Title: "Past the Red Line" Part 5
Summary: Dealing with the aftermath of the NCP headquarters bombing.
Author's Note: If you haven't already, you might want to read the previous parts here: Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4
The people of New Caprica City circled ceaselessly around the site of the former New Caprica Police headquarters, despite it being almost impossible to breathe comfortably near the building without a rag over one’s mouth. Wordless stares, unintelligible wails watched transfixed, as the Centurions worked day and night, pumping millions of gallons of water onto the fires.
When it became clear that no one would leave without word on their loved ones, the humanoid Cylons dispatched yet more Centurions, this time to build a gargantuan “Mourner’s Tent” next to the disaster site. Next came the crates of food, this time delivered by the humanoid models themselves, dozens of them - many of them multiple copies of themselves. The hundreds of mourners accepted these small favors with an almost spectral gratitude, a shuffling kind of empty quiet not seen since the attack on the Twelve Colonies.
“We are all one people in our grief,” intoned an exhausted, vacant-looking President Baltar, speaking from a hastily-erected podium. Yet he did not mention, or even look at the rows of body bags only fifty feet away.
It was the first time anyone had seen President Baltar in weeks.
On the third day after the bombing, ash particles and narrow plumes of black smoke still choked the air. But the debris was gone, and the milling crowds inside the tent had gotten sparser. People were leaving to bury their dead. Only the tireless Centurions, back in their old role of serving humans, continued to labor without respite.
Galen Tyrol lay staring at the ceiling, listening to the inescapable whirring and clanging. When he’d signed on to the bombing mission, he hadn’t counted on the sound of the cleanup haunting him from over a mile away.
He couldn’t take it anymore. His head snapped up; he exhaled loudly. Soon he was up and folding up his cot with the sheets and blankets still wrapped inside it.
“Galen, what are you doing?” his wife asked him, her chin thrust out, ready for combat.
“I’m going to stay over at Anders’ tonight,” he told her. “Someone needs to keep an eye on him. His fever was really high when I went to check on him a few hours ago.” Tyrol’s tone was filled with ominous portents; not of any violence within him – he’d already had too much of that – but of his own imminent emotional collapse.
Cally, however, had never been one to accept the lot that anyone handed to her.
“Nicky and I need you here,” she insisted. “The Cylons are busy now with cleaning up that building, but who knows what they’ll do once that’s done? What if they start rounding people up?”
He put the cot down, put a placating hand on her shoulder. “If you stay indoors, nobody will bother you.”
He heard the condescending sound of his own voice, and tried quickly to repair the damage. “Besides, I’ll come back right away if anything starts happening, I promise.”
Cally picked up Nicky and held their sleeping child in her arms, a symbolic choice she offered Tyrol. “Anders is an idiot,” she said quietly.
“He’d be fine if he’d just gone to Cottle.”
“Ever since the Cylons started noticing the Resistance, they’ve tightened things up. Cottle has to account for every dose of medicine now. They make him fill out reports.”
She shook her head. “No. Anders is just playing out some stupid frakked-up hero game because of what happened.”
“Cally, come on,” he said, his protests a dull knife that cut away at nothing between them.
“No, Galen! You can’t fool me. I know what’s going on. I know why you want to go be with him, because you think he’s the only one who understands you right now, but that’s just not true.”
“He’s sick,” he tried again, wondering idly why he kept lying to her.
“I know you, Galen. I know you better than you think. You’re going crazy with that sound out there, aren’t you?”
He stared at her, helpless.
“It’s not your fault, you know. You tried to stop it. All of you tried to stop it, even that frakking psycho Cain.”
“She’s not a psycho, she’s my commanding officer,” he snapped, his voice rasping, eyes tight with exhaustion. He hadn’t slept more than a few hours total since the day before the bombing.
Cally said nothing. Tyrol looked all around the room, as if searching for something, but he had no idea what. He bent down and kissed his son on the forehead.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “I didn’t mean to yell at you.”
“I know,” she replied, but he saw how sad, how defeated, how powerless she felt, and it made him want to hurt himself, or hurt her. He wasn’t sure.
“You know what I wish?” he said suddenly. “I wish I could grab you right now and the two of us could roll around on the ground and just frak, bring Nicky a brother or a sister…”
Her eyes filled with the start of tears, but she was too fierce to let herself cry; he knew that from experience. “So stay,” she choked. “Don’t go over there.”
“… but right now, to be honest,” he finished, “I just can’t stand to be in the same room with my own son.”
She stood there, caught on the precipice of her self-control.
“Then go,” she said woodenly.
“I’ll be back first thing in the morning, I promise.”
“Go, Galen. I don’t want to hear it. Just go.”
“I’m sorry about this.”
“Don’t apologize to me!” she yelled. “Not if you’re going to leave!”
He wanted to make it better, but he knew there was nothing that would.
“Go!” A tear was starting to run down her cheek. She turned away, pretending to fuss over Nicky, putting him down carefully in his crib. He picked up the cot in one hand, grabbed his coat in the other. “I love you, Cally. Don’t think I don’t. I just gotta work this out.”
She said nothing, did not look at him. He watched her for a moment, bent awkwardly over their son, and was filled with sadness.
He clutched the cot tightly under his arm and walked out.
"What are you doing here again, Galen?” Anders’ voice sounded distant, unfocused. “What are you, my nursemaid? Weren’t you just here an hour ago?”
“Try five hours ago, Sam,” Tyrol replied, clipping the tent flap down, letting the cot drop down on the floor without ceremony or care, “and the last time I was in here, you were so out of it, you were calling me pet names.”
Anders felt like his body was weighted down with stones. Even rolling his eyes towards the back of his head was painful.
“Wait, what?” he sputtered. He touched his palm to his own forehead, as if it would give him clues, an explanation.
“Then, when I checked your forehead, you tried to kiss me.”
Anders shot up straight into a sitting position, and immediately regretted it. He felt the stabbing beginnings of a migraine shooting straight through his eyes and groaned. “Are you serious?”
Tyrol said nothing.
“Really?” Anders looked up at the ceiling, mortified. “I actually tried to kiss you?” He exhaled deeply, and it made his body hurt all over.
Tyrol’s lips pressed tight, then twisted, then fell into an unrestrained, triumphant grin. “No, Sam. I’m totally messing with you,” he said, breathing through a suppressed laugh. “But the fact that you believed me so easily tells me you’re pretty frakked up, Sam. Maybe you should go to Cottle.”
Anders plummeted back down onto the cot and pulled the blankets over his head, burying his body completely underneath the covers.
“No,” he whined, like a four-year-old in bed with the flu. “No Cottle. We talked about it already.”
Tyrol talked to the blankets. “Yeah, but I don’t believe you. You couldn’t possibly be staying away because of Cain, right? You called her a ‘cold-hearted bitch,’ remember? You think I believe for a minute that you’re scared of her?”
Anders’ short laugh muffled through the layers. “She didn’t even blink when I called her that.” Then he said nothing at all. Eventually, Tyrol decided to busy himself with situating the cot more respectably on the far side of the tent.
“Cottle won’t tell on you,” he tried after a few minutes of silence between them. “He wouldn’t sell anyone out. He’s a cranky son of a bitch, but he always does what’s right.”
“I don’t want to put Cottle in that position,” Anders protested. “It’s not fair.”
Tyrol tucked the sheets under the cot’s mattress. “Cottle can take care of himself. Hell, he was doing abortions for people on the Fleet even after Roslin made it illegal.”
“Look, just drop it. I’m not facing Cottle.” He peered out from under the blanket, his temples pounding. “What are you doing, Galen?”
Tyrol continued to arrange the cot.
“Oh come on. I don’t need you to stay here. I’m not dying.”
“Yeah? How do you know without seeing a doctor?”
“I don’t know.” Anders’ voice filled with impatience. “I just do.”
Tyrol rolled his eyes. “Try again, Sam. That’s not a real answer.”
“Yeah, well, it’s the only answer I got, so take it or leave it.”
There was nothing left for Tyrol to do but lie on the bed he’d just made. “Sam,” he began, his eyes closed. There was too much quiet all of a sudden.
“Yeah?” Anders’ voice was muzzy.
“What’s the real answer?”
“Why won’t you go see Cottle? Really?”
Anders opened his eyes in the protective darkness of his blankets. “I kill children.” The deceptive softness in his voice made Tyrol’s chest sink.
“Yeah,” he breathed. “I know.”
“It’s gonna be fine.” Anders sighed unconvincingly. “I just need to … rest ... or something.”
Tyrol heard a thumping sound on the tent flaps and froze, then forced himself to relax; Cylons wouldn’t knock.
“Yeah?” he called out.
“Tyrol?” the voice outside was tinged with surprise. “Is that you?”
“Yeah, Colonel.” He didn’t feel as relieved as he knew he should. “Come on in. I’m just checking on Anders.” He sat up formally, not quite able to excise that reaction from his military instincts. He had stopped saluting months ago, though. Anders pulled his blankets down, but his eyes were too heavy to stay open.
Colonel Tigh pushed his body easily through the tent’s flap, and took a long look at Anders. “Is he conscious?”
“I’m fine.” Anders insisted through closed eyes. “Why won’t anyone believe me?”
“Because you look like shit,” Tigh said matter-of-factly. “And you sound like it too.”
Anders yawned, his tones gauze-filled. “Well, maybe if Ms. Sociopath hadn’t shot me in the shoulder, I’d be in better shape.”
Tyrol heard Tigh chuckling under his breath. The sound had always reminded Tyrol of a gear about to seize. “Just because you’re sick doesn’t mean I won’t kick your ass, Anders.” He walked over to where Anders kept a cistern. “Chief,” he ordered, doling water into an aluminum cup, “get his head up. He needs to take these.”
“Cain went to Cottle?” Tyrol said, amazed.
“Anders, open up,” Tigh ignored him. “As soon as you take these, you’ll start feeling better.”
Anders squinted and turned his head away with a grimace, but it only took a few moments of guiding the pills towards his mouth to get him to weakly comply.
“He should start having more energy within an hour,” he told Tyrol. “In the meantime, let’s talk.”
“Anders …” he began.
“Is going to be out cold for at least an hour. The meds’ll hit him pretty hard at first. Come on. Let’s go.”
In Tigh’s tent, his wife Ellen took a pot off a small hearth and offered them tea. To Tyrol’s surprise, the prospect very much appealed to him. He’d had no preferences about anything for the last three days. He chose a box and sat, aware that the Colonel was inspecting him.
“You haven’t been sleeping, much, have you?”
Tyrol shook his head.
“Is your head on straight?”
Tyrol shrugged. “I dunno, Colonel,” he sighed.
“You’re a good man, Chief, but here’s the thing: if you’re not going to be with us one hundred percent, we can’t have you around anymore. Things are about to get intense around here.”
Tyrol buried his expression in his mug. “Intense?”
“This can only go one way. The Cylons are going to take this a lot more seriously now, and on top of that, this frak-up with the schoolkids means that we can’t count on public support anymore.”
Tyrol raised an eyebrow. “But then we’re dead. We need the public support. Don’t we?”
“Depends,” Tigh’s lips twisted. “Depends on how we want to run this group.”
Tyrol felt slow and stupid somehow. “We can’t have a movement with twenty people,” he said.
“The Admiral and I’ve been talking these last few days,” Tigh continued. “We’re seeing how, in a way, this could be a good thing for us.”
Tyrol pounded his cup down on the floor next to him. “We killed children, Colonel!”
The silence that Tigh let build up between them unnerved Tyrol. “You think those kids aren’t on my conscience too?” he rasped. “Every night since then, I’ve lit a candle for each one of them, sent their tiny souls to Elysium. None of us wanted those kids to die. Not me, not Cain. But they did, there’s no changing that. The best thing you can do for them is make sure their deaths meant something,”
“Like what?” Tyrol challenged. “What exactly can getting defenseless kids murdered possibly–”
“Tyrol!” Tigh hissed. “You want parents of those dead kids to start showing up at your tent? Keep your voice down!”
“I’m still waiting for you tell me what those kids dying meant.” But he kept his tone down to a whisper.
Tigh’s eyes narrowed. “Chief, that NCP building was leveled to the ground. We eliminated the NCP scum terrorizing our people. We also set back Cylon surveillance and roundups by who knows how many weeks, maybe even months. We made huge logistical gains, and we did it all with a group of about 20 people, one bomber and low-cost, easy-to-get materials. That’s all we need.”
“But that’s not what we said we were about when we founded the Resistance.” Tyrol felt his world falling around him. “Are we becoming a suicide bombing organization?”
“There’s two ways a revolution can work,” Tigh said. “One way is to gain so much widespread support from the people that the Cylons can’t possibly control them. Then there’s the other option: Stay small but deadly. Hit the Cylons from every corner. Keep them so busy fighting a hydra that they never have time to breathe. Either we’ll destabilize them so much that they won’t have any fight left in ‘em when Galactica comes for us, or else we make their lives so difficult that they leave on their own. We can do that with a movement that’s lean, where everyone knows who they’re trusting their lives with.
“So what I need to ask you, Chief, is this: Can I trust you with my life? Can I trust you with the lives of everyone in this organization?”
“We’re going to keep using suicide bombers?”
“It’s the only way to get inside these targets. You know that.”
Tyrol picked up the mug and took a sip. “But don’t you see? Without the support of the people, no one’s going to be our suicide bombers either.”
Tigh grimaced. “That Hauser girl turned out to be way stronger than any of us suspected. She didn’t listen to Jammer because she didn’t want to stop. She wanted to die and no one was going to stop her once she’d started.” He paused and scanned Tyrol’s face. “There’s an endless supply of people out there who’ve lost everyone and everything, and they have nothing left to live for except revenge. The Cylons created them when they attacked the Colonies.”
Tyrol’s eyes widened. “And so we exploit them?”
Tigh shook his head. “Anyone who volunteers for something like this is a dead man walking. They just don’t know how to take themselves out yet. We can give them a meaningful end, Chief. They can die saving humanity.”
“I don’t know, Colonel,” he said. “We get more Tamas, it means taking out more innocents too.”
Tigh nodded in agreement. “I’m not gonna lie to you. That’s why I said that if you’re gonna stay with us, you have to be committed one hundred percent. If you don’t think you can do that, then you need to go.”
The tea in his mug tasted lukewarm, metallic. But Tyrol sucked it down anyway, buying time.