PHD #086: Aneurysms
Summary: Bell and Cidra face the XO in the aftermath of an aerial engagement. But something more personal is bothering Tillman…
Date: 23 May 2041 AE
Related Logs: Something You Want to Tell Me; and The Hard Choices
Tillman Bell Cidra 
Ready Room Deck 7 - Battlestar Cerberus
With the hatches at the rear of the room, the walkways on both sides slope down towards the dais at the front of the room. The stadium seating forms a partial semi-circle around the speaking podium and provides enough seats for all three hundred members of the Air Wing. The walls are adorned with the patches of each squadron aboard and their mottos stenciled in white lettering above each one. Behind the podium is a set of large LCD screens that can display any matter of material from reconnaissance to maps to gun camera footage.
Post-Holocaust Day: #86

Tillman led the poor Lieutenant up to the Ready Room, opening the hatch with a sharp, "Give me the room," just in case anyone was lingering. He let's the hatch swing open behind him as he makes his way towards the front of the room. Poor Tillman still doesn't have an office yet. Such is the turmoil of an XO. "Bell. Stand tall. Right. Frakking. Here." He points to a spot on the floor in front of him. He doesn't sound any less pissed-off.

Bell makes right for said spot, still in his flight suit, coming to a solid parade-rest. His stance is only marred by the helmet under one arm, gloves tucked neatly inside it. Not a word from the Petrels' interim leader, but steely blue eyes meet Tillman's, contemplatively.

"CAG says that was a mercy call." Tillman doesn't flinch or look away. "Is that what that was? Or was it just a damned poor judgment call on your part? Because at this point I'm thinking that it was just the latter unless you can give me a godsdamned good explanation."

Bell takes five seconds to consider his words before he answers, immobile. "To the best of my knowledge, this is the first recorded instance of the enemy taking prisoners, rather than simply destroying our craft outright. Mister Emerson was, understandably, in a recognizable panic. Given that we were unable to effect a rescue, and that continued inaction would have resulted in her capture, I attempted to… 'snap her out of it'. To present to her a course of action she had not yet contemplated." A pause, and for the first time Bell looks away, down to the floor. "I can only hope she understood my meaning."

The XO stares at Bell with the same face that he walked in with. Anger. Resentment. Defiance. "Yeah. She sure as hell was in a panic. Anyone would have been. But telling her to frakking kill herself over an open channel? Everyone in CIC. Everyone in an aircraft. Everyone listening with a wireless. And not just on this ship - three damned ships heard that. Tomorrow, five thousand people are going to know that a Lieutenant in this godsdamned air wing told a pilot to kill herself. To quit. I don't know if she did by that last transmission, but it sounded like she went down fighting."

"I don't doubt I would have been in the same mental state myself, sir. I should hope there would be someone with the wherewithal to jar me from my fearful reverie before the worst came to pass." Bell looks back to Tillman, lips pursed, unmoved by the glare. "Quite frankly, sir, there was no mention of surrender, no command to yield. I told that young woman to deny herself to the enemy with her last breath. If everyone in this battlegroup was so resolute, we would be greatly emboldened."

Cidra slips into the Ready Room, her business on the Deck concluded. Still in her flight suit. She did not waste time changing. She's just in time to hear Bell's last remark, though none of the interplay that led up to it. No words from her yet, though her footfalls are certainly audible.

"Jar you from your mental state? You mean tell you to kill yourself?" He looks like he might explode until he hears the footfalls. The man glances over, ready to yell again, until he see's who it is. He looks back to Bell. "I'm not talking about what wasn't said here, Lieutenant. You wanna be that resolute, I frakking dare you. See how long you last leading men and women into combat. Nobody wants to be told to kill themselves. Do you have any idea how frakked that is?! You want to embolden, you encourage them to -fight-, not quit."

Bell clings to the logic behind his decision, voice upturning at the end of each sentence. "Fight, sir? With her service pistol, against a full complement of Centurions? How many does a Heavy Raider hold? Ten? Twenty? With all due respect, sir, that ship was lost. That crew was lost. The only question was whether she would be consigned to spend the rest of her days… enduring whatever it is the enemy intends to do with their prisoners of war. A life I consider not worth living."

"Lieutenant Emerson was lost, Major," Cidra says to Tillman, for her part, finally putting in something as she approaches the men. "Likely the moment the enemy jumped in. The Cylons had her surrounded. Ensign Weber never had a chance of getting through, though I commend him trying. We are all owed at least that much." She clears her throat soft. "I have spoken with the petty officer in charge on Deck. The Marines shall be informed of this latest incident. If a man can be found, found they shall be."

The XO doesn't back down. "So then you get to make the decision about what's worth living through and what isn't? You get to speak it for the whole of the officer corps? Fighting doesn't stop when the slide locks back. It stops when a person is convinced to quit and that the situation is hopeless. Considering the fragile frakking state of this fleet, the fact that we have people ON LEONIS, and what we've all been through? Is that the kind of message you want to send? Really? That we should just roll over in the morning and put our sidearms to our foreheads because we're outnumbered and facing long odds?" The XO seems to be daring him to confirm it with a 'yes'. Its not until then that he looks back to Cidra. "I'm not questioning the capability of your pilots, Major Hahn. The Lieutenant here did make the correct call in pulling out. However I do not agree with his suggestion that Emerson put a gun to her helmet."

"Sir." Bell's tone changes somewhat, as if the incredulity of Tillman's statements should be self-evident. "Like all our pilots, Emerson was possessed of sensitive information as to the capabilities of our aircraft and the disposition of our fleet. For operational security alone, this was the right decision. Then there remains the issue as to whether it would be ethically defensible to consign a pilot to the ministrations of a race of machines whose raison d'etre" the bit of Virgonian flows effortlessly from the Lieutenant's mouth, "is the extermination of the human race. Only now they have evidently ceased their genocide in favor of more cunning and malicious tactics, like a cat playing with a wounded bird. Therefore Mister Emerson will be better for having put that weapon to her temple, if indeed she did."

Cidra, for her part, is keeping a leash on her ever-tight composure. It's brittle now, but she's maintaining it. Though her blue eyes are hard just now, the lines at their corners particularly deep. "And what would you have had her do, Major?" she asks him, tone quiet but steady. "Get taken by the Cylons? Captured, put through gods-know what torture to wring sensitive information about our Wing and our ship out of her before they killed her? Because you must realize there were only two outcomes to what Emerson and her pilot faced. It was indelicately put but I cannot condemn it. It was, in that grim situation, her duty. As for morale? I think perhaps you place your worry in the wrong place. All we love, all we held holy and dear, all of that is gone. We have lost more than one hundred and fifty people in the Air Wing alone, to far more terrible deaths than a gun to one's own mouth. You think *this* will damage morale more than all we have faced before? You think the people on these ships are so ignorant of the blackness of what we face as to have their illusions shattered by *this*? If you have any such illusions left than I admire you, because you live in a happier world than I do."

"There's shit-tons of Raptors and Vipers sitting on the surface of the twelve colonies that have all sorts of data. The Raptors had better not have anything highly classified on them about our own operations or there is going to be godsdamned HELL to pay. There is a REASON strategic planning isn't done with field personnel!" The Major only seems to be getting more angry. "So you're telling me that you, indeed, do have the right to tell people what's worth living for? That they should just quit? Who in the FRAK do you think you are?!" He gets right in Bell's face. Armed XO is only getting worse. He's about to keep going when Cidra steps up in the Lieutenant's defense. "No, I don't think its more damaging to morale of the air wing, but you're damned right I'm worried about the morale of this fleet! We all took losses that are beyond measure, damnit! This 'fuzzy' world I have to live in deals with more than just how it effects this ship!" Yeah, Tillman isn't looking so composed with his anger anymore.

Bell's counter is blessed in its brevity. "Would you want to be on that Raptor, sir? Or that basestar?" A pregnant pause follows, which Bell allows to hang in the air for a few moments. "Quite frankly, sir, I was responsible for her mental state. I gave the order to return to Cerberus, which she heard. She was forced, all in a moment, to contemplate her own mortality and accept it, which she could not. I had just a moment earlier given her hope by ordering her rescue. That sir, is who the 'frak' I was, at that moment in time. I stand by my decision." The profanity rolls uncomfortably off the Lieutenant's tongue. Another pause, and Bell shifts the helmet to his other arm. "If you wish to issue a standing order as to procedures for capture during flight operations, I will of course abide by it. But I will not apologize for my conduct."

"The people in the Fleet are not blind, either, Major," Cidra says, stepping to stand alongside Bell. If he needs a human shield at any point, she's obligated to provide as his commander. "They endure the same reality as the rest of us each day. Berating a lieutenant will not bring another of our souls back, and it shall not solve the danger of continued sabotage on our Deck, so perhaps it would be best if we could all take a step back and think rationally about this situation. I think all of our anger right now could be…better directed, sir." Her white-knuckle hold on her composure is an odd contrast to the fiery XO. 'Rational' can also seem 'cold', particularly coming from one who's just lost a pair of Raptor drivers. A side look at Bell. And slight tightening of her jaw. She does not move, however.

The XO doesn't even miss a beat. "You are godsdamned right I would. I would trade places with anyone on this ship at any time. The difference between you and I, Lieutenant, is that some of us believe that we can make a difference because of our will to fight for life. Death is not an excuse for quitting. Ever." That might have made sense if he had time to explain it. But he just continues right along, the veins on his temples looking like someone colored on his face with a blue marker. Or he was going to. Cidra speaks up again and he stares at her. His jaw sets but he doesn't say anything. He's just stewing for a long moment. The anger on his face keeps building, trembling before he finally stomps back with a loud 'SHIT!'. The man is immeasurably angry as he turns away. "Get the frak out of here, Lieutenant. I hear you give a command like that again, I won't bother talking to you." He steps over to the wall and puts balled fists out in front of him to lean against the wall. He's tense as hell and too ready to explode to say anything else at the moment.

"Aye, sir." That's all Bell's got in response. He offers Cidra a nod on his way out, and makes for the berths posthaste.

Cidra offers Bell a little nod. Flee, gentle lieutenant! Flee!

Bell leaves, heading towards the Deck 7 [Out].

Tillman stands there, leaning against the wall as his hands go white from the pressure he's putting behind them. His head hangs, shoulders tensing a few times before he suddenly kicks at the wall. There's some force behind it but he knows better than to kick durasteel. Probably broken something doing that before. "Look, Cid. I'm not so mad at you. Or him. I guess. Just..I'm a frakkin wreck." As if that wasn't obvious. He stands off the wall and his tired, defeated, and deflated expression hangs off his face like tattered curtains. The Major, so recently ready to kill moves to collapse into a chair and lean forward. "Look, you're losing Quinn. Doc's aren't sure about her legs. But there's something else and I don't think you're gonna like it."

"Lieutenant Bell made a very difficult call in a very ugly situation, Clive," Cidra says simply. "I apologize if I did overstep, but I felt it necessary to defend my man for being taken to pieces for something I do not view as an error. Unfortunate, yes but…what is not unfortunate, these days?" Brows arch at Tillman. "I am aware Captain Quinn shall be off flight status for a time, given the injury to her leg. Medical has yet to tell me anything more. When I looked in on her earlier she was resting, so I did not disturb her. What else is going on?"

"Yeah. He did. I don't blame you for sticking up for him." Elbows rest across his knees and he rubs at his forehead, the hand eventually travelling up over the top of his balding head. "Its what made me reset my.." The hand motions at the side of his head. "Whatever." The Major sighs and looks up to meet Cidra's eyes. "I sent you that memo as soon as I got back to my quarters. I wanted you to know before anyone else. Until now, I was the only person outside her and Medical that knew. Maggie is pregnant. About four weeks."

The CAG is occasionally said to be inscrutable. If one is putting it kindly. 'Cold' and 'robotic' are less nice ways of putting it. Not so much right now, however. Cidra face is all of expression. And that is expression is open-mouthed 'What the frak?' She just stares at Tillman. It's as if she's been struck by a blunt object the head. Her expression is not so much surprise as abject shock and disbelief. Blink, blink, blink. "Captain Quinn is…you…she…she is on the what now?" Because she had to have heard that wrong. That is the only possible explanation.

Tillman isn't laughing. Or smiling. One of her squadron leaders could potentially be out for nine months because of him. "She's about four weeks pregnant. Doctors have no idea if the baby will make it because of everything on Leonis. I don't think they've told her that yet, but its the feeling I got from the interim CMO." The man isn't looking for sympathy, just laying out facts. "I'm sorry, Cid. Genuinely."

Cidra has to sit down. She still looks dumbfounded more than anything else. "So. You are telling me my thirty-eight year-old attack squadron leader has been - I believe the colloquial term is 'knocked up - by my executive officer." She steadies herself back in her chair. Still just *staring* at Tillman. "This is, roughly, what you are telling me?"

Tillman shakes his head. "No, Cid. That's exactly what I'm saying. I'll be meeting with Abbot later to inform him personally. If you want my ass nailed to the wall for it, I'll submit my resignation or request a demotion when I talk to him." He doesn't look away. "She offered to keep it hidden as to who the father is. She didn't want me in trouble. But I'm not going to run or hide from this."

Cidra is still busy having a small aneurysm, so she cannot give Tillman a coherent response. She just kind of keeps staring at him, open-mouthed, as if he is speaking some strange language that does not quite translate itself into her brain. "Do not apologize to me, Clive. Apologize, perhaps, the woman you…knocked up." She uses the slang term with almost comical awkwardness. She deep breath. She stands. "I must speak with Captain Quinn about this. As for Abbot, yes, covering this up would be the epitome of stupidity. So…let us not do that, please." She opens her mouth to say something more, but just kind of works her jaw. "My gods. I mean…my gods. This is ludicrous. You do realize this, yes?"

"Quinn tried apologizing to me. I told her she shouldn't bother with it. The woman actually seems reluctantly happy about it. At least, she was when we found out. I haven't been able to talk to her today. Like you, she was resting when I stopped in." Tillman doesn't move from the chair. Or look away. "Out with it, Cid. I'd prefer you take it out on me, rather than her. Its not her fault any more than mine and she's going to be in sickbay for awhile. I'm not your XO about this. Hell, after I tell Abbot, I'll probably be calling you sir again." No, Clive doesn't think any of this is funny or a joke. He's serious.

"I am dreaming," Cidra mutters, seeming to barely even listen to Tillman now. "This is a hallucination. No. No it's not. If this was a hallucination this might actually be pleasant." She stands. Deep breath. She still looks stunned, just shaking her head. "I cannot discuss this right now. This has been a very…strange day. I wish I drank. Never cared for it, though. Musses the senses in a way I do not particularly like. Still. I could start, perhaps."

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