Astraea goes through the looking glass after being captured by Cylons.
Related Scenes: None
Plot: Operation: Watchtower
Scene Number: 1450
Muttering guy was the first to be taken. He went laughing madly and was never seen again. Cate was the first of the CF crew, but shortly after she was dragged away, there was some sort of scuffle followed by a flurry of activity. It's unknown what might have become of her. Now it's Astraea's turn. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to the choice. Perhaps she fought back! Perhaps she didn't. In any case, the Cylon seemed to be ready for the possibility, and Astraea is taken away deeper into the caves, regardless. They go down a maze of poorly lit tunnels before she notices a glow somewhere ahead, which eventually opens up into some sort of makeshift... Well, it's hard to say exactly what it is. Laboratory? Medical facility? Some bizarre combination of the two? There are cables running around and a half dismantled Cylon in the corner of the room with cables running out of its head. There are no human guts or blood, or really any signs of butchery, but that might come as cold comfort to Astraea as she is manhandled (Cylon-handled?) into a chair and strapped in.
And indeed, Astraea did fight back. While she may have told Cate she hoped to be one of the first taken, that was under the assumption that the medic would not be the first. The others needed Cate. They had concussions and other injuries to be seen to. Nova was just a pilot. Not a medic or a recon marine who could see the others out of the cave. Plus, with her hand the way it was, she wouldn't be much good in melee combat anyway- a point made when she tried to deal with the Centurions that came for her. In the end, she relents sooner than she'd like for the sheer pain of it.
The panic arises anew when she reaches that room and sees the chair. She can't help it. It's almost animalistic. A blend of fight-or-flight that causes her to struggle against her captor, even if it's to no avail. This isn't some human who she can go against a weak spot to free herself from. The amount of strength far outweighs her own. She ends up strapped down, blinking through tears she only then realizes had been flowing for a while.
The Cylon ignores fleshy business like tears. Does it even understand what those are? Who knows! Whatever the case, it continues, attaching some kind of electrodes on her forehead and temples. From there, it steps back toward the cables, messing around here and then. Suddenly, there's a sharp electric shock, and everything goes black. After an unknown period of time, remarkably, she wakes up back at home. No, not on the Dauntless. Back in Argentum Bay. Her own bed. She will recognize this day. Later, she will deliver an explosive meant to go off at precisely 5:38pm. It will go off early, but last time around she didn't know that. Or perhaps that was all just a dream and she never left Scorpia at all?
There is a jolt through Astraea, causing her whole body to stiffen before she goes slack.
And then she wakes up, in that shack called a home. On that island in Argentum Bay that her family -- her clan -- lives in. In the room she shares with her brothers. She frowns, pushing aside the covers. That day is seared into her memory like few others. Some of her brothers are awake; some still sleep. The humidity seeps into the room; no air conditioning, the windows wide open. She slaps a mosquito from her arm before pushing out from the bed and carefully leaving the room to the small bathroom the family shares, splashing water on her face. A face she stares at in the mirror; one five years younger than the one she's become used to seeing in the mirror in the Head on the Dauntless. One without shrapnel scares. She looks down at her arms, too, bared by the tanktop she wears. No burn scars. No shrapnel.
Someone pounds on the bathroom door. "Hey! Ya gonna hog the toilet all day or let someone else have a turn?" It's her brother's voice, just as she remembers it. "Ya think you're the only one's gotta pee 'round here?"
She jumps at the sound of it. Astraea had gotten lost, staring at her own -- younger -- face. Her unmarred skin. The bathroom itself. A place she hasn't seen in years. Not since that day. Even the voice is one she hasn't heard since that day. Her hands shake and she grabs the sides of the sink. "Just a minute," she calls, switching off the water and drying her hands. It can't have been a dream, right? She remembers everything.
But this all feels so real, but so did that. When she does open the door, she stares a bit too long at her brother before scurrying past him back into the room to grab her things and get dressed while she has the privacy to do so. Finding herself going through the motions of that day, mechanically. The smell of food cooking, downstairs, in the communal kitchen where all the families in the small building gather; voices already rising above one another.
The brother rolls his eyes dramatically when she emerges. "/Fiiiiinally/..." he drawls. He looks like he might say more, but she has already scurried off, so he disappears into the bathroom and lets her be. The voices downstairs are most definitely /there/ but it seems like there's a different quality to them. It's difficult to put a finger on, but there's a certain... weight missing. It's still chaotic, for sure, but there's something less frenetic about the activity. Less rushed.
Dressed, Astraea leans in the doorframe and takes stock. What is this? What's she doing? She could warn them. Call ahead to the shopping mall. Refuse to take the bomb. Something. But then, the only reason she took the assignment in the first place is because her family earns another month of rent if she does... She scrubs at her face. She'll call it in before she places it. Warn of a bomb threat, put it in, then leave. People will get out. The ICJPK will still arrive. She can beg for amnesty. Scrubbing at her scalp and fighting fingers out of her hair, she descends downstairs.
Things downstairs are different than she remembers them. Oh the kitchen itself is unremarkable enough, though it was probably never quite that /clean/ in real life. The food being served is not the food that people eat when they are bombing buildings to pay their rent, either. It's whatever Astraea imagined rich people must eat for breakfast, when she was a little girl.
The kitchen is crowded, for sure, but there's a merry, carefree attitude about it all. On second glance, she realizes that there are faces here that aren't meant to be here. A little boy comes rocketing out of the kitchen as she arrives, nearly bowls her over, and only stops long enough to give a sheepish grin and a 'sorry' before bounding up the stairs. It takes her a minute to place him. He was a child she saw in the center the day it blew up. The day /she/ blew it up. What is he doing in her house?
There are other faces in the kitchen that are familiar but don't belong, but the most shocking of all: Seated at a table, digging into a respectably-sized breakfast, is Kell, of all people. Just after she notices him, he looks up and shoots her a dazzling smile. "Hey, sleepyhead. I saved you a plate. Come eat!"
Things like that thick-cut bacon. Thin steaks. Eggs in little egg cups (she saw that in a movie once). Astraea is too shocked by catching that boy by the shoulders to keep both her and him from falling over to even notice Kell at first. She's still staring after the boy for a moment as she wanders towards the table in a partial daze; taking the kitchen in. This isn't right; none of it is. It's supposed to be all the various aunties and uncles and hoard of children. The families that raised one another, crowded into one spot. Stretching rice, beans, and maybe some bacon or cereal as a treat. Not... this spread of meat and eggs and toast and sugary, fun cereals for the little ones. Her hands land on a chair when she spots Kell and she's even caught off-guard by that smile. Even in the midst of all this.
Somehow, even in this, it sort of grounds her. As strange as that is. She slinks her way over, sinking into a chair. Her whole body is shaking. She clutches the edge of the table with her hands to try to control it. "What's going on?"
Kell's expression darkens to worry when Astraea sits down, and he slides a plate over to her, as promised. Steak and eggs in little cups. And strangely enough, a bowl of sugary cereal, placed almost decoratively on the plate. "Breakfast," he answers, as though she'd asked a very silly question. "Just like every morning. Hey, I was thinking since it's our night off, we could go out tonight. You game?"
She stares at the plate, the question barely even registering at first. And when it does, Astraea looks over to him. No, this is wrong. This isn't Kell. This isn't Scorpia. None of this is right. Sure, we can go out. Right after I place a bomb and kill dozens of people and set off a clan war. But when her mouth opens, all she manages to say is: "Sure." Even so, when she looks back to the plate, she finds she's not hungry. The whole ordeal, the whole situation. It has her ill at ease. She just leans back in the chair. "I don't think I'm hungry this morning. I'm... going to go out for a bit." She pushes back from the table and gets to her feet, heading for the door. Something, something has to make sense. Somewhere.
Kell looks confused by that. "Wait..." He abandons his breakfast to go after her, trying to catch her arm to draw her back. The rest of the people crowding around the kitchen bustle on, oblivious to anything but their own tasks.
"Hey, this is what you want, right? This is your favorite breakfast. What's wrong?" he asks. Even if she doesn't let him catch her arm, he will keep following her outside.
She doesn't try to stop him from following her outside, but Astraea at least needs to get out of the busy kitchen. She needs the fresh air, even if it is humid and thick. It means blue sky. It means the scent of the ocean. It's something you don't get on a ship and it's something, at least, she can savor in the midst of all the strange. She looks up at the clouds and the blue of it, taking deep breaths and trying to calm that panic at the back of her head. She finally turns to Kell. This Kell that's not supposed to be here. He's from Libran. In this timeline... She's not positive how old he is. Would he be at the Libran Academy?
He definitely wouldn't be here.
"I... I guess I'm just not hungry this morning," she offers, weakly.
Kell searches her expression, watching her with the kind of intimate affection that he has likely never shown in reality. He's only ever looked at her quite /this/ way in her imagination. He tries to take her hand. "Okay, so you're not hungry," he replies, quietly. "But that's not all, is it? Something's wrong. Tell me what's eating you?"
She's weak to that. Especially in this confusion. In how real this feels. Astraea's never gone home, despite how close they've been on leave. Despite being posted to Scorpia since the war began until she was assigned to the Timber Wolves. And she's so desperately wanted to. Here she is. Home. And here's Kell, looking at her this way. Taking her hand. Small parts of her just... start to give. Like easing into a warm bath. Just desperately want to give over to it all. 'Don't you deserve a break? Even a small one?' She looks to their hands, closing her eyes for a second as she lets out a slow breath. "None of this is real." There's a beat, before she amends, carefully, lest it break the dream before she's ready: "None of it feels real."
Kell's hand tightens on hers, almost too tight, but then deliberately releases. And yet, his expression doesn't waver even the slightest from affection and mild concern. She might expect him to offer some reassurance, but instead he asks, "What would make it feel real? This is what you want, isn't it?"
The question causes Astraea to stare at not-Kell for a long moment before she pulls away. It's a frantic sort of gesture that sends her reeling back a few steps. Her breath catches and risks going to an almost hyperventilating state. Her eyes are wide as she looks one way and the other on the alley the kitchen door opens into. The place she grew up playing Pyramid and other games with her brothers and other kids on the block. "No. I want... I want- this isn't real. This isn't right." And she doesn't even know where she's going or what she's going to do, but she takes off at a run down the alley, in the general direction of the town square.
Kell doesn't chase her this time. As she runs, the people in the street fail to react, but just continue about their business like it's nothing out of the ordinary. The square is still there, just as she remembered it, but as she runs past an alley that opens into the square, Kell steps out directly in front of her, wearing a gentle, mildly concerned expression. "Astraea... What's wrong? Talk to me, my love."
She almost collides with him and instead stumbles back into a vending machine. Astraea's panting, out of breath. Stress, fear, confusion. It's all welling up and becoming overwhelming. It's all so wrong. And this is wrong. This is all so much more wrong. "No, no, no." She lifts her hands, pressing the heel of her palms against her eye sockets. "Not like this." There's a sort of choked sound from within her chest. She leans back into the machine, keeping her hands over her eyes; as if it could make it all go away. "This isn't you."
Kell watches Astraea for a moment or two as she falls apart. He shakes his head. "Specimen 7: Partial failure. More study necessary," he announces, flatly. The bomb goes off. Rocks fall and everything goes white, then black... And then she's awake in a different kind of darkness, drenched in sweat but at least no longer restrained to a chair. She's in cage that looks pretty much similar to the one she'd been dragged out of, but she's alone. Her scars have returned. Muttering man and Cate are mysteriously absent, but at least for now, Astraea is still alive and whole. At least in the physical sense.
Somehow, being back in reality is worse. 'Moments' prior, Astraea wouldn't have imagined it would be, but it is. Sure, that version of her home was wrong -- so, so wrong -- but it was still her home. She got to see some of her family. To hear their voices. She got glimpses of her home, of her town. To smell the air. She barely looks around the cage she's in and just rolls onto her side, curling in on herself before breaking down fully into sobs.