Occupation Day 2
It’s strange to be starting a new writing project. I didn’t think there’d ever be a time for this again.
I’m nervous. I don’t know where to begin, though I know how to start. First, I go and talk to Roslin, and get her support. No one will talk to me once the word gets out, but so long as they don’t kill me I’ll get by. Then, I go to the Cylon occupation offices, introduce myself, and ask who I can talk to about my book. I don’t know what they will say to me. There’s so little that I, that any of us, really know about the cylons that I can’t imagine what they’ll do. I doubt they’ll kill me, because they have said that they come to live with us peacefully, but I can really trust the people who murdered my mother, my brother, my sister-in-law, my niece, my nephew, my best friend, my co-workers, and, probably, everyone who ever took one of my classes, and aside from Roslin and Zarek, perhaps everyone who ever read anything I ever wrote? Gods, why wouldn’t they kill me?
No. If they wanted that, they’d have nuked us from orbit.
So, they probably won’t kill me, but beyond that, anything goes.
For me, I have nothing better to do, and nothing left that I don’t mind losing, so I can sit on their doorstep for as long as I have left to sit. If they were humans, I know that the simple, constant pressure of my patience would, eventually, bear fruit. The unknown terrain of the cylon psyche may prove too barren, however. Some of them now look like us, but are they really like us, as sentient beings? It occurs to me as I write this that I am, in a strange way, like a character in one of Pron’s science fiction stories, trying to make first contact with an alien intelligence. Of course, we created the aliens, fought two wars with them, and have given them ample opportunities to learn and judge us.
Actually, I’m sure there must have been someone before me who thought to reach out to the cylons and simply learn from them. I don’t know who that someone was or what happened to him or her, but I know this: nothing has come of their efforts. If it had, if anything of their efforts survived, we’d know. As it is, the great human expert is none other than our glorious leader, and if he’d known anything useful, we wouldn’t be in this mess now.
So, it falls to me to start the conversation. It’s fine. Like they say aboard the refinery: ‘what could go wrong?’
Occupation Day 3:
If the cylons were humans, I’d at least know what sort of people would be most open to talking with me: the leaders and the outcasts. The people who don’t have to fear the opinions of others, and the ones like me, with nothing to lose. That’s where I began my first three books, talking with and about people squeezed to edge, so they’d do dirty jobs for scraps so they didn’t starve. That’s how the cylons started. Have they moved on?
While there are many copies, there only seem to be seven kinds of cylon. How much individuality do they have? Do they even have leaders? If not, given that there seem to be more than three hundred of them, how do they make decisions? I mean, there may not be 11 billion of them, but when populations grow too large for everyone to know everyone else, decisions have to be delegated and power has to be consolidated. Do they have that problem, or does the fact that they are all copies of a few general models mean that they can be more democratic? Are there thousands of them or only seven? Even from outside, I can see that in some senses it must be either or both, depending upon context, but what do they believe?
So, here I am at the cylon occupation authority’s office. They are enough like us that they have a waiting room, with a couch, a plant, and a receptionist. Of course, the receptionist is one of the dark skinned ones, and it (he?) has two centurions standing behind him (it?), but I guess they are human enough to need to set aside space because some of them are more important than the others. I wonder if any of them will come out and talk to me? How long will they let me wait to find out?
Right, why don’t I get some basic questions down now, while I pin this chair down?
What must I try and keep in mind, even though I’ll never really understand?
The cylons can download their consciousness. How wireless are they? Can hear each other?
Do they see the same colors, hear the same sounds, smell the same smells as me?
Crap, this waiting room is just here for dealing with humans, isn’t it? This room doesn’t tell me anything about them, just that they understand us? I must not forget: don’t be quick to make up my mind. Judgment stops thought. Once I decide I have an answer
Oh, hello, is someone coming? It’s only been 17 minutes…
It’s D’Anna Biers. Gods help me.
“Thank you, Madame President,” the other woman replied, shaking the hand. “We actually met fourteen years ago, at the Quorum hearings on increasing Colonial Fund university grants.”
“Oh, I’m sorry, I had forgotten. And, please, call me Laura, I’m not the president anymore.”
“Well, I’m not a professor anymore, either, so please call me Diana.”
The two women each took a moment to inspect the other. The figure Diana regarded was familiar from months of press conferences on Colonial One. While the schoolroom was a tent with rough wooden tables, children’s artwork tacked to the tent walls, a white board with a diagramed sentence, and over it all the fine dust that never really went away on New Caprica, Laura Roslin had changed. A week earlier, when Roslin walked past in the street, she had been wearing a bulky sweater and warm-looking trousers. Today, despite the chill in the room, she was wearing the plum suit in which she had sworn the presidential oath of office.
The woman Laura saw was shorter than she, with rich brown skin and close cropped, tightly curled hair, touched here and there with gray. She wore a long thick canvas coat, obviously made here on New Caprica to preserve warmth and dryness but with little eye to elegance, an effect only made worse since it was too big for its current occupant. Underneath the coat, she wore worn overalls, with carefully sewn but mismatched patches on the knees. The sleeves were both carefully rolled up to just above the elbows, and the tool belt about the full-figured waist was neatly arranged, with all the tools stowed in pouches, and all the pouches snapped, zipped and secured.
Laura gestured to the two chairs by the teachers’ table. “It’s a good thing I’m not in politics anymore,” she said with wry grin while they seated themselves. “I’ve just committed the first unforgivable sin.”
“Forgetting someone’s name.”
Diana shook her head. “We didn’t meet for long. I was just a grad student, there to assist Dr. Stone and the others from Sagittaron. My only real claim to fame was coming up with the slogan.”
“’Shouldn’t every archer have a full quiver?’ That was good. Did you do the graphics, too?”
“No, that was a computer science guy called Pron. He had a knack for that sort of thing. I think he went to work for an ad firm after he graduated. He was a good dancer, too.”
“When did you last see him?”
“Oh, I think it was twelve years ago, in a spaceport coffee shop on Tauron. Remember that orbiting casino plan the Tauronese government floated to cover their budget deficits? I was there as part of an anti-gambling, anti-poverty non-profit. He was there ‘boondoggling’ it, as he put it.”
“And from political advocacy, you became a labor historian, got a job at Sagittaron Polytechnic, and wrote about Sagittaron labor reform.”
“It seemed a natural progression,” Diana shrugged. “Wait, I thought that you didn’t remember me?”
“I didn’t remember meeting you—I do remember your work. You know my own degree is in history, too? I was interested in how grass-roots political movements emerged and mingled between colonies, so I read your book about the Sagittaron taxi-drivers union and their struggle remain independent of the off-world transit union.”
“Was your thesis on labor history?”
“No, my thesis was about the Caprican delegation to the first Colonial Congress, and the advancement of unified curriculum standards across all the colonies. From there, it was a short step to politics, and then to a cabinet post, and then….” Laura spread her hands and smiled.
“And now you teach elementary school.”
“It’s much more important than diplomatic history. Really, almost anything is more useful right now than a history of politics. And I had forgotten how satisfying teaching can be.”
“The past is gone, the dead buried beneath the dead; it’s the future that matters,” Diana recited.
“Something like that,” Laura smiled. “What are you doing now? Are you still writing history?”
“Not exactly. When the attack came, I was mostly finished with a history of labor rights struggles throughout the colonies over the past 200 years. The biggest gap was my section on the Sagittaron Freedom Movement, because most of the important members are dead, and I couldn’t get an interview with the one’s who weren’t.”
“You should make an appointment with Vice President Zarek, finish your book.”
“I tried. I actually tried to interview him as soon as I learned that he was still alive and aboard the Astral Queen. He put me off for six months. Finally, during the last election, he agreed to meet with me and discuss my book for a few minutes.”
“And what did he say?”
“He said what I just quoted to you: the past is gone, the dead are buried, etc. He said that while he had liked my first book, he saw no point in discussing the past so I could finish another, not when there was real work to be done.”
Diana shifted in her seat. Laura sat still and waited.
“It was hard to hear that. Aside from the admiration I’d come to feel for Mr. Zarek, once I realized that there really wasn’t much point to writing about the SFM when there isn’t even a Sagittaron anymore, much less any Freedom for there to be a movement about, I didn’t know what to do with myself. My identity as a historian was all I thought I had left to cling to.”
“Happily, no. I learned how to be handy from my mom and uncles growing up, and my dad was a Tilium miner, so I went to the refinery and learned how to fix things. I have spent much of the past year doing maintenance up in the fleet.”
“How is that you are here now?”
“Four days ago, Lieutenant Dualla sent my crew down for a general maintenance inspection on the grounded ships, make sure that they were all still space worthy. I was replacing the air-scrubbers on Colonial One when the cylons arrived.”
“So, what did you want to talk about with me, Diana?”
“I wanted to tell someone in the resistance what I’m about to do, so that I don’t get killed for collaborating.”
“The resistance? The cylons have been here two days. I didn’t know that anyone had started a resistance movement already.”
“If they haven’t, they will. And if it isn’t you, whoever it is will come to you, sooner or later. That’ll be obvious, even to the cylons.”
“Laura smiled again, though this time it did not reach her eyes. “So you are coming to tell me that you aren’t collaborating. What are you doing, then?”
“Research? I don’t understand.”
“I’m going to write the first history of the cylon people.”
“What makes you think that they’ll let you?”
“Well, for one thing, I’m going to ask politely. That’ll be a new experience for them. The cylons are a young people, and I doubt any of them have any training as historians or any experience at writing books. And I’m actually uniquely suited to writing about the cylons— I have wanted to for years.”
“Do you have the technical background to do it?”
“No, but that’s why I’m perfect, Laura. Every history about them has been either technical or military. Owens wrote a really good book about the scientists at RDM who developed the cylons, and Ogilvie wrote a fascinating study of laborsaving technology in general, but those are both about us, and not about the cylons. In fact, every book written about them, whether history, philosophy, politics or technical manual, was written by us, for us, and is really about us. The cylons only appear as machines or as adversaries. No one who was allowed to publish tells their story.”
“And you will.”
“Yes! My gods, I’m a labor historian, and the story of the cylons is, first and foremost, the story of a labor movement. That’s why they’ll let me, because I’m the only human who’s willing to tell their story.”
“But you don’t want to be seen as a collaborator while you do it.”
“But that’s exactly what you will be.”
“Laura, when I heard the cylons announce that they had come to offer us peaceful assistance, I distrusted that just as much as you. But, letting me write a history is exactly the sort of thing that’ll be receptive to.”
“Yes, they’ll be thrilled to find someone willing to listen to their lies and then pass them on.”
“That’s what Dr. Stone said when I started writing about the SFM.”
“Was he wrong? The SFM was a terrorist movement, a bunch of murderous criminals.”
“No, Laura. The SFM was a group of people who did what they felt that they had to do, with their own unique story about what they did and why they did it. You don’t have to approve of their actions, and you don’t have to agree with their reasons, but you have to grant them their view point, that they have a view point, and a story to go with it. And if you ever really want to understand the SFM and the people in it, you have to learn it."
Diana hesitated for a moment, and then added, in the face of Laura's frown: "I think that’s the real reason why Tom Zarek wouldn’t talk to me: he’s afraid you’ll understand him too well.”
“I think so. Tom Zarek is hungry for recognition. My book was offering it to him. It was when I said that would want to put his blurb next to yours on the back cover that he made up his mind to say no."
Laura’s eyes narrowed and her head bobbed slightly for several moments while she considered this.
“And you think that, in learning the cylons’ story and telling it to us, it might give us similar insights?”
“We can hardly understand them less than we do now. Gods, we don’t really know anything: why did they produce human-like models? How did they develop their monotheistic religion? Why did they launch their attack on the colonies, as opposed to simply jumping away across the galaxy to a new home so far away that we’d never find them? Why try so hard to kill us all, and then abandon all that and come to live with us now, “in peace”? Are they just making it up as they go along, or do they have a plan?”
“That’s why I have to do this, and that’s why you have to make sure that no one assassinates me for collaborating; because we need to know their story.”
“All right, Diana. I can’t give you permission, because I have no authority with which to give it, but I will give you my blessing, and spread the word that I have done so.”
“Thank you, Laura.”
“Don’t thank me. I have simply learned that sometimes people make decisions that you know are bad, and you just have to live with it. What you are about to do will be very dangerous, and even if you get to write your book, they may never let anyone else read it.”
“I’ll cross that bridge when I reach it.”
“I know.” Laura stood up and laid her hand on Diana’s head. “Gods speed,” she said.
Churches are just regularly scheduled conventions, with their stand-alone buildings and paid, professional fanboys who lead the rest of us along in our appreciation of the show, and make sure we understand what values to take home from it.
There is, perhaps, a certain shamanistic quality to dressing up as a Trek character, a way of taking on that persona in a fashion that's not so common in Xian ceremonies, but which might be more familiar to followers of, say, voudun. Even if not, is it really that different from aspiring to live a la Tomas a Kempis in Imitatio Dei?
Why do jobs matter so much? It's how you eat Social Security matters because it's about storing food for lean times.