Kathryn was leaning against the medical chamber half asleep when Elim sheepishly walked in. Not only was she exhausted, but as it worked the chamber produced a gentle vibrating hum which she found oddly comforting. Elim pulled up a chair and sat beside her with a stunned look on his face. Kathryn roused enough to notice he was there and asked how Felix was doing.
“Oh,” Elim said before standing up and coming around to the other side of the chamber to examine the display panel. “Coming along nicely it says, still another ten hours to go, but no complications.”
“Good to hear, good to hear… Were you worried about him too?”
“No, I mean… yes, of course I’m worried about Felix.”
Kathryn became aware that something was bothering Elim, and quite profoundly from what she could tell as she scrutinized him more closely. “What is it Elim?”
“I…” he sighed, “I wasn’t sure I should tell you, I… I didn’t know what to do when I found out.”
Kathryn sat up straight, fully alert now. “When you found out what?”
Elim picked up a chair and set it down in front of Kathryn, facing her. He then sat down on it heavily. “The virus.”
“The one that brought Earth down?”
“What about it.”
“Well… I couldn’t sleep after Felix was attacked with how worried I was about him and all, so I went to the lab to do some work.”
Kathryn nodded her understanding. It was common for her as well to occupy her mind with work when she couldn’t sleep for one reason or another.
“I wanted to do a more detailed analysis of the virus. I wanted to piece together whether it had been developed maliciously, or accidentally, or developed for testing and accidentally released… that sort of thing. I figured if I took a closer look I could answer some questions and get a better idea of exactly how it happened.”
“Well, I’ve been using the Koboli equipment to do the research since it’s the most advanced, and…”
It was obvious that there was something the man wanted to say but couldn’t find a way to bring himself to form the words.
“Out with it Elim. What did you find?”
“Using the Koboli equipment, it became clear that the virus had markers on it which could only be there if the Koboli had created the virus themselves.”
Kathryn stared blankly at him. “I don’t understand, what are you saying? The virus struck Earth six hundred years ago.”
“Yes, but…” Elim sighed in exasperation as he stood up and began pacing. “You have to understand that I’ve only been trying to piece this all together myself on the way here. They never had the same collapse of technological capacity we had on Haven. Their biomedical technology is continuous with original Earth tech before the fall, and they’ve only built on it since. If they used original Earth tech to create the virus back then, and have only built on that technology now, that would explain the correlations I’m seeing here now.”
Kathryn was stunned. Rage, confusion, and desperation may come later, but presently she was too stunned at the suggestion to feel anything at all. “Do you realize what you’re saying? The scale of the accusation you’re making?”
“How could it have happened?”
“They could have developed it en route and shot it back at Earth on their way to Kobol. The timelines would match up.”
Kathryn remained silent.
“It would explain a few things.”
Kathryn looked at him in such a way as to invite his elaboration. Elim sat down facing her again and proceeded to use his hands to assist his hands in explanation.
“One. They had no interest in coming to Earth, and we never really understood why. This would be a good reason. They knew exactly what they’d find and why. Two. How quickly and easily they were able to ‘develop’ a cure,” he said using air quotes. “They didn’t have to develop dick all! They already had a cure or knew how to make one because they created the fucking disease!”
“Three,” Kathryn added. “They’ve been here before.” Elim looked up at her. “We missed that,” she explained. “They said they’d been here on the surface at least once, long enough to realize they had no interests here. If that’s true they would have encountered the virus as surely as we did, so they had to have known about it already. They didn’t mention when we launched this mission because they knew they could easily cure us.”
“Son of a bitch.”
“We used to have a word for that,” a mechanically hollow voice came from a dark corner of the room. “Genocide.” Kathryn had forgotten that Molly was propped up in the corner. She had remained silent to hear the rest of the conversation, but now she spoke up. “Everything I witnessed, billions of dead, suffering upon suffering upon suffering. Their doing. They are lucky I no longer have arms to rip them apart with.”
Jaren was delighted when he received a summons in his suite from Kathryn to join her in the medical bay. He’d been concerned that she’d felt a little distant the last couple of days. He’d been brushing it off as them having work to do and there simply not being time for their stolen moments of affection, but he missed her all the same. When he entered the medical bay she stood up to greet him and he rushed over to hug her, but her hand on his chest held him back from her, and there was something in her eyes, a seething he’d never seen before. Whatever it was it immediately scared him when he recognized it.
“Elim was just here, and he shared with me a discovery he made.”
“Yes, in studying the virus.”
“Yeah,” she nodded. “It was you, the fucking Mormons. You did it.”
“Well, not me persona-”
“Don’t. You, lied to me about it though. Your people lied to all the rest of us about it, but you lied to me about it. All those hours we spent together, the times we spent together in bed, the mornings we woke up together, not once could you ever find an appropriate moment to tell me that your people committed genocide?”
“When is an appropriate time to confess to genocide Kathryn?” His voice was icy, nowhere near as conciliatory and pathetic as she’d hoped he’d be. She hated to have to admit to herself that he had a point. “My people have many faults, and have done much wrong, but what we did to Earth is… our original sin, that for which we can never atone. It is this guilt which urged us to establish contact with and help Haven and Roma. You both keep wanting to know what our angle is, what we want to get back from you for our help, well there it is. We wish to atone, to maybe, someday… be forgiven.
“Yes, the people who launched on the Mormon generational starship were fanatics, and the most fanatical among them hatched a conspiracy once underway, one later condemned by all of the rest. In secret they engineered a virus and a rocket to eventually bring it back to Earth. They launched it before anyone else onboard knew. They were eventually found out, but by then it was too late. We were never able to confirm what happened to Earth until we developed rift technology and could check for ourselves, but when we did our worst fears were confirmed. We never came back because the shame was, well… overwhelming. It was too painful a reminder to be here. My people have had to live with that shame every day for the last six hundred years.”
“You lied to me!” Kathryn exclaimed, “to me!”
“Yes, I did!” he snarled back, much to her surprise. “I was under orders Kathryn, remember orders Captain Barnes? Remember how much you like about me that the work comes first? Just like you? My government was working on how to reveal this in the least disruptive way now that we were all in mutual contact, we were working on some way to formally apologize and atone, it was not my place to step out ahead of my government, you must be able to understand that. Kathryn… I wanted to tell you a thousand times.”
Jaren looked as though he was going to cry, but he stiffened his expression and held back. He nodded shallowly his understanding and without another word turned and left through the sliding medical bay doors.
“Well there you go,” Molly’s head said from the shadows.
Kathryn’s body remained stiff and rigid, kept so by proxy to her keeping her emotions clamped down. Now feeling vacant and numb she made her way over to Molly’s head, stood beside it, fell against the wall and slumped down to the ground.
“Penny for your thoughts,” the head said.
“His people killed billions.”
“And yet… all I can think about is that he lied to me about it. How can that possibly compare, let alone feel more important?”
“Because you love him,” Molly’s head explained, “and because you’re a human being. It’s your nature. You understand big, but you feel small. So it goes.”
“I do love him… and I fucking hate him.”
“Such is love. I hate him too, but it’s easier for me. I hate him by association, for being part of the group that perpetrated so much evil to me and mine, that brought down the civilization I loved so much, for leading to the death of my love. But in the end, he didn’t do any of these things himself. His only sin was keeping it a secret for others. Easier for me to forgive him personally, but for you… for you with the trust and love you put in him, the lying is a far greater sin than any guilt by association for a genocide generations ago.”
“I… I had a fiancé Molly, back on Haven? We split just before I left on my mission to Kobol, before anything happened with Jaren.”
“I thought I loved him, but he never could have hurt me like this. I loved him, but I had no idea how pale my feelings were until I got swept up with Jaren, until he hurt me this way. This is what real love feels like isn’t it? This is how it hurts…”
“Not all the time child, but yes. The more you love, the more you can hurt. That’s how it works. That’s the bargain. Can I tell you a secret thought?”
Kathryn chuckled. “Sure…”
“It’s always worth it. As much as it hurts worse when it hurts, in retrospect the joy always outweighs the hurt. As much as I loved the world before the fall, it was all too grey. It was full of grey people who didn’t love with all their heart, who didn’t strive with every inch they had to give. They never hurt terribly badly in disappointment or heartbreak, but you know what? They never really lived either, and it always made me sad to see. Some did though, like the people who went on the mission to found your colony. They knew how badly the odds were against them, but they went anyways, because it was something to live for, because they were in love with the possibility of it.”
“I don’t think I’ll ever be able to forgive him.”
“Well that’s the great part,” the head laughed through the scroll tucked in the backpack it jutted out of. “If you can’t you don’t have to! Plus you’ll have learned a lot from the experience either way.”
The two were quiet for some time.
“So what do I do now?”
“I think first you need to decide what you’re going to do about the virus. I know your instinct is to tell everyone.”
“What is it?” Kathryn asked.
“You told me that the Mormons waited to contact you long enough for you to make your own way to this ship, right?”
“Your people appreciated that didn’t you?”
“Maybe you should extend the same courtesy.”
“How do you mean?”
“Jaren said that his government was working right now on how to reveal what they did and come up with some sort of reconciliation offer. Maybe the best thing you could do would be to have Jaren signal his government that they’re found out, but keep it to yourself for a short while to allow them to do it their way. Yes they’ve all lied to you about it, but try to keep in mind they are a dozen generations removed from those who actually did it, and that according to Jaren it was a small faction of them even, who were in turn condemned by the rest of them.”
“That would probably be best, but then I’d be complicit in the lying.”
“And that’s the rub. Perhaps now you better understand the position Jaren found himself in?”
The head chuckled.
The door slid open to Jaren’s suite and Kathryn stood in the doorway. Jaren got up to greet her, but he kept his distance in response to her outstretched hand. She entered the door and let it close behind her.
“I hate that you lied to me,” she finally said.
“Kat-” he tried to protest but she stopped him by putting her hand up again.
He nodded and sat down on his bed to listen.
“I hate that you lied to me. I don’t think I can ever look at you the same way again. I don’t know if I can ever forgive you for keeping something so big and important from me regardless of why you did it.”
Jaren was obviously frustrated but remained silent.
“That being said, I… I can understand the position you were in. I understand that I made it clear that professional responsibilities had to come first for us. Hell this is why us getting involved while we worked together was a bad idea in the first place. I need time to figure out what this means for us, if I can get past it. I just don’t know right now. The hurt is just too fresh.
“That being said Jaren, if what you say is true, that your government is working on how to announce this and try to make amends, I don’t feel justified taking that away from them. A formal confession would be better for all of the colonies than a sudden revelation of a cover-up. For everyone’s sake I will implicate myself. I will share in your lie, and get Elim to as well. But you must tell your government that they must make their move soon, that my silence is temporary only. Do you understand?”
“Will you tell your people this?”
“Will they move quickly?”
“Under threat? I believe they will.”
“Good.” Kathryn turned and walked to the door. As it opened Jaren called her name and she stopped in the door way.
“Time and space, Jaren,” she said without looking back before continuing through the door. “Time and space,” she said again as the door closed behind her.