PHD #257: Inconclusive
Summary: Cora confronts Cidra about her recent attempt to play chicken with the ground in a Viper. Cidra snips at Cora about the lack of progress in the Coll skinjob investigation. Neither get the answers they want to hear.
Date: 10 Nov 2041 AE
Related Logs: Clinging to Life; Dancing the Spiral; Dancing the Spiral II.
Cora Cidra 
CAG's Office - Deck 10 - Battlestar Cerberus
Though it's not much bigger than the average ship supply closet, the office of the commander of Cerberus' air group has as much luxury as one can hope for aboard a battlestar: a hatch that locks. It is dominated by a blocky gray metal desk straight out of standard Navy supply. Behind it is the room's single indulgence, a high-backed rolling chair of almost comfortable-looking brown leather. That one, the CAG probably had to import herself. A few other chairs are shoved against the wall, able to be rolled over should visitors to the lair require one, though those are of the standard not-terribly-comfortable Navy offices variety. The aforementioned desk contains a computer that looks rarely touched and an ashtray of greenish glass that is obviously frequently used, as well as the standard office supplies. The surface is usually cluttered with files, squadron reports, flight schedules and other aerial bureaucratic sundry of the day. A metal carafe, filled with water or coffee or tea depending on the CAG's whim, is usually at hand on the desk's corner. The rest of the office is packed with filing cabinets and wall shelves, the latter of which hold various flight manuals and military and historical books. Any decorations on the walls are limited to professional awards and mementos from Major Hahn's past tours of service. It is largely devoid of the personal, save for one item: upon the shelf just behind and above her desk, serving as one side of a bookend to a collection of Raptor manuals, is a wooden statue of a small brown owl with very large eyes. A person might get the feeling of those eyes following him around this confined space.
Post-Holocaust Day: #257

Current Office Description Addendum - Cidra's Papers
The walls of her office have been covered in spots with papers, octagonal sheets taped in placed. At first glance, it's mindnumbingly boring aerial bureaucracy of the most mundane kind. Maintenance reports and work schedules, most of technicians on the hangar deck. They're arranged haphazardly, seemingly put up in order of whatever had captured her attention at the moment rather than anything coherent. They're covered with notes, scrawled in spidery chicken-scratch ink that's barely legible and most definitely isn't Colonial Standard (Old Gemenese, if one knows about such things). They're also covered in highlighting, mostly of names, dates, and plane designations. 2 May 2041 AE. 10 May 2041 AE. 23 May 2041 AE. 11 Jun 2041 AE. 05 Jul 2041 AE. 06 Jul 2041 AE. Sitka. Laskaris. Nostos. Emerson. Villon. Weber. Orr. Morgenfield, Morgenfield, Morgenfield, everywhere it appears. Coll, Coll, Coll, Coll, Coll, Coll - likewise emphasized everywhere it appears, lines occasionally drawn from her to Morgenfield where they appear together in one of the rosters. And they do in quite a few places, though given that they worked together on that Deck that's not unexpected.

Cora knocks on the door and, unlike apparently every member of the air wing, has the good manners to actually wait outside until a reply comes from within.

The hatch is locked, so Cora really has no choice but to wait. Cidra's technically off duty but anyone manning one of the air ops cubicles could tell the TACCO the CAG is in there. She spends a large amount of her 'free' time holed up in her office these days. There's a pause that might suggest she's trying to make it appear the place is empty, however. Or is just choosing not to answer. But, finally, Cidra does open the hatch. Hair down, blues jacket unbuttoned, and she looks that combination of both very alert and rather worn that one assumes when running largely on caffeine and nicotine rather than actual energy. The office is heavy with cigarette smoke, the latest of what's clearly a series of them going in her ashtray right now. "Ah. Captain Nikephoros. What do you want?" It's not quite impolite, but she's not instantly invited in.

Cora does not trial the handle, at least, waiting a long moment after that knock, almost as if she can sense Cidra and her hesitation within. When the hatch does open, she has a hand against the doorframe, and looks across at the CAG, not seeming disturbed by the almost-billowing smoke nor the faintly off-putting greeting. "Major Hahn," she replies, "I have a few things I'd like to speak with you about. May I come in?"

Cidra hesitates a beat. As if she's going to say 'No.' But, finally, she steps aside. "Certainly. Could you make this brief, please? I am rather…occupied at the moment." Her desk is covered in the same highlighted, aging Deck paperwork that is currently decorating the walls of her office. Cidra makes a point not to look at her wallpaper as she seats herself again. As if the spree of redecorating the place has obviously undergone is completely normal.

"Oh?" Cora inquires as she steps inside, heading towards a seat. Whether she will agree to keep the meeting brief or not, she doesn't say, instead glancing about at the stacks of paper, the wall in particular drawing her attention. She detours away from that intended chair and up to one of the walls, close enough to read the highlighted passages but still get a sense of the whole, assuming that there is one. "Is there a pattern here?" she inquires, gesturing between a few of the pages, "They certainly aren't arranged chronologically."

Cidra slouches down in her chair and drags on her cigarette. Another pause when Cora actually asks about her wall collage of paperwork. She frowns. Glaring at one particularly highlighted and notated bit from May the 2nd. "Not that I have found," she finally admits, biting it off in an almost snap. "I have tried to look at them in order. It does not help. There are hints of patterns that form no patterns. Commonalities that may be meaningful. May be coincidence. I feel there is *something* there if I can just wrap my mind around it…but I do not know. No one seems to know what the frak Crewman Lauren Coll was, or how much damage she might have done to this ship, to my pilots, if she was one of the abominations." There's a hint of accusation in her tone toward Cora.

"I think we're all well aware of exactly how much damage she might have done, were she a skinjob," Cora replies mildly, continuing to observe the wall, eyes skimming over the selected documents, "Unfortunately, there remains no way to definitively determine whether she was one or not. Either one day we will see a copy of her, or we will not. There has been investigation into her, her life, her work, all of her projects, and while there are suspicions, there has been nothing conclusive." Blue eyes continue to flick between the pages until she turns to glance back over her shoulder at Cidra. "What do you see in it, so far?"

"Coll was swept up in the whole mess around Raptor 305. The sabotage of Lieutenant Emerson and her pilot's ship that left them cripple to be taken by the Cylons," Cidra's voice is cold as she lays it out. "The MPs found her guilty only of negligence, of leaving her post, leaving the ship open for tampering. This we know. Was it more than that? She got on well with the Morgenfield creature…" She spits. "…before that one's arrest. They were of like minds. Hard. Angry. They had many opportunities to…cross paths on the hangar deck. She was heavily involved with the mission where upon Ensign Weber died. She had *access* to Ibrahim's Viper, Lieutenant Nostos' Viper, our Trimix capsules…she *could* have put her hands upon all of this and more. But it all runs toward suggestions without finality." Connections there if you want to see them, but it boils down to a wall of hearsay with no real conclusions to be drawn.

Cora listens, following the events mentioned across the wall. "Morgenfield had the same access and more," she points out, tone even, mild, as she gestures, "Everything Coll might have done, Morgenfield might have done instead, it seems to me. And she we know for an absolute fact was a cylon. Why bother?" she asks, turning around, and finally taking a seat in the chair opposite the desk, "Why two agents in exactly the same position? If we assume that everything they do is well-planned, and I think at this point we have not choice but to give them that much credit, what's the benefit? These aren't two-person jobs." She shrugs and shakes her head, going on, "From one stand-point, I have to assume that she was a cylon, and that everything she's ever touched might be sabotaged. But I also have to assume that she was not, because to assume that in Coll we have identified the other skinjob we know is hiding somewhere on this ship would be, I think, a grave mistake. The Deck just isn't the most likely place."

"Why bother?" The question is repeated in a cold deadpan by Cidra. "You think it does not matter that this creature may be responsible for acts that killed personnel aboard this ship? That she, even in death, her memory causes dissent, friction, infighting amoung our crew. I nearly trusted her far enough to let her into my Wing." This appears to be a point that *really* bothers her. "I would know what she was. Like I would know what Admiral Abbot is. There *has* to be a way to tell, something that makes them…different from us. It has to be there. Somewhere."

"You misunderstand me," Cora replies, "I agree that it deserves investigation, and investigation continues. If there is a way to confirm whether or not she was a cylon, it will be pursued. What I meant," she explains, "Is that I do not see why the cylons would bother. None of the attacks and sabotages on the deck required Coll's involvement. They all could have been completed by Morgenfield on her own, or with Borenstein's help, which we know that she had. Why would the cylons put Coll on the Deck as well? Why not put her in Engineering, or CIC, or Weapons? Why put two saboteurs in one department and then only commit enough sabotage for one, when they could have been spreading chaos in multiple locations? It just doesn't make sense to me. Medical is working on finding a difference, but so far there is nothing. If we could have further investigated the station over Sagittaron perhaps we would have gotten a better idea of how they are creating skinjobs, something that would direct us toward a point of differentiation."

"If, if, if," Cidra repeats. "But we did not. I do not pretend I can hope to understand the mind of the enemy. They have done much that does not make sense. I just…I feel the pieces are there, and if I can just lay them out and look at them properly, they will make sense. But I am not looking at them properly. I am not…" She trails off, standing, pacing over toward one of her covered walls. Staring at the papers thereon. But her next question takes a different road entirely. "What did you wish to speak to me about?"

"Most of what they do seems fairly efficient," Cora says, disagreeing mildly, though not precisely saying so, "Other than routinely failing to show up in force and destroy us once and for all, at least." She shrugs, and shakes her head a little, adding, "Well, I wish you luck with it, but I would not hold out much hope. A team has already gone over the very same information and more with a fine-toothed comb and not been able to make anything conclusive of it, nor have I. We may have to accept that this just isn't where we ought to be looking." And by 'we', she means 'you'. "There are far more confusing webs of clues and patterns in this business that keep me awake nights." As for her purpose here, she pulls out a cigarette and lights it, smoking for a moment before asking, "What were you doing on Aerilon when you nearly flew your viper into the ground?"

"Perhaps we have simply missed something," Cidra retorts. And by 'we', she means 'you.' Another drag on her cigarette, but it's smoked down to its end by now. She puts it out and lights another. "The failing to show up and destroy us puzzles me more than anything. If they are regrouping I can understand them consolidating their forces, but to just let us alone for so long…it makes no sense…" She thinks on that a moment. Until Cora's question actually penetrates her brain. Cloudy blue eyes focus on the TACCo. Blink, blink. She clears her throat. "I spoke with Clive about that and assured him it was being blown out of proportion. He seemed satisfied." That was not an answer to her question.

"Then I wish you luck in finding it," Cora replies, and by 'you' she does not mean 'we', "I admit that while I would very much like to know what Coll was, I am more interested in finding out who the other skinjob aboard is that we have not yet unmasked. He or she is a much more immediate threat." She smokes, and nods, "They do seem to be re-grouping. Why they felt it necessary to consolidate their presence so tightly, I don't know. Perhaps we did more damage over Sagittaron than we knew. Perhaps they fear the Areion's weapon." Another exhalation, and she watches the CAG through the haze of smoke carefully; she always watches carefully. "That was before he learned that the report — which I would agree was not alarming at all, really — was overshadowed by the actual wireless conversation during the incident. Your pilots did you a favor, but they forgot that they were not the only ones listening at the time."

Cidra's blue eyes have gone a touch wide, though she still manages to keep her expression somewhat neutral. Not inscrutable. This conversation is definitely beginning to make her uncomfortable. She clears her throat, sitting up straighter in her chair. "Captain Nikephoros. I am sure a good deal of the chatter heard by CIC over the wireless sounds odd. If one is not a flight officer, one cannot be expected to truly understand the intricacies of communication in that situation." There's the slightest edge of condescension there that is almost certainly intentional. "I shall admit I neglected some of the niceities of wireless protocol, which I fully admit, and I shall enter my error into the record if Command deems it necessary. But I cannot say I understand the fuss about this matter."

Cora's expression remains neutral, which is her own default, just as Cidra's is inscrutable. It's not so much that her reactions are difficult to read as that she just doesn't appear to have any, the majority of the time. Now is one of those times. "I assure you, Major Hahn," she replies mildly, "That as an Officer of the Watch, I am more than familiar with the intricacies of wireless communication protocols, even those utilized by flight officers. Speaking of which, your squadron leader, who I hope you would agree is a very experienced flight officer, sounded positively distressed at the time; one might even say 'afraid'. You invite yourself along on CAP for no apparent reason, flying a ship you do not at all favor, and then proceed to suddenly speed toward the surface in an alarmingly dangerous fashion while ceasing to respond to repeated calls from your fellow pilots. What Command deems necessary is an explanation."

"I am fully qualified for Viper flight." There's a definite snap in Cidra's tone, though it still meets the strict definition of composed. "I have final approval over the CAP rotation and can take shifts as I deem them appropriate. Ensign Devlin is very green and I did want to observe him to make certain he was handling his duties as a pilot adequately." Which doesn't answer Cora's question really, but that's the response she's getting. "As for Poppy…she over-reacted. I thought I spotted activity on the ground, I went in for a closer look, it turned out to be nothing and I pulled up. There. You have your explanation."

"And why did you cease responding over wireless despite their agitation?" Cora asks in even response, continuing to watch Cidra from across the desk. Her attention is keen, and yet somehow muted, like she's paying attention to observing detail, but asking the questions by rote almost.

Cidra's eyes remain narrowed on Cora, only increasing annoyance betrayed in her expression. Her fingers toy with her cigarette, tapping it on the edge of her ashtray far beyond the point where it needs to be ashed. "I did not 'cease' responding over wireless. If you heard the recording you know I did respond." Eventually. "If I was not as prompt as I should have been, it was because I was distracted by what I did think I perceived on the ground. Really, Captain Nikephoros. There may be a Cylon agent now aboard this ship and this is the matter on which you choose to spend your precious time?" Condescending CAG is even more condescending. And allows a note of actual irritation into her tone.

"The thing that turned out not to exist?" Cora replies, just the faintest dry note slipping into her tone. She leans forward to flick her cigarette against the ash tray, blue eyes flicking up to Cidra's face from that shortened distance. "I spend my precious time on the things command requests that I spend it on," she says. She sits back again, taking a thoughtful drag as she eyes the major and then one shoulder lifts in a hint of a shrug as her chin shifts sideways in something that seems to stand in for a shake of her head. "I cannot say I think it really merits the effort, but now that I'm here I find I'm somewhat more intrigued. I cannot think what it would be that you're bothering to lie about." Another considering breath, and then a real shrug, "But all things considered, it hardly matters. You are absolutely vital to the survival of this fleet and deserve some latitude. I'll inform Major Tillman that it was as you told him, and doesn't deserve any further thought."

"Shall we move on to Tauron?" Cora continues, blithely leaving the previous topic behind, "I'd like your input as we draw up plans for the relocation of our search and rescue efforts to that planet."

Cidra's jaw tightens at the word 'lie.' She didn't like that. "I do not appreciate being called a liar, *Captain*." Rank is stressed. Which isn't typical at all of the CAG. Though her attitude in general during this conversation has not been typical. Left hand tightens to a white knuckle fist, while her right continues to toy in that fidgety way with her cig. Her face is well-schooled inscrutably, but her fingers not quite so much. "I have very little more time to spare you today, I think, so let us make this quick. Tauron. Fine. As with Sagittaron and Aerilon, I shall require a spot able to land my Raptors and Vipers. Our rather pastoral experience on the island here aside, I do think we should mimic our lessons learned from Sagittaron. An easily securable facility. Perhaps another prison, or similar large complex."

"Then do not lie to an Intel officer, Major," Cora returns. Perversely, her lips shift faintly, almost flickering towards a smile, just for a moment. She says nothing, however, and that hint or humor or whatever it was is gone as quickly as it appeared. She listens, and nods her agreement. "We are working over the data gathered during recon and looking for something along those lines. There are numerous industrial facilities, we think something like that might serve our purposes. Intel and Tactical are also working up the most likely targets for search and rescue as well as salvage operations, and will be getting that information to you shortly; I hope it will be completed by the time we arrive on Tauron, which ought to be in a couple weeks. They have also," she continues, with a faint shift in her chair that subtly signals another change in topic, "Been reviewing recon data gathered from Picon, and it has been proposed that plans be considered for a possible strike against the cylons there."

Cidra glares at Cora, finally remembering her cigarette enough to smoke it. But she has no actual retort to being called far more pointedly a liar just then. Beyond the glare. Which she can generally wield quite imposingly, though it lacks its full force just now. "Picon?" A hint of surprise there. It's enough to distract her from glaring, at least. "What sort of proposal? Even with the capabilities the Areion showed over Sagittaron, the planet is entirely held by Cylons. It would be suicide to try and reclaim it."

Cora says nothing more on the subject of lying, and nods at the surprised rhetorical. "Picon," she confirms, though she is quick to agree, "Oh, it would. Reclamation was not what we had in mind. An attack on the shipyards above the planet is the idea we wish to explore. The cylons seem to have reappropriated them for the construction of basestars. If we could destroy the basestars currently in production as well as the facility, it might curtail their ability to increase their numerical advantage further."

Cidra's frowns slim, mind on that now and manner more what one usually expects from her. Though there's still that edge of irritation underlying it. "Their salvage efforts in the atmosphere of many of the colonies suggests a major rebuilding effort. If we could curtail that, it might set them back even farther. We did manage to get a Raptor close to their construction yard, but they barely made it out intact. And that was but one ship, whose mission was merely to see and run. It would be a dioey bit of business."

Cora allows Cidra that time to consider, and then listens in interested silence as she speaks. "It would be dicey," she agrees, "It's not something to undertake lightly at all, but I think it's worth looking into. Evaluating the possibilities, calculating whether it would be worthwhile. As you say, if we could cripple their production, we might be able to slow or even halt their rebuilding efforts on the inner colonies. Maybe a distraction elsewhere would give us an opening?"

"Perhaps…" Cidra says, smoking thoughtfully when distraction is mentioned. "They do seem to be laying low, and letting us do the same, at the moment. Frankly, it strikes me odd. And is much unsettling perhaps even more than if we were seeing Raiders on CAP each day. Still, they must know after Sagittaron we are not ignoring the colonies they have deserted. A distraction would be prudent, not only to take attention from any effort we might launch toward the yard on Picon, but to keep eyes off our efforts to come on Tauron."

"They must be re-grouping," Cora replies, "I've yet to come up with another plausible explanation from the information we have. For some reason it was necessary for them to abandon these planets quickly and withdraw their forces and resources back to the central planets and begin fortifying those. Given the timing, it seems we may have done more damage over Sagittaron than we knew. But yes," she goes on with a nod, "The attack on Picon shipyards would be useful in that respect, also. If they are busy dealing with a mess there, they may be more likely to leave us alone here. On the other hand," she continues after a beat or two, somewhat more slowly, "We might run the risk of provoking them into counter-attack where otherwise they might continue to leave us alone."

"When we took out that biological facility of theirs, yes," Cidra says. "Given the timing, that does seem the logical conclusion. Still, given what we have seen of their forces on Virgon and Picon and Caprica and Canceron and…well. We are still very little threat to them, and only achieved what we did over Sagittaron in the first place with the aid of the Eleven. Perhaps the Areion's capabilities drive them as well. Whatever it is they are building toward." A nod at that last. "We might well provoke them, yes. And we know not how close they are to achieving whatever strength they strive for."

"Sad but true," Cora agrees again, "Even if we did more damage than we thought, we're still overwhelmingly outnumbered. And it may be they are searching for some counter to Areion's weapon before they attack again," she nods, "It would be wise of them, and we have no way of knowing how close they may be. To that, or anything else." She ashes her cigarette again, and then once more, a bit unnecessarily. "We know very little," she admits, "And additional recon to the Picon yards would probably only lead them to guess our aim and increase security there. But my people will be drawing up some preliminary proposals for a strike against that target, and I'll see that the drafts are sent to you as soon as I have them, so that we can discuss our options in more detail. In the meantime, I will leave you to your work." She stands, and then pauses, setting finger tips on the edge of the table. "You asked me once to be your friend," she says, "And I agreed. I suspect at the moment you may be thinking I did not mean it, and I am sorry for that, but know that I did. Friends call each other on their bullshit, Cidra, as I did. And then, because they trust each other, they back each other up anyway, as I am going to do now. I hope you understand."

"I and my squadron leaders shall coordinate with Tactical when you are ready. I shall get us about doing some preliminaries of our own. We should involve Lieutenant Colonel Baer's people from the Areion as well. If we are to undertake this we shall need their support. We cannot send Raptors to Picon without Viper support, and we cannot risk putting Cerberus that close to Picon for a quick strike. We shall speak upon it more at a later time." She stays sitting for her part. Cora's parting words are obviously unexpected, blue eyes shifting back to meet the Intel officer's. The look she gives the other woman is long, though it's not precisely a glare. "I am fine, Cora. It was nothing." It is said firmly. Perhaps not convincingly, but firmly. She puts out the remnants of her cigarette, only to light another one.

"Yes, we will definitely need support from the Areion's flight as well," Cora agrees, "Let's work something up in-house and then get in touch with Lieutenant Colonel Baer a bit further down the line." She watches that long look, eye contact maintained throughout it, and then nods. "Good," she replies simply, and if she is not very convincing either, she is equally firm. "I personally enjoy your company, and professionally I was not exaggerating when I said that you are essential to this fleet. Take care of yourself. And if you make any break-throughs," she gestures at the walls, "Let me know. Every bit helps."

Cidra's eyes go back to the walls. To all the highlighted names and spidery Gemenese notes. She says no more, sinking into her chair and smoking. That's all the farewell Cora will get, it seems.

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