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All This Has Happened Before


Title: All This Has Happened Before
Fandom: Dollhouse/Battlestar Galactica/Caprica
Rating: PG-13 for swearing
Words: 1769
Characters: Head!Six, Paul Ballard
Setting: Pre-Dollhouse, leading up to Paul’s first appearance
A/N: Dedicated to nai_is_not , semi-spoilery through Man on the Street, if you think about it too hard.

He was sick of it—the burn of eyes on his back, the trail of whispers kicked up in his wake, snickers as he left the room. A pair of interns turned their backs on him, heads ducked together without any subtlety whatsoever, as he made his way to his office.

There’s Paul Ballard. You know they stuck him with the Dollhouse case, right? Spends his days chasing his tail. I almost feel sorry for him. They just gave him the case to keep him busy since they can’t fire him. Not yet, at least.


As he pushed open the door to his office, his free hand worked the knot of his tie. In his mind he recited the speech he’d prepared to deliver to his bosses, including a few choice words that would surely get him fired but what did it matter? He’d already made his decision. Today was the day he was going to quit, turn in his badge and his gun and be done with the FBI forever. He was already the laughingstock of the office, and his home life fared no better. His own wife mocked and ridiculed him, reminded him night after night that he was throwing his life away. Five months into the case and he’d found no leads, no suspects, nothing.

“Paul.” The voice yanked him out of his stream of consciousness mid-swear and directed his attention to a rather leggy young woman who lounged easily in his desk chair. It was LA, of course. He saw plenty of platinum blonde women in skimpy red dresses, he just didn’t usually see them in his office.

“That’s ‘Agent Ballard,’” he corrected her. “And how the hell did you get in here?”

She treated him to an enigmatic smile. “You can’t give up on the Dollhouse.”

Paul huffed a laugh that could only be described by the thought fuck my life. He folded his arms over his chest and leveled a challenging gaze in her direction. “Alright. Who put you up to this? Was it Tanaka?”

The simple motion of swinging her legs off the armrest and rising from the chair, was one of the more graceful things he had ever seen in his life, almost as beautiful as the smile that would not fade. “They pity you, Paul.” He widened his stance to hold his ground as she strode towards him, suddenly feeling much more the prey than a predator. “They think you are nothing, they’re wrong. You are destined for greater things.”

Paul stepped around her, eyes sweeping the room. “Okay, there are cameras in here. I know it. Very funny, joke’s over, now get out of my office.”

“Your office?” she asked, perching herself on his desk. “I thought you were planning on quitting.”

“How did…? I didn’t… Alright, I don’t know what is going on here, but I want you to get out of this office before I call security and have you thrown out on your pretty, little-”

“Ballard?” A voice asked from behind him. Paul spun to see Loomis standing in the doorway to his office, with one of her eyebrows raised. “Who are you talking to?”

Paul turned back to his desk, finding nothing there except a manila folder with the words Caroline Farrell written in tight cursive letters.

-----

Paul kept his eyes shut tight, trying desperately to doze off. It seemed so much easier to fall asleep at his desk during the workday. Now that his wife had thrown him out, he had no place but this damned office to turn to. Apparently, she couldn’t stand his long hours, his frustration, and his dead end job. Apparently, some guy named Rick who owned a used car dealership would make a better husband than he did.

A car horn blared on the city streets, and he groggily cracked one eye open. His field of vision cleared to reveal the woman in the red dress sitting atop his desk once more. “Do you know what goes on in the Dollhouse, Paul?”

Letting out a yelp of surprise, Paul tipped back in his chair and toppled backwards, the padding of the chair back protecting his head from any serious damage. “Goddammit, what the hell are you doing here?”

“Do you know what goes on in the Dollhouse?”

He let out a puff of air and focused his eyes on the ceiling. “If the Dollhouse existed it would be a secret facility where people are programmed to do… anything. Sex, kill, paint a pretty picture maybe. But it doesn’t matter because it’s not real.” Paul rolled to his knees and stood up. “And for that matter neither are you.”

“You’re still talking to me,” she cooed as she watched him set his chair upright. “And you’re wrong. That is what the Dollhouse is, but that is not what goes on there.”

“Well then,” he said, resuming his seat and crossing his ankle over his knee. “Since you know so much, why don’t you enlighten me?”

“It’s not just a matter of simple, programming. You cannot simply program a person. The kind of data it would take to capture the nuance of a living being… no. Organic memory transfer. You can only create consciousness from another consciousness. The Dollhouse-” Her voice trailed off as he began to laugh. “And just what is so funny, Paul?”

“This… this science fiction crap. Copying… people’s brains and what? Downloading them into another body, something like that?” He wiped some dampness from his eyes as he reeled with laughter.

“Exactly like that,” the blonde woman snapped, as she rose to her feet. “The Dollhouse needs to be stopped, Paul. What have you found out about Caroline?”

“Look. My wife just left me, I’m sleeping in my office, and the last thing I have in this world is my shitty job, and apparently a hallucination. Right now, I don’t care about the Dollhouse or programming people or this Caroline person, right now I want to get some sleep.”

A fond smile crossed her lips as she watched him. She clearly had no intention of leaving, so he shut his eyes and hoped that sleep would come for him soon.

-----

The fifth time she appeared to him was the first day in his new apartment  At the time, he was slurping up a faceful of noodles from a paperboard Chinese takeout container, matching the décor of the cardboard boxes that made up his entire existence. “Isn’t it… fortunate you found this place?” she asked.

Paul reached for a paper towel and wiped the stray sauce from his face. “It’s an apartment. I could afford it. I bought it. Don’t see much of a coincidence there.” This time she was wearing a silver dress, no more covering than the red one but she seemed to be making herself right at home. “So what fascinating little facts do you have about the Dollhouse today? Are they transmitting a frequency over our cell phone network to control our minds too?”

She paced the room, studying the bare floors and unadorned walls. “Your neighbor… she seems… cute.”

“Mellie?” Paul shrugged. “I don’t know, she seems nice enough. Not really my type.”

The woman raised an eyebrow. “She likes you, you know. If you look into her eyes you can see it.”

“So now you’re trying to fix me up with the girl across the hall?” He set his food aside.

“Well you don’t want to talk about the Dollhouse, I thought we might talk about something else. She seemed as good a subject as any.” The woman sidled over the ratty couch on which he sat.  “Does the name Sharon mean anything to you, Paul?”

“No,” he grumbled. “Look, I almost wish you’d talk about the Dollhouse again. My love life is not on the table.”

“Tomorrow, the junior senator of California will pay a visit to the LA FBI offices. It might do you good to take some time to… talk to him.”

And once again she was gone.

-----

 “Okay, I know you’re here!” Paul was pretty sure the entire office building could hear him screaming but he didn’t really care too much. In ten minutes, he was to report in for a performance review. Over the past nine months, that woman had been in and out of his life, dropping cryptic hints, telling him to follow people, and- goddamn it- giving him leads. Since meeting her, she’d led him to a human trafficking ring and two potential Dollhouse clients-- one of whom a senator who he’d beaten for information, another who’d had him arrested for trespassing.

“There’s no need to yell, Paul,” she said, appearing from behind the door. 

“I have plenty of reason to yell. All these stunts you’ve pulled are about to get me fired!” He snapped.

“I haven’t done anything.” Grinning, she draped her arms around his neck. “I’ve simply nudged you along, Paul.”

“I don’t get it, why me? Why the Dollhouse?” He pulled out of her grip and turned around to face her.

“Because all of this has happened before,” she said, her voice sharp. “And it’s going to happen again, unless you stop the Dollhouse.”

He stared at her, eyes wide, arms surrendered out to the side.

“They are playing God, making lives, creating children. There are three hundred megabytes of information in the human brain. Once they can access it, what is a person  anymore?”

She strode over to the window and gazed out at the Los Angeles city that surrounded them. “Long ago… before this city, long before this country, longer ago than you can imagine, one person, one girl figured out how to tap into that information, and it led to the end of the human race… nearly. This is beyond that. The Dollhouse not only has access to the same technology that brought humanity to its end, but it is destroying lives to do it.”

Paul didn’t know why, but he suddenly remembered a little girl with dark curly hair.

“Ballard?” He turned to see Loomis peering into the office. “Detmer wants to see you now.”

“Do not lose this job, Paul. Humanity itself may rest on your shoulders.” She turned back to face him with a fire burning in her eyes, a kind of passion that transcended desire of any kind. In fact, it was almost like she was glowing.

“Alright. I’ll do it,” he said with a nod.  “But I have to ask… why?”

 “Let’s just say I have a little bet with a friend,” she replied with a grin.

Comments

( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
xfirefly9x
May. 17th, 2009 05:10 am (UTC)
Wow, that was amazing! So very in character and... damn. I wish they'd put that on screen. ♥
rayruz
May. 17th, 2009 05:11 am (UTC)
Wow, thank you! I just wanna see Paul with Six hanging off of him. The pure beauty would be astounding.
xfirefly9x
May. 17th, 2009 05:12 am (UTC)
Agreed. I don't think astounding would even cover it. ;)
nai_is_not
May. 17th, 2009 01:44 pm (UTC)
ZOMG!!

You tied that in beautifully! Every time you mentioned doing a Dollhouse/BSG crossover, I thought "That sounds interesting, but that's a bit of a s stretch..." but it wasn't, really. Oh man. Excellent job :D :D
rayruz
May. 17th, 2009 01:53 pm (UTC)
:D I'm glad you liked it. I swear for like the last couple of episodes all I could think was "Wow... they're like two steps away from making cylons here."
cailet_06
May. 20th, 2009 12:48 am (UTC)
Great story. I have several rough (and I mean rough) drafts of Sharon being a doll and Paul rescuing her, but yours is much better!
rayruz
May. 20th, 2009 01:11 am (UTC)
Tahmoh's characters' love interests keep end up being sleepers. Poor guy.
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )