PHD #059: Guts
Summary: The inimitable engineering duo of Parres and Paris discuss the questions raised by the Centurion-Raider analysis, and whether they want to know the answers.
Date: 26 April 2041 AE
Related Logs: None
Haeleah Penelope 
Engineering - Deck 11 - Battlestar Cerberus
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.
Post-Holocaust Day: #59

It's getting on into the evening, but that means practically nothing aboard a space ship. The work never stops in Engineering. The shift just changes. Haeleah is just coming on, for her part. Decked out in her coveralls, she makes her way over to check the repair and maintenance roster from the last shift. To see how much clean-up work she'll spend her time batting today.

There's a little corner set up in Engineering now, sort of a mad scientist's lair. Or maybe a crime lab. Three white boards have been requisitioned and grouped with a couple of haggard computer terminals, crunching numbers… haggardly, with the groans and protests of hard-drives deeply fragged. Papers and pictures of the autopsied Centurion and Heavy Raider are tacked up on the boards amidst frantic arrows and bubbles and notes, a kind of demented mind map. Stacks of the same conceal a coffee mug or two, growing inadvertent cultures. Right in the center of the maelstrom, on a cot, is Penelope… face down… thumping and catching a tennis ball off the floor, unseeingly.

Haeleah has done some of the heavy lifting on the Centurion dissection, so she's not a stranger to that bunker-like area. Neck cranes toward it. Penelope is noted. And she proceeds in that direction. "One R Paris?" Hae's wry play on the similarity in their names. "Sir? You alright in there?" Eyes follow the ball. Bounce, bounce, bounce.

"Oh, sister H, just kill me," Penny mumbles into the wafer-pillow that comes standard with the luxurious cot. Over she rolls and up she sits, blinking blearily at the boards, her hair a frantic mess. She taps the tennis ball against her forehead a few times. "It just doesn't make any sense. Until Trask is finally done playing with the last pieces of the Raider and medical tells me more about the goo, it's just…" She gestures to the mess. "A mess. Lots of very strange ideas and sinister overtones, so much spec-fic."

"I'd help you out if I could, Pen, but the Cheng looks down on killings in the shop," Haeleah says, coming over her to peer at the board. "Nothing fraks up the machinery like entrails. Takes forever to scrape that gunk off the engines." Curly head tilts at the mess. "Don't feel too bad. Those frakkers are forty years ahead of us in terms of re-engineering. It's remarkable, in a way. How the Centurion at least has improved upon itself. Mechanical evolution."

Penelope nods, rubbing the back of her neck wearily. "Designed by something that was designed by us. Eerily familiar and entirely alien. What. A mind frak." She stands and stretches, going over to a board where close-up glossies of Centurion innards are juxtaposed with very similar configurations from the guts of the Raider. "Talk about nothing screwing up machinery like entrials. Frak all, Hay, these machines have entrails."

"At least the Centurion is still mostly metal. Just…massively upgraded from what our Mommy's and Daddy's saw forty years ago," Haeleah says. "That I can grok. What's going on inside the Raider we captured fraks me sideways. Crewman Bannik told me about…biomechanical parts." She shudders. "I mean…why? That's what gets me. Mechanical has a *lot* of advantages over biological, especially on the level the toasters operate at. You're stronger, you're faster, you're harder to frak up. Why give yourself entrails when entrails are easier to puncture?"

Penny folds her arms and shakes her head, still gazing at the board. "There's folks that hold with the idea that there's no finer computer than the human brain. Savants calculating prime numbers in an instant that still take machines minutes to confirm. Chess masters still out-manuvering the most powerful CPUs. Maybe they reached a point where they had to… go back to go forwards. Maybe there's something about the way we're built that is superior." She closes her eyes and sighs. "Maybe that's why they decided it was time to take us out."

"Maybe…" Haeleah murmurs. Eyes going to the mess on the boards, trying to follow it. Without much real success, but it doesn't seem to irritate her. She traces over it with a mixture of fear and fascination. "But if they hate us so much, why imitate us?" She shakes her head. "You have to wonder how long they were sitting out beyond the Arm line, planning it. I mean, have they always wanted to destroy us or was there some sort of mechanical…vote? Frak. I don't know. I keep thinking. It's just algorithms. Coding. You can crack all that. You can break any machine down to its base parts and *understand* how it works. Why it works the way it does…" She trails off, dark eyes still trying to follow the mess.

"We could tear all this down. Start from scratch. Frakking Hades, we could just put all the pictures and reports back up, all random like, and it'd be as close too the truth as I was this morning." Penny rubs her eyes, finally tearing her gaze away and searching disconsolately through the papers for — ah! Coffee cup. She blinks and pulls a face. Eww. Coffee cup. "Frakdamn, I'm living like I'm back in school, cramming for finals." Inevitably her eyes are pulled back to the boards, almost against her will. "I think we all started out with the same impulse, is snipes. Fascinated by how things work. WHY they work. And… for the first time in my life…" She breathes in through her nose. "I… don't know if I want to know."

"I want to know…" Haeleah admits it softly. As if half-afraid to. "It still blows my mind, Pen. Not six months ago I was sitting in a grad school class back on Scorpia. S-I-T. Listening to arguments on why we should revive artificial intelligence study." A pause and she admits, even softer, "Frak, I agreed with some of them at the time."

Penny twitches a wry smile. "You're braver than I," she admits, sounding a touch envious. "But it doesn't matter what I want — now, what matters is what we, all of us, need. And we do need to know." She almost takes a sip from her coffee culture on auto, saving herself just in time. "Well, this is every argument against that ever there was, innit?" Again, she shuts her eyes. "I'm tired. I know there's a reason, a straight up, cold-logic, ones and zeroes reason why we have to be eliminated, in their playbook… but I keep anthropomophizing it. I keep… coming back to wondering why they hate us." She sits on the cot and sets the coffee cup aside blindly, putting her head in her hands and heaving a sigh. "I need a few hours away from this."

"Yeah…" It's unclear what Haeleah is agreeing with. The final, terrible proof of all the Colonial anti-AI sentiment. Or just the need for some hours away from staring at it. Maybe both. "Yeah. Umm. Get some rest, Pen. I should get over to the Fabrication bay, anyway. Repair work in there is going to be a bitch. That place is still well and true frakked from when those frakkers boarded us."

"Might join you after a nap…" Penny nods, standing and stretching painfully. Her spine and shoulders pop. "A welders mask and a blowtorch would be beautiful, after this. Simple." She smiles wanly. "Thanks for listening to my crazy talk, Hay. I promise to be more coherent next time we speak."

Haeleah snorts. "Coherent, huh? That'll make you the only one. Don't blowtorch exhausted, Pen." With that, she heads off to grab a toolkit and go bang on something more substantial than Cylon spookery.

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