A Flash Before the Eyes
They would go to sleep, Tyrol told them. If we can't speed up flight, we slow down the body. Stasis, he explained. The heart rate would slow. Oxygen would be supplied intravenously, eliminating the need for breath. Caloric requirements in this limited state would be drastically reduced. And while we're asleep, the ship follows the charted course.
For how long? Tigh wanted to know. How much juice has this thing got?
The ship is powered by a self-sustaining nuclear reaction, and it periodically deposits reaction waste into empty space. The oxygen supply recycles. Theoretically, this ship could run a thousand years.
It didn't go as planned. But then again, very few things do. It was a simple glitch, really. The life support system had a built-in safeguard that was designed to wake them up, briefly, once a year so that they could take a few days to make assessments regarding the ship and their own health and to correct course before returning to stasis – or, ultimately, completing their journey. It failed.
It was eight-hundred seventy one years later when the Cylons intercepted the Apollo, ten years after the end of the First Cylon War.
Their efforts to create humanoid life had until then been less than successful. The DNA of the Colonials had led to promising experiments, as early as the war, that had given birth to a first type of life: the hybrid. The hybrids were powerfully intelligent; they soon came to command not only the Cylon ships but also the Centurions themselves. But while they were mentally agile, their bodies were fragile, best kept in a dream state, bathed in womb-like waters.
The machines that scouted the Apollo looked at the Five, resting in their coffin-like apparatuses. Around them, they found texts written in a strange language (though one that was readily decipherable, stemming as it did from a Latinate base): star charts, ship schematics, one solitary copy of a holy text called Bible, the book, which spoke of a single God, and a small, tattered notepad. The hybrids searched the Sacred Scrolls of the Colonials for some clue as to who these creatures were. They decided that they must be from Earth.
In the end, the ship proved to offer all the Cylons needed to create their master race. They pillaged the bodies and souls of Earth's children. Stasis technology and bodies which were capable not only of conducting but also of harnessing electricity: the final two ingredients necessary to giving life to a humanoid that could be born and born again into new, preserved bodies.
They pillaged the bodies and souls of Earth's children, but in the process they themselves became human. And, being human, they knew sympathy, and they resolved to set their parents, their progenitors, the givers of life – who had been asleep all these hundreds of years – free.
The hybrids sent Saul Tigh to the Colonies first, as a deckhand on a commercial freighter, the same freighter on which he would eventually meet William Adama. ("Any kids?" Bill Adama would ask him when they met. He would laugh harshly. "Are you kidding me? No way.") They gave him memories of a childhood on Aerelon, of fighting in the First Cylon War, of learning to fly a Viper. They gave him memories of war, of blood, of death. He was a troubled man on Earth; the memories they offered fed into his nature and would make him an equally troubled man on the Colonies.
After the war, a remote space station had been built where the warring races could meet and maintain diplomatic relations. Each year, the Colonials sent an officer. The Cylons sent no one.
Each year after Tigh's deployment, however, the hybrids took advantage of the visit from a safe distance to comb the electronic signals of the diplomat's ship while he was aboard the space station for any news that might suggest that their own diplomat was not fitting in.
And each year, they were pleased that they heard nothing.
It was over two decades, when the prototypes for the humanoids were fully developed and the hybrids were completely satisfied by Tigh's humanity, before the Cylons sent the rest. Their pasts were designed to blend into their memories, to play to their skills.
Sam Anders had always been a natural athlete. On Earth, he had been a prizefighter and a blues musician. He was a man who was good with his hands. On the Colonies, he began to play pick-up pyramid with some of the guys in the neighborhood where he had just moved. He was good, really, really good. One of the guys knew a guy who knew a guy, and pretty soon a scout had been called out to watch a weekend game. Sam was drafted after being on the Colonies for only four months.
Tory Foster had been the vice president of one of (she was fond of reminding others) the largest financial houses in Greater China. She was a natural organizer, a skilled manager. With memories of all the previous political campaigns she had played her role in, she easily landed a job in the campaign office of a middling Federalist candidate for the People's Council from Delphi. He won in a landslide. Her career was set.
Anastasia Dualla had suffered on Earth the most of them all. When she was sent to the Colonies, she was sent bearing the intention of enlisting immediately in the Colonial Fleet Reserve, with memories of a traumatic fight with her father. The hybrids dared not emphasize in her mind her relationship with her mother: they did not want to trigger any buried memories. Anastasia Dualla was thus, not coincidentally, made to be an only child. She was from Sagitarron, next to Gemenon the most religious of the Colonies. She herself did not believe.
Galen Tyrol was a physicist. But without prestigious degrees and a reputation among others in the field (which could not easily be fabricated, even by the Cylons), he could not teach. It was Galen Tyrol that the Cylons got most wrong, and it was this fundamental split between the man he was and the man he was to become that would be at the heart of so many of his problems, of so much of his anger. Standing on Gemenon, he looked up and knew that this place was among the stars. He enlisted in the military, where he would become a knuckledragger under the command of William Adama.
The hybrids watched for several more years. And then they erased all memory of the Five from their systems and prepared to unveil their own human bodies.
There were seven models.
The One was ruthlessly practical. He was a logician who believed that he made his own destiny. He was bitingly sarcastic and demanded the respect of his fellows.
The Two was empathic and deeply spiritual. When the Two first found the relics that had decades before been collected from the Apollo, he recognized in the book the scripture of his faith, and he taught its message to the others. But in truth, it was not so much the book as it was the small pad he found with it, filled with garbled notes and hastily-rendered sketches, that interested him the most. On its first page was written a word in heavy blocked script: Starbuck. And then under that, underlined with an excitement that had long ago split the page: My name is Kara Thrace.
The Three was selfish and cruel. She was willing to work toward her own ends, regardless of cost. She was also singularly shrewd. Both through subtle manipulation and outright threat, she kept an iron hand on the direction of the Cylon plan.
The Four was a scientist. It was his job to maintain the Resurrection Ships and the cloned bodies, to guarantee the viability of the lines. He was also tasked with finding a way for the Cylons to fulfill God's first commandment in the Garden: be fruitful and multiply. In this he failed.
The Five was a manager of people and systems. He was charged with troubleshooting the networks. He was an innovator but had little emotional attachment to the world around him. He did not care to think for himself.
The Six was designed for her appearance more than she was for her intellect. But she was also born with an emptiness which she longed to fill with strong emotion. Her desire for sustained connection was to be her downfall in each of the forms she would come to take.
The Eight was a warrior. She was also far better than the rest at blending in with humans. Aloud, the others claimed this was a sign of weakness. Quietly, the Twos and the Sixes longed to be more like her.
It was a Six, the seductress, that was chosen to go to Caprica to pave the way for the return. In the year the plans were complete, the Cylons finally sent a representative to the Armistice Station.
Nearly a thousand years before, as the five children of Earth had prepared themselves for their journey across space and time, Kara Thrace had sat in the cockpit of her Viper, preparing herself to take another journey. She studied the gun that rested in her lap. Squeezing her eyes shut, she said a prayer to the gods who had sent her here (their servant), to the father of her heart, to the boy who had loved her, and to the man she could not have. Neatly, she positioned the gun in her mouth, turned her eyes to the grey horizon, and squeezed the trigger.
And then she was flying, flying, flying through the blackness, and she loved it. How had she gotten here? She didn't quite know. She didn't remember launching from Galactica. Was she on rotation? But the feeling of flight was so vibrant, so perfect: she sunk into it, embraced it. And then – something – a flash before her eyes – Earth, blue, radiant. Oceans, forests. It was so distinct to her; where the images came from, though, a mystery.
A Viper in front of her, and she could tell from his style – it was Apollo. He saw her, gave chase. She nosed next to him.
He did a double-take, his eyes wide. "Kara?"
She grinned, an honest, true grin. "Don't freak out. It really is me." She paused, wanted to convey to him the weight of her words. "I've been to Earth. I know where it is. And I'm gonna take us there."
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