Memoir: Welcome to The End

A memory of both Vandenberg and Richards that took place in Neath on Aerilon.
This takes place on PHD #032 while the Cerberus Battlegroup was at Parnassus Anchorage.

Its a few days after the initial meeting in Neath. Rules were hammered out. A defense planned for. Operations to be conducted. Marines train the citizens during the day and keep rotating watches at night. The last two days have been a lot of yelling and people finally coming to terms with what is left of their lives. It hasn't been as hard on the Marines that Van arrived with. They're dealing well. 'Do what needs to be done and shut the frak up. You can bitch when you're dead. Until then your asses can listen to us and live longer or get the godsdamn hell out of my way.' Shocking words from the diminutive officer that seems to have assumed charge of the motley fireteam.

The next morning as the night nears sunrise, the Marines are already up and just finished their run around town while the Lieutenant keeps watch. Late March and its damned cold overnight still. With the Observation Post built into the chapel's belltower, three stories up, that's where she has been all night. With the only access up there being a staircase and hatch, its also a good place to be alone. Vandenberg has hardly said a word outside of information delivery, setting up security, and issuing order. Grey clouds hang low on the horizon as the sun begins to pinken the bottoms in the distance over the mountains. The belltower's bell long since removed, there's a card table up here with a large-caliber hunting rifle, ammunition, some sandbags, and night vision goggles. The Lieutenant has huddled herself into a huge blanket and sits with her back to the sunrise, slit eyes looking West into the light but bitter breeze. Her two-sizes-too-large uniform can't even be seen at all under the wrap she has. Just a bundled face and a thick wool cap over her head.

One of the Marines comes up from the building proper, a lanky blond Sergeant by the name of Richards, someone who the LT. will recognize as he's fairly well put himself under her command when she arrived with her team. "Sir. Came up to see how you're doing," the man's boyish voice is held at a whisper almost, the younger soldier almost too scared to speak louder than that. "I take it nothing exciting happened?" The armored helmet he has on is removed and set to the side and a dirty hand slides through his hair, causing dust to cling to the blonde spikes. Natalie is looked at afterward and for a moment he finds himself startled; so small, she looks almost like a doll to him although nowhere near as fragile as one, the comparison ending with her diminutive stature.

Vandenberg only glances to Richards when he pokes his head up through the hatch. She keeps her silence, redoubling her blankets while she looks to a far treeline. "Alls quiet on the western front," she states. The same force and hard edge is there but its nearly a whisper. "Saw a herd of deer move through about an hour ago. There's life out there." There's approval in her words, eyes ticking evenly across the world in front of them. "Is everyone finished with PT, Sergeant? Crowe get everyone in for chow?" There's no comment to her own status.

"Yeah. Everyone got PT'd and I think Crowe's seeing that they get fed now. Wasn't feeling exactly hungry so decided to come up here first, see if you needed relieved or wanted company." Richards grins and then leans forward, his expression growing thoughtful, the smile slipping a little. "I can't believe it happened," he says, sounding a bit sad and tired. "I guess we have no news of what happened?" The rifle is unshouldered and he puts it next to his helmet now, sighing when the weapon's placed to the side. "I guess we'll never know," he adds after some thought. "Not that I'm going to go 'boo hoo, everyone is dead' but I guess it's going to be pretty damn impossible for us to get any word out here."

"I'll take relief in an hour or two. Wait for the civilians to get up and moving." The condensation from her breath freezes away into the air in front of her face. Its almost ghostly in the low light. She doesn't share his smile, either. The woman seems to have just shut herself down from positive emotions - if they were ever there to start with. "No news. You and the citizens of this town know everything I know. As for impossible.." The blankets over her finally shift like she's reaching for something. When her uniformed arm comes out, its like someone reaching out of the end of a sleeping bag or burrito. There's a map in her hand. She uses her chin to hold it down while she unfolds it before tossing it onto the table. Her arm slinks back in. "Get out your compass. Center on Neath. Bearing three-five-two at sixty-three miles." She clears her throat, looking out ahead once more. There's a pile of cigarette butts in the bucket in the corner. "Marine Twenty-Eighth Infantry has an armory and replenishment site up there. A small company in garrison. It might still be intact. They'll have shit like encrypted sat radios, high end nav gear, munitions, probably some vehicles."

Richards looks at her, his worry growing. "Don't push yourself too far, Lieutenant. Not going to be of any use to anyone if you break down on us or whatever." When the map is tossed and she starts to list off coordinates he follows the path with his finger, only stopping when he finds the place upon the paper which has been unfolded. "We can form a team and go fetch the supplies. Shouldn't need more than ten people. Can probably find something to use to transport the supplies…" Falling quiet, he chews his lower lip for a moment. "We could use some of the civvies, sir. Might help them get their minds off of the frakking shit that happened. What do you think?"

Vandenberg's eyes finally turret up to him, the look as cold as the weather. "You worry about your charges, Sergeant, and let me worry about me." She could be from anywhere. Clipped words. Probably Caprican for that attitude. Her greens stay on him for a second too long to keep from being unsettling and she looks back out to the woodline. Everyone deals with loss differently. "Already thinking on it. We'll grab three trucks. I want four in each. We'll take the veterans with us. No civilians." She lifts her legs and presses them to the wall of the belltower. "If they nuked cities you can bet they sent teams, possibly Raiders, against Marine depots. It will probably be ugly. The drive up won't be any prettier." Her face tiwtches ever so slightly. Probably the cold. "If we survive another two weeks, I'll breathe easier. Until then I'm waiting for a sweep. We've been using the CB's a lot." Radio signals attract attention.

"Perhaps," Richards says as he folds up the map once he has the location memorized, trying to shake off his annoyance her all but shrugging off his concern brings about. "Who do you think we should have stay behind to guard the town?" Not really knowing anyone save the few men he came here with, he isn't sure who is suited for that kind of responsibility. "Not trying to sound like I'm expecting the worst, sir, but you know. Got to be prepared, just in case."

"Nobody." Its stated flatly. The sky is beginning to lighten more. Its going to be another cold, overcast day. "We take all the Marines. The Chief can handle keeping law and order. The cops did it for a few hundred years before we arrived. Besides, if the Cylons roll in here en force, there won't be much we can do with what we have. Two Marines won't make the difference. No, we all roll." The Marine officer drops her feet to the wooden floor and she slowly unwraps the blanket. There's a thick jacket on her, too. She takes the time to rise and lift a pair of binoculars on the table. Booted feet step her to the north view but she looks sideways to him and then back out. The spyglasses are lifted. "You got a problem with me, Marine? Speak your piece."

Richards nods. "Of course, sir." She moves and so does he but instead of falling into place beside her he sits on the table, watching her for however long before her question is asked. "Nah, I don't have any problems, sir. Not with you and not with anyone else. Just worried for everyone. Especially you, sir. This is not a good time for anyone to have to shoulder such responsibility." Chuckling, he rakes a nail over the table, relishing in the scraping sound it makes. "Not that we know each other, of course. But I guess you can say I got this big brother thing going on. Just wanna make sure everyone's alright."

Natalie keeps her eyes scanning the horizon and sky in silence for a few very silent moments. The only sound is the breeze moving past. "Nobody asked us what we wanted, Sergeant. We're cut off from communication with the rest of the Corps - if there is anything left. Our Navy is gone." She lowers the binoculars. "Until I meet a Captain, I shoulder the responsibility of leading. Its my job. Its what I trained for. I don't have the option of letting someone else do it. None of us do." She seems to be staring at nothing off in the distance. "Channel that 'thing' to these people, Sergeant. If we make it more than two weeks I might thaw. Until then I'm just waiting." Waiting to die? Waiting to be attacked? "What were you doing on Aerilon? You don't sound local. Stationed here?"

Her response really isn't unexpected but he's still not happy to hear it but it's more because of the situation itself than her words, the former being what gets his shoulders to slouch. "Yes, sir. I understand. I will." Shaking himself out of that, he reaches up again but instead of running fingers through his hair he rubs his chin with thumb and forefinger. "Ah. No. We were stationed on Aquaria, actually. We were shipped here because a platoon needed to have some slots filled while some of their guys were out on training. Not what happens normally, I guess but they said we were needed so here we are." Tilting his head, he watches her before asking carefully, "What about you? Were you stationed here?"

"You're third in line for command of this force. Remember that, Sergeant." Vandenberg drifts her attention the other way and looks to the south as she leans against the tower's edge. There isn't a lot of cover up here. "Aquaria. No kidding. Heard they had some good surfing." She's not really looking at anything. Her mind is finally untrapping from whatever it was on and floating away from it. Her eyes seem to reflect this as they drift. "No. Libran. I was my Company Operations Officer. My boyfriend and I were supposed to take this vacation to Aerilon to learn to skydive together. He had to work. Told me to go anyway." She flickers something on her face that ghosts a smile but its gone quickly. "You miss all your shit back at your base yet? Fast food and your computer?"

"Nah. I really wasn't much into sports. I drew instead of surfed or played Pyramid. Kind of got me laughed at by people but I really didn't find much appeal in that kind of thing." When Vandenberg mentions a boyfriend he pauses, letting that sink in. Seems like those who had people close to them are those the hardest hit, emotionally which kind of explains something in his mind, that being that this is the reason the El-Tee seems especially distant. "I miss cheeseburgers," he says with a nod. "I miss a lot, actually. Sitting in the lounge with the guys, watching movies, going out to the bar on base after work on Fridays for beer and women. You know. Miss my family a lot."

"Drew? Huh. Not..what I expected I guess." Natalie rises off her lean and picks up the rifle from the table and aims it off to the east in the rising sun. "Cheeseburgers. Damn. Yeah. There was this place just outside the gate at our base that had these breakfast burritos. Man, they tasted like shit but if you washed them down with their coffee, they were damned tasty." She sighs, trying to spot something. "I miss bad food almost as much as good food." She adjusts the scope and re-aims it. "Where is your family at?" Still present tense. She probably wants to believe someone could still possibly be alive.

"Yeah. The kind of places you wouldn't go to by yourself but the kind of place you go as a group because the company makes the food better." He pauses and then the jovial mood kind of poofs, nowhere to be seen. "They are… in Scorpia. It is nice out there. We live in a small neighborhood where everyone knows each other and we would all play together as kids." 'Is'. 'Lives'. Yeah, that feels odd for him to say it that way but he does it for the LT to try and buoy her mood.

"Exactly." She lowers the rifle and leans it against the low wall. Hands move together as she rubs to warm them. Its a losing battle outside that burrito blanket. "Sounds like a good place to grow up. Nice quaint neighborhood. A lot like where my boyfriend lives actually. I never liked the places we had on base. Even the officer's apartments were bad. Mine had a second bedroom that I used for an office. It smelled like cat pee during the summer." Funny, its all past tense when talking about herself. She moves back to her chair and the blankets. "You probably enlisted right out of high school? Never had much chance to get your own place?"

Richards wrinkles his nose. "That is one of the worse smells ever. Can't get it to go away no matter how you try." Seems like he has had experience with that. The question about when he enlisted has him chuckling a bit. "Yeah. Dad was wanting me to go into business with him but I just couldn't do it. I just could not sit behind a desk my entire life. Think it pissed him off at first because he spent five years grooming me to take over and I told him to frak it. Not in those exact words but yeah." He looks at her oddly. "I don't mind never having a place of my own. It would have been nice but eh. I can experience life in other ways."

"No kidding." At least the woman seems to have defrosted. A little. Not by much. She still sounds distant like she just -isn't there- in some important way. Arms dip into the blankets once more as she scoots the chair away from the table and to the walls. Head leaned against them, she settles back into her burrito and yawns. "No I don't expect he was happy. What did he do?" She turns her eyes to the sunrise, watching the orb pass into the cloud layer. The warmth seems to just sink away slowly. "I never got used to it. You spend so many years in the Corps it just feels strange to have your own place once again. I did infantry for nearly twelve years. Spent the last few in a cushy MP position. I was just starting to remember what it was like to be lazy." Memories of love lost, like so many others.


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