PHD #221: Knights Errant
Knights Errant
Summary: The Black Knights get a new squadron leader, yet again. Khloe Vakos gets some more brass and the weight of far more responsibility.
Date: 05 Oct 2041 AE
Related Logs: Several, but After the Hunt brings us full circle (and Cidra Player just really likes that log).
Cidra Khloe 
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: #221

Cidra is in her office. Which is hardly an unusual thing these days. The CAG has spent a good deal of time - even her off hours - in office. Rumor has it she's sleeping here, as she's spent considerably fewer nights in the berthings. She began devoting more hours here, alone and with her hatch closed, after the battlestar's adventures on Sagittaron. But her holing up here has become particularly noticeable since Captain Sikta's death. In any case, her hatch is not closed at the moment. It is slightly ajar and Cidra sits at her desk. Smoking a cigarette and waiting.

There comes the usual 'bang bang' of someone knocking to announce their entrance. Stepping in is Khloe, dressed in uniform. In fact, it looks like she's gone over it with a brush, as there's not a spot of lint to be found. Boots have been recently polished, as well. While catching the Lieutenant in her uniform isn't an uncommon sight, it's obvious that she's expecting something - the CAG doesn't often summon you when your SL can do the ass-chewing. Sporting a freshly tied braid, it looks like Poppy is expecting a dressing-down, and self punishment via prim-and-proper is usually how Khloe deals with uncertainty.

"Reporting as ordered, Major," comes her quick alto. She comes to a halt with heels together, facing Cidra's desk.

Cidra is also in her duty blues, though they're rumpled, top two buttons undone, and her ruddy dark hair is down around her shoulders. Is she even supposed to be on duty now? Who knows. She puts out her cigarette at the knock. Carefully. It's not even half-smoked. She can still use that one later. She stands, returning Khloe's salute fluidly. "Lieutenant Vakos. I thank you for your promptness. Sit, please." She motions for the woman to pull up a chair, as she retakes hers.

One might notice, as one enters the office, the small mountain of paperwork that's been shoved to one side of her desk. Folder upon folder, octagonal stacks of paper approaching three feet in height. If one is curious enough to look at them one finds…welll, something mind-numbingly boring, at first glance. The CAG appears to be collecting old maintenance reports and duty logs from the hangar deck. Which she's covered with highlighting an chicken-scratch notes that likely only make sense to her. She's making quite the project out of it, whatever it is.

Khloe takes the indicated seat, smartly bringing both knees together and resting her hands palms down on her thighs. There's always tension with Poppy, and she's showing signs of it now despite sitting ram-rod straight and not making any movement one way or another. Her gaze does quickly travel along the CAG's desk, but she doesn't let it linger long. It's none of my business, she thinks. Stay focused.

And whatever it is she's doing with those papers, Cidra has put it firmly aside for the moment. Cloudy blue eyes focused on the Viper pilot. And for a moment, all she does is watch her. Silently. To the point where oen might start to wonder if she'd just been asked in here to be stared at. There's a weighing quality in the CAG's gaze, but otherwise her features are carefully schooled. Giving little away of what she weighs Khloe to be. The woman's always been reserved, and she only grew more inscrutable in the long years since she was a mere twenty-something Raptor pilot. As she stares, she plucks a coil of beads that were laying on one corner of her desk up and winds them around her fingers. Prayer beads. Well-worn olive wood, and strung with a crudely-carved wooden charm of Athena's owl. Which might seem odd. Cidra is Gemenese down to her marrow, but displays of her faith on duty are rare. Perhaps it's just to give her something to do with her hands, now that her cigarette is out. Either way, she takes her sweet time twining them around her right hand as she *watches* Khloe.

She does speak eventually, however. "You clean up well, Poppy. Far cry from the Marsyas, no?" Barest hint of a smile, though it doesn't touch her eyes.

Khloe betrays the slightest hint of emotion while being studied by Cidra: a small swallow; a slight flexing of her hands with short fingernails lightly scratching her thighs; and her lower lip sucked in between her teeth for half a second before she responds. She nods slightly. "Yes, sir. They drill hygiene and neatness into you at the academy, but the Marsyas wasn't the academy." No smile is returned, but that's Poppy's way. She's as stoic as her superior officer, and friend, that sits across the desk from her.

"I think of the Marsyas often," Cidra says, eyes not leaving Khloe as she begins to work her beads. Soft click-click-click pattern. Fallen into with such ease it's clearly instinct for her by now. Thumb pausing over the little owl charm each time it works its way around through her hands. "It was my crucible. Wherein I remade myself." There is no particular pride in her tone as she says this. More watching, another long pause. "You have done well for yourself flying with the Checkmates. Blowback speaks highly of you." Soft chuckle. "And Adia does not speak highly of many." Cidra does not have the closest of relationships with the balls-to-the-wall Checkmates SL, but her respect for her, and her other squadron leaders, runs deep.

"Just like Tau Garrison for me," Khloe responds, the corners of her mouth downturning slightly as if remembering a foul taste. "But I have a lot to thank you for — and I probably never get much chance to say it. It's not often that I sit face to face with my CAG, reminiscing about old times. As if somehow, they were better times. It sucked then, too." Her lips draw tight as she forces herself to shut up. Normally not one to be chatty, it's clear that, given the chance and the right time, Poppy would pour herself out to Cidra. That time's never really materialized, though, especially now with how humanity's almost extinct, and all.

Khloe takes a deep breath, and her professional voice returns. "Sir, I'm going to wager you didn't bring me in here to reminisce. Whatever Blowback said, I'm willing to accept it and work doubly-hard on it."

"Most would say they were better times," Cidra says. Click, click, click. It does not really sound like she thinks they were. Cidra is not one who pours her heart out generally to anyone. That was true in the long long ago. It has only grown truer over the intervening years since they flew together on that carrier. A shake of her head. "No. I did not. You are no doubt aware that the post of squadron leader of the Black Knights remains unfilled, since Ibrahim's death." Captain Sitka, that'd be, though it's the familiar she uses for him. Click, click, click of the beads against her fingers. "Leadership of the Knights has ever been a difficulty for me. Some talk of the position as if it is cursed now? Did you know that?"

There's a slight tilt to Khloe's head as her previous mode of thinking - that ass-chewing was about to occur - is derailed. Her general demeanor relaxes just a slight amount; her nails are no longer lightly scratching at the fabric of her dress slacks. Her professional, stern facial expression softens slightly as she begins to think, What could she be meaning? She… oh, frak. The realization dawns upon her like a brick to the forehead.

"Toast, you can't be serious," Poppy says, her words just as clipped as before, but with a lilt upwards in the middle that almost suggests a whine. But she's not one to whine, oh no.

"Perhaps they are right…" Cidra muses softly, eyes sort of wandering away from Khloe and to the wall behind her, gaze faraway. "Perhaps it is cursed. I have never been able to sort the Knights to my satisfaction. We launched from Leonis spacedock with Captain Kefir Abbascia at their head. Captain Abbascia and I…I did not like the way he led his people. He was, I do think, far too impressed with himself for their own good. During the war games before the attacks, I do recall, he nearly threw a tantrum when a pilot his junior and a Reservist thrashed him in the simulators." A memory which actually makes her smile, albeit there is some sadness to it.

"After that, Anton Laskaris. Lasher." She says the man's callsign like she's cracking a whip. It makes her smile crook. "He flew like a bull in a china shop, but he could shoot. He was fierce. He was, I did think, what we needed, at the end of the worlds. Made for war. But he was young. Very young. And very raw. I pushed him too hard, I do think. Too soon. And he…well. He died a hero upon Leonis. And all honors to his service."

Another pause. "Alessandra Sophronia. Lucky's young, too. Though I think, unlike Lasher, she would have grown more easily into it. But I cannot put this back on her shoulders now. Not with all the loss she has suffered, not with fending off accusations of being a Cylon-lover. I fear it would break her now. And she has other duties. The Knights are very frayed now, and she is still finding herself again. It is too much to ask that she finds them as well."

Yet another pause. "The Knights, for all their individual strength as pilots, have always struggle to fly as a *team*. Ibrahim could have done it, I do think. Could have done with them what they needed, with more time. But he is gone now, too…" Slight catch in her voice. She clears her throat. Focus going back to Khloe again. Laid out like that, the assignment may very well have grown even less tempting. "…and I am left with a void in the Knights to fill yet again."

Khloe begins to slowly shake her head. "Major, you don't want me. I'm a frak-up. Out of all the people on this boat to know and understand that, I'm a frak-up." All of her confidence flees, her straight-laces coming undone like fraying twine. "They won't respect me, especially since the Captain was so highly regarded. They'll see me as a second-best. A runner-up. Gods forbid they read my jacket and see that I broke a superior officer's jaw two months out of flight school." The nail-scratching starts again. So much for the stress leaving. Then, quieter, after the outburst is done: "Why me?"

Cidra actually cracks a slightly wider smile at that last question. "Ibrahim asked me the very same when I put him in charge, after the Petrel were folded. As for him…the man was no saint. And…highly imperfect. You and Shiv have more in common than you know, actually." Whatever that might be, however, she speaks not on it just now. "Anyhow. I tell you now what I told him then. Before the Cylon attacks, before the colonies were destroyed, a CAG on a Mercury class battlestar would have had her pick of any shined-up captain or major in the fleet for a post like this. But the worlds are gone now. And I do the best I can with the pieces I have left. What the Knights need more than anything now is a clean start. A fresh pair of eyes and steady hands at their head who can sort them. As their will, no doubt, be hard days ahead. You are a good stick, Poppy, and you have become a better one since the Cylons came. But that is not the whole of such things as this. You have a clear head on your shoulders, you do not hotdog, and you are a good hand at working *with* younger pilots rather than just barking at them. And I trust you. That…is no small thing right now."

Khloe takes it all in, listening to Cidra explain things. There's a long pause after she finishes, as her gaze drops to her lap and her brows knit as she struggles with her words. "You know, I can't find anything to say as a counter," she admits, gray-blue eyes looking back up to meet Cidra's. This gets her to finally crack a smile, or at least one that passes for her - an upturned corner of her mouth. More like a smirk, really. "And you know that I've never second-guessed your wisdom."

Cidra snorts a rueful half-chuckle. "My 'wisdom' is carefully-constructed bullshitting," she says dryly. The profanity may be a surprise from her, particularly used so casually. It is the word that seems most fitting, however. "But do not tell. I have my reputation as omniscient dragon lady to protect." She works so hard to cultivate it, after all. "Anyhow. Yes. I do think it was time you were given more responsibility than just a senior pilot within the Checkmates. And I do not think those lieutenant's pins suit you so much anymore." Finally, a pause in her bead work. Reluctant she winds them loose from around her fingers, setting them carefully on her desk. And reaches into her drawer, plucking out a pair of Captain's pins, which she holds out to Khloe in an outstretched palm. Perhaps they're out of those little ceremonial boxes one gets with a promotion, given that it's the end of the worlds.

Despite all that's been said so far, Khloe is still shaking her head. Her mouth briefly hangs open for a moment, then snaps shut, lest she actually be witnessed smiling or grinning or showing an emotion other than stone-cold bitch. "I… thank you, Major," she says, rising to her feet and reaching across the desk to accept the pins. Then, stoicism returns once the weight of the pins is felt in her hand - likely heavier than physically possible. "I won't let you down, sir," she says with her professional voice, but now it's her turn for a word or two to catch inside her throat.

"I trust you will not." It's a mixture of confidence and a firm order. Cidra stands as well as Khloe is properly captained. Eying the woman up and down, still in that weighing way. Still hard to tell precisely what she makes of the Viper pilot. Toast does not give of herself easily, even to those she does call friends. "The promotion is effective immediately, you shall begin your duties heading the Knights tomorrow. Clear eyes and steady hands, Poppy."

A sharp salute is given to Cidra as Khloe returns to fully operational stoicism. "Yes, sir," she acknowledges, waiting for the Major to reciprocate and then drop a return salute before turning smartly on her heels and heading for the exit.

The salute is acknowledged fluidly by Cidra, who moves out from behind her desk as Khloe heads for the door. "Some of the Knights shall take this more easily than others. They are…not the easiest group of pilots to lead. But. Ordering of Vipers is always like herding cats. Be firm with them but fair. They shall respect the position because they must. Earn their trust as you can." With that, she extends a hand to Khloe. For a parting shake, presumably.

Khloe glances down at the hand, then back up at the woman who offered it. Having known a lighter, less serious, more raw Ensign years ago on the Marsyas, Cidra might know that she was brimming with pride. But the shake is met without any more expression and without any outburst. Any pride she feels is kept carefully inside, because the moment she steps outside that cabin door, the world is different. "Thank you, Major. And, if I may say so, sir, that's definitely wisdom, and not BS."

Cidra does not shake, precisely, but grasps Khloe's hand firmly and holds it, trying to meet her gaze with those cloudy blue eyes of hers. She was always serious, though she became far more so during her time long long ago on that carrier. And has only become moreso over the years. A soft snort. "We shall see what the both of us make of this before we call it wisdom or bullshit," she says dryly. And then, she leans forward to kiss Khloe. On the lips. There's nothing romantic about the gesture. It's more sisterly, and ceremonial, than anything else, and quite brief. "Good hunting."

Khloe raises both eyebrows - there's no subtext perceived, as it's common knowledge she's Gemenese. Still, it was unexpected, and she's allowed to blush, right? Ahem. "Sir," is all she says with a nod, lips drawn taught and jaw tight. Back to professionalism. And that's when she throws the wheel of the cabin door and goes to step outside into the hallway.

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