BCH #013: EVENT - Fly
Summary: Three snipes and a Marine investigate an airlock.
Date: 12 Feb 2041 AE
Related Logs: A Tangled Web, A Sea Without a Shore, and Best Get to Work
Merrell Astrid Ren Demos Polaris 


Pipes, conduits, and cramped passageways. Heat and the smells of sweat and machine oil. Engineering is a maze of hallways that run deep into the aft of the Cerberus. Dotted with a few storage rooms, offices, and workshops, this section of the ship is constantly staffed by a huge team of professionals. From the main fuel tank feeds to the massive FTL drive room, no other part of the ship is more important than this section that provides propulsion and life support to every section of the battlestar.

There's something almost ghostly about a ship on lockdown — for rare is the occasion when the pitter-patter of feet and the chitter-chatter of voices can't be heard aboard a battlestar, and in the absence of humans all the other sounds are laid bare. The grinding of gears, the creaking of decks, the whistling of vents, the humming of lights: it's an ambient symphony in the key of Cerberus, music for anybody who cares to listen.

And listening in grim stillness is a pair of MPs with rifles in hand, just one of several patrols assigned to the area designated off-limits by the Master-at-Arms. Eyes staring forward, legs spaced apart, the two soldiers look straight ahead like statues from a temple — caryatids of flesh as impassive as marble.

Senior Chief Merrell leads the small team down the corridor. They've already checked a few airlocks and the woman is covered head to toe in varies bits of gear grease and oils that splotch her clothing, hands, hair and face. There's a small canvas toolkit in her hands that looks at about as used and abused as she does at the moment. Approaching the Marines she nods to them. "Anyone been through here?" she calls from a few yards out.

Ren is right behind Merrell, hauling his engineering kit with him, in a similar state of greasy as she. He frowns down the corridor as they go. Not used to getting these kinds of vibes from the ship he's worked so long to construct. "Not me, Chief," he replies to her, eyes shifting this way and that. This way and that.

Astrid tags along as well; her uniform is in the same state of greasy disrepair as the others. The quiet is a little unnerving. Never a sunny woman to begin with, she's quiet as the group makes its way down the corridor. Eyes move from the marines, to the corridor, and then to the chief with a quick shake of the head.

Demos strides along with the group of three. She also carries a well used kit, though hers contains demolitions tools. A streak of greese smudges her left cheek like a bruise and more marks her hands and arms. Flickering her gaze up to the Marines, she nods in recognition of one though does not yet address either.

"Nobody's come this way, Chief." The taller of the two guards doesn't quite relax as her cold blue eyes scan their target. She's got at least a head over Merrell and her posture is informed by the same sort of casual authority — but then again, she's also got a Picon P90 in her hands, its stock pressed close against her chest, and that's a gun that'll give confidence to the worst sort of wallflower. And into her wireless: "Baker Two, Baker Two-Three, the demo team is ours." Demos and the others are given a cursory look before she waves them through. "You may proceed when ready."

Merrell nods to the taller woman. "Thank you, Lance Corporal. Just remember - if we tell you to evacuate I want you to get out of here and physically seal this area off and notify Captain Gabrieli and the Master at Arms right away." The SCPO then looks to her team. "Alright. You know the drill. We've got three airlocks in this section. We're going to hit them in order. Ren: You will check the physical seals on the door first. Ter Avest, you'll verify electrical function, then Sergeant Demos will clear for tampering and visually check the interior of the airlocks before we enter. No deviations. Are we clear?" She waits for a nod from each, meeting their eyes before the woman turns and maneuvers past the Marines and down the hallway to the first door.

"The quiet's weird," Ren observes. To nobody but himself, really. He adds, half-embarrassed that he said anything out-loud, "I mean, I'm used to the sound of work crews all over this ship. The quiet's just…weird…" He makes himself stop talking, eyes shifting back to Demos and the Marines for a moment, before fixing his gaze ahead again. "Got it, Chief," he replies promptly to Merrell, hefting his kit and tromping over to give the seals a look-see.

<FS3> Ren rolls Repair: Bad Failure.

To Ren: You don't notice anything untoward about the entry mechanism itself — but in checking it, you're not nearly as careful as you should be. Maybe you're still feeling unnerved by the silence, or maybe it's just the fact that you're pretty tired after searching eight previous airlocks like this one. Anyway, in operating the airlock controls you accidentally use your greased-up hand, the one you promised yourself would never touch said controls. There's no way anybody will be able to salvage prints from this thing now.

"As crystal, Chief," Astrid pipes up from the back. Hefting her own kit in her hand, she moves forward, waiting a few steps outside the airlock as Ren does his work. "You and me both, kid," she mutters to the specialist; it just doesn't seem right, things being quiet like this.

Turning her attention to Merrell, Demos listens, "Crystal, Chief." As the others move forward, she clicks open her case and takes out the first few things she will need. The case is then closed and she follows the others onward. When Ren and Astrid move to the first door, she holds back to give them room… though the entry way is huge.

Ren idly flexes his greasy knuckles before going to work on the seals. Checking and double-checking it, snipe refuse-smeared fingers brushing the controls as he does so. Maybe the weird quiet has his nerves on edge, as he's not being quite so careful to avoid smudging it as he's been on the previous locks. He does sound confident enough when he says, "The openers look OK, Chief. Mechanically, at least."

Merrell isn't watching Ren work so closely. Its been a long day and she's seen him open enough airlocks today. The woman is looking down the corridor. "Yeah, the quiet is pretty odd. Unsettling, to say the least." Her Taurian accent rolls thick through her last words before looking back to Ren. "Fair enough. Do it."

Red slides to green as Ren pressurizes the seal, his greasy hand turning the dial with assurance. Then, with a truly terrifying creak, the blast door opens, its thick reinforced metal screeching rather loudly as rarely-used gears crank into motion. The massive hyperbaric chamber that's revealed looks like all the other airlocks the demo team has checked — that is, covered with the detritus of work shifts past.

Three brown sandwich wrappers lie in the corner, their waxy paper stained red and yellow with ketchup and mustard respectively; two buckets of grease rest half-closed near the door, their rims colored black and copper. A blueprint of the room has been tacked onto the portside wall, its detailed diagrams covered with pencil marks to guide the construction team in its work, and a standard-issue ladder stands near the blast door opposite where the team finds itself, its steps and rubber feet covered with slate grey paint. Twelve lights — four on each wall and four hanging above — lend harsh illumination to the cold and quiet room, and as the ship creaks once more, it's hard to forget that only two feet of steel stands between the team and the frozen vacuum outside.

<FS3> Demos rolls Alertness: Success.
<FS3> Merrell rolls Alertness: Failure.
<FS3> Astrid rolls Alertness: Success.
<FS3> Ren rolls Alertness: Success.

To Demos, Astrid, and Ren: It doesn't very long for your eyes to adjust to the room's somewhat dimmer lighting, and they're sharp enough to notice a faint black-gold blotch of something on the ground by the canisters of grease. A closer look reveals that the pattern on the floor matches almost exactly the pattern on the side of one of the canisters: it's been spilled and picked up.

Merrell stares at the door as it creaks open. She scratches her cheek as it locks in place, smudging additional gunk across her jaw. "What?" she asks, looking mildly offended at the junk in the airlock. The SCPO glances down the hallway to the Marines and then back into the room, but she doesn't go in just yet. "Well there's our grease, I assume." She sighs, looking to the team. "Go ahead inside and check it out. I'll post here in case of problems." Sticking to procedure, a team always leaves someone on the outside.

Ren backs away from the door as it opens, eyes going down to his hands for a beat, as if something just occurred to him. He frowns, swearing under his breath. But, whatever he's on about, he doesn't go past that with it for now. He squints into the dimness beyond the opening. His eyes are used to working in this light by now, so it doesn't take them long to adjust to it. And narrow on something on the ground by the canisters. "What the frak…?" he mutters, pointing.

Astrid sees it too, despite the dim lighting. On her way to investigate the airlock's electrical workings, she frowns as one of the cans catches her eye. Laying her kit down on the deck, she steps in for a closer look. There's a dark splotch on the ground next to one of the canisters; her eyes move from the splotch to the can and back again. "Looks like the same shit that was on that crazy frak's hands," she muses. "Somebody knocked this over."

Stepping toward the locking mechanism, Demos prepars to do the tampering check when something within catches her attention. Frowning, she closes her eyes tightly, then opens them to hurry the adjustment to the light. Then, she looks again at the paint cans with their attendant splash of goo. Her expression turns stern, serious, "That can't be good." She glances back to Merrell, "Chief?" While waiting for an answer, she turns to her job, inspecting the locks for tampering.

<FS3> Demos rolls Demolitions: Failure.

To Demos: The interior airlock controls don't appear rigged, nor does it look like they've been tampered with. They look just like all the other airlock controls you've seen tonight.

Merrell takes an immediate interest in what's going on inside the lock, however she stays near the controls. "Ren, stand fast and check the ceiling by the top of the ladder visually. Don't climb it or get close. Ter Avest, check the main electrical bus outside. Sergeant, take a look please." The woman sets her kit bag on the deck plating and glances back to the Marines once more before her gaze falls back on the people inside, now one technician fewer as Astrid leaves to do her thing.

Ren nods to Merrell, approaching the ladder but not climbing it. His eyes take a pass over the ceiling, neck craned back and up at the area near the top of the ladder. "Aye, Chief…" he mutters in mid-squint. Seeing what he can see.

To Ren: It's hard to see anything from down where you are: the four lights clustered overhead are just bright enough that they obscure the ceiling from your searching gaze, forcing you to turn away before staring up there becomes physically painful. If you want to see anything, you'll have to get closer.

After looking at the hinges and locks, Demos nods, "Looks okay. Same as the others." Standine, she shoulders her bag and enters the airlock for a visual. Her gaze flickers to the paint cans once more. She shakes her head, a frown touching her brow. Like Ren before her, she has the uneasy feeling that something is amiss. Probably the cans. So, beginning near the airlock doors, she visually scans the interior for signs of tampering or other mischief.

To Demos: Besides the cans, you can see nothing else of note on the floor or any of the walls, though the ketchup and mustard are really starting to smell. Somebody should tell the workers to clean up after themselves!

Merrell watches the team, still. Her own eyes move over the room from the outside. "Other than the trash she left, find anything interesting? Sergeant, Ren? Check out that splotch."

Ren has no luck with squinting alone, so he flips his flashlight off his belt and directs its beam at the area overhead. It doesn't seem to help too much either, however, and he's forced to direct his eyes back down. Blinking a bit from a combination of the beam and the overhead lights. "There's not much I can make out from down here, Chief," he tells Merrell. "I could get a better look if I got up there." He gestures to the ladder, poking at it to test its stability.

Demos slowly shakes her head, "Nothing on the visual, Chief." A hand lifts and she rubs her nose a bit, eyes sliding over to the crinkle of paper with the ketchup and mustard, "Fah. That is starting to stink." Her hand moves to her bag and flips it open. A hand dips in and she retrieves a sealable bag.

To Demos: As you get closer to the sandwich paper by the floor, you notice something odd about the black-gold splotch of long-spilled grease: subtle crooks and valleys traced into the centimeter-thick slick, made by small fingers swirling and twirling and spinning…

Merrell nods and points to the ladder. "Go ahead, Specialist. Check it out up there." She then turns to the Marines down the corridor and signals to the Lance Corporal. "Lance! Inform the Master at Arms we may have found the location that the woman tampered with."

Up goes the Specialist. Ren makes his way up the ladder carefully but with no real hesitation. He's a mechanical, so he's not exactly unused to working on ceiling fixtures and the like. He keeps his flashlight at the ready, shining it into corners his naked eyes can't quite make out.

<FS3> Ren rolls Repair: Success.

Moving toward the sandwich leavings, Demos draws on a pair of gloves, then opens the sealable bag. She kneels close to it, then frowns and tilts her head to one side, "That's… odd." She leans a hair closer, holding her breath against the smell. Sitting up without touching the stuff, she looks up from the splotch toward whatever is above it, then back down again, "Someone with small fingers traced patterns in this glop, Chief. Not in the ketchup and mustard. In the other glop. The grease."

The Chief watches Ren climb up the ladder and flash around. Demos gets a curious look, though, with her comment. "Patterns? Anything vaguely familiar? Possibly religious?" Damn, she wants to get in there. She tries to cant her head side to side as if to get a better look. "Any chance you got a camera on you? Get a picture and show me?"

The taller Marine nods before toggling her wireless as instructed. "Hub, Baker Two-Three, stand by for report. Looks like we found the one."


Meanwhile, as Ren scales the steps one by one, he manages to shade his eyes just so, the beam from his torch dancing across the walls as it moves with his hands — and out of the corner of his vision he sees on the ceiling the glitter of copper, a glint of gold — for emerging from the hazy corona surrounding the quartet of overhead lights comes into view a picture hastily daubed into gunmetal grey. There's a beak of copper and plumage of jet, and there's a sweeping bronze tail and strips of grease for feathers, and there's a streak of gold down the center of body: it's not a sparrow but the impression thereof, executed in three or four minutes with surpassing speed. The bird is two feet across from head to tail, and beside it on the left has been slashed a bold greasy 'X' —

And when Ren's head tilts back to consider not just the foreground but the background, he sees something even more disturbing: a thin web of cracks in the bulkheads above, shattered faults carving up the painting into a veritable mosaic of sections, grease pulled apart by hair-like fissures in the metal above.

Fissures that arose after the fact.

"I've got something up here, too," Ren calls down to Demos and Merrell, picking up on the sergeant's statement. "Patterns, I mean…" He pauses a moment, actually directing his flashlight away from the area he's squinting at. The glare of the lights is hurting more than helping him right there. "Religious…? Actually, yeah, Chief. Reminds me of something we used to draw in Temple School. Sparrow was for Aphrodite. I liked her stories…" He grins to himself. Then clears his throat. Anyway… "That's weird, it's all crossed out. There's something else…oh frak. I've got some cracks in one of the bulkheads. Hairline fissures in the metal. The Cheng is not going to like this."

Rising, Demos reaches into her bag once more, "Yeah, I do have one, Chief." She takes out a small pocket camera and adjusts the finder until the image is clear. A picture is snapped. Then she turns the camera upward to take an image of whatever it is that Ren has found. "Cracks? In the bulkhead? Can you tell if the cracks formed before the painting thing was done or after?" As she speaks, she moves across the airlock to offer the camera to Merrell, "Chief."

"Fly, fly away," the Chief sighs. She clicks her teeth and peers up towards where Ren is looking but can't see it from here. "Do the cracks look due to stress on the bulkhead frame or are they because of some tampering? Can you tell?" Merrell will probably get up there on her own eventually and take a look but she's asking for now. With a nod to Demos, the short woman nods a 'Thanks' and takes the camera. She doesn't look at it yet, instead calling down to the Marines. "Confirmed location, Lance! Inform the M-A-A." Her eyes then fall back to the camera and she peers down at the viewscreen.

"After, looks like," Ren replies promptly to down to Demos. Tone rather grim, but there's no doubt in it. He thinks on Merrell's question a moment before answering. "You should not see fractures like this on a new ship. This is seriously frakked." He does some more productive squinting. "It would've taken a frak-load of time to actually chip these away by hand, though. Well, way more than like thirteen minutes anyway. It might not've even been tampering. Oh, frak. I think one of the contractors who was working this area dogged it. The composition of metals up here is all wrong. There've been a lot of sudden temperature changes from opening and closing the airlock during testing, and this thing isn't taking it. It's cracking. I mean, it's fixable. It's obvious what the problem is once you get a look at it and it hasn't spread too far. It'll just take round-the-clock work, for maybe like two days."

Merrell gets a thumbs-up from the lance coolie down the hall. "Hub, Baker Two-Three, we've got something for you." The woman's composure cracks momentarily at the mention of cracks — ironic, no? — but it doesn't take long for that mask of professionalism to slam right back down on her youthful face. "Time is — " She sneaks a look at her wristwatch. "Twenty-three-forty-two hours. Mark it in the log."

Demos nods to the Chief, "Any time." Stepping back into the airlock, she looks up at the image and the ceiling, but cannot see much from where she stands. Instead, she returns to the sandwich leavings. Bending, she uses a gloved hand to pick up the trash and stuff it into the sealable bag she carries. Closing the bag, she pauses to look at the grease, then calls up, "That is seriously frakked up. But, it doesn't really answer what the contractor was doing here, does it? Unless she was just opening and closing the doors to hurry the process. Which does not make sense at all. She had to be up to more than that."

Merrell listens to the assessment from Ren with a stoic expression. The woman remains silent for a moment afterwards, simply staring at the location. "How in the name of the Gods did she know about that?" she whispers to herself. Its enough to get a small ball of ice in her stomach. Something isn't right here. "Alright, Ren. Climb on down from there." She snaps her fingers and motions towards the exit. "Sergeant, get what you need and get out of there. I'm sealing this area as of right now." The SCPO doesn't look at-all comfortable with what they've found.

"Beats the frak out of me, Sergeant," Ren admits to Demos as he descends the latter, hopping back onto the deck floor with a metallic 'Thump!' "It might've just been an honest frak-up by some of the other contract workers in this area. We've been pushing pretty hard to get her up and running. I'll leave the forensics to the professionals. We'll get it fixed when you're finished investigating in here."

Demos tucks the sealed bag of trash into her kit, the movement almost absentminded. "Yeah, I suppose, Specialist." As she speaks, she moves toward the hatch, her steps half a beat behind Ren's. "And that is a simple…" Her voice softens, then fades out as a few pieces of the puzzle are hauled out and considered. She glances over to where Merrell stands, then back across the room. Softly, almost a whisper, "I've got a bad feeling about this." Lifting a hand, she motions for Ren to lead the way out.

And so it is that, their work done for the night, the little inspection squad moves out of the airlock in question, Ren pausing one last time to close the airlock behind him. Tall Marine and Shorter Marine take over picket duty from the Chief, the former flicking off the safety of her rifle before taking up position by the hatch; within thirty seconds, the rest of Squad Two, Baker Company has done the same, tightening the perimeter for the last hours of their shift. "Not a mouse will get by," promises Shorter Marine, cracking a grim smile that promises a terrible fate to the first one who tries.

And in a minute and a half the ship is as silent as she was before this unwelcome intrusion, her bulkheads groaning in a quiet funereal dirge — the melodies of metal bent by human hands for human needs, singing a song only these few men and women will hear.

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