A Spike Oddity
Title: A Bug on the Cosmic Windscreen
Disclaimer: Characters are the property of Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, the creators of the new Battlestar Galactica, etc. Only the lame plots and dialogue herein are mine.
Chapter One: A Spike Oddity
A shudder ran through the shuttle. After flying so many battle missions, Starbuck had rigid control of her reflexes, and she checked the instrument panel and assured herself of the hull's integrity before moving her gaze to the object that had slammed against the ship. It was a body, splayed over the nose of the shuttle and her view screen. No space suit. Dark clothes, pale flesh, a shock of white hair and–she gulped involuntarily—very blue eyes that were still wide open.
Poor guy. Probably someone from the Pegasus, blown out in the fight with the Cylons or maybe even with the Galactica, his corpse caught in the wake of the shuttle. Automatically, Kara started to mutter the prayer for the dead.
The eyes blinked.
Even battle-hardened reflexes could only take so much. Kara's hands jerked and the shuttle made a sudden, unplanned course change. To Kara's horror, the thing on the window seemed to be gripping onto the handle of a maintenance access panel with its left hand. As she regained her equilibrium enough to straighten the craft, the creature's right hand raised and slowly tightened into a fist, flexing almost arthritically as it—as he fought to move in the freezing vacuum.
There was no air out there, but surely he was mouthing the words, "Help me."
Starbuck's eyes flicked to the chronometer on the instrument panel, then back to the man outside. She was pretty sure she'd never seen him before. He certainly didn't match any of the models of Cylons she knew about.
"What happened?" Vice-President Doctor Gaius Baltar had abandoned his companion back in the hold for the first time since they'd taken off. He was leaning over the back of the copilot's chair, staring out. "Were we shot? Did we hit some space trash?"
Starbuck waved her hand towards the viewscreen on her side of the cabin. "I've never seen space trash move of its own will before."
Gaius gasped, dithered, and began fussing. "It's a Cylon! Get rid of him."
Starbuck was about to point out that they were out here in this stolen space jalopy because of his insistence on rescuing a Cylon, but before she could say anything, a blond woman-shaped thing stepped up behind the doctor and said dully, "He's not." She clutched the oversized shirt she wore around her emaciated frame. "He's not one of us."
The Cylon in the ship was staring at the creature outside, who showed no signs of being dead in spite of showing every sign of starting to freeze. He was still banging on the window, but his movements were slowing, and the hand holding onto the ship seemed to be locked in place by the cold instead of his will.
Starbuck looked down at the chronometer again. Two and a half minutes since she'd last checked, and the man had been out there before that, for who knew how long. Going on three minutes, and he was still alive.
Kara had seen people spaced. She'd seen a Cylon spaced too, close up. She knew what happened to them. It wasn't this. She turned to Gaius and snapped, "Go out there and get him!"
"What?" Gaius stared at her and didn't move.
Starbuck gave into a long-standing impulse and slapped him on the side of the head.
"Ow!" Gaius looked so surprised Kara wondered if it was the first time that had happened to him. It seemed unlikely, but she didn't have time to worry about it.
She spaced her words carefully, as if talking to a child. "Put on a suit, go into the airlock, anchor yourself, and crawl along the hull and drag him in here."
Kara didn't wait for it. She knew exactly what he was going to say. "No, I can't do it. I have to set a course out of this debris field, and I have to keep an eye out for that Cylon fleet and the Pegasus, if they've survived. I can't be away from the cockpit that long. Now get your ass into that suit and go bring that guy in here!" She punctuated her speech with a shove.
Still wibbling, Baltar moved back towards the airlock. He seemed to be having an argument with someone, although just whom wasn't clear to Starbuck. She stopped paying attention after the quarrel was apparently decided in favor of his following Kara's directions.
As the airlock door closed behind Gaius, Kara stepped up to the viewscreen and placed her hand, palm spread, against the glass where the man was still trying to beat his fist. She kept it there while her other hand rested on the instrument panel. She had to keep a watch on their course, but she tried to meet his eyes whenever she could. She said, mouthing the words carefully, "Someone's coming."
The figure behind her shifted and Starbuck spared a glance for the Cylon that Gaius had begged her to take along with them. Kara looked away again, back to the man, who seemed to be slowly freezing into immobility, but oddly, without any shivering to avoid the loss of body heat. Frost was forming on his eyelashes, probably out of the moisture from his tears, but there was no dimming of the clarity in the eyes that were the color of the sky on Cloud Nine. He showed no sign of losing consciousness.
Starbuck was more creeped out by the beaten and silent Cylon than by this creature outside her ship, whatever he was. She was sure he wasn't completely alien. There was something too human in those eyes.
She wondered if they had always been blue. She'd heard that the cold could change the color of the eyes on a frozen body.
Finally, she saw him jerk spasmodically and he moved his head with an effort. Leaning forward, Starbuck saw that Gaius was using a hand tractor to pull the strange man towards him and into the airlock. The blond man turned back again to stare at Starbuck, and then she saw him try to scream in the vacuum as his hand was ripped from its hold on the ship. Some of his flesh was left behind.
Kara looked away, to the instrument panel, carefully checking that Gaius was working the airlock properly. If anyone was stupid enough to panic and open the interior door without being sure the spaceward door was closed properly, it was the Vice President of the Colonial Fleet, and Starbuck didn't place much confidence in the aging safety devices on this wreck of a shuttle either.
Both Kara and the Cylon turned to stare as the airlock opened and the figure in black collapsed to the floor in the small passenger cabin behind the cockpit. Gaius stood leaning against the wall for a moment before pulling off his helmet and starting to complain that the whole experience had been truly terrifying, and he hadn't been trained for this…
Kara dropped to her knees beside her unexpected passenger and rolled him over onto his back. He was, unsurprisingly, ice cold to the touch, his body almost completely rigid. But his eyes were still open, and she heard a wheezing sound as he drew air into his lungs. As he expelled the breath his lips moved in what sounded like a word. "Ta."
Starbuck stood and moved back to her instruments. She had to finish the calculations and make a jump to rendezvous with the fleet or they'd have the Cylons back on their tail. "Take care of him," she said over her shoulder, interrupting Gaius's continued stream of speech.
"How?" asked Gaius.
"I don't know!" Starbuck was already trying to finish the jump sequence and irritated by the idiocy of this. "Get him warm! You're the doctor."
Gaius was saying something about not being that kind of doctor, but he was also moving around. Out of the corner of her eye, Starbuck saw the Cylon move back into the passenger cabin, and then she had no time to do anything but manage a jump in an aging shuttle without landing them inside a sun or in the wrong star system entirely.
She'd made contact with the Galactica and exchanged a few quick, reassuring words with Dualla before she could safely check on her passengers.
The Cylon was sitting quietly, her feet drawn up on her chair, her eyes wide and her expression blank. Gaius was holding a cup of something hot and steaming and staring at the figure huddled in a rough blanket. Gaius looked confused, but that told Starbuck nothing. Gaius sometimes looked confused when confronted with his breakfast, as if he'd forgotten the horror of military rations overnight.
The man they'd rescued reached out a hand to take the cup from Gaius, but withdrew it quickly, substituting the other. Kara got a quick look at his bloody palm and could guess why. Although there was much less blood than she would have expected. Perhaps the cold had cauterized the wound.
And perhaps Gaius could have done something about it. "Didn't you bandage him?" she snapped.
Gauis' voice was hollow. "I was about to, but I saw it was healing already."
"I appreciate the concern, pet, but I'll be fine now I'm here in the warm." The man sipped carefully and made a face. "What's this? Something that is almost, but not quite, tea?"
He didn't look like someone who'd been floating around unprotected in space less than a half-hour before. He was a bit haggard, but only a bit. His short fair hair was obviously dyed, with dark roots just beginning to show. He'd smoothed it back in an effort to control some very determined curls. One dark eyebrow was marred (or enhanced?) by a deep scar. His eyes blazed as blue as she remembered, and the sharply defined cheekbones and other features had been no effect of the vacuum. He was thin and wiry, and gave the impression he could move like a cat—or lounge at his ease in an equally feline manner.
He lounged back now, sipping his drink and looking at them as if he were the one who had invited some odd guests onto his territory. "So, does anyone mind telling me where the bloody hell I am?"
"We're en route to the Galactica," said Starbuck.
"And that is?" The scarred eyebrow shot up interrogatively.
Kara tried to imagine how a human who did not know what the Galactica was could have gotten into this sector. "You've never heard of us? Where did you come from, then?"
He waved a hand. "Not sure, love. I was in the middle of a classic dust-up with some demons and then suddenly I was out there, clinging to this boat. Then the Upper Class Twit of the Year here drags me inside, and your Bot stares at me while he hands me a blankie and what, for lack of any better word for it, I will call tea."
"My what?" Kara glanced at the Cylon.
"Your Bot." The man turned to follow Kara's gaze. "She's pretty, I'll grant you, but sex Bots aren't my thing any more. I've matured, me." His almost saintly expression changed disconcertingly to a knowing sneer as he turned to Baltar. "I'm guessing you haven't, mate. Like beating them too, do you?"
Baltar started sputtering. The Cylon raised a hand to the fading bruise on her cheek. "Gaius didn't do this." Her voice was expressionless.
"She's a Cylon," said Kara slowly.
"Is that what you call robots?" Their odd stowaway seemed mildly interested.
"Bot—robot!" Gaius was distracted from his indignation. "You knew she was a robot. But how did you know?" asked Gaius. "I didn't tell you. Did I? No, I'm sure I didn't. How do you know? Have you met others of this model?"
"I told you, I just got to this dimension or whatever it is." Kara couldn't blame the stranger for the emphatic way he talked to Gaius. She found herself doing it when the subject was something practical. "I've never seen any of you before. Not you, or the Bot, or Gabrielle-in-space here."
"How can you tell she's a robot?" asked Kara.
"I just can." He shifted, looking a bit uneasy. "It's something my kind can do, if we pay close enough attention."
"You sense Cylons?" Gaius' voice was suddenly eager.
The man looked at him oddly, but said at last. "More like don't sense them. There's some human parts there, blood even, but she doesn't smell all the way human, if you know what I mean."
The instrument panel bleated. Kara turned away to get her landing instructions, her mind racing.
Whoever the man was, he wasn't a Cylon. But if he was telling the truth, he could detect them.
She'd either found something very useful in the depths of space, or something very dangerous. Or both.