on a point over his shoulder. Agathon gave a barely audible moan at her withdrawal before sliding down the wall to sit beside the door. He steepled his fingers, braced them against his lips as if simultaneously trying to keep from speaking and praying for strength. Gaius deliberately turned away from his despair, turning back to the glass. After all, this had nothing to do with Agathon. He resumed walking.
Gina had paced like this. Back and forth, back and forth. Before they had broken her. Before she had fled.
Gina. His light. Who had gone out in a blinding flash of nuclear fire. Who had left this interminable darkness behind.
"Please." He rubbed a hand against his eyes, not even sure who he was saying it to. When he opened them, he once again had Sharon's attention. "Please," he said to her, "humour me."
She huffed an irritated breath. "I remember punching out of the atmosphere in the Raptor. I remember jumping us out, to try and find Galactica. I remember you on board. I remember..." Her voice cracked, strengthened back into flatness. "I remember leaving Helo behind."
"So you have nothing of Boomer's memories beyond that point? You don't recall returning to Galactica?" He asked it gently. Still watching his face, she nodded. "What did you do before meeting Lieutenant Agathon? Were you sent to him immediately?"
"Nothing. I met Helo the day after I was," her lips twisted bitterly, "activated."
Gaius pursed his lips, nodding his understanding. "I have only one other question, Lieutenant."
Her eyes sparked, something peeking out through the shield of numbness. "I'm not a Lieutenant, Doctor." Her face tightened. "That was Boomer. Boomer was in the Fleet."
"You have my apologies. Sharon, of course." Gaius agreed immediately. The mirror of the observation room caught his attention and he wondered briefly what Adama thought of the conversation. Well. He'd find out soon enough. "My final question of you." He took a deep breath, turned back to face her. "Why did you choose not to reveal Cavil as a Cylon?"
Sharon's chin lifted, and he could all but hear her thinking about whether or not to answer. The seconds ticked by, and Gaius could feel the tension coming off of Agathon like a solid, living thing, could feel the listeners in the other room holding their breath. Finally, she came to a decision. Her eyes left Gaius for the first time, moving to look squarely at the mirror. Gaius was sure she was looking directly at Adama when she spoke.
"I told the Admiral that I would not reveal the remaining Cylons in the Fleet," she paused, her face hard. "I meant it."
Gaius nodded, smiled. "Thank you, Sharon. I appreciate your time." She snorted and shrugged, laying back on her cot. Agathon stood, preceded Gaius out of the cell. His jaw was working as he struggled to contain himself. The Admiral and the Marines met Gaius at the hatch.
"Did you get what you wanted?" Irony was heavy in Adama's gravelly voice.
"Oh, indeed. Indeed I did." Gaius turned to the Marine waiting impatiently for him to clear the hatch so he could return to his post. "You can release her now."
"What!?!" The exclamation came simultaneously from three throats. Adama, Agathon, and the Marine guard all stared at him with identical expressions of absolute shock. The Marine that was Gaius' guard simply shook his head silently.
"I said, 'release her'." Gaius frowned innocently, enjoying himself immensely. "Perhaps it was the accent. Should I say it again more slowly?"
Adama recovered first, going rigid with anger. "I don't know what kind of game you're playing, Doctor," his voice was stone, "but..."
"There are no games here, Admiral." Gaius met stone with steel. "And I believe my current title is 'President'."
Adama took a deep breath, visibly reaching for calm. Agathon and the Marines were frozen, barely breathing, as if the slightest movement would lead to a total detonation. Adama glanced at them, gestured for Gaius to enter the hatch to the observation room, closed the heavy door behind them before rounding on Gaius.
"Sharon Valerii is a prisoner," he ground out. "We are at war."
"A fact I am certainly aware of, Admiral. As is that of Ms. Valerii's incarceration. But perhaps you can enlighten me," he spread his hands in inquiry. "What are the charges?"
Adama stared at him, shocked again.
"I mean, she is a prisoner. By the constitution of the colonies, that can only occur if she's been charged." He shrugged. "What has Ms. Valerii done? Really, Admiral. She assisted Lieutenant Agathon on Caprica, helped steal a ship to return Lieutenant Thrace and the Arrow to Kobol, provided President Roslin the necessary information to find the Tomb of Athena." He began ticking points on his fingers. "She interrupted an assassination attempt against your son, shut down an entire Basestar's worth of Cylon Raiders, enabled the Caprican rescue mission." His mouth twisted, and he shrugged again. "Perhaps we could charge her with offering 'aid and succour to the enemy'. Oh, wait. The enemy is us." A thread of anger crept into his voice.
Adama considered him narrowly. "She is a Cylon, Mr. President. We are at war with the Cylons."
"I believe in order to be a prisoner of war one must first be a combatant, Admiral. From our own records, Sharon Valerii has never even picked up a weapon, except when fighting for us." Gaius met Adama's eyes. "You say she's a Cylon, and yes. Yes, she is." He shook his head minutely. "But we don't imprison people solely on the basis of their race, Admiral. At least, we didn't. This Cylon, this specific Cylon, has committed no crimes against us." He held up a hand to forestall the words he could see forming on Adama's lips. "I do understand that others of her model have. But she has not. Nor is she a member of the Fleet. At worst, she could be charged with impersonating an Fleet officer; perhaps with withholding information on the enemy. But frankly, Admiral, I believe she has suffered for that enough." He straightened his shoulders, speaking to Adama, perhaps for the first time, as a man. "As a non-combatant, she is a political prisoner, Admiral. As the President, politics is my purview, and I will see her released."
Adama considered him in silence. He walked slowly to the observation window, gazed out at the woman on the cot, studied her. When it came, his voice was even, but the hostility was gone. "It's not that simple, Mr. President," he said. "She is a Cylon. If we release her, her life will be in danger. I also still have reservations about her ability to resist if she is provided additional programming."
"You could make the same statement about Colonial One," Gaius retorted. "But I don't think it will fit in the cell."
Adama's lips twitched. "Your point is made, but mine still stands, Mr. President."
Gaius nodded reluctantly, turning it over in his mind. "I will leave the details of Ms. Valerii's re-integration up to you, Admiral. Perhaps a guard for her safety is in order." He let his eyes harden. "But we need to be clear. As of right now, she is no longer a prisoner. She is a guest." Gaius stepped to the hatch, spun the wheel to open the lock. "That woman is not Boomer, Admiral, however much she looks like her. And that woman has just lost her child. You, of all people, should understand what that is like." Gaius shrugged. "And she could be an incredibly valuable resource. Just look at what you accomplished with her already. What happens when your crew immigrates to New Caprica, Admiral? I, for one, believe the stick has been used enough. Perhaps┘" He pushed open the hatch. Agathon filled half the corridor, his face pale as he stared at the Admiral, too tired to hide the hope in his face. "Perhaps it is time for the carrot."
Adama was back to his usual impassive mask, the one he wore when he was thinking hard. His eyes flickered over Sharon on the cot, came back to rest on the haggard Agathon. His lips tightened. Gaius fought to conceal his own anxiety, forcing himelf to breath evenly and look utterly unconcerned.
Decision made, Adama turned to the Marine assigned to Sharon's cell.
"Stand down," he ordered flatly. "You will remain at your post to provide protection for our guest. She is not to leave without you. I'll provide further instructions once I've met with the Colonel." He winced at the mention of Tigh. Gaius could only imagine how that conversation would go. Shaking his head, Adama stalked away.
Immediately, the Marine stepped to the door, standing at attention beside the hatch, facing out.
Lieutenant Agathon's breath left him in a rush, and he swayed on his feet. The Marine's face mirrored Gaius' alarm at the thought that the big man might actually go down. There was certainly no way that he would be able to catch him. Luckily, Agathon braced himself with a hand against the bulkhead. He shook his head to clear it.
"Did I just hear that?" He looked at Gaius incredulously. "Did that just happen?" The Marine's mouth curved in a half-smile at the utter astonishment in Agathon's voice.
"Indeed it did," Gaius told him briskly. He tapped a finger against his lips. "Tell me, Lieutenant..."
"Gods. GODS." Agathon grabbed his hand, shook it fiercely. "Call me Helo."
Gaius couldn't help it, he smiled. "Tell me... Did I ever thank you, Lieutenant, for saving my life?"
Agathon frowned, let go of his hand. Confusion was writ plainly on his face.
"On Caprica. You gave up your seat for me." Gaius lifted a brow. "It wasn't a particularly important event, I suppose."
Agathon blinked, then a smile spread across his face as he looked over his shoulder at the open door to Sharon's cell. Gaius followed his gaze, and for the first time didn't see Gina reflected in the glass. "Yes," he said, "yes, I believe you did." He took a deep breath, blew it out in a gust of... too many emotions to name, Gaius supposed. "Ready to go, sir?"
"Yes, quite." Gaius tugged on his jacket, turned slightly. Out of the corner of his eye he caught sight of Agathon looking again at the open door, struggle and longing stark on his face. Gaius shook his head. "On second thought, I think I should eat before I head back, and drop by the pilot's rec room. Say hello to everyone, shake some hands. I'll see you in one hour, Lieutenant."
Agathon nodded respectfully before turning and hurrying through the hatch. Gaius watched as he strode to the door of the cell, opening it as far as it would go before entering and crossing to the cot. He dropped to his knees beside Sharon, taking her hand in both of his and tucking it against his heart. Kneeling there, Helo began to talk.
Gaius grinned at the Marine, who remained expressionless. "Ha!" He said. "They're probably talking about me." The Marine looked skeptical. "Possibly not." He turned on his heel and headed for the Pilot's Rec Room. Maybe he would find a game of Triad. For the first time in weeks, he felt like playing.