Memoir: Cidra's Prayer Journal, Entry 4

"But sail upon the wind of lamentation, my friends, and about your head row with your hands' rapid stroke in conveyance of the dead, that stroke which always causes the sacred slack-sailed, black-clothed ship of Charon to pass over Akheron to the unseen land here Apollon does not walk, the sunless land that receives all men." - Aeschylus, Seven Against Thebes 854 ff (trans. Weir Smyth) (Greek tragedy C5th B.C.)

From the journal of Maj. Cidra Hahn, dated 06.22.2041…

Hermes, sweet swift Lord, bear these good souls true so they may cross the last rivers. Charon, dread and honored ferryman, be merciful in your price, bear them to honored rest in Elysium. And those souls that drift, denied the rites, lost amongst the stars, I beg you may in the course of eternity find them and bear them to their repose. I cling to the hope that they may find peace from the blackness still. Though I know the Lords' mercies do not bend to my hopes.

"Do you ever smile, Nevarine? Or…talk? You don't make it easy. That's just fine. I like a challenge."

Why did you care if I smiled at you, Daeds? All the stupid girls in the bars off-base did nothing but smile and whatever else one pleased at the Viper jocks.

I was a stupid girl. I was just better at pretending. I was never a challenge for you.

"That's an old mother, that one," notes Lieutenant Shaker, his Viper flashing forward to take up position in front of the freighter. "You should look into wiring up a fourth gimbal when you're down there, Bucket of Bolts." Spoken like a professor advising a promising student in whom he's sadly disappointed. "It'd save you and us a lot of trouble, but! Salt has lead. Take her down slow, ladies — just like dancing at the Mid Ball." The Midshipmen's Ball, he means. Salt's also an Academy puke.

LT Ryan Shaker. Salt. One of my first fallen Knights. One of the 147 down when the Cylons came upon us that long, hard day. I engraved your name upon my heart. I told myself I would one day be able to recite all those 147 names without a list, with my eyes closed. I took some solace that you were a man of the Faiths, that you had placed the Mysteries upon your heart and found the Elysium, even scattered to the stars.

Now I do not know what you are. What you were. A clone. Not man, not machine. An abomination against the gods.

I cannot forget your name. I cannot banish the image of you flying against the teeth of the first enemies with us from my mind.

You are an abomination. You are one of my fallen Knights. What does the ferryman make of you?

The pilot goes at ease, "Aye, sir, Lieutenant Junior Grade, Angelus Nostos, callsign Halo, sir." There is a moment where he studies Cidra as he wants to excactly know what kind of person physically he is flying under. "I just wanted to meet you, sir. It is good to know who I am flying under since I was last under Taylor on the Pegasus. He was the one who had me transfered here, sir. Also, sir, I wanted to know if you had any questions to ask me, sir?"

LTJG Angelus Nostos. Halo. Another of my fallen Knights. So polished Caprican. Part of me held it against you. My prejudices are no less ugly than those that were thrown at me. You only strove to serve. I pray that which remains of your soul may forgive me.

[TAC3] That other voice transmits again. "This is Halo, I'm clear the tubes. Bringing ship around to eng——ARRRRHHGHHGGH*" He disappears in a scream and some static. And then, silence. He wasn't engaging anyone, either.

No Raiders. No friendly fire. Just gone. Lost to the void by some foulness I still do not understand. No rites, no chance for peace.

Does he fly with you now, Daeds?

[TAC3] (from "XO" Tillman) Emerson sniffles once as she cues the mic. Her voice is quiet and shakey as if she were the only person left alive. "Plea-<zzzzt>. Please don't leave me. promis<ddrrzzt> ..o one left behind." She's quiet for a moment, the tears audible over the radio. Then, "DON'T FRAKKING LEAVE ME!!"

[TAC3] "Doc" Bell slips into his stern, reprobative tone as he responds. "You've a sidearm, Mister Emerson. Use it."

LTJG Victoria Emerson. Shuffle. Raptor 305. Sabotaged. Crippled. Taken. Have we done you justice, or do those responsible for your fate still haunt the ship? Still shadow my pilots? Rend my soul that it does, I pray you heeded Doc's call. I pray you put a bullet in your own temple. Oblivion is a kinder mercy than the Cylons would grant you.

We could not reach you. The head knows this. The heart does not.

[TAC3] "Snag" Villon says, "I — " Snag's breathing is coming in sharper gasps. "Four Raiders — I see them, there's — " And then all that's audible is her hyperventilation, breaths coming shorter and shorter before an ominous silence settles over the com — silence broken only by the occasional burst of gunfire. Though her thumb's still on the button, no words come.

ENS Emilie Villon. Snag. You were so young. They all seem so young.

Betrayed by that which was supposed to keep you alive, keep you breathing. Murdered. Who still hunts us on this ship? And why? This is not destruction. This is terror. And I confess it frightens me more than a waterfall of Raiders. I cannot protect them.

The exhaust plumes trace comet-tails behind the zooming fighters. With something to look at to judge relative motion, this whole exercise becomes a whole lot more exciting. Goddess's fighter is tucked in just to the right of a formation, seemingly perfectly in line from airshow-center. In the midst of all of it, though, there's a lot of slight rocks and twitches as pilots course-correct and maintain the tricky formation, and Raedawn is having as tough a time as anyone else. But it's a rush like no other, countless drills or no countless drills.

ENS Raedawn Arkili. Goddess. I wondered how one such as you had come to be a pilot, even in the Reserves. Many wondered such of me once. I wish I would have asked. Part of me felt guilty after the attacks, putting the Reservists on the flight line. Into battle. From the teeth of the attacks, to the teeth of Leonis to retrieve those Vipers. You never shirked from it. None were prepared for the days we face now. None of us were truly regulars then. We all are now.

"Frakkin' behemoth, this thing," Laskaris mutters to himself as he takes in the hangar deck — one of four(four!) on the ship. Nevertheless, he's not the type to stay awed long, and after a moment more of sightseeing, he hefts his bags and makes for the exit. That's before he notices someone's eyes on him, anyway. Noting Cidra's approach, his eyebrow twitches imperceptibly as he likewise notes the rank on her flightsuit. He stops once more, allowing his bags to fall to the deck. He manages to get his arm up in a languid salute just as Cidra enters conversation range. "Major," he greets her tersely, his throaty, thickly accented voice immediately betraying his origins as a highlander.

LT Anton Laskaris. Lasher. Aerilon rough. Harsh as a whip's snap. I liked you right off.

"I am temporarily placing you as squad leader within the Black Knights," Cidra says. "It shall likely not be for long. I hope to a replacement for Captain Matise when we return to Picon. You shall likely not be tasked with much more than day-to-day duties now that the war games are concluded. But the military abhors a leadership vacuum, and I do not want things slipping within the squadron. I shall be on hand to assist you however I can, of course, but you will have more responsibilities in coordinating with the Vipers under you. I shall be interested to see how you rise to the challenged. You did so tonight. Do you have any questions about this assignment?"

At last, Laskaris' icy calm cracks, as he manages a wry smile. He seems clearly pleased, if it's only a temporary assignment; it's doubtful he ever expected to get a command of his own, after all. There's a quick shake of the head. "No, sir, nothing I can think of for now. I think I can mind the store a few days, though I'll be sure t' find you if I think of anything I need to ask later." A pause. "I appreciate your confidence, Major."

CPT Laskaris, I made you. So hungry. So raw. So brave. So much quality.

Cidra makes a low "Ah" sound. "As I said. You are raw, Lasher." It is not a criticism. And she does not seem particularly surprised or off-put by what he says. If anything, she nods in something resembling approval. "No one is born knowing how to command. I still feel myself inadequate to it on many days. I have just learned to hide it. Or tried to." Said wryly. She slips a cigarette and lighter out of her desk, getting one burning. "And these are the worst of times to be thrust into it. If you have made mistakes…well. We all make them. They have, from what I've seen, not been in the field where it would've cost lives of your people. That is why you are the only choice. Being a leader is very different from being even a senior lieutenant. Your squad will look to you. Not just for orders, but for direction in how to conduct themselves. For support. You are their example, for better or worse."

Lasher snorts ever so lightly. "Fine example," he mutters, sotto voce. Following the CAG's lead, he extracts a cigarette of his own, and the flick of a chrome lighter sets the tip aflame. "So I'm learning, sir," he affirms more audibly a moment later. An eyebrow raises, and a hint of humor is finally allowed onto his face at her admission. "Hnh. You hide it well." Lasher purses his lips thoughtfully as he listens to her last. "So I'm learning," he repeats, a trickle of smoke escaping his nostrils with a sibilant hiss.

Did I push you too fast? Perhaps I did. Perhaps I should have held you back from Leonis.

"Hnh." Cidra's observation seems to have hit the mark at least where Lasher is concerned, if his grunt and curt nod of agreement is any indication. He shrugs a second later. "Been too long since I had ground under my feet," is the only reason he offers. "Well. Unless you count that 24-hour layover on Leonis before I reported aboard. Which I'm not." Laskaris doesn't waste any time trying to read into her tone; he's figured out it's generally pointless to try. Maybe not the best Triad face in the fleet, but damn close. "More people go, the more shit we can bring back an' the quicker we can do it," he theorizes. "Especially after that godsdamn… 'accident'— " Yes, the quotes are audible. "— in the hangar bay. Damn birds're dropping like flies. We don't start replacin' 'em, won't have anything left for me and mine but rocks, space suits, and directions to the nearest airlock we can throw 'em from."

Perhaps not. You did not fly with a ballet's grace, Lasher, but you had things in you I do not. I never told you that. I never told you why I pushed you so. Why I needed you. Why we are so much weaker without you now.

I am not well-made for the tasks we face now. You were a warrior. My soul is in the shield, I am poorly-made to be the spear. I grieve the loss of your harshness. Your courage. Your quality.

"Lasher?" All traces of a smile, all traces of relief, fade from Cidra's countenance. And she hasn't her shield of inscrutability to duck behind tonight, either. Her right hand, fortunately for her her dominant one, goes to cover her lips as she exhales a sharp breath. Eyes close for a beat. She, quite visibly, takes a moment to collect herself. She does not open her eyes before asking, tone as composed as she can manage, "Was his body recovered?" Perhaps not the first question that might spring to everyone's mind, but it seems of paramount importance to her.

Bootstrap notices the CAG is off her game. Not the sort who can stand feeling exposed and emotionally vulnerable himself, he lets Cidra compose herself as though nothing is amiss. It's one of the odd ways he is deeply courteous. When she is finally ready, it is simply relayed, "He died en route. Bled out in the Raptor. Not before a final cigarette, though." That last is somewhat smirked, although probably true. "Centurions did more damage to his lungs than smoking ever did. It was a good death, though." Insofar that anything can be considered a good death. "Meat-shielded those civilians in a way that'd make any Marine proud. But, yeah. He's in the morgue."

Not lost to the void. Hermes can come for you, at least, my fallen Knight. I did not cast you into the oblivion, at least.

Your soul is more fortunate than many.

Cidra's Viper does not make it very far. No sooner has she managed to get the thing back on an upward trajectory than…it's hit again. And banged up as that ship is, there's no recovering from the tailspin this time. It's engines are smoking, plane actually beginning to consume itself with fire as it hurtles toward the ground. Those looking would see the ejection seat pop successfully, and the flurry of a white parachute as Toast goes down. At a slower speed than that Viper she grabbed from the air base, lucky for her. The plane itself smashes to fiery smithereens on the earth of Leonis.

Rain and gunfire. All so fast I could barely tell the difference. Up, up, up, just keep flying, keep shooting. Until they stop you. Until you start falling. I had forgotten what it was like to fly one of those damned things in atmosphere. Raptors are more forgiving of the differences. Gravity makes your instincts wrong. Just a little off. Just enough. The speed always takes me by surprise. The slightness of motion. The precision. Just a little off. All the perfection of aerospace engineering will betray you. You danced the equations so beautiful, Daeds. My heart. You could do them in a flash in your head, and glory in it. Just a little off. And none of it is enough.

I saw oblivion, my love. I was falling. I thought it had me. And I was not frightened.

I was relieved.

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