"I can't stay," she apologized to him. "But you're right. I can't do this alone. Think you can fly?"
"If you're flying, I'm flying," he stated confidently.
She nodded in reply surprised at how much that mattered to her. It helped to chase away the last of her fear. It did wash over her fleetingly and then was gone, like a bad dream. It wasn't a torrent of water to extinguish the spark she kept alive. Instead, it seemed to add fuel to her fire. She looked to Starbuck and saw the compassion on his face, but no pity. He'd just seen her debase herself and he wasn't looking down on her for it. He seemed to understand her reasons why she had to do it. If he didn't understand, then at least he accepted them. Maybe that was just as important. She did a quick scan of the rest of the bridge, saw the inevitable eyes upon her, saw the pity, but more importantly, she saw support. The others on the bridge didn't look away ashamed for her. A couple even nodded. It helped to chase away the shame she felt for herself.
It was Adama's face she found the courage to study last. For a brief moment Adama appeared very young, his gaze held the same protective promise as Starbuck's. It was a look she was familiar with on Gage's face, or Crius's. There was pity there too, but she thought maybe there was also understanding for what she had to do to survive. He didn't look away from her in disgust as many of the others on Dilmun would have. It should have been comforting, but instead it scared her more than Dante's threats. It meant she'd finally have to trust him.
Trust, a knife that cut both ways, she thought before looking away and starting to get to her feet. Starbuck reached out a hand to steady her, but she brushed it aside, striding over the mess to the star map. She looked at the planets and trajectories already there, most of it information she had provided. She picked up the marker and placed an X on a vector slightly past Dilmun and another far above her home planet. She turned to call Adama over, but he was already on his way. She tapped the sector above Dilmun, in the area where she pointed out the Cylons often would wait or rendezvous.
"We call this sector the rooftop. And this," she pointed to the other area she had marked past Dilmun, "Kingdom Come. There's a nice dust cloud there, distorts readings a bit, not much but enough. That's where I need you to be when this is all over. I can use it to get us anywhere."
"You are still going ahead with that plan?" Apollo asked, stepping down from the dais to join them, Starbuck close to his heels.
"Unless you have a better idea on how to get 220 unarmed ships out of harm's way. The only reason why the Cylons haven't wiped us all out yet is because we were all scattered about. They've been fighting a multi front war, and every kid from the Colonies knows from playing school yard games, you can't win a multi front war. Basic strategy 101, consolidate your forces and consolidate your enemy. We are about to bring a bunch of us all together in one place. Security in numbers isn't a bad strategy either, but most of your numbers are civilians, old and young and…"
She hesitated, feeling the strange electrical charge that crackled through her limbs when she agreed with things Dante had said. They were truths, but that didn't mean they were right. She could feel the evil of them as one might feel the charge in the in the air before a lightning strike.
It was Adama who finished the words for her, "Unarmed and helpless."
"Our biggest fear is the cylons, right?"
"We know they are out there, but where?" Apollo asked in response.
"You know where," Rene said as if speaking to a child.
"No, we don't, but you seem to. Am I right, Rene?" Starbuck added.
"Uh, yeah, where ever you are, that's where they'll be. Look, a trap is being set for you, so we need to spring that trap. Face it, don't let it find you, you find them. Send the fleet towards Dilmun and the Galactica goes the other way. Draw them to you."
"A Cain maneuver," Tigh said.
"Too risky," Adama replied. "You have indicated that Dante might fire on our ships."
"So don't send the whole fleet, just a few ships. He knows the layout of the fleet, which ships hold which people."
"What? How'd he find that out?" Starbuck asked, knowing the answer to his question, but he needed her to say it.
"I had to give him something," Rene said unapologetically. "It's not a secret. Everyone in the fleet knows that information. So send him the Orphan ship, tell him you want the kids to live with families on a planet, tell him anything. Then we set up a distraction. I know where to poke this crawlon nest. While Dante has his hands full with ships headed his way, and we've sprung his trap a bit early and he's busy trying to reset it, we go in and take what we want."
"The Zakar," Starbuck added.
"Why not take them all?" She smiled at him, a winning smile.
"And how are we going to do that?" It was Apollo that asked the question.
"She's betting on the fact that they won't fire on us," Adama stated.
"You said it yourself, would you? I bet not when the Cylons are attacking you," Rene added.
"She has a point," Tigh conceded, "Especially if we are lending our fire power to the fight. This might just work."
"Or bring the whole Cylon empire down upon all our heads," Adama added. "No, it's too risky. I won't put our children at risk like that."
"Sir, they are already at risk. He's going to come and take them from you. That's the plan! The Cylons attack and he sneaks in and takes what he wants. I can't pass the final exam to be a warrior and you think I created this plan on my own? I stole Dante's plan!"
"Whoa, back up," Starbuck interjected, "Dante's plan? He just wants us out of here so we don't bring all the Cylons down on him as he sells us out to them."
Rene shook her head. "Dante has a plan to get the Galactica and most of your fleet. Yeah, he's going to sell you out, what's left of you that is."
"If he thinks he can treat with the Cylons he's going to be sorely disappointed. They won't bargain some of us away. They want us all dead," Apollo stated.
"You don't know Dante. He's been dealing with them for a while, and no I don't have proof other than we're still here while Cylons show up on a regular basis. Why haven't they wiped us out? The Cylons don't want us dead, they want us agreeing to their way of running things. As long as Dante fulfils their supply quotas, they aren't going to get rid of free labor."
"So we all become Cylon slaves, is that it?" Starbuck sneered.
"You have to think like a cylon, and like it or not, Dante gets that. Workers and supplies, quotas and numbers, that's how a cylon thinks. If we are useful, we live, if we aren't, we die. I learned that in the Colonies." She couldn't control the glare she shot at Starbuck before focusing on Adama. But if she couldn't convince Adama with logic, she might as well try some guilt. "Dante has brokered the peace treaty the colonies couldn't. As long as we are making more workers and giving more than we take, we have peace."
"At a high price," Adama finished for her.
"I'm not suggesting we keep going on like this, I'm explaining how it works here. How Dante's mind works. You don't have to like it, you just have to understand it. You have to keep the Cylons thinking Dante's plan is the plan, that is until we get out of here."
"I don't like it." Adama said looking to the map. "Too many variables that leave us at the mercy of the Cylons and Dante."
Rene was about to protest when Rigel's voice cut across the bridge again. "Incoming transmission, coded text. 'Add one more to your list. Boy, born twenty centons ago. Crius says you're top of the list naming is yours.' Awaiting reply."
It should have been good news, it at least removed the need to hold off and wait. Instead the news felt like another weight around her neck, threatening to drown her. Could she save them all? She had to, failure was not an option and she knew she didn't have time for any more negotiations.
She looked to Adama as she pulled out her data pad. "The reply is 'Zachary'." She paused for a moment challenging Adama. To what she was challenging him to do she wasn't exactly sure. But by the look in his eyes, she wouldn't win.
She shivered before looking down at the pad in her hand. This was Jake's plan, one she had argued wasn't needed. She'd have to tell him he was right, and she hated how smug he got when she was wrong. A hull breach to block the engineers from getting to the helm controls she would hijack. She needed it to work just long enough for her to bring down the rooftop, and then in the chaos Adama would have no choice but to follow her plan.