PHD #149: A Centurion
A Centurion
Summary: Coll is freaked out, but she freaks Cora out even worse, which kind of freaks Coll out more…it is a vicious cycle.
Date: 25 July 2041 AE
Related Logs: Before: It Lies in Odd Numbers, Part II, After: Still Processing
Coll Cora 
Observation Deck!
It's a deck where you observe things!
Post-Holocaust Day: #149

Early evening, the night after the assault on the station, most of the ship is in a bit of a celebratory mood after the hugely successful strike. Details of the whole operations are slowly becoming known and few of the boarding party seem horribly interested in talking about some of the mission specifics. One of those is Coll. She's sitting at the back of the Obs Deck, mostly in the dark. Its otherwise empty, but she seems content to stare out the armored plate glass at the stars while the gas giant drifts by the view at the edge of the glass.

Cora doesn't seem to be among those inclined to celebrate the alleged victory, at least not as overtly as many of those engaged in improptu little gatherings all over the ship and especially in the observation deck. It seems more like the lieutenant has forgotten that people might be in a more partying mood than usual as she wanders in, skirting a pair of drunks and bringing herself and her notebook towards the back of the room. She starts to take a seat, and then spots the crewman and moves down one more couch, lifting a hand in greeting. "Coll," she says, "Evening."

Coll lifts her brow with a soft 'Mm?' as her name is mentioned, her face turning before her eyes finally lift. She's been in the dark so its easy for her to find the face. Lauren stands slowly. "Sir. Evenin'. How's things?" She seems a touch distracted, even after bringing her attention to the Lieutenant.

"You don't have to stand," Cora waves her off, "We're off-duty. Half the people in here couldn't even pronounce my last name right now, by the looks of it," she adds dryly. She takes a seat on the couch next to Coll's, setting down a notebook and then asking, "Did I interrupt? I thought I'd come say hello."

Coll looks around, apparently never noticing the other people, and nods as she moves to sit. She straightens her pants as she might a skirt as she sits, the gesture perhaps a bit odd. "'Let them drink and be merry' is about all I can say, sir." Her eyes move over the others before she looks back towards the armored glass. "No, sir. Not interrupting. I could use the distraction, though." Her voice cracks through the last word and she clears her throat, rubbing at her neck absently. "Ever get caught in a cycle of thought, sir? Something you don't wanna think about but you can't help it, Lieutenant?" Her eyes finally seek out Cora's.

"I agree, of course," Cora nods as for drinking and being merry, "There are few enough excuses for it, they might as well take advantage of this one." Not that she seems interested in doing so herself, though she does make herself comfortable, legs drawn up onto the couch. When Coll mentions needing a distraction, she turns towards the crewman, brow lifting very faintly. It shifts just a bit higher at that question, and after a moment the lieutenant nods, and replies simply, "Yes."

"Yeah." A single word. The look on Coll's face is complex, though. It is almost as if there's pity there. "We should be celebrating." Coll watches a man and woman flirt shamelessly. It captures her attention for a few stoney moments of silence before she looks back to Cora. "Sir? You ever think we should pack it in and run like hell?" If she's joking, there's zero indication of it in her voice or on her face. That might even be fear in her eyes. "Jump beyond the Red Line and just never stop jumping away from here?"

"We should," Cora confirms with a nod, though she adds, "But I think it's enough that many do." She glances around the deck absently, eyes never sticking in one place very long before drifting away and eventually settling on a shorter focus, picking at a thread escaping the inseam of her pants. The question draws silence for a period and then finally she nods, "Yes, sometimes I do. I imagine most people think that at least occasionally. It would be foolish not to consider it."

Lauren seems to leave the discussion of parties behind. She's too focused on whatever else is kicking around her head. "No, I mean really consider it, sir." Coll turns a bit to face Cora, bringing a knee up and hugging her arms around it while the other hangs off the couch. "We need to leave. Sitting around here making strikes is going to end horribly for us unless we win this. Even then..some will know Hell. I think many already do. In religion, Tartarus is a place of punishment where you cannot do anything to resolve your situation. You're trapped. No sleep. No breaks. Eternity. Sir, I don't want to go there. We need to leave." Something's got this ex-Raptor crewdog spooked hard, but there is an almost cold rationality to what she is saying. Lauren hasn't slipped the surly bonds of sanity. Yet.

Cora listens, but when Coll seems finished, her shoulders just lift and her head shifts from side to side slightly. "That's not my decision to make," she replies, "And even if it were, I'd have to say that at this point? We're not prepared to do that. In theory, it sounds great. Let's just take off and jump forever until we're too far to be found. But in reality, where would we go? What would we do? At least here, in this sytem and those familiar to us, we know to some extent what we're dealing with. Where resources are, where the enemy is based. If we leave this behind we're heading into an unknown that could easily be a Hell worse than this."

"Anywhere that Cylons aren't sounds fantastic, sir," she deadpans. "As far away as possible so we can live out our natural lives apart from them. Someplace quiet. I'll take up farming. Anything." Her fingers curl around her pantleg. Her voice drops, then. Its barely a whisper. She's scared and its obvious. "Sir. They mean to trap us. Enslave us. We saw things. I saw Lieutenant Apostolos in the brig earlier. She thinks the same since you all saw what you did on Leonis. I can't live like that."

"If we were able to locate a planet suitable for life, then yes, that would make the decision easier," Cora agrees with a nod, "But as far as I'm aware, we don't have anything like that just now. We have significant stores, but they're not indefinite, especially not once we leave Cyrannus behind. Jumping from system to system hoping we happen upon fresh water, and something edible before we starve to death frankly doesn't sound less like hell to me than this, but maybe that's just personal preference." The whisper turns her head, and then she nods a little, "I read the AAR. It was another research facility?" she asks of the station, "Like what they found on Leonis?"

"I'd rather starve to death, sir. It would be better than the alternative." Of this, Coll is very sure. "I don't want to be a Cylon, sir. Please, we need to run." She isn't quite begging but there's an urging in her voice. "I'll take a Raptor by myself. I used to ECO. I'll go scout for a few weeks. Find something. Anything. Nothing." She blinks once and nods to the mention of Leonis. At least she is keeping her voice down so as not to scare the hell out of anyone else. "It was research, sir. But I think they finished a big chunk of that research. I- Lieutenant?" A tough swallow later and she dives a hand into her pocket while she looks around. "I took these off a Centurian." She produces a single set of dogtags - chain and all. Fingers gently turn them so the name is visible.

"Be a cylon? I don't think any of us would allow that to happen," Cora replies, though she allows Coll to speak over her and go on with her offer to personally scout, an offer which Cora, familiar with the subject of certain nerve damage, does not really reply to directly. The mention of research, the prospect of information about the base, silences her and she leans in slightly to listen to the deckie's soft voice. So those dog tags, when they're held out, appear abruptly in the air right in front of her face, and as Coll turns them, even in the dim the name is visible. Cora just…stops. Whatever she was about to say dies on her lips, not even half a word breathed out, because she isn't breathing. For a long moment she just stares and blood drains from her face and then she snaps upright again as if she were struck and she demands, "Where did you get those?"

"You can't stop it, sir. I don't think anyone would allow it to happen to them if they could avoid it. But if they get you??" Coll isn't quite frantic, but the fear has taken over. But that reaction from Cora gets a different kind of fear. She retracts the tags quickly and gathers them into her fist. They belong to her, now. "I told you, sir," she says quickly. That leg is hugged closer. "I- I told you I got them off a Centurian, Lieutenant." Deer in the headlights. Why is Cora being so demanding all of a sudden? Panic.

There's a brief flare of anger as Coll pulls the tags away and shuts them up in her fist, and there's really nothing in the lieutenant's expression to assuage Coll's sudden fear. "Off a centurion?" Cora echoes the answer as a question, tone hovering somewhere between incredulous and that same note of demand, "What do you mean off a centurion?" After a second she adds, holding out a hand, "Let me have them."

Coll retreats as far back into the couch as she can. "Y-yessir. The Centurian that warned us. The same one that attacked the others. The same that-" She doesn't finish, her breathing getting heavier. She shakes that next thought away. Lauren is about to rabbit the hell out of here. "I'm not done with them, sir," is her only protest.

Fair in the best of circumstances, it does not take much for Cora to seem pale, but it's clearly beyond the usual now, worse even than those long, irradiated days in sickbay. "A centurion that fought the other centurions? And tried to warn you? And—what else?" When she refuses to hand over the tags, Cora forces her tone into one of cold command, "Coll, I am ordering you to hand me those dogtags."

Lauren really doesn't want to but in the end, she looks to her fist. They're balled in her left hand - the damaged one. It wouldn't take much to force it open. Her hand slowly opens and she reads the name once more, rubbing a thumb over it before she sets them down on the couch between them. She looks a bit hurt by the order and just stands to go, moving off and away.

Cora reaches for the tags the second they're set down, hand dropping over them and closing, turning them in her palm until the pad of her thumb covers the name and the ID number. She seems frozen again, teeth in her bottom lip, jaw set hard, looking anywhere but down at her hand. "Coll," she says before the crewman's gotten more than a step or two. Her voice has gotten oddly tight, like her throat is thick and the words might crack, "What did it do? And-" she swallows, and her tone turns almost suppliant, "What do they say? Please tell me-" There is clearly meant to be more to the request, but she cuts it off and shakes her head, leaving it at that.

Coll stops beside Cora and hugs her arms around herself. She looks off towards the armored glass again, her face still hurt but more drawn now. Her eyes close and her head bows. "It, ah.." A long breath taken while she steels herself for this memory. "It gave us time to get into a defensible position with that warning. We killed eleven Centurians and took minimal hits thanks to that Centurian, sir. Towrds the end, it got up and engaged on its own. Shot the hell out of the last one. I have my Karlstov lined-up on it the whole time but couldn't bring myself to fire, sir. Didn't seem right. Didn't-" Lauren stops there. "Sir? Did you know that person? I don't think you want to hear the rest if you did." Its a painful memory. Its what haunts her very existance right now.

Cora looks hard at Coll as she turns back and replies, but it's a bit less like she's focusing hyper-intently on the other woman and a bit more like she's focusing hyper-intently on not having to look at those tags she demanded to be given. It ends up nearly the same in the end, and she ignores that question, insisting, "Tell me, Coll. All of it."

Lauren takes a long breath again, lifting a hand to hang from her neck, covering the scar of her entrance wound on the rear. "Sir. That Centurian? It was that person. It had to be." She tilts her head, wrenching her eyes at the horror of that idea. "After it killed the last Centurian, it put its gun arm to its head. I- I yelled at it to drop the gun. I even shouted the name on those tags. And.." Her breath shakes. "It recognized the name. It looked right at me. The way it shook its head? It was like a human would as if shamed. Left with no choice. No alternative. Like it couldn't live with itself. It shot itself right there in front of all of us." Coll swallows hard and opens her eyes, looking down to Cora. She's scared to death. "I don't wanna be like that, sir. Anything but that. Trapped in a can? Working for-" She can't even finish, her jaw shaking with her voice.

Cora flinches at Coll's words, but she doesn't turn away, though it looks more and more like it's taking physical effort to hold herself in this position, facing the deckhand, looking at her, listening. She's not scared to death so much as she looks more and more like death, and once her face has gone as white as living human skin can go it begins shading towards an even less healthy-looking shade of grey. In addition to her color, her focus fades off once the centurion's suicide has been related. The lieutenant continues staring, but it's through Coll, now. She doesn't say anything, or move, and her breathing is so sharp and shallow it's near to hyper-ventilating.

Coll watches Cora for a second more and turns her head away. "I think that was a mistake," she whispers. The Crewman hugs herself once more and turns back to watch the flirting couple. Some female officer and a male enlisted. She's left without much more to say. Lauren watches the two from the shadows before finally looking back out the glass. There's no longer safety in death. A simple programming fix to prevent suicide and one is trapped for perhaps eternity to do the work of a Centurian. Trapped. Machines were built to do the work of man. The sick converse now seems to be true: The machines are putting man into their own machines to do their work. As punishment to the human soul.

Cora remains essentially catatonic as Coll whispers and turns to watch the others in the deck, and still longer, for a minute or so afterwards even, the lieutenant's brain apparently having frozen attempting to process the facts and theory offered. Then she gets abruptly to her feet, and without another word walks stiffly away.

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