PHD #375: Feasibility
Summary: Trask pitches his Skinjob detection idea to Cameron, then picks the good doctor's brain about Cylon brains.
Date: 08 Mar 2042 AE
Related Logs: Whittled Down By Small Cuts (Skinjob detection); Bizarro Brains (Cameron reports his findings to Bannik); As Flies to Wanton Boys (Morgenfield's symptoms)
Cameron Trask 
BioChem Lab - Deck 10 - Battlestar Cerberus
Post-Holocaust Day: #375
Not nearly as large as it probably should be, the Navy seems to have added this area almost as an afterthought. Various machines and testing equipment line the rooms exterior, their complex functions in various states of use throughout the day and night. In the center of the room are two islands that have broad work areas and microscopes sitting at the ready. Clean testing materials, vials, and tools stand on end in metal grates in the middle. At the rear of the room is a huge fridge, its double doors locked most of the time. Beside it is another locked steel cabinet containing a variety of chemicals and compounds used for testing and comparison.
Condition Level: 2 - Danger Close

In the past few months the BioChem Lab has become more like Cameron's personal office and laboratory. Though he does share the space with other technicians and scientists, for the most part he controls the space and the use thereof, since his research into Cylon biology is of priority concern. As such, when he received word that Trask wished to meet with him about Fleet security, it seemed, if nothing else, a secure and appropriate place to meet. For the moment, it has been cleaned up, all slides and brain slices tucked away in the massive fridge in the back, and Cameron is taking the time while waiting to do some cleaning up, wiping down surfaces and rinsing glass slides and medical tools.

It's been a while since the men last met. True to his word, Trask had spoken with the CMO to secure Cameron the necessary clearances to work on assorted Cylon biotech research projects, but that was back in November. Life, death, assault missions, rescue ops, a dirty bomb compromising two of Cerberus' decks, a seemingly ceaseless string of attacks upon the Fleet, and the general miscellany that demand the attention of a doctor and a squadron leader, respectively, have filled the days leading up to now. At the appointed time, aforementioned SL arrives, stepping into the lab once the guards outside verify he's supposed to be here. Closing the hatch behind him, he amiably, if somewhat subduedly greets, "Doc. You mind if I lock this?"

Head lifting as Trask enters into the biochem lab, Cameron shakes his head and replies, "Not at all, Captain." The door already requires a security card swipe to enter in, but that still would allow quite few people to drop by if they were so inclined, and if this meeting is as important as the Captain deems, Cameron certainly has no complaints. Gesturing to one of the chairs by the freshly wiped down lab table, the doctor and scientist offers, "Would you care for a seat? Some coffee?" Strolling over to the small area where beverages and foods are kept for late night hours, Cameron pours himself a cup and Trask one as well, if the rough and tumbled squadron leader so indicates. "What can I do you for?"

Locking the hatch and getting straight to the point, as is his wont to do, Trask asks, "You've heard about The Gun," audible capital letters, "that the Areion has, yeah?" There's no real wait for an answer before the SL advances closer and reveals, "I have a hypothesis that I'm aimin' to test, and it looks like Command just might agree to it." The seat is eyed and that part of the offer accepted. "Thanks, Doc, but unless it's from the Deck, I'll take a pass." The former knuckledragger oh so love his Deck-style coffee. A glance about leads to the observation, "Nice set-up here. You settlin' in a'right to Fleet life?"

Chuckling softly, Cameron just pours the one cup and joins Trask at the table, noting, "I cleaned up. Hell, this is probably the cleanest room on the ship." He takes a seat as well, sipping from his cup and holding it between his hands. Even though the room is as warm as any other on the ship, the cold sterility of it, and the frequently opening fridge makes it seem chilly at times. "I've heard something about a 'gun', and that it had an unusual effect on Cylon ships or something?" In truth, Cameron doesn't hear that much about what is going on militarily, for all of his working on the military ship. He sticks to fixing up his patients, doing his research, and taking care of Elpis. Glancing about, his shoulders shrug as he notes, "With the work that Bannik has loaded me up with, I needed a dedicated space. Had to wait until the deck had been repaired, of course, and then had to dig up some equipment, but it's not a bad little lab to work in." Taking another sip, clearly not following the line of logic here, Cameron asks, "How exactly can I be of help to you in this little 'experiment' you're proposing?"

"The last time we were in Audumbla," Kal explains, "a skinjob calling itself Morgenfield was working on the Deck. Long story short, when flying in the soup outside, she— it— whatever— was looking green around the gills, and it wasn't from the CO2 poisoning the rest of the flight detail was suffering." He's kind of glossing over this incident for several reasons, but he does get to the important part, "Since it seems the radiation of this place was causing physiological or whatever problems skinjobs may have, I've been wondering if the radiation from The Gun might cause similar symptoms. We already know what it does to Raiders, Heavies, and Centurions," a nod of confirmation to Cameron's query. "I pitched the idea to the CAG, who brought it to the Areion's CAG, whom she said was very intrigued by the idea. Enough so that he's running it past his Chain of Command."

"So you want me to, what exactly? Apply similar types of radiation to Cylon brain tissue samples and see what effects it has? Or are you thinking more of creating some sort of x-ray that emits said radiation to see if it could work as a Cylon detector?" Taking another sip of his coffee, Cameron muses, "Do we have any idea of the required levels of radiation are low enough not to affect humans adversely, but still strong enough to give a 'positive' reading for a skinjob? Or are you thinking of something else entirely, more along the line of designing weapons like 'The Gun' for use with the Vipers?" And if that is his thinking, Cameron has no idea how he might be able to assist the Captain. That would be a job for Engineering.

"Well," the electrical engineer turned ECO begins, idly rubbing at the back of his head, "we know that humans don't suffer any adverse effects of the rays when inside a Raptor or Viper. I don't know the specs of The Gun," the smirk wry enough to indicate that Spooks don't like sharing their secrets, "or if turning it on the capital ships would show similar results to the fighters. That's where you come in. I imagine they," being the Areion, "have some docs and scientists on-staff who know more about how the radiation works and what risks it might pose to people at high dosages. Then again, they've suffered a lot of losses, so maybe not. Also, they evidently haven't considered the idea 'cuz, if they had, I don't doubt someone would've said something by now. So, in the simplest terms, I'd like you to explore the idea. See if it's even feasible. If it's somehow going to put the populous at risk, I'm not sure anyone will sign-off on it. If that's not an issue, though, we need to work out criteria and the like. I know what I saw with Morgenfield. That's far from scientific, though. You wanna examine samples or whatever, that's your call." Seeing how Adair is the professional.

Biting his lower lip thoughtfully, Cameron notes, "It's certainly worth looking into, but I do worry that it might lead to the accusation and persecution of individuals who might be completely innocent and just have an aberrant reaction to the radiation. We have no way to do a proper experiment. We have no assured control group. Any one of us could be a skinjob. I'm even getting the feeling, having read some of the reports and hearing the various comments and testimonies, that perhaps some skinjobs are like sleeper agents, not even aware of what they are."

Taking another thoughtful sip from his cup, Cameron muses, "I would feel a great deal more assured if we had a known skinjob in our possession, on who I could experiment. Determine the effect that the radiation has on them specifically so we could know definitively why it affects them and not us. But without that information, I cannot help but fear that we might involve ourselves in a witch hunt, in which innocent people may suffer." His lips twist as he notes, "Not that we haven't all suffered enough. But someone else will have to make the decision of whether or not the risks are acceptable. Personally, I'm not quite ready to sacrifice some for the benefit of all…"

Bootstrap doesn't seem surprised. "That's definitely part of the rub. I also take it that you didn't have a chance to run any tests on that Five while it was still in custody." Which also does not appear to surprise him. "I have no interest in witch hunts. And I sure as frak want those running the experiments and reviewing the results to be monitored and reviewed, and those monitors also be monitored and reviewed. At this point, though, I'm more concerned about the possible feasibility. As it stands, there are enemy agents in the Fleet, and— wait. Sleeper agents? Seriously?" Cue look that is equal parts incredulous and alarmed.

"No," Cameron all but growls, irritation crossing his features as they gave up possibly the most important and useful piece of research material in their possession before he got the chance to study her. "I think it's definitely worth following up on the possibility. I'll set up a meeting with the engineers and scientists over on the Areion, get the specs on the radiation and start setting up some tests and experiments if it is relatively safe to expose humans to it. Though in truth, no radiation is good. Even if it doesn't have any obvious immediate effects, it can lead to tumors and cancers later, depending on the length of exposure and the damage done to base DNA."

His head lifts at Trask's sudden surprise, Cameron's shoulders shrugging as he offers, "It's merely a hypothesis of my own. There have been too many accounts of crewmen that served side by side with us, died protecting us, and then suddenly a few months later a doppleganger Cylon of them shows up later. That, coupled with the chips recovered from both the Centurion and the Raiders, makes me wonder. We ran into trouble with the Cylons originally because they became sentient. I would think they might find they have the same problem themselves, unless they took precautions to guard against it. I don't think it's a coincidence that the same chip was found in the cerebral cortex, in the area that rules independent thought, reasoning, and self-awareness." Again, his shoulders shrug as Cameron notes, "It would be far easier for them to repress a personality, I would imagine, than to continually hide one. And they've certainly proven themselves to be our masters in every form of scientific advancement. If they can transfer consciousness from a body, through space, and then place it in another body, there are no limits to what they are capable of doing with a brain and the knowledge stored therein."

"Yeah, well," is the SL's somewhat dry observation, "when faced with the more than slight possibility of the total eradication of the human race, tumors and cancers are an acceptable risk. Besides, most of the Air Wing is so pumped full of anti-rads, we're kinda hosed to begin with. The people rescued from the surface are arguably worse off."

To the rest, Trask considers, having the vague look of someone who thinks he's following but isn't 100% certain that he really is. "You mean that you think the skinjobs implanted these chips to prevent the Cents, Raiders and the like from rebelling?" The very notion tickles his dark sense of humor. "Gotta love the hypocrisy." Of greater importance, as far as he's concerned, "Did you ever have a change to crack open Morgenfield's skull? To be honest, I'm not even sure we still have her on ice. From what I know of Shaker, though — he being one of those skinjobs who fought with and died with us on Warday — according to others of his model line, he was defective. They could've been lying, of course, but if not… well, that poor bastard's very consciousness has been utterly deleted."

"I think," Cameron replies, with no real certainty and less assurance than he stated the earlier facts of their conversation, "that these chips are to prevent these creatures of developing any more than they want them to. Prevent them from having a sense of identity and self-determination. I think it makes them very good soldiers who don't question orders or get distracted by too many ideas." Tilting his head to one side, Cameron asks, "Is it hypocrisy, or selective breeding and learning from our mistakes?"

Sighing softly at the question, Cameron replies, "Yes, yes, but sadly nothing helpful to report. I did get to study the remains, but there were no traces of silica or any other abnormalities. I checked the notes of the previous doctors who studied her eight months ago and their results where the same. If there are any irregularities they either are too subtle to detect or dissipated some time after death."

"Until they own up that they've more or less enslaved…" Kal's head jostles a bit when he searches for a suitable term and then settles on, "beings," for lack of a better word, "that, the history books tell us, are capable of some semblance of sentience — yeah. Hypocrisy would be it, seeing how they go on and on about how humans did the same frakking thing. And, just like people," he adds with a smirk, "they doubtless rationalize it 'cuz it's always different when someone else pulls a dick move."

The sardonic humor fades when getting back to Morgenfield. "Can't say I'm surprised. Not that I'm a doc, 'cuz I'm not, but I've heard dead tissue and whatnot can differ quite a bit. Seems within reason that if there were elevated levels of silica, they'd be gone. Plus, we still don't know what effect the radiation of Audumbla has on Cylon physiology. Speaking of which," the SL segues, "I went over your results with Bannik the other day. I noticed that the Raiders towed from within Audumbla have not been tested, nor the one that was decommissioned by The Gun. I know you're busy and all, but if you could crack those open an' take a look, that would be oh so dreamy of you." Twice, he blinks, in a rascally way.

"Perhaps, perhaps not. Most things leave a trace in the body after death. No metabolism to eliminate it. There is some cellular decomposition but if it was there in a detectable amount it should have been traceable unless the Cylons specifically have the ability to eliminate it upon death. Or, it's possible, that the original lab work was not done correctly or thoroughly. Though it all seems in order." Nodding to that point, Cameron adds, "Indeed, I have no idea what the effects of this particular radiation might be having." One brow lifts, a rough chuckle rumbling from Cameron's throat as he muses under his breath, "…as if I didn't already have enough on my plate??" Rubbing at the back of his neck, he offers the Captain a crooked wan smile and notes, "No one has bothered to mention the 'new recruits', as it were. I'll talk to Bannik myself and see if I can't get them brought up to the lab ASAP." His head tilts to one side as Trask batbats his lashes, the doctor chuckling wryly and shaking his head. "You're used to getting your way, aren't you Captain?"

"Well, from what I've observed, Heavy Raiders don't have anything resembling that brain the non-Heavies have, so I'm not sure what that Gun specimen might show." At the doctor's complaint of being so busy, Trask cracks a grin and cheekily ribs, "Your own damn fault for goin' on to get all edjumacated in neurology and biomechatronics an' all that good stuff. It just wasn't enough to be pretty." For shame, Cameron. "Well, I'm one to talk," comes the mock self-admonishment, "seeing how I also refused to coast on my good looks. Such is our bane, Doc. Such is our bane."

As for getting his way, the way Bootstrap smiles is very telling. "When I'm dealing with sensible people, yes." Insufferable pain in the ass that he may be — and often is — there is no discounting that he possesses a most astute sense of acumen.

"Well, as you're not a doctor, I'm not a pilot. It's all brains to me, one way or the other, regardless of what it's attached to and controlling. I could have sworn one of the brains I was working on was from the Heavy Raider, but I'll have to check in again with Bannik on that. I got the biological material and the close up photographs of how it was hooked in, not the profile shot of its best side." Taking a sip of his cooling cup of coffee, Cameron sighs and nods his head, jesting back, "Yeah, worst day of my life, the day I decided to become smart and wents to college. Never make that mistake again." His eyes become devilish as Cameron points out, "Well, no need to rely on your good looks when you have that sparkling and delightful personality…" Though Cameron himself has never run afoul of the Captain, doesn't mean he hasn't heard stories.

Oh, there is no shortage of stories about Kal Trask, and most of them are not particularly favorable. Even so, for all that others may (and do) grouse about the man, he still manages to garner no small amount of grudging professional respect. People may not like him or his methods, but there is no denying that he gets excellent results. Amused by Cameron's quip, he remarks, "Nah. That's my good looks. They simply give that illusion. Somethin' to do with hormones, I think." Winsomely, he smiles and then rises. "As ever, Doc Adair, it's been a pleasure." Which is genuine. "And the 411 is most definitely appreciated. Certainly lookin' forward to hear about what else you may find. And if you're in need of more specimens, lemme know."

Reaching out a hand, Cameron offers in turn, "Likewise, Captain, likewise." Straightening up, the doctor stretches out the kinks in his shoulders and notes, "Any time you feel like bringing up fresh meat, as it were, the door is open. The more samples I have to work with, the better. As for your other request, I'll get in touch with the Aerion right away and see what they have to say for themselves…"

There is no handshake; Bootstrap is a forearm clasp kind of guy. "Will do, Doc. Dunno if you'll notice any differences in what we already have, but I towed each one for specific reasons that go beyond mere coolness factor. As long as they keep leavin' corpses, though, I don't mind ransacking the graveyard." That said, the SL departs.

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