PHD #359: By Your Command
By Your Command
Summary: The COs of the battlegroup meet, plan and ever-so-lightly spar.
Date: 20 Feb 2042 AE
Related Logs: All the Swarm and Silent Mastiff logs
Laughlin Pewter Kepner Parry NPC 
Kepner's stateroom on the CEX Areion
Cushy and spooky room.
Post-Holocaust Day: #359

Colonel Andrus Pewter has rarely been summoned to anything since being promoted to commanding officer of Battlestar Cerberus, yet summons sometimes do in fact come. Tonight's arrives in the form of an encrypted ELF communication from the escort carrier Areion, informing him that his presence is required aboard the squat and battered ship. And so it is that the heavyset man now walks through the corridors of an unfamiliar ship, his habitual slouch and his red-headed yeoman drawing more than a few stares as he makes his way to Rudy Kepner's private quarters. Outside, he's greeted by a pair of Marines guarding the path, neither of which seem particularly interested in anything except opening the hatch and saluting.

"Frostier than a cold wind on a bare frakkin' ass," Pewter rumbles in that deep voice of his, chuckling as he does. And then, spotting his superior officer, he too snaps to a salute. "Evenin', Rudy," he calls. "Nice lil honor guard y'all got out there. How the hell y'all get y'all's squid-heads to shut the frak up, I don't know, but y'all better teach me that trick."

Rare or no, Commander Rudy Kepner of the CEX Areion issued that summons to the Cerberus' CO - as well as Commander Laughlin - without apparently giving it much thought. He waits in his stateroom now, touched in a well-appointed, cushy leather chair behind a desk of thick, old Aerilon wood. The room is smaller than one might expect. It was originally designed for the CO of a regular old escort carrier. But it's richly appointed nonetheless, shelves packed with leather-bound books mostly devoted to Colonial history. A painting - artistic rendering of a battle from the first Cylon War - dominates the wall over his bunk. Ground combat, humans and Centurions clashing like knights of old in a bloody affair that the artist has, somehow, made glorious as well as terrible. Kepner is puffing on a cigar, two matching leather chairs set up in front of his desk for Laughlin and Pewter, and he's idly shuffling a deck of Triad cards while he waits. Fanning them in flashy trick shuffles that're more for show than useful randominzation. "Andy. Mickey. How we doin', boys?" Laughlin beat Pewter here, apparently.

Commander Michael Laughlin has preceded his boisterious sometimes-superior this evening, arriving, as is his custom, some minutes before the scheduled commencement of the meeting. He sits straight-backed in one of those matching chairs, ankles crossed in the limited space between chair and desk. Before him is a neat stack of reports, only a fraction of the stack carried in the arms of his yeoman. "Oliver, the latest from— yes, that one, thank you," the commander says to the apparently-prescient youth, taking the pages and then turning to add them atop his stack as he nods to Pewter, "Colonel. Good evening." To Kepner's far less formal greeting, he has merely a fraction of a nod.

"Laffo!" Despite being outranked, Pewter still drops a heavy hand on the older man's shoulder. "Good to see y'all made it off that luxury spa y'all call a frigate. And me, I'm doin' 'bout well as y'all could expect — thanks, Red." Without further ado, the colonel drops his not insubstantial behind onto that comfortable chair, accepting a sheaf of intelligence reports from his own personal assistant. "Y'all know Red Parry, right?"

"A pleasure to meet you, sir," says Red, snapping off a picture-perfect salute. "Oliver. If you could help me with the tea and coffee when you're finished?"

"She won't let me drink," says Pewter, rolling his eyes with his usual good humor. "Won't even drop a shot of that watered-down whisky from Picon before bedtime. Not that I've got any bedtime, these days."

"Your liver will thank me even if you don't, sir," is the woman's smooth response. And then, depositing the rest of the reports on the desk, she busies herself with the kettle.

Kepner's eyes travel up from the cards to Parry, who gets a grin from the Areion's commander. "Petty Officer Parry's reputation preceds here. Welcome to my boat, m'dear. We all know it's the yeomans who really run a ship. Rest of us are just pretenders. I could do with a tea." But whatever he might say about pretenders, and whatever his seemingly relaxed manner, the man gets straight to business. "Yeah, all doing as well as can be expected, which ain't good enough right now. The frakking toasters seem to have gotten tired of leaving us alone."

Oliver glances to Laughlin, who somehow impercebtibly gives his assent, after which the well-attuned yeoman nods to Parry and moves to help her with the beverages. The commander smiles politely at Pewter and Kepner, though the pressing of thin lips that counts as a smile on his face would barely qualify as not a grimace on most anyone else. "I am pleased we were all able to make time," he remarks, seemingly unable to convey that pleasure in his tone any more than in his expression, "We are all up to date on the latest reports?"

"A coffee for me, Red, burned, no sugar, and thick enough to float an iron wedge in it when it's done, please, thanks. And y'all best be careful what y'all say to 'em," Pewter warns, another deep chuckle causing his jowls to twitch. "Don't need our yeomen gettin' ideas."

"What is it I'm supposed to say now, sir? By your command?" Parry's professional tone cracks to admit just a bit of irony.

"Y'all see what I put up with." The colonel simply shakes his head, flipping open the latest of aforementioned 'latest reports.' "Don't think I'm ever up to date, y'know. I finish one and six more come through the godsdamned hatch." Which, after Pewter's habitual self-deprecation has been stripped away, translates into 'Of course I'm up to date.' "Looks bad, boys, I won't lie. Looks real bad. Wing's doin' its damnedest to keep us alive out there, but they keep on hittin' us like they're hittin' us and we'll have to start sendin' out hurt birds. Maybe even hurt pilots."

"Papa's got our boys and girls in the air doing the same," Kepner says with a nod of assent to Pewter. He doesn't even bother to answer the question about the latest reports. The old spook is up to date. "But we're in the same situation, Andry. It's death by a thousand cuts. Frak up our birds, frak up our people, pretty soon they'll have frakked up as much as they need to, and they'll have a hole to end the lot of us, it keeps going at this rate. And our Gun's useless against these frakking swarms. That thing could level basestars with the greatest of ease but it needs time to charge, and those swarms are all about hitting us quick and dirty. No capital or even Heavy Raider support. I can't knock their strategy, if they can turn those little frakkers out by the hundreds. What's it matter if they lose a thousand of them, if that's all it takes to wear us down in the end?"

Laughlin listens, lifting the top report off the pile Oliver has prepared for him and glancing over it. "The casulties to date have not been substantial," he replies, "But I would expect that they would begin to rapidly increase should this continue much longer, and it will not be long before the rate of loss becomes unsustainable. It might, at this juncture, be wise to consider the potential efficacy of relocating the fleet from the Cyrannus Sector."

Squinted eyes look over at Laughlin as the commander gives his views; Pewter, for his part, will keep his own cards close to his chest. "Frakkin' miracle it took 'em this long to figure out what to do about that Gun," he mutters. "I miss the good ol' days. The man leans forward in his chair, the springs beneath the leather creaking as he shifts his weight. His rumpled uniform smells faintly of days-old aftershave; clearly, laundry's something he hasn't had time to do. "Y'all read this one here? Bunch of my jocks got together in some great big Ready Room shebang and looked at film till they shat out pixels. Led by Poppy — that's Captain Khloe Vakos. Sharp girl." And having found the file in question, he begins to recite its conclusions:

"'These hash-marked Cylons appear to be underskilled and under-agile, in comparison to Raiders we've encountered in the past. Blah, blah, recommend alternative tactics be devised in order to exploit this apparent 'green' behavior of these Raiders.'" Pewter looks up, blinking twice to re-seat his glasses on his nose. "Now if y'all sit me in a room and tell me y'all'll shoot me 'less I figure out some tactics for my birds, y'all might as well just save the bullet cause I'll kill myself for y'all. But this ol' dog can take two and add it to two and get four. And, far as Intel knows, baby Raiders only come from one kind of crib."

"Relocate to where?" Kepner asks, holding his cigar between his fingers to serve as a pointer of sorts to gesture with. "They're tracking us, Mickey. Or hunting us, rather. That much is obvious. Question is how they're doing it, but we'll get to that in a minute. Wherever we jump, it's an easy bet they'll follow, on our heels like damned dogs. And I don't know about you boys, but I'm tired of playing the frakking cat clawing up the next tree. Wherever we run, they'll find us. What we need to do is hit them back hard enough to make them stop chasing." A short nod of agreement to Pewter. "Papa's had his aces going over their tapes and he's come up with the same thing. This is some kind of new breed they're throwing at us, and it ain't the cream of their crop, either. It's easy cubits…" And he does actually stop playing with the Triad cards and deal them now. "…that the toasters got their panties in a bunch when we whacked that foundry of theirs. And my bet? They've got more of them out there, churning out these 'green' Raiders."

Laughlin dies not reply, merely turning to the next report in his stack, the way he follows along with a glance down through his reading glasses indicating it is the same one Pewter is quoting from. "Operation Silent Mastiff," he comments eventually, "Was a success, but I would not think it wise to assume we will have such an easy time of duplicating it. We benefitted from the element of surprise; we are highly unlikely to have that again."

"Your tea, sir." Parry moves with ghostly grace, gliding across the carpeted room with tray in hand — without spilling a single drop. "And your coffee, sir." She'll leave it to Oliver to handle finicky Laughlin's order, retreating to Kepner's bed — bed! — and sitting down at the lip. Then, crossing her legs, she withdraws a thin romance novel from her bag, settling in for a read.

Pewter, for his part, takes a quick and brutal swig from his drink. "That's not even the biggest problem," he says, mug in hand. "Biggest problem's findin' where the other ones are, assumin' they're out here. Now my Raptor boys've got the Foundry's IR and EM profile loaded up in their chirpers, and if I ask 'em to they'd come up with some fool way to go out huntin' in half a day. Plus, there's this." Somehow, the colonel can find the report in question by feel alone. "Head snipe — Makinen — got together with my head spook — Nikephoros — 'bout one month back, right when we were figurin' shit out 'bout Operation Quiet Dog or whatever the frak we called it. Somethin' turned that Foundry on. Basestar, new type. Same model that hit us over Tauron, all takin' notes on y'all's Gun." Still offering no opinion. Willing, perhaps, to let the other men spar while he examines his cards.

Kepner isn't sparring, precisely, but he definitely seems of the opinion that he's in charge of this little meeting. He takes a swig of his tea - the man is not a sipper - and nods to Pewter. With all the gruff approval one would give a valuable subordinate. "Space is big, but if the Cylons can find us, we can find these foundries. Let's get some Raptors out there hunting. We'd better get on it. With those frakkers jumping in on us every day, we haven't got a time to lose. We took one out, we can take out the others. I'm not going to just sit back and let the enemy chase us while they're pumping out baby Raiders by the thousands." Which is as much as he has to say about the dangers of attacking the foundries, apparently. A frown when Pewter mentions the basestar. But a thoughtful one. "Toasters were engaged in some intel gathering of their own over Tauron. They've been building up for months in the inner colonies. My thinking, they figure they're getting close to having enough juice to finally destroy us and they were trying to feel us out."

Laughlin rarely seems to convey the impression that he is in charge of anything at least beyond the no-doubt perfectly ordered surface of his desk, and even that might really be considered Oliver's domain. The Praetorian CO's yeoman does not join Parry, either in sitting on Kepner's bed or in reading a romance novel, casting a sidelong look at the redheaded Parry that cannot quite decide whether it is disapproving or impressed.

For his part, Laughlin says nothing. He pages from report to report as his fellow commanders converse, the documents seeming each time to be the next on the pile exactly as they come up in conversation, as if he or his aide had somehow managed to predict the trajectory of the discussion precisely. Despite the wealth of information at his fingertips, he seems disinclined to offer further comment at this juncture, instead merely looking between Pewter and Kepner and taking a sip of the tea his young yeoman has set on the desk before him at precisely two o'clock.

You will no longer hear messages on channel <Newbie>.

"They had enough juice to frakkin' wipe us off the Colonies a year ago," Pewter points out, killing the rest of his coffee. Almost before he's done, Parry materializes by his shoulder with the carafe, filling up his cup once more before swepping back to the bed. It's almost like she can read his mind. And so when the colonel holds his mug back up to his mouth, it's somehow already full. Miracle of miracles. "This — this don't feel the same. Least it don't feel the same in my gut." As if to emphasize the point, Pewter rests his wrist against his beer belly, his deep chuckles nearly causing his coffee to spill all over his uniform. "Cause if they wanted to blow us out of the sky, them Raiders'd be packed full to burstin' with nukes. But y'all can talk 'bout what's goin' on in Chromehead City with someone who gives a frak. Y'all ask me, all I know is that they're blastin' my best people higher'n godsdamned Olympus every single day. Y'all order us to attack, we'll hit 'em till we can't. Y'all order us to go, we'll run till we break. I can sell both of those to my boys. I can't sell runnin' round in circles like some three-legged dog."

And when Pewter talks about receiving orders, he's looking not to Kepner but to Laughlin.

"Gun's got 'em scared," Kepner says, as if that explains it all. "They might take us out, but they'd lose a frak-ton of their own if they tried and they want to know they've got the forces to make it worth their while. Mark my words, Andy. But you've heard what I've got to say. Attack. Find those foundries and hit them before those Raiders have a chance to hit puberty, because otherwise they're just going to keep hunting us until they've cut us enough times to hit an artery, and then this whole Fleet is frakked." He shifts a look between Pewter and Laughlin, a slight tightening around his eyes when the battlestar PO goes to Laughlin for orders. But it's not a matter he comments on, or presses any further than he's pressed it now.

"I believe the colonel's point was that there was a time before The Gun when we could have been eliminated far more easily and the Cylons did not for whatever reason choose to take advantage," Laughlin clarifies mildly, "And as you have yourself mentioned previously, The Gun is not ideally effective against the swarming raider technique currently being utilized. If they were to use nukes rather than KEW…." He does not seem to feel the need to finish that thought, nor to say anything more for several moments. As he sips his tea, it is perhaps not entirely clear whether he is silent as he ponders what orders he will be giving or silent because he has not realized that he is being looked to for orders at all. Eventually, however, he ends the suspense: "Let us commence attempts to locate additional foundries. If we are able to do so, and if the analysis of intelligence gathered regarding these installations makes a repeat of Operation Silent Mastiff seem plausible, then we will attack." It is a highly conditional statement, even more caveats in his tone than he managed to fit into words, but it is, at the end of the day, both agreement and order.

"By your command," Kepner replies to Laughlin. There might be sarcasm lurking there. It's veiled in enough good nature to make one not so sure.

"Red beat you to the joke," says Pewter with a laugh. "I tell y'all — part of me wanted to make her admiral so I could sit in a little un-frakked corner of Aerilon with a boat and some fishin'." With that, he pushes himself to his feet, the legs of his chair digging into the thick carpet as it struggles to deal with his weight. Setting down his cup and chucking his Triad cards in Kepner's direction, he moves to gather up the reports — only to find that Parry's already a step ahead of him. "But I guess," he rumbles from the hatch, "me and mine're goin' fishin' after all. Y'all boys take care."

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