PHD #339: Making Sense From No Sense
Making Sense From No Sense
Summary: Cidra and Trask discuss several things, including: mine sweeping, stealth approaches, the mystery ship that may be from Kobol, unclear motivations, and the nature of trust and respect. Then Marko swings by with further fuel for conversation.
Date: 31 Jan 2042 AE
Related Logs: Assorted Operation Mastiff logs; Quest for the Holy Whale (the mystery ship), Pressure Points - Air Wing (the Gun and the Cylons over Tauron), & Debriefed (prompting for an apology). Also, for the curious: Inscribed in Flesh (just why Trask is not smoking)
Cidra Marko Trask 
CAG's Office - Deck 10 - Battlestar Cerberus
Post-Holocaust Day: #339
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: privacy. It is dominated by a blocky gray metal desk straight out of standard Navy supply with an equally standard-issue rolling chair behind it. A few other chairs are shoved against one wall, for those who drop by for whatever business they have with the CAG. The surface of the desk is covered by a computer and stacks of files and octagonal papers covering whatever bit of aerial bureaucracy she's mussing with that day. A few heavy books on air mechanics - mostly devoted to Raptors - occupy the shelves.

The room is largely devoid of decoration, save one item hanging on a hook on the shelf direct above her desk: a set of prayer beads, well-worn olive wood and strung with a single, crudely-carved owl charm.
Condition Level: 3 - All Clear

Bootstrap has no problem swinging by unannounced to discuss whatever it is he feels compelled to discuss. For once, he's actually sent a memo requesting a meeting. In truth, that's probably his way of asking Cidra to 'plz smoke up b4 I show up kthx!'. At the agreed upon time, there is a rap-tap-tap at the hatch door. He doesn't barge on in, though, as is his usual wont. Perhaps he's allowing the occupant a few final puffs.

Cidra is, indeed, not smoking when Trask comes by. "Come in," she calls from her desk, where she's going over her daily memos. The hatch is slightly ajar, as it tends to be when she's within and not deeply occupied, but she does like it when people knock. When Trask enters, she rises. "Bootstrap. Why the formality?" Her tone is, ever so slightly, wary.

It's been one week since he's gone cold turkey on his precious cigarettes, and he's certainly been showing several signs of withdrawal. Fidgeting and agitation; minor befuddlement largely manifesting in a lack of his usual articulateness; and, perhaps most shocking, much less sass, even if he's more prone to genuine snappishness. So, while the simple faint shrug of his shoulders and the non-verbal sound that substitutes for 'dunno' is certainly atypical for the man, it is not, if medical journals are to be believed, abnormal for someone undergoing nicotine detox. Which he currently is doing. Hardcore. "So, these mines," Trask begins, just like that, dropping atop the CAG's desk the folder he brought with him, "I think I've figured out a flightpath for our Vipers that'll result in a detonation pattern that'll make it look like a debris drift triggered chain reaction."

Cidra has not exactly minded Trask's slight personality change during his downtime from smokes, though she's sympathetic. She's a lover of all things nicotine (and beyond) herself, and the idea of having to go without them likely fills her with dread. "Ah. I see. Sit, please. That is most excellent. As much as we can do to avoid drawing attention to ourselves. What have in you mind?"

Without fanfare, the SL sits. Flipping open the folder, he starts arranging the contents across the desk's surface. "Based on the video footage we've acquired, coupled with the mines we've managed to ping on our DRADIS sweeps, this is what I've come up with." A bit verbally sluggish, as of late, often mentally flailing to find the words he wants to formulate sentences, his cognitive capacity nonetheless hasn't diminished. The work is solid. If one were to run them through a simulation program, it'd hold up. "Still trying to determine the best approach for the Raptors. Our usual masking tricks won't work, and we don't have the means to reproduce any of the Cylon signatures we've captured. If we clear enough of a flight path and time it right, we could drift in dead, kinda like what Sweet Pea and Flasher did at Canceron."

"Whatever is in there did not react to Bubbles and Blue, and yourself, approaching their facility," Cidra says. "But gods know what game they are playing in there. Anyhow, this looks very good. See it implemented. Coordinate with Poppy. She'll get our Vipers running drills in the sims, and see it passed along to the Spectres as well. I suspect they shall enjoy the chance for some tight flying." Said a little wryly, but with a slight smile this time. Her tolerance for the Evocati has risen since they've been bunking here.

There is a quiet but distinct sound of a hard mint being rolled around in his mouth, clacking against the back of his teeth. Sucking on it for a moment, Kal briefly starts drumming a few fingers against the tabletop. He's been known to idly fiddle with things, but this is decidedly one of those restless tics prompted from withdrawal. "Dunno. Dunno." About why the Cylons didn't react. "Perhaps what the damaged Raider was broadcasting overrode everything else. I've been going over the transmissions I recorded… It's possible to re-transmit 'em. I'll admit that I'm curious as to what that might prompt. Just… well, no way of knowing how bad an idea it'd be until we find out. Yanno? And I'm not about to risk a bunch of lives or the element of surprise to appease my academic curiosity." Although, really? He /really/, really, REALLY wants to know. "Anyway, I'll have Flasher tweak the hack job I did in the sims. Get that sorted out, then deal with the Viper sticks. And I'll confer with Sweet Pea and the rest of our jocks," by which he means the Raptors, "about a dead drift approach. Risky, but so is showing up on their sensors."

"Curious?" Cidra's brows arch. "Missions like this are not times for experimentation of that sort. Still, might be worth toying with down the line. In a Raptor with its jump engines spun up to escape if all goes to hells. Question of finding another testing ground for it, if our mission succeeds in destroying this thing." If, of course. She is by no means certain this will work. A pause and she adds, very wryly, "We have both survived madder plans made by madder men before."

Recall that disclaimer about moodiness and snappishness? Well, it was issued for a reason. "Of /course/, I'm curious." And now annoyed. "And, if you were paying attention, you'd've realized that I /also/ said I wasn't going to risk our people or our objective to appease that curiosity." This isn't relayed with the usual snark or cheek. There is a distinct lack of humor in the statement. Testy Trask is testy. "And just 'cuz /we've/ survived stupid-ass plans, plenty others haven't." His expression sours to match his tone.

Cidra's blue gaze goes rather flat. "My sympathies only extend so far, Boots." The warning is light but palpable. "I was stating, more to the point, that it is unknown when we would have an opportunity to test such again. Though it does stand to reason there would be more of these facilities out there. Even if the Cylons have abandoned the outer colonies - mostly - it seems they have not entirely given up on whatever infrastructure they hold there. Though with all their might on Picon and Canceron and Scorpia and Caprica churning out new toasters, they have not yet destroyed us. And they had ample opportunity over Tauron. It cannot *all* come down to fear of the Areion's weapon… though perhaps they still just view us as a nuisance."

The warning? Ignored. Possibly not even registered due to a lack of caring. Who can really say? Instead, "Or maybe they're emulating their makers more than they would like." It's not that he's being coy (for a change); it's simply a by-product of his in-the-throes-of-detox mental state that results in no further elaboration. As for the Areion and its mighty weapon, those big brown eyes roll. "Impressive as that frakking thing may be," and he'll concede that it /is/ impressive, "it's only useful when it can actually be used. The only reason that shot went off is because it was /permitted/ to go off. Anyone who believes otherwise is, at best, deluded." Bootstrap /does/ have a point. If that basestar and its peons had wanted to take out the Areion over Tauron, it had ample opportunity before The Gun was ready to be fired.

"That Gun of theirs does absorb all concentration of forces to get its shot off," Cidra says. "Again, more to the point. That electronic monster of a basestar they sent with their Raiders over Tauron was not there to attack us. It seems clear enough it was there to observe. Skiron…" Ahem. "…Lieutenant Colonel Baer does not seem overly concerned with our ability to stand up against retaliation stemming from whatever it is they collected. Still, it also seems clear the enemy is playing some game with us. Whether from whatever information they gathered over Tauron or from this… relic…" Though on that her tone is softer. She *wants* to believe that's genuine, even if she's reluctant to.

"That's what I can't stand about 'im, y'know." Trask is on a mental track that is not about to be derailed. Maybe, at some point, he'll get around to the conversation Cidra is attempting to have. Were he more of himself, he'd have no problem multitasking his acerbic observations. Instead, he just carries on. "Yeah, he's a pretentious, self-aggrandizing prick, but that's nothing new in the upper echelons of the military. And I sure has frak have no love for spooks, but that's not it, either. Shit. I could even shrug off the arrogance if it were warranted. But it's not. They rely way too much on that frakkin' thing. Way too much. WAY too much." Cue the nic fit hypo-mania. "It's /dangerous/. That kind of mentality gets people killed. Not even that they rely on it too much, although that seriously is stupid. It's this attitude that they are /untouchable/ because of that frakking thing. Hubris, Cid. Hubris. You're a woman of the Faiths. You /know/ how that ends."

"I do not think they view themselves untouchable," Cidra says with a shake of her head. "Far from it. Papa has spoken of the casualties they have suffered in defense of their ship. They are serious as ours per capita, given their smaller crew. I think more that they feel the losses they have suffered worth the sacrifice. And tactically I cannot call him wrong. By the numbers strictly, once that thing gets off a shot it wreaks destruction on the Cylons in its vicinity. While we throw ourselves at the enemy and call it a victory if we have bought enough time to flee. Do not mistake me. I would not push for offense against the Cylons. But I cannot argue they have taken out more of the enemy with them than we have by far."

"Maybe not Skiron. Maybe not those who full well know what it means to fly and fight and die. But to listen to that prick Kepner go on and on about his penile compensation?" Cue the sarcastic, la-dee-da tone, "Oh, my can of glorious whoop-ass. It doesn't matter if they know how it works. They'll still get a bullet in their brain." It's pretty much paraphrased, although Kepner did refer to The Gun as a can of glorious whoop-ass. And the bullet in the brain comment is pretty much verbatim. And it all prompts a derisive snort. "The only reason it went off in T-minus-30 is because the Cylons weren't there to wipe us out. You wanna tell me he's fronting? Talkin' the big talk to inspire or whatever? Fine. People have done stupider shit. Me, though? I don't buy that he doesn't buy his own hype. And /that/," the ECO asserts, "that makes him a menace."

That said, he pulls a 90-degree turn, if not a full 180. "Anyway, when did you want me to apologize?" Just like that. Lords only know how he'd be handling that prospect were he not so deprived of sweet nicotine.

As to that, Cidra's silent a long moment. "I thought little better of Pewter after AuĂ°umbla. I think I judged him wrong, though. 'Hit them harder, faster.' Well. It rallied the troops when they needed it. And I… I understand him better now, I think. I cannot pretend to understand the pressures he is under, and I suspect Kepner is much the same." A pause and she adds, "Still, I am glad it is Pewter I serve under. As… incomprehensible as he is on occasion." As to the latter, "Soon as can be arranged. Before Silent Mastiff goes off. You do not have to like the man, Boots, but you do not get into a verbal pissing match with your commander in the field. It only causes confusion. In any case. I shall need to make a few trips to the Areion in the coming days. We shall go together."

"/A/ commander," Kal is keen to point out. "And it's not about not liking the prick. I like very few people. It's a matter of trust and respect, and you can save the whole it's not the person but the rank that's due respect lecture." He knows her well enough to know that it's coming. "I don't have to like someone in order to trust or even respect 'em. But I don't like him, don't trust him, and don't respect him. You, however, I /do/ like, do trust," for the most part, anyway, "and do respect." Admittedly, in his irreverent way. "So. I'll do my best to make nice, but it has /nothing/ to do with him." Nor does it have to do with threat of disciplinary action or censure. And there is no mistaking by his look or tone that he's fronting. He means all that he's said. "I'd just be a shitty backseater if I let one of my pilots get shot to shit." Which is his way of saying that he has Cidra's back, even if it means swallowing a bit of pride.

Cidra smirks, ever so slightly. "You cannot pick and choose your commanders. You protect your ship and look our for your people as best you can, and pray those above you know better than you can sometimes perceive. I do not always know what to make of the Areion still. I shall admit that. But its pilots seem not unlike us, beneath the Evocati bluster. And all we can do to better fly together the better." A pause. "And with Abbot dead, I am at present unsure what shape the future command of the Fleet shall take. Commander Laughlin of the Praetorian has rank, technically, but he has always been reluctant to push his authority and left much to Pewter. Thus far, Kepner has not pressed the matter. Nor has Lieutenant Colonel Baer pushed the fact that he ranks myself when it comes to our pilots. But…" A shrug. "I try to prepare myself for it if such will come." She's… inscrutable on the issue.

"Well," the man more somberly muses, "here's hopin' that Laughlin steps up to the plate. No one can rightfully contest that he does not hold seniority with the Fleet." Which might be why Kepner has not pressed the issue. The BSG-132 already has one coup under its belt. "And if ol' Rudy ends up in charge," Trask's mouth quirks in a distasteful smirk, "Well, I hope you'll visit me in the brig and do what you can to ensure that a lack of ass-kissing remains a non-executional offense." Shifting gears a little bit, he adds, "But since I'm the proactive sort, and you're a woman of the Faith, I'd also ask that you pray I'm mistaken about the kind of man Rudolph Kepner is. Maybe your Lords and Ladies will assent." There's something cynical about him when he says that, though. Perhaps even a touch rueful. Were he feeling more his usual self, he wouldn't linger on the notion as long as he does. "Anyway, I'll apologize for being contentious in the field. The /rank/ at least deserves that much. I still maintain that anything less than kowtowing and prostration," yes, he said prostration, "will please 'im, though." Which means the Areion's CO is going to be displeased.

"The rank, at least, does," Cidra concurs firmly. "Is there anything further? If not, direct your plans with the Vipers to Poppy so she can start preparing. If nothing else, it should be a simpler run than Leonis." It's just shy of a joke. And maybe not even just. The exfile from there is a sort of 'it couldnt' possibly be worse' touchstone.

"Not at the moment, no." A pause. More sucking of that dwindling mint. Also, the lack of a quip about Leonis. Yet another telltale sign of the detox process. Were there not medical science to account for these changes in temperament, it would rightfully be downright alarming. Give him another two weeks and then a carton to chain-smoke, and he'll be right as rain. "Any word on the ship survey? Can't say I've found much in the archives about Kobol ship design. Certainly no schematics." But Boots is doing whatever homework he can.

"There are illustrations in the historical books that - somewhat - resemble what Sweet Pea and Flasher found," Cidra says. "But those are only drawings. Half fanciful things at that, as much myth as history. So much of what we know about who we were as a people when the tribes left Kobol is lost." As to the question. "Captain Nikephoros is drawing up mission plans. We shall jump soon, I do hope. Engineering, incidentally, has finished the metallurgical analysis. It is… quite staggering. The metal was apparently processed quite differently than our techniques, so it is difficult to pin down precisely, but the analysis dates it as… fifteen-hundred to five thousand years old. It has been there a good long time, whatever it is."

His interest is certainly piqued, but it comes across as far more subdued and musing than is par for the course. "You have a copy I can review? If not, I'll bug Dom." Even if Gabrieli is no longer the ChEng. Trask is a creature of habit. Besides, G-Force is among that small number of people who the SL likes, trusts, and respects.

"I shall forward you what Captain Makinen provided me," Cidra says. "The man seems to know his business. That is what matters." Still, her tone is rather carefully inscrutable as to the subject of the new ChEng. Not for any disfavor to him but… well, she rather likes Gabrieli, too. In her fashion. "It is… Boots, so many answers about ourselves the Scrolls only hint at could lie in such a thing. Captain Nikephoros says she shall push for its exploration to be a priority even over Silent Mastiff. Perhaps it is not… pragmatic, with such more immediate concerns but… I shall do the same."

"Perhaps not," is his reply about pragmatism, generally being a painfully pragmatic person himself. "Maybe that doesn't matter." A pensive pause. "Dunno." Further contemplative silence. Whatever thoughts ruminate in the man's mind, however, are not forthcoming. A nod, then, about the report. "I heard he's kind of a dick. Seems like the kind I'd get along with, though." Makinen, that is, which really is all Trask has to say about that. "I suppose I should consult the Scrolls. If you have the time to spare, if you could give me a list of passages to check, I'll see if maybe I can make some technical sense about what we may find. If it really isn't like what we're used to, best do all we can to get into the proper mindset. See if we can see what they saw."

"Perhaps it does not," Cidra says soft, eyes ticking up the prayer beads that hang over her desk now. Maybe since the fire she just needed something to stand in for her owl. Or maybe not. "The priestess would be a better one to ask than I. My own studies were very concentrated on the gospels of Athena. And I was but a callow student when I left such things behind on a dedicated basis. But I shall see what I can find for you to pour over."

A faint nod, although it's not apparent as to what it is in response. That pensiveness has yet to abate, likely only so evident due to his somewhat altered mental state. Then, without a word, Bootstrap is back on his boots. "Thanks, Cid." Idly, with one finger, he slowly sketches an abstract design on the open flap of the folder, eyes on one of the printouts and yet far away. Eventually snapping back to the here and now, he adds, "Go over the projections, when you have the chance, an' lemme know if you think the dead drift is a viable option. I loathe the idea of being so powered down, but it's a calculated risk we need to consider." With that said, it's evident that he's ready to be dismissed.

"We are nothing if not good at calculating risks at this point," Cidra says. "I shall review your work but, preliminary, I think it a viable plan. We just must decide if sacrificing those seconds it shall take to power up again, should something go awry, is worth it." On that note, she stands as he goes.

"That we are," Kal concurs with both wryness and rue. And with that, he's heading for the hatch, spinning the wheel to get it open.

Marko raps his knuckles against the hatchcombing quickly. "CAG? Boss, I've got it," he calls just as Trask spins the wheel to undog the hatch.

Cidra has just finished a convo with Trask and is returning to her seat at her desk, rifling through her stack of papers for something or other. "Flasher. I have asked you before to call me Major Hahn or Toast. CAG as a name sounds rather strange." It is said with a faint smile, however. "Come in please. What have you got?"

Marko pulls the hatch open, and enters looking as if he's practically sprinted here from somewhere else. His trusty portable computer is tucked firmly under one arm as he bashes off a quick salute to the two senior officers. "Sirs," he says, respectfully, but quickly. "I just finished my orbit analysis on the derelict and….." he begins, pausing to catch his breath. "You've got to see this to believe it," he says, gesturing towards Cidra's desk for permission to plunk down his computer.

Trask /was/ on his way out, but that appears to be aborted with Flasher's arrival. So, instead, he lets the JiG pass and then closes the hatch to permit more privacy. Leaning against the doorframe, he idly starts rap-tap-tapping a rhythm against the metal. At least until Marko plunks down the computer. Guess who's wandering over for a look-see.

"Of course, Scaurus." Cidra shall give all the room he needs to work. "Report, please." And she'll hold any questions until he's finished.

Marko moves to set up his portable on Cidra's desk, angling the screen so it can be seen by all. "Okay, my initial estimate on the derelict's orbit put it at a seven hundred year period of rotation between aspis and perhelion, with perhelion being the point in space where we found her," he begins. "I've been able to crunch those numbers down a lot more, and I found _this_," he announces, tapping a key to trigger a crudely animated graphic of the derelict, represented by a simple T-shape, doing its thing. And here's where things get wonky. It's orbit is not just wildly elliptical, it's wildly eccentric as well, with at least four major wobbles in twenty three, fifty, one hundred twelve, and thousand year steps. Sometimes, it seems to speed up, others, it just seems to _stop_.

Trask is no astrophysicist. He is, however, an aerospace engineer, which means he knows, "That makes no sense." He also is really good at stating the obvious. "I'd ask if you were sure it wasn't a glitch, but that would be insulting my intelligence as much as yours." Even so, "How many times have you crunched these numbers?"

Cidra purses her lips, blue eyes narrowing at the graphic. The CAG is no astronomer herself of any great note, so the picture helps tremendously. "If its orbit is so erratic, that would make calculating its passage via drift quite… wild as well, yes? What do you think it means, Flasher?" She rifles more through her papers. "Well, if nothing else we have some additional concrete from Engineering. They have completed their analysis of those metal fragments you and Sweet Pea retrieved. They tell me it is difficult to date it precisely given the composition of the metal, but they seem quite definitive in putting its age at somewhere between 1,500 and 5,000 years."

"This is my first detailed pass based on _all_ the hard data, sir," Marko replies, reverting to formality without realizing it. "But the data sets it's based on, I've been crunching since we found her," he adds. "With your permission, sirs, I'd like to run this past the Navigation gang," he says, his tone making it a question. "They're more likely to spot any errors I might've made," he says, nodding as if he believes that he probably has made a few. After all, he's no astrophysicist either. "They have?" he replies to Cidra's information. "Damn… that definitely puts it on the Triad court, doesn't it?" he muses, frowning thoughtfully. "Still can't figure out why she's spinning here," he says, pointing to one particularly erratic wobble. "That's most likely an error, but the computer keeps telling me it's right."

Peering at the animation, Bootstrap suddenly starts slapping at his right forearm. Repeatedly. This is what one is instructed to do when a tattoo (and even moko) starts to itch. And they always itch like mad when healing. Seems like he's suddenly been hit with the urge to scratch, which means flat fingers lightly beating the nerve endings into compliance. "Sweet Pea take a look? She studied astrophysics at the academy." A look to Cidra, "I'd suggest Pickle, too, if this still isn't classified." Navigation isn't his call. As long as the coordinates are redacted, releasing them is above his paygrade.

"Pass it through Captain Nikephoros to delegate to anyone, given its classified status," Cidra says. "Or keep it in-house with Lieutenant Aydin. While the existence of this ship is not a classified matters, its precise location is. The Cylons have an obvious interest in this location and - to make a not so broad leap - this vessel, and there is every reason to believe we still have operating enemy agents within the Fleet. As for these oddities… Engineering does not believe this ship was capable of hyperlight jumps. Frame is too… delicately built to withstand them, if I understand right. Now, it is possible it merely traveled at sublight speeds. Or that it had some means or propulsion with which we are not familiar. Whether this might have affected its drift through space I know not. But, well, we shall all see soon enough. At present, it is just a matter of finalizing personnel with our other departments, and we shall take teams back to investigate this further. All are most eager to see further inside her."

Interesting. Here's Marko admitting to rushing down with the latest skinny without bothering to double-check his findings and here's a non-smoking, new-tatau slapping — Marko, being half-Tauron, knows the drill at least somewhat — Trask not flaying him alive for it. Clearly, either they've replaced Trask's water bottles with large-caliber single malt Aerilon whisky, or there's been some measure of sea change in the Harriers' Squad Leader. What that means, Marko's not about to speculate right now, the alternatives being, frankly, too damn unnerving. "You got it, Toast," he says instead, nodding. "Nikephoros or Lieutenant Pylades," he repeats. "I'll look them up, ASAP."

Nope. Boots is just undergoing nicotine detox and withdrawal. The way the symptoms are manifesting isn't abnormal, but still probably not what anyone was expecting. His irritability, tension, and moodiness, perhaps somewhat surprisingly, have resulted in no deaths or injuries. It's funny how altered biochemistry can affect a person. "Definitely have Sweet Pea take a look at it. Maybe you mis-entered something. It can happen. Tunnel vision."

"Just keep the sensitivity of this information very much in mind," Cidra says. "Perhaps the Cylons already have this location and it is a waste of time, but that is not a chance I do want to take. In any case, if there is nothing further gentleman, than you are dismissed. I shall copy you both, and Sweet Pea, on Engineering's findings on the matter of those metal fragments.

"Yes, sir," Marko replies, still not quite at ease enough to relax his formal state. Trask's seeming instability may or may not be the cause. "I'll grab Sweet Pea by the ear the first chance I get. Probably did enter something wrong, but it takes my computer an age to run the calculations," he adds by way of explanation and apology. "Figured you'd want to know what I found soon as I found it," he says, giving the barest hint of a shrug. "Also, I dunno if this is relevant or anything, but whoever did the purchasing of the portable computers on this ship deserves a medal," he smiles, collecting his smartly. "I've seen civilian rigs that cost the sky that wouldn't be able to plot this sort of thing without crashing."

"Well, whatever you need to do, make it happen, Flasher." Nonchalant, that. No sooner than he's done dealing with his forearm, Trask's face scrunches in response to his left bicep starting to itch. Annoyed, yes, but there's not much to do about it other than smack that healing moko, too. "Aye, aye, Major." A few more slaps and then a jaunty, two-fingered, scout-style salute. Then a peeved muttering of, "For frak's sake…" And back to dealing with the right forearm even after he's departed through the hatch.

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