Cavil’s jaw worked, his eyes bulged, his mouth hung open slack, and the blood drained from his face. Mathias smiled. It had been worth it, he thought. And then the Cylon shook his head and shut his mouth.
“This man—his research was complete?” he croaked.
“Admiral Trahn had his own arm removed and replaced with a working Cylon limb,” Mathias answered, the smile fading away. “As for his research being complete . . . Doctor Sarris says it might work—it might not. The Guardians took a complete download with them, according Lieutenant Spence—they downloaded the core research files before their Raptor jumped away to summon those Gemini
s.” Mathias paused. “You realize the implications, of course?”
“If the Guardians are now able to graft human limbs onto their bodies, they will be driven to obtain humans—they will hunt you down.”
Mathias shook his head. “I realize that you probably have a better grasp of the subject matter than Doctor Sarris and his team—most of whom are astrophysicists, after all. And precious few of Trahn’s researchers made it off of Cerberus. But without going into the gory details that might provide you with a tempting itch to scratch,” and Cavil nodded his reluctant agreement, “Trahn’s research was focused on stripping down a Centurion to its bare skeletal structure; that and the Cylon artificial brain. And then grafting human tissue to the that framework—he estimates that it would take four or five humans to full give one Centurion the flesh that they desire. If he managed to solve the machine-nerve interface . . . which his own grafted arm suggests that he might well have done.”
Cavil nodded as he considered. “They would have the strength and speed of a Cylon—the reaction time of a machine, the senses of a machine, added to the flesh and blood sensations that they long to experience,” he whispered. And then his head snapped up and he stared at Mathias. “But to do this they need humans.”
Mathias nodded. “Including yourself, Samuel Anders, and Doctor Graystone, there five thousand four hundred and seventy three living humans in this flotilla.” He cocked his head and then leaned forward again and asked the question as gently as he could. “How many human-form Cylons are there?”
Brother Cavil blinked and he shivered. “They need flesh—and our flesh is the same as yours. Better,” he barked out a near hysterical laugh. “Ours is already compatible with their silica neural pathways! Why chase you to the ends of the Galaxy, when they already know where an even larger population that they can cull resides?” he whispered. “One that they already hate even more than they hate you.”
“And grow,” Mathias said. “Your brothers and sisters are in jeopardy of becoming their larder of spare flesh—new bodies grown at need to replace damaged skin and muscle and blood.” He paused and then he nodded to himself. “And if what Mister Anders told Sidewinder was true, what happens to your Centurions if the Guardians can override that inhibitor that is installed on their intelligence?”
Cavil shivered again and his skin utterly drained of blood. “The M Zero One Sevens will wake up—they will wake up and they will be furious. They-y,” Cavil stuttered, and then caught himself. “They do not desire flesh and blood like the Guardians, but they will resent being held in servitude—just like the M Zero Zero Fives.”
Mathias sat back and he waited as the Cylon absorbed the information. Cavil laughed—a grim laugh—and he sat back as well after a long while. “I’ve lived among you for fourteen years—I have the memories of sixty-four years in this body. But I have never managed to discover how you—with your short lives and facing nothing beyond death, how do you go on?”
The Commander pursed his lips and then he stood. He walked to his desk and he opened a drawer, taking out a bottle of liquor. Popping the cork, he poured two glasses and he walked over, handing one to Cavil before sitting back down and taking a sip.
“I don’t know if there is a Paradise that awaits me as a reward for virtue, or a Hell as punishment for vice—or if, as you think, that there nothing beyond this life. I don’t know, John Cavil. But maybe I’m not supposed to know. Life must be lived—with all of the joy and happiness and pain and sorrow and laughter and misery that is part of it. Every minute of every day, we live, knowing that this minute, through some quirk of fate or the hands of the gods, or through premeditation by others, that this
minute might be our last.”
He took another sip. “We adopt our own codes of honor and right and wrong, John. We live our lives by them. And while we may fear death, we know that as long as humanity itself survives, our legacy will live on. It is up to us, today, each moment we are alive and aware and awake, no matter how painful, how sorrowful, or how difficult that life might be; each moment, we strive to be better men than we thought possible—and no worse men than we feared we would become.”
Cavil nodded and he sighed. “You let the legacy of your actions live on in your place—and by doing so you become immortal.”
“That is how I look upon it, Brother Cavil,” Mathias said. “Others have their own way of coping with the possibility of death—look at Hope and Irina. Tomorrow, you will join the two of them in marriage. Why? They can have sex without marriage—they can love each other without marriage. So why? Because they are railing against this cold and uncaring universe and saying FRACK YOU! This is our life—we will live it to the fullest, not matter how short you might cut it.”
Cavil snorted and nearly spit up his drink, and then he laughed. “I can believe in that philosophy, Commander,” he said at last when he finally managed to catch himself.
Mathias drained his whiskey and he sat down the glass and he stood, putting a hand on John Cavil’s shoulder. “You just live, John. Whether it is to spite the universe or to carve out a legacy or to leave children who love you in your stead, you live your life. And the Hells take those who desire to remove that choice from you. Speaking of which, I’ve got to assemble my officers—there are four Resurrection Ships out there which I plan on sending to Hell.”