PHD #296: Aspects
Summary: Cidra and McQueen cross paths in the chapel and speak on the aspects of gods, men and abominations.
Date: 19 Dec 2041 AE
Related Logs: None
Cidra McQueen 
Chapel - Deck 9 - Battlestar Cerberus
The hatchway opens into a dimly lit corridor, stark grey walls now and again painted with some mural appropriate to the religious season, stretching from floor to ceiling and then sloping down away from the ceiling in two triangular forms that bracket off the tiered seating areas to either side. Straight ahead, in the center of an open space, stands a simple rectangular altar, the emblems of the Lords thereupon arrayed to receive sacrifice in the tall room when the altar isn't decked for some more specific use. Hestia, who is not vouchsafed her own emblem on the altar, is etched in relief on one side of the altar itself, shown tending the hearth in her usual fashion. In the wall behind the open area are three evenly spaced hatchways which can only be opened and closed from the inside. The small cubicles behind each hatchway are each furnished with a small altar against the back wall, upon which sometimes the dark shape of a sacred object can be discerned even from the tiered seating for visiting on the sacral days. The hatches can be closed to block out profane eyes from rites they were not meant to see. The walls between each little cubicle can be retracted to create a larger space for more well-attended mysteries.
Post-Holocaust Day: #296

Condition 2. The battlestar crippled and on watch for the Cylons to come jumping down their throats again at any moment. Perhaps it's fear of another encounter with the Areion's Gun that keeps the toasters from entirely finishing them off. Or perhaps something more. Whatever the enemy's mind, it eludes Cidra Hahn. Fortunately, all she has to concern herself with is fighting and flying. She's between flights right now but still in her flight suit. Ready to be called back into her Raptor at a moment's notice. She's presently kneeling up at the altars, burning away an offering in Ares' place. The CAG rarely prays to the Lord of War, but she is doing so tonight.

Whoever coined the phrase 'cleanliness is next to godliness' clearly didn't pass the memo down the to the Flight Line. As the door to the Chapel creaks open (and yes, at this point, the ship is becoming old enough that the doors creak just a /little/), the face of one Lt. McQueen, disshevelled hair and face smudged with a delightful mixture of mechanical grease and soot comes bounding in with light bootsteps. The jacket of his Duty Greens hangs open to reveal a slightly messy set of fatigue tanks. His heavy brows knit as he furtively looks around, somehow suggesting that his own work-induced grime might offend the Powers that Be.

The creaking makes Cidra turn her head, away from her supplication before Ares. McQueen is spotted. If his grimey appearance offends her there's no ready sign of it. The Viper pilot is greeted with a small inclination of her head. "Queenie." The callsign is said soft. She's always reluctant to speak too loudly in chapel, lest she disturb other prayers or reflections going on around her.

"Was trying to make a bad situation less-bad. Think I made progress, and it's not like the Deck Gang doesn't have their hands full as well but I think at this point prayer would be more useful than my efforts patchin' the com system on my bird all by my lonesome." McQueen's voice isn't exactly /loud/, but it's not quite as quiet as Cidra's. As he walks, his shoulders droop and he shoots the CAG a thin smile.

The smile is returned with the faintest upturn of Cidra's own lips. She never smiles all that wide. Straightening, she goes to sit on the benches. There's room left for McQueen to join her, should he wish to. She doesn't presume to invite him. "May I ask who your prayers are to tonight, Trevor Cairn?" A pause and she says, for her own part, "I made the offerings to Ares tonight. And my Athena, of course, but Ares as well. The Sister was right. We live in his age now. Much as I fight against it."

Overt invitation or no, McQueen seems intent on taking the bait and clomps quietly over towards the free space before settling into the bench swiftly, settling down next to Cidra in one fluid motion before crossing his arms in front of his chest and sitting up straight. "You can ask. Maybe Ares, for valor the next time the Cylons come knocking. Or Athena, for victory. Maybe clarity too. Hermes for good luck. Artemis so I can line up my bloody shots, yeh?" His shoulders ripple in a shrug and that faint smile emerges a moment more before it fades. "I don't think I'm in a position to play favorites, though. I figure I — and by extension, we, need all the help we can get. If it comes down to individual gestures to curry favor I'm goin' to be here a while, aren't I?" The harsh lilt of his accent turns upwards with this last inquiry. "The truth is, we kind of need the benevolence of all of Them."

"So say we all," Cidra murmurs, soft but fervent. They *do* need all the help they can get. "Have I ever told you why I did become a Raptor pilot, Queenie?" Whether she has or not, she seems to feel like spinning it out again. "When I was a young woman I thought I would one day take my vows as a Sister of Athena. It was not my path, however. I thought…to fly like an owl. Sharp eyes of the DRADIS. Wide, strong wings of an FTL drive. Defender. It seemed a way to be Her…instrument. Even if I would never be a priestess. And I felt in the Navy I was serving something greater than myself." There's a touch of past tense in that last statement. More than she meant to voice, perhaps. "Now I do know who's instrument I am somedays. Or even whose I was before the worlds fell."

Whether or not McQueen's heard this particular story is not exhibited. He merely inclines his head as though he's prepared to listen, and listen he does, thick brows knitting a couple of times. "Personification of universal cosmic traits. Check. There's a reason why people became devotees of particular Gods, no?" He mulls over her last question a little bit and ventures, "I think maybe that doesn't matter. Life changes you, right? I could've stayed a Wireless technician but there was that Engineering scholarship. Whole family were workers, grease monkeys, building things, fixing things, doing the work that nobody else wanted t to do and got bugs up their ar — " He actually stops here, looking about, as he came precariously close to swearing in-chapel. Probably wasn't the first time.

"The Academy pulled me in a different direction. Since we're off-duty, I feel like I can give you a bit of advice if it doesn't sound insubbordinate. Don't fret so much, Toast. Don't question. Just — be."

There's the slighest hint of disapproving narrowing of Cidra's eyes when McQueen nearly swears in chapel. And a small nod when, like a school boy, he catches himself. "My mother was a priestess of Hera. My father served Asclepius, Lord of Healing. My path always seemed set for me into one of the Orders, since my girlhood." Slight quirk of her lips. Perhaps that is one of the reasons her path eventually 'lay elsewhere.' "My mother never quite forgave me for it. I wonder if I have not in some small way just been striving to spite her all these years. Or prove myself worthy in her eyes. They can be harsher than the Lords and Ladies at times, family." His advice earns no displeasure from her. "There is no rank in the eyes of those who watch this place, Queenie. Just be…" She sighs heavy. "…I am afraid sometimes these days what that might entail."

"It almost sounds like a search for justification for what you are. So, what's a Priest or Priestess but a guide? And isn't that what you're doing now?" McQueen fires back, knitting his grime-stained hands together upon his lap and squinting off in the distance at the idols far away. "It isn't about what you could have done. It's what you're doing now. We're not on either side of the riverbank but flat in the middle of the bloody current, and from where I'm sitting, I'm glad you didn't become a Priestess because, well, let's face it - we've already got one of those and she's doing her job. CAG's a damn-near irreplacable thing, and if you weren't here, we'd be havin' one of those spooks from the Aerion breathing down our necks." He lets out a sharp, dry cough, possibly just an affectation. "I for one just remembered that maybe it's a good thing to start out a prayer with what you're already thankful for, yeh?" He closes his mouth and his throat rumbles a quiet, staccato laugh for a second or two.

Cidra might blush, ever-so-faintly, when McQueen mentions 'Areion spooks breathing down our necks.' Hard to tell in the dimmed chape lights. She clears her throat demurely. "Yes. That would probably be not for the best." She's silent a beat. As if thinking on that. "I feel as if each day takes from me that for which I am thankful. All I have left that I love are those I fly with." She tilts her head to look him in the eyes proper. "And I do love you all, Queenie. Even if we are to end our days together, I would not do it with any others, including the 'Evocati.' I do not think I am so irreplaceable. A CAG is only as good as those who fly under her. And you have in general served me passing well, Trevor Cairn of Leonis. Your family would be proud, I do think."

"Y'see, here's the part where I'm bitin' my tongue when I'm about to throw out some contrived line about being 'here for a reason,'" said grimy hands are raised upwards and McQueen makes the time-honored 'air quotes' with his fore and middle fingers around the last couple of words. "But by not saying it I guess I said it, no?" One more brief, throaty laugh, and his teeth flash in a vulpine manner. "I don't know. I can't speak for any God, obviously. But you might as well try to live that way."

Another pause. "And aw, Major, you're flatterin' me here. Flattering me more than said family would. They stopped talking to me over my career decisions. Just as well, really, as I suppose I've a better family now." The right side of his mouth rises upwards.

Cidra leans over to gently, and almost playfully, poke her shoulder into McQueen's. The little gestures like that come out of nowhere with the woman sometimes. Reserved as she can be, and cold as those who do not know her well oft perceive her as, she's not averse to being touchy. "I do hope that does not make me your mother. You are one in the Wing who is *not* by years junior enough to be my son, at least." Tone a touch wry. "By my reckoning, we are all of us brothers and sisters. Made in blood." A grim sort of family, perhaps, but that's how she sees it. "Purpose…to serve the ship. To serve those who remain. Try and live as the Wise Lady would guide my steps. But I will confess I am less sure of my purpose than I was before the Cylons came." She seems half-tempted to say more, but does not. "I wonder why they do not simply finish us off. The forces they hold, the might of them arrayed on Caprica and Picon and Canceron and all the worlds they still hold…it would be enough to swat us like flies. Gun or not. And yet…we still remain…"

McQueen's reputation generally paints him as a quixotic extrovert, and the shoulder bump meets one of its own, as the sly grin on his face remains and looks at home upon his features. "Nah. I'd say my mother was a good bit — colder. Sometimes I feel like an old man, though, sometimes like a silly little kid. There's more than one aspect to all of us, after all." One of those eyebrows raises wide and high. "You're serving more than this ship. You're serving humanity, I'd say. This battlegroup represents the last known stand of free men and women in the known Creation. A bit of a thing, that is. As long as you and I and the rest of us, Evocati" he actually uses the term without visible paranoia or disdain "included take part in that, I'm pretty sure the Gods will take notice." The grin fades some though as he mulls over the second answer he spouts.

"As far as the Cylons? I don't know. They made a mistake. A big one. Maybe they don't know what they're doing." He takes a breath and adds,

"Suppose we could mosey down and ask that sour old Cylon witch in the Brig for answers. Wonder if we could trade her for the one they had before. She was a regular Chatty Bloody Cathy as far as I was told, yeh?"

Cidra lets out a wry half-chuckle, very soft. "Sounds rather like my mother." It's said under her breath. It probably skirts some 'honor thy parents' covenant she's supposed to hold dear. "We all of us have many aspects, Queenie. Aphrodite and Athena and Apollo and Ares imprinted Their varying likenesses upon our hearts. At times some pull us harder than others. Perhaps that is why humanity is so mad. Made in so many varying likenesses, all fighting each other for our natures." She clasps her long-fingered hands in her lap. Expression darkening at mention of the Cylon in the brig. "I wish they would jump that abomination back to Audumbla and set it afire for the witch it is. Model Five. Major Tillman says it was its line that ordered the destruction of the holy places on Gemenon. If I had the chance to look it in the eye, Queenie…I think I would try to do far worse than Money Shot attempted with the Eleven." She shudders. "I think they knew very well what they were doing. The only question that troubles me is why they do not finish."

For a long, drawn-out pause, Queenie has no answer or at least no comment. "You know what I think? What made me know that I am doing the right thing — the /only/ possible thing with my life? When I achieved my first posting, I understood it. The Fleet. The Fleet, made for war, made for killing, made for battle - I saw nobility in it, and its people. In all their imperfect humanity but in all their striving to be more and upholding the oaths they swore upon taking the uniform. It's a powerful thing. I'm not exactly the stereotype of an officer, but this type of thing, yeh? I take it seriously."

The mention of the Cylon casts a darker look upon his features. "As for the Cylons, can I tell you something off the record? I know we're off-duty, but — I've been thinking about this a lot."

"I believe the oaths I swore, Queenie. I took them to me like Scripture. But sometimes I wonder these days, off the record, how those at the head of our force held to them." It is admitted soft, like Cidra's afraid to say it aloud. She tilts her head toward him. Blue eyes seeking to meet his. "No ears but mine and the gods shall hear it here. A chapel is a place for confessions."

"Well, I'm pretty sure whoever else is listening knows what I think already. — Either way." McQueen clears his throat, not commenting on the solemnity of oaths. His own pale blue eyes flit from the idols again back to his CAG. "I think the Cylons are scared. They're stupid. Making mistakes. And not even sure what their full aims are. I probably pay attention to rumors more than I should, but who've we met so far? Some meddling little girls who make overtures of civility. That fr — " Oh, his language is slipping, "saboteur. The wretch in the Brig. And — Salt. Salt. Toast, I /knew/ him. At the Academy. Not a /one/ of them seems to speak with the same voice. What is it, are they just broken machines? Or are they breaking apart?"

"Lieutenant Ryan Shaker. Callsign Salt…" Cidra repeats the name thoughtfully, and with an unease in her voice she cannot dampen. Inscrutable as she tries to be. "That one confuses me, Queenie. He was an abomination." 'He'. Not 'It'. Even with the Eleven, it is always 'It' with righteous disdain. But she can't manage that with Salt. "And yet he fought beside us when the Cylons came. He was one of the one hundred forty-seven down. He was a man of the Faiths, from his record. What does the ferryman make of one such? And what does it mean about all of us, if that is the enemy…" Eyes widen a touch as McQueen's words fully dawn on her. "You knew him when he was younger. I never realized. What was he like, as a Midshipman?"

"You call him an abomination, but, well, forgive me here Toast." McQueen starts slowly, a bit more hesitant than his usual glib self. Much, in fact, as his eyes again flicker back towards the idols on the wall. Back knit go the fingers on his lap. "But I am not so literal with these things. The Gods are everywhere, right? Their creation permeates all. For what it's worth, he always struck me as the white knight, right? I always thought his callsign would have been something stone-related, because he was solid as a rock. Even as a cadet, heh. Should've known there was something wrong, he seemed too professional too early. But why would I be one who'd get suspicious over excellence? I have to admit, I was a little jealous of him." There's an almost wistful twitch of his mouth and then he turns back towards Cidra. "Sorry, tangent. It's like this —"

"'Abomination or no,' if he understood the call of a higher power and a higher purpose and chose to serve it just as you do, was he really an abomination anymore? Could a machine that thinks like a human come to know these things? And if so — what does that mean for this war? And does it mean the Cylons, the ones that bleed and breathe — can they be stopped?" He just lets the question hang there, in the silence of the Chapel.

Cidra does indeed watch McQueen with more than a touch of disapproval as he speaks of his lack of 'literal' thinking. She says nothing, but her expression reads '*BANNED* on Gemenon.' "The Cylons were the work of arrogant humans who sought to put themselves above the Lords and Ladies as creators. And these skinjobs…they are creations of the Cylons…things that should not be, made from things that should not be. I do not believe the gods permeate any such thing. It is strange, though. I can understand spies. Enemy agents living amongst us. But to put up a face for so long. To go through training, to make friends, to have a family…what is the purpose?"

Banned on Gemenon indeed. Oh, the irony. McQueen probably has had one too many conversations with Sister Karthasi to ever make it into an orthodox school, that's for certain. "See, that's what doesn't add up. Who knows where they had moles? Who knows where they had spies? And for that matter, when it came down to it, Salt didn't do the bloody 'job' they gave him. I don't even care so much that he 'died'," he says, his voice drooping with a sort of hopeless frustration, "Every one of our birds out there he didn't fire on, lived on. Even if they died in stupid and pointless ways, later on. But every death is stupid and pointless when you look at it from a certain standpoint." His shrug is hapless as he comments.

"See, even if humans made a mistake, that's the thing about Gods. They're bigger than us. Better than us. Smarter than us. They permeate everything, Toast. Everything. There is nothing that they cannot touch. I couldn't pass judgement on another in their name."

McQueen adds, "Because, I'm just not on that level. I can ultimately only judge myself. Every time I've tried to extend that judgement outside myself it's turned around and bit me in the — " He coughs. "Well, you get the idea."

Something in McQueen's words makes Cidra shift. Both thoughtful and perhaps perturbed. "And his actions, his choice to fight beside us, did save lives that day as well. It is fearful strange to me, Queenie. I keep thinking if I can make some sense of it, of Abbot, of that deck technician - Coll - who died on Sagittaron and they called a skinjob…then matters will fall into place. *Then* I will understand." Like the answer will come down to her like a lightning bolt from on high.

It's all, well, 'elementary', my dear Cidra. McQueen's head arcs to a side. "Well, it's not like they're sitting down with us for tea so I suppose it's a bloody moot point." Something in his face shows a bit of a flare of the nostrils. "For the record, if The Admiral is a Cylon, I'm Trask's alluring twin sister." This is said with less obvious humor than one would expect. Not that it's ridiculously funny to begin with. But he leaves it alone.

"I don't think that the Gods talk to us in fantastical and blatant terms, Toast. They don't — because they don't need to."

"How can you be so sure?" Cidra's voice drops lower now, whispering, and less out of respect for the Lords than for truly not wanting to be overheard. "About Abbot, I mean? The way he was arrested was the worst possible, on that I think we agree. And I admit, I would feel better had we gathered stronger evidence from the Eleven, or even that foul witch of an abomination in the brig now, that he is the enemy. But we have a tape that shows him - or his copy - commanding Centurions and our Engineers believe it real."

"How do we know the source of the tape is — I don't know. Do you pay attention to politics, much?" McQueen ventures. "I mean, I'm grasping at straws here, and I'll admit that this is more instinct than evidence — but it's one piece, Toast. One piece. And what witnesses do we have? Moreover - what's he done?" He seems quite firm in his questioning.

"I have never been much for politics. Fight and fly and die, Queenie. My life is simple, save the complications I create for it myself." Cidra takes a moment again to think on his words. "We know there were enemy leaks in CIC. Some of what went wrong could only have come from there. And the Admiral was in a primer place to make them than anyone else. There is *something* there. But Abbot himself?" Another pause. "Nothing openly. Save refused to fight for his own innocence. Is that not some manner of proof? Would not you cry at the top of your voice against it if one called you an abomination? I would."

"Oh, I don't mean the back-room trash or the popularity contests." McQueen declares dryly, turning a grimy hand upwards. "I mean — how nations rose and fell. Sometimes people cheat. Sometimes people have no bloody honor, right? Cylons, too. It wouldn't be the first time footage was — altered. But my engineering chops have faded over time, as evidenced by today's failures." He glances down at said grime. "I hope I'm a better pilot, at least." Pausing a beat, he elaborates. "Maybe it's because we call them abominations because of what they /are/ rather than what they 'did'. The Cylons are abominations enough just for doing that - the destruction of what the Gods gave us."

"Why do you think he did it, Queenie?" Asked so soft it's barely audible. "Salt, I mean. Why do you think he fought with us the night the worlds fell? I cannot believe it was so much loyalty. Gods, I barely knew the man's name. I do not know why he haunts my thoughts so now…" Cidra lets out a shuddering sigh.

"Maybe he didn't want to be an Abomination." McQueen's response is simple and direct and succint, like the report of a gun. His voice is quite soft though, and he adds a brief crease of his eyes as he squints at Cidra.

"They are machines, though. Not men. Perhaps made to look like our flesh, clones or what-have-you, but to suppose they have such free will as that…" Cidra trails off, as if tripping herself up. "But the Eleven did sacrifice itself for us over Sagittaron. And Ibrahim seemed to believe the copy of its model they met on Leonis - he called it Yazdah - that it had truly aided them. But I cannot get out of my mind that those two Elevens were only part of some deeper game. Salt had no game, though. He played at nothing save to fight and fly and die, well as any of us…"

"Wish I'd been amongst the bunch that sat down and had a chance with her before she fried herself. I mean, the one that was here. Don't know about Leonis. At least, maybe then I would've been less talking out my own hat." McQueen states, nonplussed. "That one was described as not having a shred of guile. But this is all second-hand. All of it."

"Or perhaps it had more guile than those who wear themselves openly as monsters." Cidra purses her lips. "There are thousand reasons what those abominations did would be useful to the enemy. But Salt…I cannot make see any gain for them in it. And I cannot make myself stop thinking of him as one of mine." It is admitted, again, in that bare shred of a whisper. "But he *was* an abomination…" She's talking more to herself now than McQueen, and circling a point she's come around to tonight - and clearly many other times - before. And finding no satisfaction in it still.

"See, the former, I have no answer for, all things considered. 'avent a bloody clue. But the latter? I do. Think about Galatea. Or the Golem made by that wizard. Were they inherently evil? Maybe Salt, disregarding who he was, realized he wasn't going to be part of something evil. That /certainly/ didn't seem to be something shared by the other ones they met on Leonis, yeh?" He likewise seems unsatisfied, holding up his hands.

"Perhaps. I sometimes wonder if it makes me a…traitor, not being able to hate him," Cidra murmurs. "Not being able to stop loving him for being one of my fallen Knights."

"An enemy is an enemy. I don't know if hate is in the equation." McQueen chimes in, now, at least seeming quite certain of this. "Hector was a better hero for not stooping to Achilles' level an -" He snickers. "Right, I'll quit with the long-winded metaphors. My Advanced ACM flight instructor even told me that getting emotional about your target - i.e. hate - usually a bad idea."

"They hate us, though. They must, to have done what they did." Another heavy sigh from Cidra and she stands. Stretching her long limbs. "I am tempted to try and sleep in the chapel again. I am not…I do not want to go back to the berths just now. One of the Raptors perhaps. Alert status and all, kipping in one would not be so strange, yes?"

"And /that/ is why they are abominations. Hate. Fear. It's all the same dog and bloody pony show." McQueen suddenly spits out, almost bitterly. "Maybe it's time for a talk with the Witch. /That/ will be a bloody show." And there's something in his eyes that speaks of the old Queenie. Mischevious and defiant. And wherever you bunk down is your business. Unless it's the Marine deck. I heard it smells like rotten cheese." He arches an eyebrow.

"For better or worse, Queenie, one place have not lain is the Marine Deck. And that shall not change tonight." Cidra slips past him, to take her leave of the chapel, but pauses to offer him the slightest of smiles. "I thank you for the company."

"Well, I never said my advice was /helpful./" McQueen's eyes roll. "But fly straight and true, Toast. Maybe you'll find your answers soon enough. I think I'll chat with the proprietors of this House for a little longer."

"Clear eyes and steady hands," Toast replies simply in parting. And off she goes.

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