zorb: (Fingerpaint - BSG)
zorb ([personal profile] zorb) wrote2005-12-24 10:58 pm
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Fic - BSG - A Solstice Carol (4)

This chapter: Time is running out for Tigh as he gets a glimpse of Yet to Come. If these shadows remain unchanged...

Stave IV: The Last of the Spirits

It wasn’t Ellen.

A decidedly female figure approached, her silhouette backlit by the receding light, and at first glance, Tigh had thought he recognized her, from the perfect curls all the way down her long legs. When she got closer and the lights returned slowly to normal, he could tell that while it wasn’t his one-time fiancée, it was a strikingly beautiful woman. Her platinum blonde hair floated around her pale face, and her red dress left little to the imagination.

The look with which she fixed him was hard and cold, dashing away all thoughts of resemblance and turning Tigh’s insides with fear.

He didn’t think they were in the hangar anymore, but neither could he discern a new location. They were shrouded in a mist that reflected the only light in the darkness.

“Hello?” he ventured.

She said nothing.

A thought occurred to him. “Are you the Spirit of Solstice Yet to Come?” he asked.

She said nothing.

“You’re going to show me the future?” he prompted.

Still nothing, but she raised an alabaster hand and pointed off behind him. Her silence, Tigh found, was more terrifying than anything he’d yet encountered on this long, strange night – or was it nights? He made it to his feet, however, and found that though the Spirit was only a little taller than he, he felt miniscule in her presence.

“Well,” he said, straightening his shirt, “lead on, then.”

Their march through the fog soon gave way to Caprica City Hall, a stately building downtown that Tigh had often frequented to give his input on decisions that might affect his business. It seemed such a meeting had just broken up in the usual conference room as a number of his colleagues emerged, still discussing what had been decided that day. Tigh searched for his own face but did not find it.

No one took notice of the unearthly beauty walking among them as she led Tigh to a group whom he recognized. They came upon the middle of their conversation.

“I only heard about it this morning,” said one portly gentleman. “And just that he’s dead.”

“The reporter who called me said it was just last night,” added another. He was one of Tigh’s more frequent associates; newer in the business, and easier to get a better deal from, which was why he was one of Tigh’s more frequent associates.

“What happened to the old coot?” a third, unknown to Tigh, asked.

“No clue, she didn’t say,” replied the second. “She did say when the service was scheduled, but I don’t remember it at all. I was too busy trying to get her number.”

The third man snorted. “Don’t tell me it was Playa Palacios. Much too small a story for her.”

“Nah, but she sounded hot, anyway.”

“Lunch, anyone?” the first man broke in, clearly bored with the conversation.

Before Tigh had time to rummage through his acquaintance and determine if he knew the unlucky soul, the spirit was moving again with a mechanical smoothness. He followed her to an old, rundown shipyard. Tigh recognized it as a part of the city he’d never had reason or inclination to visit. It was the sole remaining holdout of the Industrial Age, before computers and networking had come to dictate Colonial enterprise. Even after all these years of progress, the scent of coal and fossil fuels hung in the foggy air as they pushed on towards the landlord’s dilapidated office.

They entered and found a man seated behind the desk with an air of authority, while three others sat on stools before him, bundles at their feet. All four were shabbily dressed, with unkempt hair and scarred faces. As far as Tigh was concerned, they were all equally base, but the three bore a reverent air that the fourth quietly accepted. They seemed to be waiting for him to speak.

He obliged them at last. “Castor falls, and Pollux bides his sweet time before joining his brother in Hades. Will Zeus let these two split their time between the Lords of Kobol and the depths of mortal hell?” he mused.

“Not likely,” remarked one of the men. “Some underworld torture is all that’s fit for the likes of them.” He barked with laugher, as did the other two.

Their leader merely smiled, though there was little mirth in it. “Right you are, Meier.” He sat up and leaned forward on the desk. “Well, then, what have you brought me from the spoils? Wilkens?”

The man on the far side of the room grinned. He was missing several teeth and had a gold-colored cap over another. Opening his sack, he laid a number of small trinkets on the desk before the leader. Cufflinks, jacket buttons with threads still dangling, a cigar holder, a candle snuff – that was all.

The leader examined them closely, then made a notation on his ledger. “Quality work, if not extravagant. They’ll fetch a price, anyway. Next?” He looked at the middle man.

This gentleman, and the word is used generously, cackled as he pulled out a bottle of ambrosia – and then a second, and a third! With each finding, his companions’ eyebrows raised higher, until at the fifth, they all broke into harsh laughter. Tigh found himself in want of a drink from what his practiced eye identified as quality beverage. “A man of taste!” the leader commented, making another note as they settled once again. “Had he any mourners, they might have put it to good use, but we all know no one will attend him. I doubt anyone’s even given a coin for his passage. And what of you, Meier?” he asked the third man.

“Ah, Tom, my friend, everyone knows what a cheapskate the old man was. He hardly left that old place, and for all I know, still hasn’t now. Just lies there and thinks about how much good all his money’ll do him now, eh? He’s deep in thought for a good long time, now, so he didn’t notice when I took this,” said Meier, who reached into his sack and pulled out a familiar-looking gun – the same model of handheld pistol that Tigh had pointed at the first spirit.

The room silenced as he placed the weapon on Tom’s desk. They all leaned forward to watch as the leader picked it up and turned it over in his hands. “Clean and well kept,” he commented.

Meier nodded vigorously. “And there’s a case of bullets to go with it, too. Kept ‘em in the nightstand; kept the gun under the mattress itself.”

“Under the mattress?” burst out Wilkens. “You mean to say you snuck it out with him still lying on top and all?”

“Well, it’s not like he was going to notice,” Meier protested with pride. “If he couldn’t rise from the dead shoot me when I came in, he sure wouldn’t be able to shoot anyone else, now.”

“Mr. Meier, you have outdone yourself this time,” said the leader.

“Mr. Zarek, it’s always a pleasure,” he replied.

Tigh was thoroughly disgusted with those that might steal from their fellow man – a dead one, no less – and as the four of them continued to laugh and trade ribald jokes at their mark’s expense, he turned to his stone-faced companion. “Spirit, I understand the lesson you’ve given here – what happened to that poor soul might happen to me. Let’s move on – my gods!”

For the scene had changed during his plea, and they now stood before a lonely bed in a dark room. The bed was stripped of all comforts but a single shroud, which covered a figure lying on the mattress, straight and utterly still. No warmth, no rise and fall of breath – only silence and immobility.

Tigh shrank back from the figure. In the darkened room, he could only just perceive the angles of a ship, the darkness so pervasive and the room so detached that he felt they must have been in space.

The spirit was pointing at the figure.

“I know what you want me to do, Spirit,” said Tigh, finding his voice, “but I cannot. Don’t make me!”

The spirit still pointed.

“You wish me to reveal this poor soul’s face. I won’t do it! I won’t!” he shouted.

The spirit’s head turned with a mechanical smoothness to look at him with that unchanging expression, and Tigh cowered from it.

“Spirit,” he pleaded, “if there is anyone in the city – hell, in the Colonies! – who feels emotion at this man’s death, show them to me, I beg you!”

The darkness faded into artificial lighting. They were on the bridge of a small ship; Tigh recognized the layout as one of those contracted by his own business. A woman sat at the controls, her eyes flicking towards the communications console. She didn’t have to wait long for it to light up. “What’s the news?” she demanded before the face on the screen had even resolved into that of another woman.

“No extension,” said the other.

The pilot paled and sat back in her seat. “Then it’s over. We’re ruined.”

“Not necessarily,” said her companion. “There’s no extension because he’s dead.”

“Dead?” gasped the pilot. “Then is our debt absolved or transferred?”

“Transferred, I’m sure, but that’ll be more than enough time for us to be paid again, and there’s no way whoever takes over will be worse than he was. Relax, we’re going to be fine,” the woman assured her friend, and they both laughed in relief.

Tigh was not comforted. “That’s not what I meant! Spirit, show me some tenderness connected with death, or my impressions of the world will truly be changed, and not how you want them to be!”

The ship disappeared and they were once again in apartment number twelve. Sharon and five of the children sat in the living room, much as they had been when Tigh left them. It was daylight now, however; the radio was silent, and the merry atmosphere that had once graced them was gone.

“Your father should be home,” said Sharon, her always small figure seeming to have shrunk further still.

“Yes, pretty soon,” said Simon, reaching over to squeeze her hand. “He’s been a little slower coming home, that’s all.”

“I – I’ve seen him go quickly in the past, even when he had Leoben with him –” She couldn’t finish.

“So have I,” Gina jumped in, and the youngest two confirmed it.

Fortunately, they didn’t have long to wait before Karl Agathon entered once again, alone this time. Everyone rose to greet him and bring him in to sit with them. D’Anna and Doral climbed upon either side of him, each taking an arm, while the elder three and Sharon tried to maintain smiling expressions.

“How was it?” Sharon finally asked.

“You should have come,” her husband replied, hugging the small ones close. “Everything’s so green at the temple right now. They’ve got a greenhouse there that keeps the flowers fresh all year long. The priestess took me to see where they…where he…” But Karl could continue no further. He hung his head as tears leaked from his eyes. “My boy,” he choked out. “My little boy…”

The others seemed on the verge of joining him. Shelley had a handkerchief in hand and was trying to daub her eyes beneath her glasses without notice. Karl came to himself again, though, and straightened to his full seated height. “I have some other news to tell you. You’ll never guess who I saw today.”

Of course, a statement like that incited a round of guesses, from local friends to President Gray himself, but he shook his head at all of them. “I told you you’d never guess,” he chuckled. “It was Mr. Adama’s son – Adama was Mr. Tigh’s partner, in life,” he added for the benefit of the younger ones. “He’s a fine man. He asked why I looked so…well, anyway, when I told him, he expressed his sincerest sympathies and gave me his promise that he would help us in any way he could, if we ever needed anything at all.”

“Like what?” asked Doral.

“Well, he’s a university professor, and he knows a lot about admissions and scholarships, for one,” Karl explained, with a glance at his eldest. “He gave me his phone number and said he’d like to meet all of you, and I believe he meant it.”

“Shelley can’t go to college, then we’ll never see her at all!” protested D’Anna, and her father laughed.

“She’ll only be in school when you are, young lady,” he said. “You’ll probably see her more. But we don’t have to always see everyone to remember them, do we?”

There was a round of agreement. Karl continued, “We’ll always remember our little Leoben, won’t we? No matter where life takes us.” He looked around at his family. “I am very happy. Very happy.”

Tigh and the spirit left the family hugging. “Spirit,” he said as they made their way down the stairs, “I know we don’t have much time, but you still haven’t told me who that poor soul beneath the sheet was.”

The spirit continued down the stairs.

“Where am I in this future?” he asked. “Why wasn’t I able to help Agathon?”

They were out on the street, but headed in the opposite direction from his office. They passed through another mist and emerged at night in a temple graveyard. The green of which Agathon had spoken was dull in the darkness. Everything was grey – headstones, urns – the stone of every tomb was washed of its original color. The spirit stopped over a grave and pointed down at the flat stone marker.

“So this is it,” muttered Tigh. To the spirit, he asked, “I’ll look this time, Spirit, but first tell me: are these the shadows of the things that will be, or are they what might be, only?”

The spirit pointed at the grave.

“Give me some hint!” he pleaded. “There’s no such thing as inevitable outcomes! If you do one thing differently, the whole world can change!”

She did not move and still did not speak.

“Fine, we’ll do it your way,” he sighed. Two steps took him to the graveside, and when he bent over the cracked stone, he could read the name:

SAUL TIGH


“You’re telling me that the man on the bed – the man with nothing – was me?” he gasped.

The spirit pointed from the grave to him and back again.

“No,” he said weakly. “No, Spirit, no!”

That treacherous, manicured and unwavering finger remained the same.

“I am not that man, Spirit! I am not the man I was!” Tigh reached out and towards her. “I have changed! I will change! I cannot be past all hope!”

He fell to his knees before the cold goddess. “Tell me I can change this future! If I am different in my heart and habits when I come back, if I – if I come back?” He realized with a start that the spirit might not be showing him distant future.

Her arm began to tremble; he seized the opportunity. “I swear by all the Lords of Kobol that I will not be the man I was. I will honor the gods with all my heart, all through the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. All three spirits, yes, all of them, will live in me! Spirit, tell me this doesn’t have to be my future!”

With a cry, he clasped the spirit’s wrist. There was a howling gust of wind, and as Tigh looked up, the spirit’s eyes glowed red. The gravestone on which his other hand rested fell away, and with a shout, Tigh’s hand slipped off of the spirit and he fell, face forward, into the endless darkness of the grave.

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