PHD #352: Don't Hurt the Innocent
PHD #352: Don't Hurt the Innocent
Summary: Khloe and Vandenberg talk about private things that would normally cause others to question their character. Khloe blows up.
Date: 13 Feb 2042 AE
Related Logs: None
Khloe Vandenberg 
Cerberus Corridor
Somewhere on the ship!
Post-Holocaust Day: #352

Despite the conditon-two status, Khloe Vakos is not flying CAP. After subjecting herself to alert Viper scramble two nights ago, her doctor had some choice words for her. So now, she's on light duty, only permitted single CAP, and no strenuous exercise. Stepping out of sickbay and heading down the corridor, the Captain, in her off-duty greens, is holding a fresh jar of whatever ointment they have her applying to her burns, and a plastic package of lightly-adhesive bandage-squares. And from the pained expression on her face as she walks, she's probably not on much of any painkillers at the moment.

Its here that Vandenberg see's her. Its anyone's guess where the Marine is on her way to or from, but she looks like she just left the athletics area. She's in her tanks and sweatpants, a heavily sagged gymbag over her shoulder. While usually pensive to a surprise greeting or just stoic when upset, the woman's face is just blank and lifeless like she's lost in a sea of thoughts. She nearly passes Khloe when she realizes who it is and she forces a quick smile. "Captain. Feeling any better, sir?"

Khloe slows, turning to face the pint-sized blonde. "Lieutenant. Well, I hurt like my side's on fire, but they tell me that if I keep up with applying this foul-smelling crap on schedule and keeping my harsher burns clean, I'll be fine. I'm on two different antibiotics, and I refuse pain killers every time I walk in, and out, of there." She shrugs her good shoulder. "I'll get through it. I'll be much better in a week's time." A pause. "Did you just come from the athletics center?" A small, wistful frown and grimace.

Vandenberg clasps her hands in front of her, the smile fading a bit. Its not a sinister look but it might be unsettling. "Sir, you have probably heard it before, but I would consider the painkillers. They aren't nearly for comfort. If your body hurts then you won't use it correctly, which means it may not heal correctly. But that's just a Marine's take on things, Captain." She nods to the last, glancing to her bag. "Aye, sir, I did. I was teaching some of the recruits the deadlier points of hand-to-hand. How to kill, and be effective and fast about it. Especially when faced by an armed opponent at this range." Just barely out of arms length.

"I see. Good skills to have," she assents quickly. But she waves off the talk about painkillers. "I can't take narcotics, and methadones lose their effectiveness quickly… probably because I have a liver like a spotted Pyramid ball." Khloe sniffs, and scratches at the inside of her left arm. Dressed in her tanks, the scarring from half a lifetime ago are clearly visible. "Uh, Lieutenant, if you don't have anything going on right now, I was wondering if I could ask you a question or two." Scratch, scratch.

Van pauses and shakes her head. "Totally forgot, sir. Not sure how that slipped my mind. I can understand the reluctance. Consider it dropped." But the request for a few questions gets a glance down. "Yeah. I've got a few. And sir? If you've got time I'd like to get some advice from you as well. I'm not about to burst into tears on a shoulder but I could use some guidance." A pause. "Off the record advice."

Khloe nods slightly, and tilts her head in a direction off the beaten path. It's not too far away from the main corridor but it's by one of those cross-hallways that are rarely used. The Captain leans up against the bulkhead, closing her eyes - the metal must be cooling. The usual stern frown briefly melts away from her face. "I, er, frak. This is stupid. Why did you give me that picture?" Eyes open, fixing on Natalie, brows knitting slowly. It's not a disapproving frown, really, but with Khloe it's hard to tell.

Vandenberg follows her around the corner and stops by the other woman as she leans to the bulkhead. Both her hands rest on the bag strap as if it were a rifle sling. Old habits don't just die hard, these days they don't leave. The question seems to surprise the Marine but its not offensive. "Uhm, well." She takes a breath. "Skip, to be honest I was afraid you had been badly hit. I wanted to bring you something to..well I don't want to say cheer you up? But something to remind you of what you mean to people. I know I'm not a pilot. I'll never be one and hey, whatever. We play our roles. But it just seemed.. I dunno." She stops herself there and looks back to Khloe.

Khloe studies Vandenberg's face a moment before replying, and her words are very carefully spoken. "You know, when you first handed it to me, for a split second, I didn't know who that picture was of. I mean, it looked like the berths, and I recognized other pilots in it, but." She glances away, a nervous smile on her face. "This is stupid. I… didn't recognize myself," she says, looking back at the Marine. "It took me a few seconds to realize that it was me. I mean, I look in the mirror every day, and I don't see what you were able to capture with a junky sechub camera."

Natalie waits until she finishes and shares the same short, nervous smile. Why -she- has it is anyone's guess. "Sir?" She clears her throat. "Sir, people assign their own meanings to things. You might get something else from the photo. For me?" She takes a breath, looking away as she thinks about what was given. "I see a strong, confident officer that people follow. A smart, driven woman who isn't afraid to tackle what needs tackling. And?" Natalie shrugs, looking back to Khloe. "You run to the emergency. You respond to the sound of gunfire. You lead a band of people who just don't know fear. I didn't see anyone who looked scared, sir. Particularly you." Nat pauses there, looking like she's going to say more for a few seconds before she does. "I wanted it to piss you off, sir. If you were down and hurt bad, I wanted you to look at that and get angry. I wanted you back on the line, Skip."

"My Knights are some of the best pilots left in the world," Khloe states quietly, not willing to shout her praise for everyone to see. "I ride them and make them hate me, because it makes them tough. I can't be their friend so I force them to bond, even if it's just talk about how much Captain Vakos is a hard-ass." She presses her lips tightly together, pausing, gathering her thoughts. Ashen-blue eyes glance away again, focusing on some distant bulkhead panel or hatch framework. "It didn't make me angry. It made me stop and see myself through someone else's eyes. I've never really had that luxury. I'm… glad - " She clears her throat, focusing on Vandenberg again. "I'm glad that I'm inspiring to you, Lieutenant."

"That's what makes you an officer worth following and aspiring to, sir. Endurance of privation might be a lifestyle choice for you but I think it also means a lot. For what its worth, thank you, sir." Its not Van delving into her touching moments. Its a genuine appreciation for the hard work the Captain does. "Pleased to hear that, sir. I'm making my effort." She clears her throat. "But, uh, sir? These off-the-record questions I have? I need advice and I need to know that what we say stays between us. I don't need it getting to my command or especially back to Medical." Must stay on the line. Whatever is bugging her must be important.

Khloe swallows something back, nodding slowly to Natalie. "As long as it's not comprimising to this ship or the fleet, you have my confidentiality," she says.

Natalie's turn to look uncomfortable. But she needs this. "Sir, I'm not about to emo dump but I'm going to talk about how I feel. It makes me even more uncomfortable than anyone else." A steady breath and she looks down. "Sir, I know what's important to us. Given our situation, we are fighting for our lives and the future of our race. But I've been spending a lot of time investigating this knife, sir. A lot. The more I find, the more- the less I feel like we're doing everything that needs to be done." She sifts her stance, still clutching to the straps of her bag. "I remember having that Five in my sights during the hostage negotiation and just knowing I should kill her. But in doing so, I know that it would have killed innocent people. But I look at what we traded off and the more I dig, the more horrific the implications of that trade become. I find myself second-guessing my decisions. In prticular my decisions to follow orders when I know they are wrong. Like, I know in my gut they are wrong. I just can't prove it until after the fact. I'm hitting the point, sir, where I just don't know whether or not other people are capable of making the hard choices. Annnd." She's fidgety. Nervous. Highly nervous. "And I think about this. And I know that I am. I rationalize it. My soul agrees but it scares the hell out of me. What should I do, sir?"

Listening carefully, Khloe offers this: "You say you know in your gut that these orders are wrong. I think this is your problem. You are letting yourself be controlled by your fears, justified or not - it's not up to you to decide what's to be done about the Cylon religious artifacts. That's for the brass. You, Lieutenant, need to shoot when ordered to shoot, and stay your gun when ordered to stay." A pause, and then she lowers her voice. "There is a mechanism in place, of course, for challenging your superior officer's orders, or for disobeying illegal orders. But you can only go that route unless you are sure. You will be Court Martialed and drummed out the service at best." She moistens her lips, and continues in her low voice, "Didn't I already explain to you once that your problem is that you think too much?"

She wanted to hear what Khloe though, she's getting it. Where-as a few months ago Natalie might have growled and returned fire for some of these things said, the Marine listens with patience. She -is- learning. Van really wants to be better. "Sometimes I'm not concerned with being court martialed, sir. I think about it every day and wish I had shot that Five. Killed those innocent people. I'd be in the brig pending charges but I would still have been right to do so. We can't be sure of anything anymore, sir. Hell, most of this stuff is circumstantial at best, and at worst, complete nonsense. We've got not proof. We're only being given potentials. There are no more hard facts. Our hard facts went up with the colonies." Its not her typical tone for a reply. Van is trying to draw careful lines to explain her reasoning. "I know I think too much. I know I'm not as smart as everyone else, either, but I'm trying. I can't get it out of my head. I feel like taking some people by the lapels and shaking them until something competent comes out. But at the end of the day.. I know. I'm supposed to follow orders." 'Supposed to'. Not 'has to'. It wasn't a voluntary confusion, either.

Khloe's scowl deepens. "There are always facts, Lieutenant. Rules and regulations. Information learned about the enemy." She shakes her head, jaw briefly clenching. "No, there are always facts. There are always options. You can choose to color inside the lines like the rest of us, or you can go off half-cocked based on what you feel and get us all frakking killed. Do your job, Lieutenant, and do not stray from it."

Again, she could get angry but she doesn't. Her eyes are stormy as they look to the bulkhead behind Khloe, just low of her shoulders. There is a struggle going on inside. Vandenberg is fighting a desperate battle for..something. She's not insane. She's drawing logical conclusions - for some people. But there is violence in those eyes. She stands there with her hands on the straps of her bag, knuckles slowly turning white. Finally, after seconds tick by, she looks back to Khloe and nods. "Aye, sir. Thank you. Be safe, Skipper." No dismissal. Van just turns to go and head back towards wherever she was going.

"Hey!" Khloe pushes off the wall, fueled by anger at the woman turning away from her. She's quick to grab Vandenberg by the shoudler and whirl her around. "Don't you turn your frakking back on me, Lieutenant. I didn't dismiss you and I'm not letting you walk away in some little rich bitch's huff. That shit might work on daddy's yacht but it doesn't work on this boat. Now you asked for my opinion and I gave it. If you don't like it, then don't frakking come to me for advice." She's right up in Vandenberg's face, and despite the initial sharp utterance, her voice has been growly and low.

Being spun, Vandenberg tumbles a bit sideways and it puts her between the bulkhead and Khloe. She seems a little surprised at the sudden outburst from Khloe but otherwise unmoved. Khloe is dressing down. Van says nothing. It barely looks like it registers. Her hands are still on her bag but the grip has slackened. Eventually, though, she days say something. Its methodically calm, a long departure from what might otherwise be growled or bitched. "I didn't say I disliked it, sir. Or even that I disagreed. But I am sorry I walked away, sir. I wasn't thinking."

Khloe's jaw hangs open. A look of astonishment crosses her face. After a moment of disbelief, she shakes her head. "Fine. Dismissed. Frak off." And that's when Khloe steps past her, wincing as she does so - the sudden movement was likely rather painful for her.

As Khloe's face drops, that same diseffected look in her eyes returns and she looks past the woman. After she leaves, Natalie stands there for a few minutes while people just pass by on their way to their own destinations. Eventually Natalie's back finds the wall and she slides down. The fight in her mind rages.

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