The sky is choked black with soot and smog, and the ground churns with fire and noise.
Sharon can remember growing up with the others in the dark, wet caverns where she was born. She can remember standing on Caprica for the first time, and despite the radiation, despite the fact that this was a human place, she can remember loving it a little, because it was beautiful. She can remember feeling as though the humans did not deserve such a place.
Life on Earth is more like being Cylon than being Human.
She hears that there are places on Earth that look like Caprica: forests of green trees, oceans that are a deep blue-green and not brown-black, places where you can see the sun. But she has only seen them in pictures, never in reality.
She dreams of them. In her dreams, Helo and Hera are with her, and they are alive, they are happy, they are at peace. She never wants to wake up.
There is a test she must pass. They do not say she must pass it, but they talk of it, in hushed tones. Sharon does not care, as long as does not harm her, and it earns her more of their trust. "Do you really think the test is a smart idea?" she hears Tigh whisper to Adama, his eyes sharp and uncertain. "Do you really think she'll do better than theirs?"
Adama does not answer. He watches her instead, through the glass and bars of her cage, as if she has the answers written on her face.
The man who tests her is worn, like the crew of Galactica. His face speaks of experience and age and memories he'd rather forget. Sharon feels sorry for him.
He sets up a machine, with strange screens and pumps and lenses. He smokes a cigarette, white and thin, and does not tell her what kind of test this is. He merely asks her to stare straight ahead and to say the first thing that comes to mind.
The room is very narrow.
When she answers his questions, her voice echoes.
After they are done, she asks him if she has passed, because she wants to know. He does not tell her, and his tired face does not give anything away. As he leaves, she hears word "replicant" murmured by one of the guards. She wonders what they are talking about. She thinks it's her.
On the way back to Galactica, in the shuttle, she sees a image, large and looming on the side of a building. It is of a woman, her face made-up and pale. She is smiling, but it does not look real. Sharon touches the glass of the window and feels a certain kinship.
She is trapped, too.
They have found Earth, and Lee does not feel much of anything.
He sees it with the first raptor crews, and he can remember being excited, the rush of finally, finally, reaching the end. He can remember the way the disappointment trickled in and settled, even though he didn't want it to, as he saw the sprawling, monolithic cities, the cold, industrial feel of it all. So he decides that he doesn't care. That his stomach doesn't sink when his lungs fill with smog. That he doesn't remember what it was like to stand in the Tomb of Athena and feel hope.
That he doesn't see his own disillusionment reflected back at him everywhere he turns.
Lee finds himself on the streets of Los Angeles. According to what they've been told, this is supposed to be the better part of town, but Lee can't really see it. It's dirty and crowded, too many people in too small a space. There are so many people, they've been forced to go upwards, in buildings taller than even the tallest on Scorpia.
Across the street, he sees a woman amongst the crush of people. She is regal and elegant, back straight, hair neatly pulled back, face pale and smooth. She looks like no else Lee has ever seen. She looks over her shoulder, only once, and meets Lee's eye. A small smile appears on her face, strange and enigmatic, before she turns and walks into the steam and the shadows.
Lee follows her.
She is waiting for him outside a building, perfectly still. Lee wonders where she gets it from. The smile is still on her face. "My name is Rachel," she says. He watches her lips, because they are the only part of her that moves.
"Lee," Lee says. He holds out a hand, but she ignores it and opens the door with a keycard of some sort. She walks through, once again leaving him behind.
"Are you coming up?" she asks from inside, her voice soft and neutral. Lee hesitates for a moment. He realizes that this is stupid on a variety of levels, but he also realizes that he doesn't particularly care. He is tired. He is tired and he wants to rest.
"Yes," he says.
Her skin is soft, and her eyes are smokey, and her moans are barely louder than a whisper.
She is nothing like Kara.
"Are you a Cylon?" Lee asks her later. Her hair is tangled and messy, but her face is still smooth and calm and controlled.
She tilts her head to the side, thoughtfully, but only the barest imitation of an emotion flickers across her face. "I don't believe so," she says and takes a drag of her cigarette. It is dark in the room. When she exhales, the smoke catches the dim light and obscures her face.
Lee wonders if she's lying intentionally or not.
Laura meets with the president of the Untied States five days after the Fleet reaches Earth. He's a figurehead really, of little use to them, but she is a politician, and she knows these sorts of meetings must be held.
The man is small and oily, balding. Laura wonders why she's even bothering.
They talk about the future of the Fleet, and they both agree that it can't stay on Earth. Earth is far too crowded as it is. No, it would be best if the Colonials formed another colony, like many of the others Earth has set up in the surrounding solar system.
The irony is not lost on her.
"To think, Bill. That only a few months ago, we were worried about the continued existence of our species. Now, the problem is over-population." She laughs softly to herself, as she relaxes on one of Colonial One's chairs. It's not a very pleasant laugh.
Bill's face smiles, slightly, a hint of bitterness underneath, but other than that, he remains the stoic military man through and through. "Earth is not what I expected," he says, in that steady, understated way of his.
All of a sudden, she feels the exhaustion of the last five years weighing down on her. Earth is not what any of them expected.
She meets with the head of the Tyrell Corporation ten days after the Fleet reaches Earth. He reminds her of Baltar. Too much genius and not enough spine. She doesn't like him.
He talks to her in a large conference room, with a long table, and asks her if she'd like a drink. An owl watches her from a perch, its eyes large and metallic, and she realizes it isn't real. There are no more real animals on Earth.
"Tell me about the replicants," she says to Tyrell, sipping the tea he had brought over, and knows that he will not tell her the whole truth.
He smiles, and though he looks nothing like Baltar (large glasses, short hair, deeply-lined face), she could swear she sees his ghost.
The replicants will be problematic, Laura knows. There are still Cylon agents hiding in the Fleet, but they are cut off, unable to contact any of the others.
It was only going to be a matter of time before they were weeded out.
But now that time is fading fast. There is unrest amongst the replicants, she hears, and it would be so easy for that small push, that one wrong word in the wrong ear, to turn it into a full-fledged rebellion.
All this has happened before, and all this will happen again, she thinks to herself. There is truth in the prophecy.
Too much truth.
She feels alone, as she looks out the window of Colonial One. Below her, Earth spins, a sphere of black and blue and white. She should be proud of this moment, for taking them this far, for achieving this much on so little. She has led them to Earth like she said she would. She should be proud.
Instead, she finds herself missing home.
The planet she thinks of is not Earth.