Summary: Human or Cylon, we all make choices. Then we have to live with them.
Characters: Bill Adama, Sam Anders, Sharon Agathon
Word Count: 3,292
Title of original story: To Think Oneself A Man by lizardbeth_j
Beta Thanks: sci_fi_shipper made this story much better than it would have been otherwise.
Author Notes: I had such a hard time choosing which of lizardbeth_j’s stories to remix; I hope this one works well.
Bill is tired of thinking about Cylons. Sometimes it feels like his whole life has revolved around them. Bill is tired of the Fleet; he loves it, and would give his life for it, but it’s been a long four years of running with no resupply, no reserves, no time to rest and recover. Galactica doesn’t run itself, and neither does the Fleet, and even though Saul’s finally got his ass in gear again after New Caprica and is taking care of the day-to-day operations, they’re still trying to run a fleet with never enough of anything—people, food, time, fuel, spare parts. Each problem solved uncovers a dozen others just waiting to tear their fragile society apart, or worse, leave them defenseless when the Cylons next attack.
Bill’s pencil stabs through the paper and the lead snaps. “Frak it,” he mutters. They’ve gotten really good at recycling paper, over the years, but it’s still not quite as durable as the real thing. And no matter how many things they’ve found that make marks on paper, without specialized equipment pencils have to be hand-made. Bill sighs and drags out a pencil sharpener. He’d rather be in CIC right now, while the President—Laura—the President is on a Cylon ship, a Cylon Basestar hanging right there, big as life, with half his strike force with her. He itches to be there, ready if things go wrong.
But nothing’s gone wrong yet, and his shift is over, and if he hung around watching he’d only make people (more) nervous. The last thing they need is some scared kid blowing this chance to hell and gone. They need a break. They all need a break. Everyone’s past fraying at the edges, now; they’re fraying at the center.
He picks up the report again, tries to read it. No matter which way this goes, this feud between the captains of the Hitei Kan, the Cybele, and the Gideon has to be settled before it spreads, with his pilots caught in the middle. But with a Cylon Basestar at their door, disputes about ambrosia smuggling seem pretty petty.
If the Cylons are telling the truth, if this whole thing isn’t some kind of elaborate trap, they might actually be able to find Earth once and for all—and keep the Cylons away long enough to actually settle there. This talk of alliance is too good to be true. Regardless, he won’t be the one to start anything. He doesn’t dare hope for peace, but he’ll take every second of cease-fire he can get.
Bill takes off his glasses, tosses them on the desk, and stands up to stretch. He’s not getting anything accomplished. Nobody’s stupid enough to start something with the Cylons watching. And if something does start, better he’s fresh and alert and not buried in paperwork. He wanders out to his sitting area, ignoring twinges from an old body that’s spent too long in one position.
The painting on the back wall catches his eye; it’s meant to do that, a painting by Monclair should be seen and appreciated, particularly now that it might be the only piece of high art from the colonies that’s survived. It hangs on the best display wall he has, where it’s impossible to miss when you enter, where there’s nothing to distract from it. (But when Bill uses his sitting room, he usually sits on the couch. Below the painting, with his back to it.) The use of color—yellows and browns and blacks and grays—is unusual for Monclair; usually, he worked either in stark monochrome or a richly varied palette. The subject matter, though, is the single most common subject of all art in the post-War period: heroic humans fight evil, lifeless Cylons. Lots of pathos is evoked by the fallen heroes and the destruction of all that came before.
Fifty years ago, when Cylons were first built, those old-fashioned ungainly toasters, who could have imagined what was to come? A human-looking body, maybe; technology had been progressing with breathtaking speed, even as a child he’d been able to see that. But a real flesh-and-blood baby, born to an artificial life form grown in a tank? Even then, with technology growing by leaps and bounds and seeming-ready to answer every want, it would have seemed like magic, not science.
Life was so different then, before the Cylons. But it was such a long time ago, Bill doesn’t trust his memories. It wasn’t the technology that made a difference, for him; his family was never much for tech toys. No, it was the family that changed, in more ways than just the name.
Willie Adams was eleven when his mother and sister died in a terrorist attack.
Some things are crystal clear. The house, filled with black suits and black dresses and black tattoos, with chanting and candles and his father crying. Creeping into his parents’ bedroom, when his father was at work and Grandmother was busy, and curling up in his mother’s closet, breathing in the faint scent of her perfume that clung to the dresses hanging there.
There are a lot of things that aren’t so clear, things he’s not sure he remembers right, things that even then he knew better than to ask about. Furious, quiet conversations between his father and his uncle about the Graystones, late at night when he was supposed to be asleep. Daniel Graystone himself, in their house. Most of what he heard he didn’t understand, but some words stood out: Tamara, avatar, Zoe, revenge, holoband. Cylon.
Bill’s not sure he remembers any of that correctly, the way it actually happened. It’s possible that his subconscious mind took a lot of different things out of context and put them together. Graystone had been one of the most well-known men on Caprica, his picture everywhere, the holobands and the hacked worlds and his terrorist daughter and—later—the combat robots that turned out to be Cylons.
When Bill Adama looks back at it, the memories of the boy he once was are mostly a blur. So much has changed since then. He finds himself, every so often, taking the memories out and turning them over: was life really like that back when technology seemed the answer to everything? How did things turn out this wrong? What choices, seeming-inevitable at the time, resulted in this exodus? The simple life of a boy seems like paradise, for all he doesn’t remember being a happy child.
Bill stares at the painting. Despite its power as art, it has little resemblance to the reality of Cylons as he knows them to be, although he knows that most people in the Fleet still think of Cylons as if they’re the monsters in the painting and nothing more. But now the Cylons look and feel and think just like humans, at least some of them do. Well, he knows at least one who does, and if Athena can, presumably so can others. Bill has known for a while now that Cylons can be just as fanatically religious, in their own way, as humans can; that this fervor is driving them to ally with their enemies is weird, but no more so than other things Bill has seen these last few years. Bill doesn’t have much faith in religion, though he’s learned to have faith in Laura. If she thinks seeing the hybrid is important, it is.
Bill shakes his head. This mission—there’s no way both the Admiral and the President could go on a hazardous mission at the same time, he knows that, and Laura’s the one who deals in visions and mysteries. Still, he’s curious. Is it anything like the First Hybrid that the old-style Centurions were guarding, the one Major Shaw gave her life to destroy? Is it anything like the thing in the tank he saw in a Cylon installation as the first war ended? What drove the Cylons to create them? What drives them to try and create children the old-fashioned way?
Bill doesn’t know much about hybrids. Sharon Agathon mentioned them, once or twice in passing, as they talked and drank tea together in her cell while armed Marines stood watch. They talked about a lot of things in those days, Human and Cylon alike.
“You’re remarkably open-minded,” she said once, after they’d gotten comfortable with each other. “Most Humans believe Cylons are evil or abominations, period, end-of story. Yet you’re talking with me.” The Marine behind her shifted uneasily, gloves rasping on his rifle. Sharon ignored him. She’d gotten good at pretending her guards weren’t there, as if this was any ordinary visit.
Bill glanced at the guard behind her, speaking calmly, hoping it would help the man get over his jitters. The Cylons had just taken New Caprica, everyone was on edge, but if someone took that out on Sharon they would lose their one advantage. “I need to understand Cylons, if I’m going to fight them,” Bill said. “They’ve got most of the Human race hostage on that damned planet. You may not be an ordinary Cylon, but you’re what I’ve got.”
“Most Humans wouldn’t say there’s anything to understand, about ‘toasters.’ They’d say that we’re only machines, computers programmed wrong.” She watched him like she always did, wary, calculating, trying to hide her fear and her hope.
“If that were true, you wouldn’t be here,” Bill said.
“True,” Sharon said. “But that doesn’t mean most Humans are willing to see it.”
Bill didn’t respond immediately. He took a while to sip his tea, and think. He needed to weigh his sympathy for her—turning away from her people for the sake of her child, only to be locked up and have her child die—with his fears for the people on New Caprica who were certainly enduring a much worse captivity. To weigh his trust of her as a person who had aided the Fleet on more than one occasion with his suspicion of her as a member of the race that had repeatedly tried to wipe out all humans everywhere.
“Human or Cylon, we all make choices,” he said at last. “Then we have to live with them. Your people chose genocide. I choose to fight them. You chose to defect, to help us, and you chose not to tell us who the Cylon agents were until it was too late. I don’t think Humans are always good, but I’m damn sure not going to stand by and let them die. I don’t think Cylons are by nature evil, but they’ve sure chosen to act like it. That’s the measure of a man, or a woman. Or a Cylon.”
Sharon shook her head. “It’s not always that simple.”
“I know,” Bill replied. “But that’s a good place to start.”
Bill remembers that conversation, and all the others, and wonders what choices the rebel Cylons are making. (If they truly are rebels, if it’s not some sort of elaborate trap.) But surely, if one Cylon could choose to do the right thing, then so could others. That’s the picture of Cylons he needs to carry in his head right now, not Monclair’s. If there is a chance this alliance can work, he’s not going to be the one to frak it up.
He wonders what’s going on on that basestar. Surely it can’t take this long to get an answer from the Hybrid.
The door chimes; a visitor. Something to keep his mind occupied instead of running in circles. Even a small problems to solve would be welcome.
Bill sits up as the Marine announces Sam Anders. Longshot. Bill keeps the surprise off his face; he’s never quite known what to make of Kara’s husband. The man has never sought him out before, despite being married to the closest person Bill has to a daughter. But Bill can guess what this is about. It speaks well of him that he’s coming to confess his responsibility for Gaeta’s wounding when it looks like he could get away with it, even if Bill can’t afford to take a pilot—any pilot, even a nugget—off the rotation at the moment.
Bill is wrong. Anders fidgets and can’t look Bill in the eye; it takes him a few minutes to find the words, but when he does, it’s simple enough.
“You know those Final Five Cylons that rebel Six wants to find? I'm one of them. I'm a Cylon.”
“I doubt that,” Bill says, frowning. Anders doesn’t look—or smell—drunk, though he’s obviously distraught. “I watched you play your first pro game. You were hardly more than a kid.” Bill remembers that game very well. He’d taken his sons to the C-Bucs season opener every year he was on planet (just like his father used to take him). That was the year Zak died. Zak had told Bill and Lee that he was engaged during the game. That was the last time the three of them were together. Bill doesn’t remember much of the game itself, but he remembers the hype about that year’s rookie.
"I guess skinjobs age if left in one body long enough. Or maybe I'm not the Anders you saw then, I don't know." Anders shook his head, swaying, as if a stiff breeze could knock him over. "I don't know. I don't how or why or when… and frak, I sure as hell don't know the way to Earth or anything like that. But I do know it's true. Because when I was flying at the nebula, one of the Raiders … scanned me. Then they all left. The Raiders refused to fight because one of the Five was in the fleet."
Bill takes in a deep breath, lets it out. Either Anders Is crazy, or he’s telling the truth. If he’s telling the truth, it explains the nebula. He fights back a laugh; he’s spent so much time worrying about whether or not Kara is a Cylon, and missed the one who’s really in their midst. (Although, he supposes it’s still possible that Kara is a Cylon.) Bill suppresses the urge to call for Marines, though he eyes the angles between himself, Anders, and the door. He’s got time to think, and he’s always found it’s best to take it when he has it. He studies the Cylon.
Anders is staring at the floor. He’s not armed, or if he is, it’s well-concealed. It’s almost like he’s talking to himself, like he’s forgotten there’s anyone else in the room. If that’s what he’s got to do to get through this, confession, Bill isn’t going to make it any harder. Anders, of all people, knows what can happen to Cylons. Turning himself in takes guts. Bill has to respect that, even in a Cylon.
"I've been trying to deny it and pretend it's not happening. I even thought it might be a good thing." Anders laughed once, hollow and bitter. "Right. That worked out so well. I'm sick of lying and pretending, and I just… I just don't care anymore what you do to me."
Bill doubts that, he doubts it very much. But he’s glad Anders came forward now, and not in the middle of a crisis. (Things could go south at a moment’s notice, but they haven’t yet. The Cylons are still playing nice.) His eye is drawn by the Colonial uniform, and it angers him to see a Cylon in it. Athena wears the same uniform, but Athena knew who she was and what she was doing when she swore the oath. Even knowing Anders would probably make the same choice, Bill’s gut tells him a Cylon doesn’t belong in a Colonial uniform. But sometimes, instinct is the wrong cue to follow.
“The Cylons don’t know this.” It’s a safe assumption, but it has to be asked. If they had, they would have asked for him already. Or made sure he was one of the pilots sent over with the President. Hell, they could have just made sure he never got back on the Demetrius or picked him out of the camps on New Caprica or brought him in on Caprica when he led the resistance there. But Bill needs to be sure about what they know before he makes plans. There are other questions he wants to ask, but they can wait. If Anders knows the names of the other four members of the Five, he hasn’t said; maybe he’s protecting them. Maybe he doesn’t know. But either way, Bill has to handle Anders, first.
Anders shakes his head. "No. None of them do. Except the Raiders, I guess, but even they didn't react when I was on the baseship. It's so strange. They stare right at me and they don't know…. That dark blonde Six thinks the Five are some kind of… saviors." He makes a noise in the back of his throat, like he’s trying not to cry. "They're going to be so disappointed. I don't know anything. I don't know why I suddenly knew at the nebula, I don't know why it's some sort of cosmic joke that everyone I ever cared about got killed by frakking toasters and I fight them and hate them all these years, and now I find out I am one….”
Bill doesn’t interrupt. Let Anders take as much time as he needs to say this; the way he’s telling his story tells Bill more about whether or not Anders is a danger to the fleet than asking the question directly ever could. Anders didn’t choose to be a Cylon, but when he found out he was one, he chose to stay with the Fleet. He chose to stay with Kara. He chose to turn himself in.
“I can't deal with this alone, Admiral. I'm going to end up putting a gun to my head, and the worst part is I'd never know if it was my decision or not. Frak, I don't even know if it'd work. So, here I am before I make everything worse." Anders takes a deep breath when he’s done, almost a gasp, relieved that it’s all out, as if Bill is a priest to hear his confession and tell him what sacrifice the gods require to make things right.
Bill’s no priest, and he can’t say what the gods want. (He’s not Laura Roslin and he’s certainly not Gaius Baltar. There have been enough signs and portents and visions in the last few years that he has to believe there’s something greater out there, but Bill puts his trust in things he can see and understand. Like actions.) But it’s his duty to see the Fleet gets what it needs to survive, and Sam Anders has just handed him an ace in the hole. If all else fails, and the Cylons take Laura and Galactica’s pilots hostage, Adama now has a hostage of his own. Even if things don’t go to hell, Anders can still be a bargaining chip in their negotiations. If nothing else, he may know more than he thinks he does, about the others of the Five and Cylons in general.
Anders still looks like he’s about to faint, or puke. If ever a man needed a drink, it’s Sam Anders right now. Bill gets up to pour him one.
Bill hopes things work out and Anders doesn’t end up torn to pieces between the Fleet and the Cylons. If a man’s choices are what defines him, Anders’ choices speak loud and clear. They haven’t always been perfect, but by and large they’re ones Bill can respect.
Particularly the choice that led Anders here. Bill hands him the glass, and they drink. Together.