art the Fifth: War
The hour is getting late. Adama, Helo and Lee arrive on the Basestar Celeron in the company of a Cylon I haven’t gone into, but who becomes a significant player over the course of the story. Another Cylon wanders into the Celeron’s command center, wired with a suicide vest and awaiting the signal. Saul Tigh is ready to give it.
Galen Tyrol has proven a bit of a problem. He always did, right? So he’s been paved over with his own sleeper program for insurance: kill Boomer. He can live with that since he intends to kill himself afterward.
On Earth, Athena and Boomer reach a testy peace of sorts for Hera’s sake. Then our suicide Cylon gets his signal.
>>>The blessed signal arrives. It beeps in his head, flashes in his eyes, tingles in the flesh. He’s been waiting all his life for this moment.
Final safeties release. Tears swell as he stands. The angels sing. He raises his arms to the heavens and thinks the word in silent testament.
Celeron’s command center is wiped out. Saul and his Cylons jump in with full force. Galen has wired their command structure for Saul to treacherously damage his own allies at the right moment. After all, lots of Cylons need to die on each side. But Saul doesn’t know D’Anna is two steps ahead of him.
Cylon battles Cylon on the Celeron. As fate would have it, Adama, Helo and Lee are in a critical sector. They take charge and work their way toward a location Boomer’s side says is critical.
The Agathon compound is assaulted by Centurions. Gaius and Caprica are freed in the chaos. Head Six reminds him what he has to do, reminding him as well not to look back as he values Caprica’s life.
Boomer tries to defend the Agathon compound. She fails.
Athena races for Hera. She’s cut off by Centurions. Preparing to make a suicide run, she’s halted by the appearance of Roslin. They relive the Opera House for real this time as, in the distance, Caprica scoops up Hera. Centurions glisten between them like a shimmering door closing.
Athena has to choose: make her suicide run, or try to help Boomer. Chapter 18 is over.
The final battle is probably a third of the story. I’ll truncate the summation. Basically, we’ve got five tracks in simultaneous motion: (1) Athena and Boomer, (2) Adama and company on the Basestar Celeron, (3) D’Anna and Saul on the Basestar Exesis, (4) Baltar, Caprica and Hera, and (5) the space battle.
Athena saves Boomer. In a neat role reversal, Boomer is insistent they rescue Hera, while Athena insists Boomer is needed on her Basestar. An aborted rescue attempt forces Boomer to admit Athena’s right. They launch their snippy sister act in a surviving Raptor.
Adama and company seize the Celeron’s auxiliary Combat Information Center. They try to figure out how to run the ship. Cylons are dying heroically throughout the Fleet to buy them time. Eventually, Adama is ready to direct a Basestar in battle against Saul Tigh. That’s actually kind of cool.
D’anna uses Saul right up until the moment she denounces him as a traitor and takes charge. She likes his plan to make the battle a nightmare, but thinks he lacked ambition. Once she has the reins, everyone is going to die.
On Earth, Baltar can’t do it. When push comes to shove, he’s not quite enough of a rat bastard.
>>>Gaius Baltar brings up the rear, watches Caprica and Hera march several feet ahead.
Caprica thinks they’re helping Hera, is focused on the child’s well-being. Gaius is focused on the path alone. Their way to the river. He doesn’t want to think about Hera or what he’s doing.
Pushing her forward into a destiny already written. Clearing her out so the others can finish each other off.
He loves Caprica, believes that more than anything. He’s doing this for her, for himself, because he loves her, and because he’s a scared, selfish little rat bastard. “Don’t look back, as you value her life.” This isn’t why he came here, why he let Adama stick a gun in his mouth.
It’s simply who he is. God’s will.
Caprica speaks kind, soothing words to Hera. “That’s called a catastrophic cascade… means everything just changed.” Hera wants her Mommy. For some reason, he can’t stop thinking of that Basestar where he lay dying, how Roslin almost let him die. Why didn’t she? “Well there’s the question, isn’t it? I don’t have data to extrapolate what comes into being, but whatever it is, it’s different.”
That’s their problem. The heroes. If they aren’t able to overcome this, what can he add? He wishes Caprica would be quiet, stop being so heroic for the child. “But the old pattern ends with all of us dead. And if the new pattern ends the same…Why such a dramatic change?” He can’t erase the image of Roslin sparing his life, feels like she’s screaming at him.
He’s not a hero. He did what he could, gave them the information he had. What more can anyone do? “The model is weak,” Head Six sneers. “Always has been, but in the end she’ll carry out her mission.” Hera’s bucking up heroic, too, a regular little trooper. Gods! That new pattern--what was she supposed to do in it? “Life can be a curse as well as a blessing. You will believe me when I tell you there are far worse things than death in this world.” That sense of Roslin is overwhelming, no doubt his meager conscience kicking into overdrive, the problem with indulging one of those. His would have died a natural death if he’d let it.
He loves Caprica, knows that more than anything. “Listen to your heart. Embrace that which you know to be the right decision.”
He loves Caprica so much. “As you value her life…”
He looks back.
God damn him, but he looks back.<<<
Starbuck and Sam try to hold the line. It’s looking bleak, but they’re holding out for something called The Last Citadel. That’s what the goddess Athena tried and failed to create on Kobol.
Baltar’s mind races furiously. Why does the Cylon God need him anyway, and what is Hera supposed to do? He surrenders to Boomer’s enemies to get into space. If God wants Hera on Earth with everyone else dead, then space is where Baltar wants her. D’Anna orders Hera killed; Baltar convinces a Cylon not to do it, after which they’re on the run in the Basestar Exesis. That’s the one Saul used to control. It’s also the one battling Adama.
Boomer and Athena reach the Celeron by the skin of their teeth. Adama has a crazy idea to even up the battle. It’s even better than jumping Galactica into the Earth’s atmosphere over New Caprica. The Cylons are balking because it feels crazy. But once Boomer’s back on board, she backs Adama, gives the command herself from a launch bay. It’s wild, the whole battle turns berserker, and it works too well.
D’Anna has her opening now. Her side feels desperate enough to threaten a nuclear launch at Earth. They’ll threaten; she’ll make sure it happens, Adama and Helo try to close the gap to fire on the Exesis, but they can’t make it in time. Boomer races toward auxiliary CIC while the countdown sounds. She gets there with one minute left.
Somebody needs to act. She screams out orders. They can’t do any of them, not in time. Head Cavil says she knows what she has to do. She’s a Cylon, and it’s us or them. Is one man, Galen Tyrol, worth what’s about to happen?
>>>“Give me an option!” she screams at Adama. The old man shakes his head. She frantically searches holograms and consoles, heart slamming as it all becomes a fog. “Fire!” They’re trying. “Fire, damn you!” Us or them! Boomer. Us or Them! “Jump engines!” Nothing.
“Exesis--optimal firing position in forty seconds.”
Head Cavil looks grim: “There’s only one move left, Boomer.”
They can’t close the gap. Not fast enough. She beats her fists against Helo. “Do something!” It’s a horror show.
Nobody can do a damn thing.
Cavil: “Nobody but you.”
She shrieks. Nothing good can come from this. She needs time, just a little more, never needed anything but a little more time. Never wanted any of this.
Simply wanted to die with Cavil on the Colony.
She wipes at a half-formed tear and steps up: “Max out broadcast, all streams. All sides.”
“Exesis--optimal firing position in thirty seconds.”
“This is Empress Valerii. I have the secret of Resurrection. Repeat, I have Resurrection, have secured the future of our race. Stand down!” Sharon Valerii stares at the simulation. A pointed tip enters the animated Cylon at the base of the skull. Tendrils drive up and out, eviscerating tissue, building an electromagnetic field. Collecting. Harvesting. “This is Empress Valerii. I have the secret of Resurrection… “And the person? You said they don’t die immediately… The essence would retain some concept of self, awareness of the dislocation… Some sensation in the parsing… Would that be painful?... Yes. Any realization of time would be lost, leaving the duration experience extreme.” “… Stand down!”
“It’s obscene.” Nothing good can come from this. Galen…
“Exesis--optimal firing position in twenty seconds.”
Cavil: ”The only move left. Good girl.”
Helo steps back from her, the look on his face no longer kind. Lee stares dumbfounded. Adama grimaces. She’s not one of them anymore. Round and round, they’re all looking at her, the girl who never had a chance, who spent her whole life begging for just a little more time.
“You are the agent of death, Sharon Valerii. You will betray them all.”
She’s halfway there.<<<
Out of the frying pan and into the fire. Baltar faces off with D’anna, Hera’s life in the balance. The fate of humanity, too. He figures out what she knows, it is awful, and it doesn’t answer the question: what is Hera supposed to do? What is he supposed to do?
Boomer’s maintaining a fragile truce on a ship midway between Exesis and Celeron. It’s neutral ground. She’s drawn Galen Tyrol there so she can kill him for the secret of Resurrection. Will that keep the Cylons from killing each other? Can she buy enough time afterward to keep a restored Cylon supremacy from turning on humanity? She suspects nothing good can come from this, hates herself for it, but what else can she do? As always, hope is the killer.
Things are actually worse than Boomer suspects. Galen is programmed to kill her. And there’s an squad of assassins, D’anna’s final insurance policy, infiltrating to kill both of them. Boomer and Galen battle each other and the Cylons trying to kill them. Of course, shots are fired, and her armistice breaks down.
The fighting between Fleets resumes. Lee and Helo are on the line. Adama knows what he has to do. He has to keep a losing hand in play, prepares a suicide run that will kill the Exesis and everyone on it, including Hera. What else can he do?
The nuclear launch at Earth resumes thanks to D’Anna. She’s using the command overrides Galen gave Saul, so the Cylons can’t stop it this time. Saul and Ellen Tigh, hating and loving each other, are about to watch another world die. What can they do?
The Cylon God is coming in all its power and terrible glory. Athena stands alone in the face of it. The goddess Athena, for all this has happened before, and all of it will happen again.
It’s completely frakked. Unless Starbuck is right and there is something called The Last Citadel.
Adama began it: “We decided to play god. Create life. And when that life turned against us, we comforted ourselves in the knowledge that it wasn’t really our fault, not really. But you don’t get to play God and then wipe your hands of what you’ve created. Sooner or later…the day comes when you can’t hide from what you’ve done anymore.”
Starbuck, Cavil’s true heir, the last one with a Plan, is trying to finish it: “All you have to write is one true sentence. Write the truest sentence you know.”
Time’s up. What does it take to be a God that doesn’t need to hide? Where does compassion come from anyway, and how bitter can it be? And what is The Last Citadel?
I’m not telling. But I thought it was positively inspired. Lots of good stuff I left out culminating in people you care about pushed to their absolute limit, which is what the best fiction is all about.
WILL CONSERVATIVES LIKE THIS BOOK?
That’s a hard question to answer. The final emphasis on compassion may reek of liberal mores, but it’s suffused with an oddly Christian sense. Not like the famous Jesus lion in Narnia, but more elemental. It’s also about personal integrity (the truest sentence you know) and taking responsibility for your actions (you can’t hide from what you’ve done). As I understand it, conservatism is supposed to admire both of those qualities.