Gasping for air, it hurt to breathe. She couldn't bring her hands to her face. Cuffs--her hands were manacled to the sides of a tank. She didn't see any blood oozing from her stomach into this gel, her face didn't hurt now from the self-inflicted gunshot wound, but her lungs felt like they were full of needles as she wheezed. They were watching her pant: Shelley Godfrey, or someone like her; another blonde woman, older, blue eyes sharp; and herself, or someone like her. Her first instinct was to tear at her veins with her fingers because she'd rather die than have it be true... but she can't move her hands and she can't die.

- - - - -

Staring at her fingers--palms, backs, wrists. Five fingers on each hand. She counted using the fingers on her right hand:
- Sharon Valerii
- daughter of Abraham
- her best friend from childhood was Lisandra, daughter of another miner
- her mother handed her carved elephants when she left home, for luck
- Sharon had cried for days when she heard of the explosions on Troy

Left hand:
- cylon
- Eight

- - - - -

Six came to see her. (Even now she flinched when she saw other Eights.)

"You knew on some level what you were."

"No." Her own denial sounded weak.

"The earliest sleepers had problems with reintegration, so the programming was changed. Some part of you always knew."

"Why? Why was I activated then?" She tried to keep the anguish out of her voice.

"Due to the changes in programming we can't keep the cylon in place for too long. The data we had showed that you were gaining too much awareness to stay hidden. And the moment was advantageous to us."

Blocking thoughts of the Commander, Sharon wondered what happened to those early sleeper cylons--how had they finally adjusted?

Right hand--Sharon:
- Galen's fingers sliding up her arm, across her lips as she smiled
- Starbuck's cackle when she was winning a hand of Triad
- her ECO's half-hidden glances
- the smell of tylium burning after she landed her raptor
- Adama's proud salute...

Left hand--cylon:
- worried, hopeful stares of other Eights
- flashes of images against the gray basestar walls

- - - - -

"Are you the same Six that was here yesterday?"

"Why does it matter? We know all about you, Sharon."

She didn't answer. Her hands were on her knees; she stared at them.

"Projection is what we use to move through the ship and to center ourselves. We use something neutral yet aesthetically pleasing, and underlay it with the schematics of this ship... which you should be able to access." The tone was condescending.

"But why do it?"

"Wouldn't you rather see something besides these gray walls?" The Six took Sharon's right hand and placed their palms together. "I'll guide you through it." A shimmer, then a flash of green--she could see a lush forest, mists hovering at the edge of her line of sight.

"This is a forest on Caprica. One of our sisters shared this memory. If you project this and use the ship interface, you'll be able to find your way as you move through the ship."

Sharon knew she'd been on Caprica--she was fairly certain that her first real experiences as Sharon happened there. No excursions into forests back then--just city and Academy life. She remembered the short scrubby trees on Troy--but that wasn't real.

When she tried projecting by herself, she chose the place where she felt most connected, where her experiences were her own. She didn't know if the others were aware that she projected the Galactica or just figured something was wrong when she still got lost and walked into a wall.

- - - - -

Six kept a sharp grasp on her elbow as she led Sharon into the control room of the basestar. She tried protesting: "I'm not ready for this yet."

Six was unfazed. "It's time." She pulled her over to the console and placed Sharon's hands in the clear liquid. It was cool to the touch. She gasped when the data began to flow into her mind--flashes of Eights' other lives, other places and goals. Pulling her hands free, she knelt on the floor and vomited.

Infected--foreign memories were swimming around inside, like a virus. She started having trouble connecting to the parts of herself she knew as Sharon; she held onto them tightly, fearful of losing what she knew of herself.

- pilot
- abandoned lover

- programmed
- murderer

- - - - -

The heavy raider took them into atmosphere--yellow-brown skies smeared with dirty gray clouds. She identified where cities were by the blast patterns. As they approached Caprica City Sharon saw forests--but they weren't green. The trees were skeletons stripped of leaves. Barren. This was what the cylons had made. Eights and Sixes and Threes, they had all helped create this devastation.

This empty desolation wasn't her doing. When they landed she walked away from the others, into the heart of the city.

Her fingers found the key she'd hidden in the potted plant by the door.

S. Valerii-- Apartment 502.