They say the Cylons look like us now.
Meditations at the Abyss
Tara couldn't read the last words, for her vision became blurred by her tears again and tears had also started to wash away part of the ink from Willow's first ever love letter to her. Maybe even the last love letter, for Willow was - what was the military term? 'Missing in Action'. And not only her, but their new friend Jessica too, along with the other nine people aboard this ill-fated Raptor. One of the three Raptor's she'd seen depart from the Galactica. Only one had returned, another had been destroyed and the Raptor with her girlfriend aboard had last been seen going down towards the planet's surface. No telling if Willow and the others even survived the crash. No telling if there was to be a rescue attempt.
Three Raptors that went out to explore a possible new home for humanity...
Earlier that day.
"Raptor two o six stand by. You will be cleared for landing once the port landing port is free."
"Copy that Galactica. Remaining in waiting position until cleared for landing," 'Rice-Pattie' reported back and turning around to Tara, sitting right next to her she added, "since we're stuck out here for the time being. We may as well enjoy the view, don't you agree Tara?"
"Absolutely Dana," Tara agreed.
Lt. Kim brought the Raptor up from behind the Galactica, flew alongside the landing pod. Coming to a stop, Tara could see three Raptors emerge from the Galactica. Swiftly they moved away and only moments later vanished in the familiar flash of a FTL jump.
"Any idea where they're heading?" Tara asked, feeling the peculiar need to do so.
"Why? To Kobol of course, haven't you heard that it had been found?" 'Rice-Pattie' answered sounding genuinely surprised.
"Of course I know that Kobol has been found," Tara said and gave a pout. "I mean ever since Colonial Day, I'm probably no longer on the best terms with the president, but I'm not completely out of the loop here. It's just I didn't know about any mission to Kobol yet."
"Wow, stand down," 'Rice-Pattie' said, "didn't mean to offend you."
"Believe me you didn't," Tara said.
"So what happened?" Dana asked while she started to bring the Raptor around towards the landing bay.
"Remember the rumours about the cabinet member and the Galactica military personnel?"
Pointing at herself, Tara went on: "I'm that cabinet member and 'Red-Dyke', she's my girlfriend. And because these rumours started just the day Tom Zarek started campaigning for the vice-presidency, Laura Roslin thought a gay Sec Ed a danger to her position."
"So you and Rosenberg huh?" 'Rice-Pattie' asked while she manoeuvred the Raptor into the port landing bay.
As the Raptor was lowered down from the landing bay to the hangar, Tara said to 'Rice-Pattie': "Thank you Dana for bringing me back to Galactica so early."
"You're welcome Tara," 'Rice-Pattie' answered, "just out of shear curiosity, why the rush?"
"Oh I want to surprise my girlfriend with breakfast in bed," Tara explained with a big happy smile on her face.
"Well that's sweet. Though, you're sure she will be still in bed? I mean it's half past eight," Dana said pointing at the chronometer right in the middle of the dashboard.
"I know she is," Tara said. "Today she's on the late shift and thus bound to be sleeping late after yesterday's eleven hour patrol."
"I see. Well then have a nice breakfast," 'Rice-Pattie' said and opened the Raptor's hatch for Tara to leave the craft.
Balancing a tray with breakfast for two in one hand and holding on to her suitcase under her arm, Tara tried to let herself into her quarter as quietly as possible. Looking around the dimmed living room, Tara was once again amazed by how much more these walls - without undergoing any real change - felt like home now. And only because she was sharing them now with Willow. The living room was empty though, and so without looking Tara placed the tray on the table and quietly made her way into the bedroom. Lit only by the light poring in through the open door, Tara could see the bed to be empty. Except for Miss Kitty of course, who was sitting right in the middle of the sleeping place.
Tara sat down on the bed and Miss Kitty right away strolled over and took up seat upon her lap. "Willow ain't here, is she?" she asked the little feline, who responded by purring loudly.
'Willow probably slept in her bunk,' Tara thought and absent mindedly stroked Miss Kitty. After she'd fixed the breakfast for her cat, Tara left her quarter again, leaving her own breakfast untouched on the living room table.
Wandering through the halls towards the officer's quarters, Tara noticed the mood around the corridors to be somewhat strange, but could not put the finger on why it was this way.
Reaching the officer's quarters, Tara saw a female pilot leave the accommodation where she knew Willow's bunk to be.
"Excuse me," Tara said, "but is Lt. Rosenberg still in there?"
The pilot, 'Lt. Ayelet Quast' Tara could read on the name tag on the flight suit, looked somewhat insecure for a moment before she answered: "Sorry Ma'am but she isn't. Lt. Rosenberg is on a survey mission... Maybe she left message at your quarter?"
"I'm just coming from my place," Tara said, more to herself then to the lieutenant, "maybe I've over looked it."
"Sorry Ma'am, but if you will excuse me, I have to report for duty," Lt. Quast said and hastily walked away. Leaving Tara with the distinct feeling that something just wasn't right.
Walking back through the seemingly endless corridors of the mighty Battlestar, the feeling became more like a nagging angst that something really terrible had happened. Almost running, Tara reached her quarters and keyed on the lights. At once she spotted the envelope laying half covered by the tray with the neglected breakfast. Sitting down on the coach and with Miss Kitty playing around her feet, Tara stated to read the first love letter from her girlfriend Willow.
Willow was with the Raptors she'd seen depart from the Galactica upon her own arrival. Tara let her hand with the letter sink upon her side, now she knew why Willow hadn't been here. Yet this new found knowledge only further fuelled the dread in Tara that something terrible had indeed happened to her beloved girlfriend. Unable to concentrate on her work or anything else for that matter, Tara kept sitting on her couch and stared on the printout of her favourite Adriana Richardson painting, without really seeing it at all.
A knock upon her bulkhead brought Tara out of her dull stare. Sending a quite annoyed Miss Kitty flying onto her bed and closing the door, Tara went to get the bulkhead. Not really expecting it to be Willow, Tara found herself surprised to find a very worn-out looking Buffy Summers standing at her doorstep. Her ever mounting fears pressing her even closer to the edge of panic, Tara wordlessly led Buffy into her quarters. Folding her arms protectively around her torso, Tara waited for Buffy to say something.
"It's about Willow," Buffy said, her voice sounding strangely calm. "She's been part of a survey mission to Kobol."
"I know, she wrote me in a letter about it." Tara said, showing her friend the letter, that she still held in her hand. Her hand started shaking for she had noticed that Buffy had said 'she's been' and not 'She is'.
'Slayer' hesitated and Tara could feel Buffy's rising desperation.
"What happened Buffy?" she asked quietly.
"The Cylons!" Buffy whispered, tears dwelling in her eyes, "they were there - at Kobol when they arrived, one Basestar and Raiders. One of the Raptors got destroyed the moment they entered normal space."
A distressed cry escaped Tara's lips and she covered her mouth with her hand, her eyes wide with terror.
"No, no, no!" Buffy cried out, grapping Tara by her shoulders, "she's wasn't aboard that Raptor!"
"But she isn't here either."
"Raptor One with Willow on board was last seen heading towards the planet's surface without power," Buffy explained.
"So there's a chance she's still alive?" Tara asked, feeling like she would faint any moment.
"Yes there's a good chance that they made it safely to the planet's surface," Buffy answered.
"Will there be a rescue attempt?" Tara wanted to know, "Will they save my Willow?" Desperation started to freeze Tara's heart, for how could she ever live on, if Willow should not return from Kobol. But was there a real chance for success?
"There will be a rescue attempt," Buffy finally said, "but the Basestar will have to be taken out before that."
This sounded awfully dangerous, if not impossible to Tara. "Is that possible?" she asked sceptically though she welcomed any hope for seeing Willow again.
"Speaking strictly from the military textbook, no," Buffy admitted, "but right now 'Starbuck' is working a plan to defeat this Basestar anyway. Believe me she is thinking so far out of the box, one could almost call her crazy. But until now these plans of her have worked.
"So I'm optimistic that if any plan should ever have a chance to succeed then it's hers."
Buffy fell silent for a moment before she added, "I really believe that we will get Willow back. I can't stand the thought of loosing my best friend too." She had said this more to herself then to Tara, and her tone of voice told her that Buffy wasn't only referring to Xander or her comrades on the destroyed Raptor.
"Who was on the destroyed Raptor?" Tara asked cautiously.
With tears dwelling in her eyes, Buffy shook her head like she wanted to dismiss this question, to hide away from the truth that was lurking behind these words. Eventually a heart-wrenching sob escaped her lips and she cried out, "Reilly Finn!"
'Oh no - not Reilly Finn!' Tara thought in horror. Loudly she asked, "from the marines?"
"You knew him?"
"I talked with him on the Quorum - he was part of my security detail," Tara said, remembering one of the more content moments of these days aboard Cloud Nine. "He talked a lot about you."
"Yes. I think he was..."
"I know," Buffy admitted, "I believe I was in love with him too. But I didn't let him come close enough find out for sure. I was too afraid that if I let him in my heart I might lose him afterwards. And now I have lost him only to discover that he has been in my heart all the time..."
Her voice failed her and 'Slayer' started crying harder.
Crying herself Tara took Buffy in her arms and they both cried holding each other comfortingly. 'Poor Buffy,' Tara thought, 'at least I still have even if only the slightest hope that Willow could still be alive and might even return to me, but Buffy?'
"What time is it?" Buffy asked after a while. Letting go of each other, Tara showed the young pilot her wristwatch.
"Frak!" 'Slayer' exclaimed, "I have to report for duty in less then ten minutes!"
"More training flights with your 'Potentials'?" Tara asked, just to get Buffy's thoughts a little bit distracted from her dead boyfriend.
"Nope, normal patrol duty for a change," Buffy said and started to dry her tears. "As a matter of fact, I will be replacing Willow in her patrol group with 'Rogue' and 'Mouse'" She took the tissue offered by Tara to further dry her tears and blow her nose.
"It's good to have a good cry once in a while isn't it," Buffy said, "so you'll be all right, Tara?"
"I'll manage," Tara assured her friend.
"I'm sure Willow is going to be all right," Buffy said, to assure herself as much as her best friend's girlfriend.
"I know she is," Tara said softly, "she has to be. I also believe that if she wasn't alive any longer I would have felt it."
"Something like that."
"Well take care, Tara," Buffy said fondly and for the first time kissed Tara goodbye on her check. "I will do my best to keep you informed on the entire situation."
"Thank you Buffy," Tara said, and then, as an afterthought, added, "good hunting 'Slayer'
Sitting down on the couch after Buffy had left, Tara forced herself to eat something. "You won't help Willow by starving yourself," she advised herself. "You have to stay strong, for Willow."
Several hours later, Tara's nerves were strained to the max, since she'd learned - through one of her more 'unofficial' contacts (Not Buffy who was still on patrol) of the plan that was to be put in motion to destroy the Cylon Basestar over Kobol.
Even though her contact had been vague on the details, Tara understood that it involved a captured Cylon Raider and a nuke, to blew up this ship full of toasters [Nickname for the robot Centurions] and these sort of human Cylons clones. A crazy plan, to phrase it politely. But Tara knew that 'crazy' held the best chances for success, and for Willow and Jessica to return safely to Galactica. So all depended on 'Starbuck's' plan to succeed. Tara hadn't meet Kara 'Starbuck' Trace yet, but from what Willow had told her, Kara seemed crazy enough to really pull this stunt off. 'If only someone would tell me if this mission is underway by now,' Tara thought nervously.
Another hour later, Tara couldn't stand it any longer. She needed to know how things were going. And on a more reasonable level she started to wonder why Yeoman Alyson Benson hadn't come around with the communications from 'Colonial One' by now. During all those past weeks, these communiqués had always come at the same time - give or take ten minutes. And even if there were no messages for Tara, Alyson had come in order to get any communiqués Tara had to send to 'Colonial One' or other ships.
"Well at least now I have a reason to go to the CIC," Tara said to Miss Kitty, who was sleeping right next to her on the couch and left her quarter right away.
Her most important question Tara got answered as soon as she stepped into the busy hallways leading to the CIC. For all the officers and crewmembers she encountered talked about how 'Boomer' successfully blew up the Cylon Basestar above Kobol. Even though she wondered briefly why it was 'Boomer' instead of 'Starbuck' Tara was as happy as any other person aboard the Battlestar upon hearing the good news. Tara knew this to be the biggest military success, ever since they took the tylium asteroid from the Cylons. She also found her hopes of meeting Willow again raised considerably.
Feeling more relaxed Tara slowed her steps, and was passed by two marines escorting a handcuffed Captain Adama! Tara had a very bad feeling about what she was seeing.
'Something really bad must have happened,' she thought. But she couldn't think of a reason that a man like Lee Adama - son of the Galactica's commander and according to Willow an excellent CAG - should end up in handcuffs. Tara realised how bad things were, when on looking back she saw another person being lead in handcuffs into a different direction down the corridor - President Laura Roslin!
Tara hurried after her. "Madam President what's going on here?" she asked, but got no answer from her boss. Instead, a third marine Tara hadn't noticed before stepped up from behind her, and without stop walking said to her, "I'm sorry, but Ms Roslin is under arrest and I'm under strict orders that no one shall have private conference of what degree so ever with the prisoner."
Prisoner? Ms Roslin?
"Then you tell me what's going on!" Tara demanded, stepping up her pace in order to keep up with the marines and their prisoner.
"I'm sorry, but I can't do that either Ma'am," the marine retorted briskly.
"Do you know who I am?" Tara insistently asked. "I'm a member of the government and as such I demand to know why you are taking the President of the Twelve Colonies away like a ordinary criminal!"
The marine, one Lt. Anderson Tara could now read on his combat suit, stopped, while his comrades continued escorting the president away. "I know who you are Dr. Maclay," he said, "but I have my orders. You'll have to go to Commander Adama for answers."
"Believe me I will!" Tara answered furiously.
"Good. Now if you'll excuse me Madam Secretary," he saluted Tara briskly, then walked away joining his comrades who had already walked around the next corner heading for the brig.
Tara kept standing where Anderson had left her, trying sort out what she had just learned. The president was under arrest and on her way to the brig. Was this a military coup? Had Commander Adama declared martial law? He didn't seem the type. From what she knew of him, he was someone who believed in the articles of colonization he had sworn to protect and defend. He had made this clear when he had objected to Laura Roslin's request to have marines take over policing duties.
"So what has happened here?" Tara asked herself again.
Only one place to find out what happened, Tara knew and so she started to walk again to the CIC, where Commander was likely to be found. In about ten minutes, she should have her answers - she hoped.
It took Tara thirty minutes to get anywhere near the command and control center, because she had been so exhausted first by worrying about Willow (still doing so) and then by the whole new situation that she'd just encountered, that she had completely lost her way. Embarrassingly she had to ask a crew member for directions. More determined then ever to get answers Tara marched towards the bulkhead leading to the CIC, only to find both Commander William Adama and Col. Saul Tigh coming her way.
'They probably have been with the president,' Tara thought and stepped right up right in front of them, and without any preamble came right to the point.
"Commander Adama," she said, but got cut off right away.
"Madam Secretary, I'm rather busy right now. So if you would please excuse me."
"No I wouldn't," Tara said briskly, "I demand to know why the President of the Twelve Colonies has been arrested!"
Tara was determined to stand her ground, she was part of the democratic government and she wouldn't move until she got the answers she was entitled to.
"Is this a military coup? Did you declare martial law?" she demanded to know.
William Adama wasn't exactly intimidated by her demeanor, she could see, but he answered her anyway.
"Dr. Maclay," he said calmly, "President Roslin deliberately took away a vital military asset, by persuading one of my pilots to go on a wild ghost chase against orders. And therefore she left me with no other choice but to relieve her of her office."
"She took away a military what?" Tara asked puzzled.
"A military asset doctor, a Cylon Raider we captured some time ago, and that was to be used in a assignment to destroy the Cylon Basestar."
"But the mission was a success, I heard people talk about it!"
"We managed to accomplish the task by other means," Adama clarified Tara's confusion.
"So you didn't need this Raider after all. So one could say Laura Roslin made a terrible misjudgment, but in the end she did not endanger the mission," Tara concluded weakly, but knowing very well that Laura had made a dreadful mistake.
"It's much more than that Dr. Maclay and you know it," Adama clarified. "This was to be a military decision and thus not one to made by President Roslin. And now, if you don't mind, I do have to commence a search and rescue operation. So I have to ask you to return to your quarter for the time being."
"Are you putting me under arrest too now, Commander Adama?" Tara inquired.
"If you like to call it that way," Col. Tigh mockingly told her, but Adama cut him off.
"I'd rather like you to remain in your quarters until this crisis has been resolved." He turned to the marine that had been following him and the colonel. "Corporal, escort Dr. Maclay to her quarters."
Commander Adama then excused himself and the colonel once again and entered the CIC. He was followed by two female pilots, one of whom Tara recognized as Sharon Valerii - 'Boomer'.
Sharon Valerii had flown Tara several times and she had found her to be sympatric and likable character.
Tara noticed her wearing a Band-Aid on her face, and she wondered what had happened to the young lieutenant. She also noticed a somewhat peculiar look in her eyes. Tara couldn't tell why but something bothered her about what she was seeing in the woman's eyes.
"If you would please come this way Madam Secretary," the marine said politely.
"Lead on corporal - lead on," Tara said weakly and started moving.
They had just walked but a few meters and around the next corner, when Tara heard, even if only faintly, shots fired from within the CIC.
'Gunfire - here?' Tara thought terrified and in the same instant she heard cries, saying that Commander Adama had been shot by 'Boomer'!
While one part of Tara was horrified, another concluded that even though it seemed utterly impossible at first, and completely unlike the 'Boomer' she'd known, there could only be one possible explanation: Sharon 'Boomer' Valerii had to be a Cylon sleeper agent programmed to shoot Commander Adama.
Unbelievable. All this time 'Boomer' had been serving in the fleets best interest, found them water and fuel and even just blew up a Cylon Basestar. But then some preprogramming took over and she shot the man that was so essential for the survival of the human race.
However, right before the shoots had been fired Cpl Bruce O'Reilly called out to another pilot, that was coming their way, "Hello 'Rogue' how was today's patrol?" Tara hadn't paid any attention to this pilot, but that changed rather drastically when the woman cheerfully replied: "Five by five!"
Tara stopped dead in her steps and in her mind she cried from the top of her lungs: 'no it can't be - she's dead!' Yet there she stood. The same features so fondly remembered by Tara. Her face, the eyes, the hair - much shorter now, but still...
All around Tara the world came to a complete stand still.
With Commander Adama lying mortally wounded on table of the Dradis consol and with his son and Col. Tigh desperately trying to stop the blood flowing from the two gun shoot wounds inflicted by 'Boomer'.
With Willow sitting injured, within the burning wreckage of the Raptor she'd brought down hard to the ground - saving most of her comrades.
With all inside her going blank, Tara could do nothing then stare upon the person standing but a meter away from her. The person she knew to have died when Picon City had been nuked and completely destroyed by the Cylons, but nevertheless stood right in front of her. Tara's eyes darted to the nametag on the pilot's flight suit: Lt. JG Eliza F. Davis, she read.
The same name, only a different given name. No - exactly the same name! Just when she was with Tara she'd preferred her middle name and only much later Tara learned her first name after all. So it really was her - there could be absolutely no doubt about it. Only very reluctantly Tara's mind succumbed to the truth she was facing right now, that she was standing face to face with a identical copy - a clone of the person she once knew - she once and still loved, that she was standing in front of a Cylon!
The lips upon this Cylon Avatar's face turned into a cold sardonic smile when she said, "Hi Tara - no hello, or don't you recognize your ex-girlfriend?"
Following a long and disbelieving stare, Tara finally regained control over her vocal cords, though what escaped her lips hardly sounded like her own voice to her, when she stuttered: