PHD #346: Flight Footage
Flight Footage
Summary: Wherein a review of Bubbles' flight footage turns into a discussion touching on Many Things.
Date: 07 Feb 2042 AE
Related Logs: None
Cidra Psyche 
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: #346

Cidra makes use of the Ready Room as little as she can. Apart from full-court briefings or other situations where it's use is strictly required, one might even say she avoids the place. The reason isn't exactly difficult to guess. It's always had a cavernous feel to it since Warday hit. The place was made to hold more than three hundred pilots. It's never been more than half full since their numbers were decimated that day, and even with Nuggets actually coming out of training and Spooks from the Areion hanging about, they haven't so much grown their numbers as slowed the inevitably bleeding.

Nevertheless, Cidra's called LT Athenos-Devlin here today. There's no other place that's suited to review flight footage so easily, and that is the order for this meeting. The CAG is already seated in the front row. The place is darkened, light from the LCD screen, which is already frozen on a starfield and queued-up gun-camera footage. She's a little early. The tape is paused as she waits, smoking.

Another day, another CAP. Psyche's still in her flight suit when she enters the Ready Room, entering with a silence and solemnity which — once out-of-character for the bubbly Bubbles — is ever-more common in her demeanor. She pauses halfway, taking a breath, looking pensively over the empty seats, touching an arm-rest with a brief, sad familiarity. The footage on the screen is glanced at, the smile that tugs her lips wry. "Leonis," she says simply, taking a seat one down from the CAG. "Doesn't that seem like a lifetime ago." It's not really a question as much as a sigh.

"Two lifetimes at least." There's dryness in Cidra's answer, but it's not a joke. If anything, the ruefulness is mixed with a black sobriety. "I think of Leonis often. Rain and gunfire, all so fast I could barely tell the difference…" She clears her throat. "Sit, please, Lieutenant." She doesn't offer to put out her cigarette. She holds it deftly between her lips as she rewinds the footage. She's apparently played it through herself before Psyche arrived. The black of space zips back to stormy skies until they're over Colonial Fleet Air Station Anadyomene. Back to take-off as they got those precious birds off the ground. Then she just lets it play straight. Watching. "It is like handwriting. Watching guncamera footage. No two pilots quite loop their 'o's the same, no?"

Psyche's long since grown accustomed to the second-hand emanations of her fellow pilots. Perhaps she's even become a contact addict, for she seems to find the miasma comforting, and breathes in deeply as she settles back. "I… can't help but think of Leonis fondly. At least that last night." She shakes her head a little, frowning. It wasn't without losses, that night — personal and keen. "Those few minutes," she amends further. The ones they're viewing now. "I was absolutely sure I wasn't coming back, y'know? So sure. And I can snap back into that mindset so easily, into that moment, which makes the now — everything since then — seem… weird. Like I'm hallucinating." She glances at Cidra, wrinkling her nose and brow in worry. "I'd sort of prefer not to wind up with a psych eval."

"Ah…" Cidra's exhale is soft, and accompanied by a billow of soft, when Psyche mentions thinking of Leonis fondly. She doesn't argue, but the sound doesn't hold agreement. "I did not think I was coming back, either. Especially my Viper fell. And then Boots and Shiv were there and…well. We made it back. We were as whole again as I have ever felt us after that day. Nearly so. Gods mercies upon Captain Laskaris. I owed you better, my harsh friend…" That said almost more to herself than Psyche. Eyes never leaving the screen. "You are fortunate I do not believe in psychiatry, then. I occasionally make a pretense of respecting it because such is the expectation, but…what I believe in are signatures. The Areon's Vipers are not 'improved', Bubbles. That is a common misconception. What they are is *specified.* Modified and built around the quirks and strengths and weaknesses of a pilot so that the plane is unique as the flyer of it. I do not think this thing all in this Wing are suited for. But I think it would do you very well so. So tell me, Psyche 'Bubbles' Athenos. Lately Psyche Devlin. Who are you? And what is this telling us?" She gestures a be-cigaretted hand to the screen, the smoke billowing up in the dimmed light of the LCD screen.

"I really miss Lasher," Psyche whispers, also more to herself, adding a rather pouty, "Frakdamnit." She takes a deep breath and raises her eyes to the screen again, glancing only once, briefly, at Cidra as the woman speaks of signatures. She shakes her head a little, a frown drawing a vertical line between her brows. The sparks and explosions lighting the screen flicker in her eyes. "I don't know." The words are out of her mouth even though she realizes they won't even come close to satisfying the CAG. They're more filler than disclaimer. She blows out a breath. "I…" What is this telling them? She watches the footage loop back and begin cycling again. "I pick a target, and go after it full throttle. Everything else falls away. It's like I get tunnel vision." The screen lights an obliterating white and the camera jerks, shaking with a quick succession of glancing impacts. "I fly straight through the wreckage, most of the time," she narrates what just occurred. "I only course-correct after."

"I miss him, too. I miss all of them. You think it will start to hurt less, but it does not. If anything it hurts more." Cidra adds it soft and leaves it at that. A soft "Ah" at Psyche's analysis. "And do you think this a strength or a weakness, Bubbles?"

"A quirk," Psyche answers, fiddling absently with her rings as she frowns at the screen. "If I were teaching someone, it's not something I'd tell them to do? But I can handle those hits — it's like flying in bad atmo, like being back on Tauron — and when I come out on the other side, still on course, I'm… I don't have to re-orient myself, like I would have if I'd taken evasive action. It only takes a split second, admittedly, but it's a second I get to shave off my game."

"Speed and…directness over aerobatics," Cidra says with a slight nod. "That is good. That is what this is for. "More armor on the nose, perhaps. Quicker acceleration. Make you a little heavier, maybe deter your evasives, slow your turns, but if you are not using them anyway they do you little good." The barest hint of a smile crosses her lips. "You fly like Lasher, you know. A little. You have a better natural feel for flying than he did, but there is something in the essence. He was no ballerina. The man was *warrior*. Straight on target, deadly as anything. It used to scare the hell of me, that way he would fly." A pause, and she turns from the screen to look directly at Psyche. "He could not always handle it."

Psyche's expression is at war with itself, between abashed pride and intense melancholy. She closes her eyes and bow her head a moment, swallowing against a lump and taking a deep breath. "I might've learned more than a little from him," she says, finally looking up again — at the screen, then at Cidra's profile. "Back on Tauron. Idolized him, even. So… yeah. Wow." Her smile is nostalgic and painful, eyes turning back to the screen. "I guess I never realized. It's like flight DNA." She rakes her hair back, turning to meet Cidra's gaze as she feels the CAG's eyes on her. Her head tilts. She frowns and considers. "How so?"

"The thing about flying directly into the fray, Bubbles, is that they will shoot you down eventually," Cidra says. "Lasher wound up with more scars on his bird and more time in the vacuum post-ejection than any other pilot of his rank I have flown with. He was a warrior. He had the scars to prove it. And it caught up with him in the end. That was not a compliment I just gave you. It was not meant as a slight, either. Call it a 'quirk.' Use it when you can, but beware of it. Our 'quirks' are double-edged swords. They will cut us if we do not know when to make a sharp turn."

"Yeah, well," Psyche murmurs, looking away. She's chastened a bit, but only a bit. It would seem resembling the former SL, however the observation was meant, is still a point of pride for her. Clearly, she idolized him more than a little. "It catches up with all of us, in the end, right?" She glances down, catching herself fiddling with her rings. "Sorry," she follows up with a quick shake of her head. "That's — I don't normally spout nihilistic cop-outs. And… even if I did think we're all going to die — which I don't — I… we all have a duty to die less soon. If we can. There's no killing Cylons from the grave."

"Even all the perfection of aerobatics will betray you eventually," Cidra says. "Trick is to make to last as long as you can. Fire your guns, protect your wing. Recognize your weaknesses. Know your strengths. Compensate for the former, do not lean too heavily upon the latter. Remember what you fight for. There is such terrifying fury in it…" Though she smiles as she watches the footage roll, rain pounding so hard against the camera it makes this part nearly unwatchable. Apart from the bright flashes of KEW. "…and yet it is love, too, is it not? Flying and fighting. Some pilots try to turn off their emotions in the cockpit. You are not one of them."

"Always," Psyche says of the love, her voice barely a breath, perhaps inaudible until she repeats herself, eyes on the screen again. "Always. Ever since the first time up. It's like…" She shakes her head slightly, groping for clumsy words. "I spent a lifetime eating and sleeping, walking, running, frakking — doing all these things with my body, but it wasn't until I flew that I knew what my body was actually for." Another melancholy smile. "Tis and I got wicked stoned and rhapsodized about it, once — how the plane's an extension of your body, y'know? And it's like… like we're missing a limb, on the ground."

"…like there is never a place you are more right with the worlds than the cockpit. It strips away all…" Cidra smirks ever so slight. "…all the bullshit. And it focuses you. It makes you strong, because you have to be or it will kill you. It makes you better, because so much is relying on you and that machine. It makes you free and beholden all at the same time…I used to imagine that was what rapture was like. Ecstasy. Clarity. To be at one with the gods. I never felt it. Not with all the chamalla I smoked, all the rites I performed so perfect, all the prayers I said in chapel…but I sit in a Raptor cockpit, Bubbles and it is just…right. There. Just *right*, you know?"

"Yes!" Psyche avers, a touch of laughter in her voice, more a sound of delight and accord — perhaps even a little surprise — then amusement. "Yes, sir. I think I… I think I do know." She nods, tucking a leg up under her and looking once more from Cidra to the screen. "That's why, I think, I look back on Leonis and…" she trails of, raising a hand to point at LCD image. "That. Then. There. Ecstasy. Clarity. Freedom. From fear, from doubt, from pain — pure purpose. Completion. And the presence — the approbation — of the Lords. I wanted to believe. All my life. But I'd never… experienced anything spiritual." She lets her hand fall to her lap, gazing up at the battle over Leonis with reverence. "I believed, then. I more than believed — I knew. And was known. It was awesome."

"It is not quite love and not quite rapture," Cidra says. "But it is no small thing, Bubbles. It is no small thing." That smile remains on her lips. Touched with sadness, but it lingers there. She lets the footage plays until it runs to the end, and then she just lets the screen go blue. "Well. I think the Deck crew can make something out of this. For your 'Mark Seven-Point-Five.' I should ask them if they can work over one of the birds we retrieved from Leonis for you. There is a rightness to that, I think."

Psyche watches the blue screen for a few beats before dragging her attention away, like the footage is still looping in her mind. She bows her head to Cidra's suggestion. "I'd be honored by that, sir. Deeply honored. Thank you."

"We shall see if we can get it done, then." Cidra stands. "There are other tapes. They are categorized by date. I trust you to sort through the rest yourself, if you think our technicians would find them useful in….modifying for you. Just tag them. I will have someone from air ops deliver them to the Deck on the morrow." She's ready to take her leave. The Ready Room is left to Psyche, if she has anymore use for it. With a look back at all the empty seats, the CAG does not seem of a want to linger.

"Thank you, sir." Psyche stands respectfully as Cidra takes her leave, then takes a deep breath and looks at the fairly daunting stack of tapes. "Fun," she murmurs to herself, dryly. She sets the Leonis footage aside, then pops in the next tape and settles to sit once more, resigned to the hours ahead.


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