II: Every Question Asked
When the Raptor doors open, they're all standing there: deck crew, pilots. Waiting, with the look of a people who cannot take one more failure. Who have watched everyone they know die, slowly and softly, quickly and painfully, to get us to this place. They are children in this moment, the surviving orphans, waiting for their President to speak. To somehow call them all home again, tell them it's a joke, remind them of their mandate. It is all around them.
Laura opens her mouth to speak. And again. There is nothing. She is silent; she's a singer who's forgotten all of her songs. She shakes her head at them all, begging them to understand, to share in this pain and to mourn with her; to riot or scream or fall down on their knees: anything but this hope, this fear, this love. She watches the lights go out of them. She's the woman who stands between her people and the darkness, but the darkness is finally here. Seelix and Figurski trade worried looks, shared history; still she does not speak.
"Get me out of here," Laura says quietly to Bill, and so he does. They step down from the Raptor's wing, dressed in flak jackets like the rest of us, and it's when her feet touch the ground that the questions begin. The throng presses in at her, begging her for answers. She hears them slicing stories into her heart, burning disappointment and her shame, but they don't intend it that way: it's a sign that they trust her that they're hounding her at all. Every question asked is a chance for her to save them, to take it back, to take them higher. They're saying, "Is there anything? Is there anything? Anything at all?" but what they mean is, "We love you. We love you. We love you." What they mean is, "So say we all." It tastes like ashes in her mouth.
She holds onto Lee, the golden son, Apollo, the place she put her heart when the world was too much to bear: the son of her idealism, her belief in truth and fairness and democracy. She made him carry it for her, while she did what had to be done. It nearly killed them both. And now she clings to him, lost in the hangar deck, walking blindly in one direction and another. She knows that he is strong enough to carry her; she was the one who burned him until he was strong enough. And now he speaks for her, promising they'll find out everything in good time. This story will make sense, in good time; in good time, they'll find another Lie.
Kara and Leoben, searching blindly again through the forest, lost again, following a signal again. Stalking through the tall bleached grass, dead against a steel sky, cracking painfully beneath their feet blade by blade by blade. She finds the beacon, a twisted engine of a thing trailing wires and destruction. "It's Colonial. It's standard on all aircraft, part of our inertial nav system..." He's not listening; he already knows. Leoben always knows. He finds a piece of twisted, wrecked metal, the side panel of a Viper, sheared off in wind and fire, and calls out the number painted on the side. She knows before he says it, but once he says it, it becomes real: she drops the beacon and stands perfectly still for just one moment before walking toward him, getting scared.