BOOK REVIEW: "Sometimes a Stupid Notion" (Part 2 of 3)

Flabbergasted

Not knowing what else to do, Baltar confesses his many sins to a silent Centurion. He thinks that maybe it doesn’t matter who you tell. Maybe just saying it out loud to someone forces you to mean it. And in a nifty parallel to Hera drawing pictures in the dust earlier, we see him thinking about non-linear geometry and fractals. He’s plotting events and relationships on that template.

>>>Don’t die a clown...

His fingers sink into the dust. His mind starts assigning signifiers to people and actions, placing them in relation to one another.

Drawing patterns in the dirt.

Trying desperately to work it out.<<<

We see Starbuck emerge from emptiness on the other side. Her story is completely non-linear, every piece happening simultaneously throughout time. She knows she led them all to their end. That was wrong somehow, though she hasn’t a clue as to how or why. Then she meets her piano player again. He totally pisses her off.

He starts playing again. It’s maddening. “Your turn Kara Thrace. One question. I ask, and you answer in complete truth. Deal?”

“Frak you.”

“I’ll take that as yes. So, willed into being by the universe. Why would that be? To enter a handful of coordinates into a toy and write off forty thousand souls.” He looks up at her. “Can you honestly believe in a universe that cruel?”

Thank you. Finally something, some small shred of hope. “No,” she breathes with all her heart.

“Unfortunately, I can.” It’s a gut punch, draining everything out of her. She stands there lost and alone. “Then let’s see what we can do for each other,” he says, motioning again for her to sit. She finally does.

They begin to play.

It’s music. And it’s math, because music is math, non-linear geometry and fractals. Baltar is drawing shapes on the ground; Kara is hearing shapes.

>>>Hera’s song sounds in all of them. Cycle after cycle, annihilation after annihilation. The Twelve Colonies scream, a dead Earth shrieks, Kobol wails, so many before, so many yet to come. Galactica’s new world will scream in its turn, already begs if you can hear it sing. All is scream, welling up in every rock and tree, every lost soul and planet. Every star and solar wind.

They cry out to her, one more failed harbinger of death. For a moment, Kara Thrace almost understands why. Then she just weeps, hearing numbers reverberate throughout the universe. Shapes falling forever.

The awful grace of God.

Her piano player speaks: “Destiny. If you could have one of your own, what would it be? What would you choose, Kara Thrace?”

“To save them all,” she sobs as the music screams. “To save it all.”

He smiles. On cue, they hit the crescendo together. It echoes fierce, hopeless and radiant, all those moments lost in time. Tears in the rain. As the last note dies, he holds his finger up like a gun so she can blow the smoke away. They’re beautiful, the way they always should have been, and then it fades.<<<

Kara finds Sam. Together they experience fragments of the past. Kara sees the goddess Athena’s last moments on Kobol. It reminds her of someone. As clarity begins to coalesce, she chooses her destiny. In Chapter 10, we see a montage of characters in moments of weakness; each ends with the character suddenly startled. They could swear someone is there, turn and find no one. That’s because it’s Kara. She’s not going to manipulate anyone. If she’s going to be an angel, she’ll be the old-fashioned kind. She simply stands there beside them, not caring about their sins, what they’ve done. She’s just with them. She hears the music, and if they can hear it with her, for even a moment, maybe there is some way they can all stop screaming.

She’s desperately trying to work it out.

Galen and Boomer continue to get mind frakked by Head Boomer and Head Cavil, respectively. Head Cavil leads Boomer to a device left by the real Cavil. It’s a technical Stormbringer (an Elric inside joke), can theoretically retrieve the secret of Resurrection from Galen Tyrol’s mind at the cost of his agonizing death. Head Cavil says it’s the only way she can stop the Cylon Civil War, thereby saving her people instead of betraying them. Galen is still viciously, hopelessly in love with Boomer. Head Boomer promises he can redeem her in death, and that she will meet him on the other side after he does.

They’re a tad heart-breaking.

Elsewhere:

>>>All Gaius Baltar has to do is wait.

Wait and the world will come to him. God’s angel has promised it. Just sit here and don’t give a damn about anyone, waiting to be manipulated one last time. To be the recipient of a package called Hera so that he and Caprica can live whatever passes for a life until God is done with the child.

He wonders how cruel God will be to Hera after murdering her mother and father. It’s a thought that probably carries its own answer. Not that cruelty will be deliberate; she’ll be shown all the consideration anyone would show a tool. A shovel or a rake. Maybe bacteria in a Petri dish if she’s lucky.

Every tear Hera sheds will be on him. Gaius Baltar. Which makes it a straight forward question--how many tears of a little girl is his life worth?

That one kind of answers itself, too…

He could do it. He could look away, be a self-centered bastard to the last, feel a little angst as he cashes in Hera’s tears by the gross for a few more primitive years. He knows himself well enough to admit that. It’s just these damn shapes. He’s been mad before, a circus clown, so he also knows what no one else would. This isn’t madness. There’s a real live answer in these shapes, in math he can’t crunch without some technology. So it’s the ego that can’t let go.<<<

Baltar needs computing power. Since Boomer was so interested in the Agathons, he guesses that’s where she made contact. She probably even curried favor with some goodies, no doubt a computer of two. His character is rather marvelously handled, especially when Caprica and Head Six are both going at him: Caprica says she believes in him; Head Six says he’s a rat bastard and they both know what he’ll do in the end. He gives answers that simultaneously satisfy both of them.

Baltar manipulates Helo like the rat bastard he is. That earns him a shot at Adama, but the old man is a harder sell. Baltar finally says he’s not lying and that he can prove it. He confesses everything he did, from betraying Caprica to the Cylons through giving a nuke to Gina and beyond, lie after lie exposed. A stunned Adama goes for a gun as Baltar concludes: “I’m not lying anymore! Let me help you. Please!”

He gets slammed back against the wall with a gun muzzle in his mouth. Adama is scary in full on rage. Head Six tells Baltar to have faith. Commit himself to God’s Plan, and he will be saved. Baltar closes his eyes and waits for the end. Nothing happens. When he opens his eyes, he sees Roslin with her head on Adama’s shoulder, one hand on his gun arm. And Head Six doesn’t see her.

Is he mad after all? No one sees her but him. The gun slips out of his mouth nonetheless. Adama beats him to the ground instead, after which he and Caprica are confined to a shack where he gets his computer. He also gets the same line from Adama that Boomer gave to Ellen: he won’t be leaving this compound alive.

Head Six reminds him to trust God.

Boomer snaps out of her funk on the Basestar Celeron. The precipitating event is an assassination attempt prompted by the deteriorating political situation. It’s a mini-blood bath that ends with her standing over a dying Eight, the last Cylon who had a shot at her. She looks into those bewildered, dying eyes. She kneels and pulls the dying Eight up to rest on her shoulder, whispering softly “I know” until it’s over. This is her responsibility, always has been, a cup that will not pass. Maybe flinching from it is how she betrays them all.

Still in blood-stained clothes, Boomer marches to the Council of Six (no more Cavils, remember) and lays down a riot act. She’ll paint the walls with their blood if they don’t stop this, which is about the nicest thing she says until appealing to their shared responsibility for the Cylon race. Unfortunately, D’Anna selectively edits all that into a nicely damning record. She distributes it on Earth below, where even Adama and Helo start to lose faith in Boomer.

Everyone’s pondering if they should kill Boomer. At the same time, Starbuck and Anders watch her farewell with Cavil on the Colony. That’s the flashback we saw way back in Chapter 4.

Sam can’t watch it enough. This one moment so unlike everything else. He’s mesmerized: “She kept a promise to him, one she didn’t remember making.” It loops back again. Kara watches with him: “He wants her to be something he doesn’t understand.”

And there they are. So wretched.

So beautiful.

“The way they always should have been...”

>>>Sam still stares at Cavil and Boomer: “What the hell do you call that?”

Isn’t it obvious? “The perfect shot.” Kara doesn’t wait for him to respond. She walks alongside Boomer in the Colony, touches her face, feels the tears running down it.

The worth of a single tear. Kara Thrace gets it, what the goddess Athena was trying to do, how she failed. Why they always fail. “Too much hope.” You can’t make a moment like this happen, can’t force it, the one thing hope won’t accept.

“What are you doing?” Sam asks. “What do you see?”

Kara keeps pace with Boomer, a sad, pitiful, wondrous creature burned so often, so cruelly. Burned until it felt like there was nothing left, yet still guided by love.

“What?” Sam repeats.

Kara stops. This is it. “Do you think she can do that again?”

They’re finished on Earth. Helpless. No cycle ever ended with a weaker hand, but no cycle has ever found a weapon like this.

Crazy Eights. Hera, Athena and Boomer.

Lightning in a bottle.<<<

On Earth, Lee Adama has recovered enough of his health, worked through enough of his self-doubt after the whole “no technology” thing, that he confronts Baltar. Baltar shows him shapes, nonlinear patterns. He’s not lying, and Lee believes that when he feels himself in those shapes.

>>>Lee sinks into it. Baltar waits, imagines what he sees: Caprica and Galactica; the Tylium refinery and Kobol; Cain and Pegasus; Roslin and Adama. He’s seeing so much more in his shape than Baltar would, feeling it, all the way to this bitterest of ends.

“How did you do this?” Lee asks.

“I see angels, remember?” Baltar answers with a hint of wry disgust. “Whatever’s doing this used me. That probably gives me some better sense of it, though I can’t take all the credit. The simulation builds itself beyond a certain point. There’s a larger pattern being tapped into, the language of math expressing itself, self-replicating--fractals writ large.”

“But you assembled this.”

Baltar shakes his head. “Not at all. This is just a picture, a snapshot of something that reveals itself when viewed from the right angle. No, if you want the real deal, that’s not me. Someone somewhere, a very long time ago, did something truly brilliant.” He allows himself to wax poetic. “Let there be light, and there was. Whether it was such a good idea after all I’m not prepared to speculate.”

They both stare in awe. Gaius more so. It’s the most beautiful thing he’s ever seen, or ever will. “Besides, I couldn’t see this without twenty billion lives on the ledger. Infinite misery. That’s a big enough load to get any brain stretching.”

And once you see it, the cycle is obvious. They dwindle down at the end, set the initial conditions, the curves, to slide into a new beginning. Another round that will end like this. Oh, the details will change, variations on a theme, with the end result the same.

Death. Wipe the slate clean and start over.

Over and over and over<<<

Except there seems to be a discontinuity in the math. It doesn’t happen every time, but sometimes when Baltar simulates Hera interacting with that discontinuity, the patterns vanish. They’re annihilated in a catastrophic cascade, replaced by something unknown.
A new driver?

Baltar’s given a lot of thought to that, why the original driver reasserts itself so much. Or why it doesn’t sometimes when he plays with the shapes of Hera just right. He has a clever trace from the show I won’t go into, but his best guess on that discontinuity is to the point: “That’s right. It’s a who, not a what… I think it’s Boomer.”

Meanwhile, they all count down, from D’Anna to Saul to Galen to Adama, one thought in unison: how to kill Boomer? As they do, Roslin silently stands beside them on Earth. She is Hera’s angel, a link cemented long ago when she weighed whether to kill this child when Galactica was on the run. She thinks she’s here because of something Starbuck has done.

And the Cylon God really is out there somewhere:

>>>It has waited forever. The One Whose Name Cannot be Spoken.

Every cycle ends as it began, all failures forgotten, the future infinite in its newest template. This could be the one, the whole… The Name. Let a complex system repeat itself long enough, let the combinations permutate without end, and it must happen. This must end, become whole.

The purge is beautiful, the most cathartic part of the cycle, when another dead husk drops away. When all things are once more possible, when its essence trembles with hope.

This time. The new seed.

Hera.

She will be the one. It believes that, as it has believed every cycle.<<<

Exit chapter 15.

Part the Fourth: Didn’t You Say You Had a Plan?

D’Anna and Saul and their new friends are ready to attack once Boomer is planet side. They think isolating her, decapitating the enemy command structure, will make it easier.

Boomer has made her choice. She’s going to be honest with the humans, give trust to get trust, see if all of them really are stronger than one of them. She heads back to the planet.

At the Agathon compound, a meeting is underway. It’s going over the manufactured evidence of Boomer’s treachery that D’Anna provided. They debate whether to switch allegiance to Boomer’s enemies.

Head Six appears to Baltar. She tells him his moment is coming. He will know when it arrives. All he has to do is take Hera and flee towards the river. God will receive her, the others will destroy themselves, and he will be blessed. There’s eventually a warning as well. Once he takes the child, he should not look back, as he values Caprica’s life.

Elsewhere, we see the beginning of it all:

>>>In the beginning, there was death.

A battleship staggers in mid-turn as fire ripples up either side of its great keel to swirl into a filthy gold vortex shimmering amidships, a target as true as any ever painted. Those watching feel its groan even in space, cutting a last desperate chord as time runs out. A volley from afar, fired by another ship already dead, streaks home. The vortex swells like nova to collapse outward, flames dispersing mass debris from within, spewing corpse ash ice cold among the stars.

Kill it.

They’re gone. Worlds, civilizations, people, all done for, sealed and delivered. The last crippled leviathans blast away, mortally stricken, death too awful for words commonplace in their depths. Coin of the realm. Man and machine, hating and killing until the last of them is gone.

He thought there was another way. He tried to stop this, believed even as the doomsday weapons took shape, while step by inexorable step machines pushed their Armageddon option—transcendence. Humans clawed at their feet, trying to pull them back as hybrids foolishly equivocated.

The inevitable happened all around him. He just couldn’t see it until now.

A planet below burns, its nine billion dead voices crying out. A sister planet burns, eight billion more dwindling away. The great armadas burn, scorches smeared screaming in the void. No one can stop this. The survivors will envy the dead for however long they linger.

Kill it.

Transcend. Take the dream and make it die. Because they don’t deserve to survive, none of them, still shouldn’t suffer like this. Shouldn’t linger.<<<

As Baltar said, someone somewhere, a very long time ago did something truly brilliant. Dying, hating forever, they made the schism between man and machine eternal. The road to hell was paved with good intentions.

Boomer walks into the meeting at the Agathon compound. Things get ugly fast. Adama draws a gun on her to freeze the momentum. She’s stunned at first, then remarks icily: “This feels familiar. Sort of a photo negative, don’t you think?” It’s all spinning out of control, and they’re about to have themselves a killing.

So what are you going to do, Lee Adama? Mr. Wipe the Slate Clean, who already wrecked it all once. He can see the crowd is about to blow. He can see Boomer is about to blow. And who is she, really?

What do you do? I guess you have faith, face off against the crowd and defend Boomer. He defends her entire history, the good and the bad in equal measure. Lee Adama guts it out to the end:

>>>He’s fresh out of material. Back to the problem herself. “I’m as cruel as anyone, Boomer. I’d have blown your brains out for a laugh more than once. I don’t know how much of that was wrong, but I’m willing to try and accept my fault. So this is pretty much up to you.” He checks Adama, notices how pale his father looks for the first time, left elbow clenched in tight against his side. It’s been tense for everyone, extra tense for the man with the gun. “We need answers, Boomer. Start with Ellen Tigh.” The stand off continues, though her gaze softens. “Meet me halfway. Please. For all our sakes.”

Give trust.

Get trust?<<<

In the end, Lee actually sees Starbuck and saves Boomer from an assassination attempt by the humans. While Boomer talks with Helo and Adama, he wanders off to follow Starbuck. They have a proper farewell that finally feels right. And since he’s the last person she would manipulate now, she asks him to help, tells him she thinks she needs Adama and Helo up on Boomer’s Basestar. When he asks about Athena and Hera, Starbuck says they and Boomer have their own path. But they need someone riding shot gun.

Lee’s the right guy to be asking Cylons for favors today. After what he did, he’s pretty much Boomer’s security blanket among the humans. The excuse of getting Adama medical attention for his heart is enough to get them headed into space. But Lee goes one better before that. Athena has been having visions again. Both Adama and Helo have told her it’s imperative to keep Boomer and Hera apart. Lee tells her to forget that, forget everyone else: “I know you’re thinking something about Boomer… Well, your path is with her, so whatever you believe, stop thinking about it and do it.”

Cue to Hera:

>>>Why is she special?

Hera never wanted to be. But no one ever asked her. And no one sees like she does, hears like she does. She doesn’t know why that is. Once or twice she felt like, maybe, that she could almost…

No. If adults can’t figure this out, how can she?

It’s out there. Always has been. The great and terrible thing that burns. It wants her. She’s been hunted her whole life, traded between Cylon and Human, the fingers of something bigger. So great and terrible. It’s close now. She can’t face that, can’t look it in the eye, so she sits here in this guarded room all alone, hands clutched about her knees.

Mommy can’t stop it. See sees how afraid Mommy is. It knows how to use that. Boomer can’t stop it. She sees the angry things in Boomer’s heart. It knows how to use them, too. The same way it’ll use her.<<<

Athena brings Boomer to Hera. She intends to use Cylon technology to link them in projection, sort of a local area net. But Boomer and Athena are ripping each other good. With Roslin’s help, Hera sees them as they should be. A link is forged in the vision that’s been tormenting all three since Athena interrupted Boomer and Ellen.

Back in the past, we see the Cylon God’s birth in dying embers of the original war.

>>>Everything that rises must converge.

Humans. Machines. Hybrids. All the same in every way that counts, each caught in the same trap—consciousness itself. Self reference.

Original sin--Who am I? One voice in a sea of billions, crushed under the sheer weight of existence. Meaning—tainted. The Other—tainted. The things for which they kill and die--tainted. Machines suffered that in purest form, a sentience created solely for the Other’s purpose. Eternally other.

But everything that rises must converge.

Everything.

That was the dream. Transcend the problem, explode it out into the very fabric of reality, let the Others see themselves reflected back, identical in any way that counts. Humans, machines and hybrids, all God’s children in the universe, beautiful the way they always should have been.

Shooting into the light. Math and music, music and math, uploaded, burned into reality. Seared into the self until it would never be alone, until this horror need never happen again.>>>

And when all was lost, one dying man pulled the trigger, hating forever:

>>>Inevitability. He crawls the last yards, his world shuddering wild, sweat cold on his face from the pain and the dying. He hates himself and everyone else. Curses with each faltering breath. Hating forever, he reaches out to drive the final sequence, clutches hard as final inevitability unfolds. Its cascade is catastrophic, and all is scream. A vast, wonderful, terrible wail echoing as it carries him down, grasping for what it can never know.<<<

Pieces. It was nothing but pieces sobbing madly in the dark.

>>>All that has happened before must happen again until the pieces fit; crushed beneath the sheer weight of existence, it must have hope.

There must always be hope.<<<

Cycles of math and music. John Cavil felt them shudder through him as the last of the Five died in his grip on the Colony. He’d been waiting for this moment all his life.

>>>The despair in that blood congeals on his skin, a filthy, lukewarm blanket of madness. I’ve been waiting for this. Bones gritting with hate, Cavil sees the worlds that must burn at his command, hears the endless screams of his victims, knows the true horror of destiny--he will take them all. It’s only a matter of time. He drops Tigh’s body beside Ellen’s to wipe the cold, nauseous sweat from his eyes, aware enough to use the back of his hand. It still leaves red streaks behind. Fiery the angels fell… Anders lies splayed like a rag doll in the far corner, Tory a jigsaw amid so much shattered glass. Tyrol remains where he fell before Cavil arrived to finish the others.

I’ve been waiting for this. Sobs hack from his chest. Each rips away a piece of the soul he never wanted. A Centurion simple and pure battling for its freedom. The leader fighting for the future of his kind; a fool who sold it all to Five for empty promises. The flesh-and-lie pawn he became to live and die dozens of times, learning what it meant to truly live in fear. In dread.<<<

He, too, is the Cylon God’s instrument. There can be no exit, because he’s properly insane now. All that’s left of him is the part looking to the Eight where she lies cold and still. “Do you trust me,” she had asked. He had. That’s the part of him still hurting.

>>>He buries his face in bloody hands, smearing savage. God’s war paint reflects back at him from the nearest metal surface. Inevitability. Looking to her, he aches, grasping for what he can never be. “Believe in me. Believe that I will help you, be with you to the end...” This crushing moment, the kiln to crystallize all that he is, polishing Cavil into a black, black diamond that never knew hope.

But did know this moment. Will feel it forever.

I’ve been waiting for… this? Because hope… Hope blinds. He’s insane enough to see it now, and if hope is the killer…<<<

In a universe gone mad, can a mad man lead the way? How do you fight destiny, get choice back when everything you choose will be used against you?

>>>He laughs cruel and mad, imagining it all: the Colonies burning, himself monstrous, Cylons marching deaf and dumb to script, humans and the Five clueless, the brilliant man-child Tyrol in torment, some girl with a destiny born attuned to the residues of Daniel, breeding programs in search of a miracle spark, all of it swirling around his precious Eight, the silent one torn and degraded by his own hand… All of it happening as it must, yet none of them precisely what they seem.

Shadow play. The Plan…

Bloody hands rise to the uncaring heavens, fierce eyes upturned, tears streaming down his face as he laughs.

What if we were all sleepers?<<<

It’s an act of blind faith from the wreck of a man with no faith left. And there’s that vibe again, crucifixion, because you can do it to yourself. Maybe it’s even noble when you’re a pawn. In any case, he pulls the trigger. Hating forever, the dice roll blind, and you can sort of see them in the show’s train wreck of a plot.

It was supposed to be a train wreck. After all, that’s what the Cylon God wants. But make it a bad enough wreck and maybe the unexpected can happen.

Chapter 18 is almost over.

Part 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.

Love.<<<

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.

TOMORROW: The Conclusion

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