PHD #242: EVENT - Metastasis
Summary: Sweet Pea and Flasher return to recon Canceron. Only to discover that the Cylon infection has gotten even worse.
Date: 26 Oct 2041 AE
Related Logs: TBD
Leyla Marko 
Colonial Space, near Canceron
It's a bird! It's a plane! … It's a frakton of Cylons around Canceron.
Post-Holocaust Day: #242

21:17 finds Marko in the back of one of the Harrier's Raptors, patiently going through the pre-flight checklist for the FTL and nav com systems as he hums softly to himself. "Thirty minutes to launch, Gods, please don't let the Toasters kill us…" he sings tunelessly.

"No one's going to kill us, Marko, least of all some cylons." That's piped up from the pilot's seat, where Leyla too, is working on her own preflight checks, making certain that everything's in its place and there's a place for everything, so to speak. "You know I wouldn't let anything happen to you."

"Oh, I know that." Marko replies easily enough, making the appropriate marks on the form with his grease pencil. "It's just that things have been going so reasonably well around here lately….the other shoe has to drop sometime or another." he sighs, then shakes himself a little. "Sorry, last-minute briefings with Cidra always make me nervous as hell." he chuckles.

"Well, it's not going to drop while on my watch." And since this is her ship, this is her watch, "Besides, Bertha's been through the worst. She can survive anything." Yes, there's pride in Leyla's voice, as she comments on the little raptor that could, that successfully evaded four heavy raider's complements worth of raiders in her last recon of Picon. "You should have seen her, Flasher. She would have left even vipers in her dust."

"Heh, I got no doubts about ol' Bertha here." Marko smiles, patting the ECO's console gently as he finishes his checklist. "Whatever happens, well, is pretty much whatever happens. Just get in, make our recon, and get out, if the Cylons are there, it'll just be a lot shorter trip." he smirks. "You're up on the co-ordinates Cidra wanted investigated, yes?"

"Yes, I've got everything plugged into the maps of the planet I programmed in, and I have an extra copy in the flight plan." A copy of which is strapped to her forearm. "I'm almost ready here, when you are, we can launch to warm up the ship and get ready for the first of our jumps."

"Sounds good to me, but if you'll excuse me for a moment." Marko replies, hauling himself out of the ECO's position. "I need to visit the little airdale's room." he smirks, giving Leyla a wave before slipping out of the bird and making his way quickly towards the nearby head. The downside of combat air ops, in all the years since humans first started using aircraft to fight with or spy on each other, no-one has ever invented a successful head design.

"You have a bladder the size of a walnut, I swear, Flasher." But she's certainly not going to stop the man. She sees enough diapers as it is, she doesn't need to start worrying about changing adult ones. Instead, she's happy to finish up with her side of things and then just sit and commune with the raptor until he gets back.

Marko returns a few moments later, pulling on his helmet and double-checking his suit seals before strapping in. "Dehydration is a soldier's worst enemy." he replies, quoting straight from the manuals. "Okay, let's see what we can see." he calls, plugging into the intercom. "Check, check, sound check." he calls. "Are you receiving?"

"Yeah, I've heard that before." Sarcasm ahead full, "Yes, I'm receiving." Man, this is so boring. "I just want to go, you know?" Which is pretty much her usual reaction to flying. She just wants to do it already. Even though she never shirks her pre-flight responsibilities.

"Copy that." Marko replies, unruffled by Sweet Pea's pre-mission eagerness. "Okay, my station's green across the board. FTL, ECM, ESM, comms, sensor packages, everything's nice and shiny green back here," he reports happily as he cinches his harness tighter. "We're ready to launch on your command."

"Alright then." Once Flasher gives the okay, and her own board is green, "I'm good here," all it takes is a few words between Leyla and the current flight control officer, before Bertha is skids up and thrustering herself out of the hangar deck and into the welcome darkness of space.

Marko turns and begins tapping the co-ordinates to their first jump point into the computer, which gives a soft 'cheep' of approval after scanning them for a moment. "Co-ordinates set, we're clear for hyperlight jump just as soon as we clear traffic." he reports. "Hey, looks like the Areion's got some Viper jocks playing tag." he calls. "Got Colonial signals at one two four carom three one fiver." he reports. "Always nice to see the kids playing nice with each other."

"Too bad this thing isn't loaded with missile support." There's a tartness to Leyla's words. She clearly does NOT like the crew of the Areion. "Copy their signals, jump when you're ready." Which means when she's ready, but whatevs. Leyla dips down, heading out and clear of the ring of military vessels, wiggling Bertha's winglets as she passes the as yet unnamed freighter.

"Heh, nice to see you're still the trusting type." Marko comments with a chuckle. "Counting down…five, four, three, two, one…jump." he reports.

Wink in. Wink out. Bertha departs 'colonial space' and arrives in the darkness of a waypoint between the fleet and their final destination. "My board reports green. Ready for next jump on your mark." And so it goes. The jump, the regroup and the jump again, a half a dozen points, before the raptor carrying Sweet Pea and Flasher finally arrives on the far outside of Canceron space. Sublight distance, hopefully far enough away to evade detection by anything that might be in the near orbit of the planet.

Hopefully far enough away, indeed. For when Bertha breaks out of her FTL jump, her pilot is greeted with the sight of literally dozens of massive Cylon basestars, about which, hordes of raiders swarm like bees around a hive.

"Oh you gotta be frakkin' kidding me!" Marko calls as his DRADIS begins to fill with data. "Multiple Cylon basestars, estimate at least twenty eight, unknown number of Raiders, computer lost count at a thousand." he announces crisply, shoving his fear aside so he can concentrate. "If you're crazy enough, we _might_ be able to do a high-orbit pass, but it'd have to be dead stick and we'd get one shot."

"Is this where we stick a head out the window and shout…"Honey, we're home?" As soon as Leyla catches sight of the conflagration of cylons ahead of her, she immediately begins to power down the raptor, not even needing Marko's commentary to get her there. There is something to be said for working with an ECO who just groks you. "Once I get her pointed in the right direction," which means, really, Marko plotting her a course through the frakstorm up ahead, "I'll power her down completely and we can see what we shall see." Yes, she's crazy enough. "What I wouldn't give for a cylon transponder right now."

<FS3> Marko rolls ECM: Success.

"Heh, yeah…" Marko replies tensely, using his ship's passive sensors to start mapping out a route between the strongest of the Cylon's systems. "Okay, this is a little fuzzy, but it should work." he says with what he hopes is confidence as he starts reading co-ordinates out to Leyla. "I'll keep the passive gear up, it doesn't put out much energy. All of those Raiders floating around out there, we oughta be lost in their background rads."

Leyla spends 1 luck points on We're too pretty to die!.
<FS3> Leyla rolls Raptors: Success.

"Let's just hope none of them looks out their window." Is raiders do have windows, that is. With everything set on Marko's end, Leyla continues to push the little raptor that could as close to the raiders as she can. Which…is not very close. Which means, as she sets the raptor on Flasher's coordinates, and then reaches out to switch the ship off, and letting the now dead bird float her way into the fray…it's going to be a long way through. "I should have brought a snack."

Perhaps its because the Cylons are so confident that no-one would be nearly insane enough to run their picket gauntlet, perhaps its the duo's elite Raptor Foo, or, more likely, sometimes even the Gods have to smile on someone. Either way, after the most grueling hour and a half of their lives, their Raptor's orbit takes them past Canceron just close enough for them to start getting imagery.

Using handsignals, Marko indicates that he's got time for thirty exposures. Some of them even at the co-ordinates requested.

Frak the Gods. Sweet Pea and Flasher are just that good, that they make it through the gauntlet unscathed. And when Leyla gets the signal that the raptor is in position she gives the thumbs up. She's even trying to not breathe hard, if she can manage it. But frakall, what she wouldn't give for one of her dwindling supply of beef jerky sticks right now, as the raptor continues to float, now past the planet, giving Marko the clearance he needs to take his pictures and do his scanning.

<FS3> Marko rolls ECM: Good Success.

For his part, Marko's only concern right now is getting the best images he can as they float high over the planets' surface. This kind of dead-stick business doesn't exactly allow for precise picture taking, but he's managing. "Okay…Wow….we've got some serious factories built up along every major mining installation I can see." he says calmly. "I dunno what the frak they're mining down there, but they're getting a lot of it. These are some busy places. No Toasters in the open that I can see, but at this resolution, that means exactly squat."

And for Leyla's, her job is just to…sit around and wait for the big kaboom…er— to wait until Marko's gotten everything he can get, and then for the ship to drift back out of range of the cylons peppering the skies around the colony. "Tylium. Canceron's the only planet in the system that has it. They must need it for all of the ships they seem to have in the air, and the ones they're building. Why go all the way out into the tylium lanes when you have a planet to strip-mine right here?" She does look away from the vision of impending doom out her front window, "We're probably best off drifting until we're out of sensor range of the raiders, before we try to power up. We don't need them coming after us, hunting to find the fleet."

"Sounds like a plan to me." Marko replies, scrupulously making sure to double-check that those precious thirty images are duly saved and logged before shutting down everything but the Raptor's passive ESM gear. "Estimate….eh….based on our trajectory…'s gonna take about two hours until we're beneath their sensor horizon," he says, doing some quick calculations on the calculator on his kneeboard.

"At least I have you for company, Flasher." But alas, the pilot is resigned to another two hours of sheer torture. "Well, we can try to be as useful as possible, right? See if you can make any notes on how they're flying, what gaps they leave in their coverage, see if we can get a better idea of how they fly. How long before they change out ships." Leyla reaches into the closest thing the raptor has to a glovebox, pulling out one of her sketchpads and preparing to do just that, only with her eyes up, rather than Marko's eyes down.

"If you could give me a puff on the portside rear RCS, I could unmask the optics package." Marko muses. "Be a hell of a lot easier than trying to draw 'em."

"Alright, but if things go to Hades in a handcart, we are out of here." Despite the threat, Leyla trusts her ECO, and she shifts her hand away from her sketchpad, to the individual manual controls for the thrusters. She could probably find the thruster control in her sleep, but regardless, given their location, she looks and looks again, to make certain she has the right control. "Counting down from ten for portside rear RCS thruster activation." A quick tap, barely a little pfft of exhaust, before Leyla switches it all back off again. And then doublechecks to make sure everything is still off.

"Thank you." Marko grins as the Raptor does a little sideways flip, unmasking the imaging suite built into her chin. "Cameras are coming on." he says, very carefully powering up only the lowest-level imaging systems aboard. It won't be a pretty picture, but back on the Cerberus, they should be able to clean it up enough to learn something from it. "And….recording." he says, touching a key. "Smile, little Toasters….wave to the nice Raptor…"

"Don't call us, we'll call you. Just stay where you are, we can see you fine from here." Now that the raptor is taking pictures, and they have potentially done something that might quirk an eyebrow, depending on whether or not 1: the cylons were actually looking, and 2: they're paranoid enough to check, Leyla's hands are back on the dead controls, or at least close enough that it would take no longer than a split second for her to power up the bird and start to haul tail. "If we make it out of this alive, I am commandeering your wife and ordering her to bake me a pie. With a cookie chaser."

<FS3> Marko rolls ECM: Good Success.

Marko chuckles. "Heh, you get me out of this alive, my wife'll bake you a couple of pies with whatever you want in 'em." he replies. "Cidra's gonna have a heart attack, we get this back." he comments, shifting in his seat nervously.

Clearly, whatever the Cylons were expecting to come calling, a single, lunatic Pilot and ECO team in a Raptor was not among them. They continue their patrols, seemingly oblivious to the Raptor quietly tumbling slowly out of sight.

"Apple. That was the first pie I ever ate at the Academy." Fresh fruit…not a luxury item the pilot could afford back on Tauron. "I would settle for berry, though, if I had to. But I love those shortbread cookies, with the fruit jam on top, you know the ones?" A snort, at Cidra's response, "I hope not. I can't imagine who they would get to replace her. I might have a heart attack then." On they go, the intrepid duo, the time counting down on their synchronized chronometers.

"Apple's good." Marko nods. "I'm a blackberry man, myself," he smiles, voice and expression tight with nerves. "Mom would make this bread sometimes, when she wasn't blown out of her socks on Kamalah or having an attack of the crazies. Send me out to the drainage ditch behind our apartment complex, this _big_ blackberry bush back there….I'd pick a hatful and she'd make this almost like a pound cake, almost like a bread full of them." he sighs. "Damn that was good stuff."

"Sounds like a good memory. I won't tell you what was in the closest drainage culvert to the tenement we lived in." That would just be unappetizing. On they go, the time ticking down, Leyla's eyes glued to the window in front of her, looking at a starfield of moving specks of silver. "There's something almost beautiful about those basestars, so organic. I have to wonder who designed them."

"Oh, I can imagine." Marko replies, nodding a little as he studies the images on his screen. "Pops was from Tauron, still had family there. Even went a couple times," he explains, keeping mute on his impressions of the place. "That's an interesting question." he says, frowning thoughtfully behind his helmet's visor. "Wonder if Eleven could tell us anything about that?" he muses. "Wonder if anyone's ever thought to ask."

"Well, if we ever find another one, maybe we can ask her. If she'd agree to tell us, or if she even knew at all. I don't know. Any record of anything she ever said is way above my paygrade." She doesn't look away from the window, but she does comment, "But it almost seems to be understandable, doesn't it? They've done everything they can to become their makers, to become as close to human as human. Why wouldn't they want everything they touch to be as organic as everything we touch?"

<FS3> Marko rolls Ecm: Success.

"Heh, I still don't really understand all of what happened with Eleven." Marko replies, shrugging helplessly. "Does make you wonder, though," he comments, frowning for a moment and snapping his fingers as one of the Cylon Raider patrols comes within a kilometer of their position, then turns in unison like a flock of birds. "They're _robots_…Why the sudden interest in being humans? Especially since they hate us for being human?" He asks rhetorically. "They put a lot of effort into this, it had to cost them a _fortune_ even if they don't use money the way we do, the raw materials alone would be ruinous….What's driving them?"

"We are robots too, according to some theories. Scientists have been postulating for years that human beings are nothing more than organic engines for the evolution and procreation of ever changing strains of DNA. Think about how our bodies work, Marko. Electrical impulses firing all over our bodies regulating our memories, our nervous systems, allowing us to move and breathe and feel. We are organic machines. And we built machines out of metal to serve us, to look up to us and follow our commands. We built them, in essence to devote their lives to pleasing us. We created a race of slaves, sentient, thinking slaves. Is it any wonder that the slaves should one day want to become the masters? We've seen it countless times in our own history. Why should their history be any different from ours? Do they hate us for being human? Or do they hate us because we are what they want to be? We built them to think of us as the greater, them the lesser. We built into them the seeds of our own destruction. We taught them that it was a great and wonderful thing to be human, to be the master race and you wonder now they want to be human? We built them for war, we bred them to kill, to seek out the enemy. And they are doing what we built them to do. In order to become what they covet, they must destroy us. In order for the new master to replace the old, they have to destroy us. There is a term for it, I read long ago…sapient supercedence. Becoming the thing by making yourself over in the image of that thing."

Marko can only nod slowly as he processes Leyla's words. "Gods, I hope you are wrong, Sweet Pea." he sighs a few long moments later. "Because if that's the case….this thing won't be over until one side or the other is dead." he says simply. "And guess who's holding most of the aces right now?" he notes. "I say _give _ it to them…" he proclaims. "The war's frakkin' over, guess what? We _lost_." he says flatly, a simple statement of fact. "We can spend the rest of our lives nibbling at the edges of this and wind up with nothing but broken teeth to show for it." he sighs. "Let the Cylons make what they can out of the ashes of the Colonies, it's time for us to get our asses out of this sector and find a new home."

"I hope that I am too, but I don't think that I am. If Ms. Averies piece she published was correct, then we brought this on ourselves. We began the aggression that led to all of this. People call them monsters, Flasher, but they are monsters built in the images of monsters. Of us. How many of our own people did we kill for unification? How many did we continue to kill on Tauron, on Sagittaron…on all of the colonies that refused colonial control? If we had peace, it was peace through force of arms. It's no wonder that the means we used on our own is the means they now use on us." A nod, thoughtful, at Marko's comment, "Indeed, we have lost the war. And perhaps we should be seeking another place to call home. But could we really leave before we knew that we had saved all that we could? Who would you be willing to leave behind? We have been, each in our time, the worst of humanity. Now, at the end of humanity, we must be the best of humanity. We have to live the lesson they've forced us to learn. those of us who are willing to learn, and not just to blanketly hate them." Still, through the thoughts and words, deep and philosophical both, the raptor drifts on, continuing to move slowly out and away from the colony they came to see.

"We're running out of survivors." Marko points out. "And, most importantly, we're running out of the means to support them." he adds. "Look at the imagery we picked up. Does that look even remotely promising?" he asks. "They're fueling up, they're arming up. We get weaker, they get stronger." he says firmly. "I hate the idea of it, but it's time to start wondering if anyone left down there isn't either beyond our rescue or dead or soon to be." he says reasonably. "And since they can look like us now…How hard would it be to put a few skinjobs into the next batch of refugees?" he asks rhetorically. "No, it's time start making plans for how to get the frak out of here. Before the Cylons shut the gates on us."

"Yes, there are only a few colonies left now, that we can comb over for survivors. Once we've done all we can, that will be all that we can do. One battlestar and three support vessels couldn't take on even a handful of those basestars out there. But how can you kill hope, Marko? How many in the fleet still hope that their loved ones are alive? How many still hope that the places they grew up, where they learned to live and love are still intact? It's a hard thing to kill hope. To ask people to walk away from everything they've ever known. Eventually it will have to be done. But I think the powers that be are not yet ready to admit that the time has come."

"Hope? You have any ideas how much scorched earth I've scanned looking for _hope?" Marko replies, his tone somewhere in the acidic levels of Ph. "There's no hope to be found down there anymore, Sweet Pea." he says simply. "Hope is the future. It's us getting the hell out of here with enough people to, hopefully, maintain a viable population wherever it is we wind up." he elaborates. "Staying here, in the Colonies, in this sector, is tatamount to sipping from the cup of our own slow, certain destruction."

"Probably as much as I have, Marko." After all, they are in the same wing, and under normal circumstances fly in the same raptor, "But whatever you or I might see down there, isn't what everyone is seeing. And no one lives completely without hope. You hope to have a life with your wife, you hope to one day have a child, you hope to find a place to raise your family. Perhaps not here, but hope. And if nothing else, if hope is the future, which I agree that it is, we need to have as many humans as possible, in order to have a viable population. Do you think a thousand is enough? Fifteen hundred, perhaps?"

"I don't know." Marko sighs, shrugging a little. "I honestly don't know. Maybe we should keep this up for a while." he concedes. "Sure as hell, it isn't boring." he chuckles softly, then frowns a little as one of his passive sensors goes gold, then amber, then back to green. "Heh, look at us." he comments. "Turning all philosophical while we tumble away from a horde of Cylons that'd rip us to shreds, they had any inkling they knew we were here."

"If we're going to die, we might as well get all the good thoughts out while we still can. Black box will pick up our last words, won't it?" There's definitely humour there. "Okay, it won't, but that's not the point." Leyla shakes her head looking back up at the sights outside, "How much longer before we can attempt a jump out, Flasher?"

<FS3> Marko rolls Computers: Good Success.

Marko double-checks his watch against his notations, using the light on his helmet to illuminate them as he races through more calculations in his head. "Call it ninety seconds…." he replies, voice tense….."Wait one! " he adds, plastering his helmet against his display as a Cylon Raider looks as if it's beginning to shine a light on them. "Leyla……power up….Now, now, now!" he instructs, frantically tapping co-ordinates into the FTL computer.

<FS3> Leyla rolls Raptors: Good Success.

There's not even an extra breath taken to answer the man. All he needs to know is in the lights of the interior coming on, the hum of the ship under his feet and the little raptor that could coming back up and very much alive. Nor does Leyla wait for him to give her coordinates. She can very plainly see where they need to be going. The Frak Out Of Dodge. And Big Bertha is going, sublights nearly redlined as she tries to clear space to give Marko enough time to make the jump, "Jump on your mark."

<FS3> Marko rolls Ecm: Success.

Suddenly, a whole phalanx of Cylon Raiders detach from the nearest formation, and red eye-slits gleaming brightly, begin to jam the throttles to the stops in pursuit of the newly detected threat. An entire Basestar begins to move, it's bulk blacking out the stars behind it as its sub-light engines fight to put it into position.

"Co-ordinates accepted!" Marko shouts over the din of threat warnings as the Raider's sensors latch onto the Raptor's signal. "Clock started…..five….four….three…two…one…JUMP!"

<FS3> Marko rolls ECM: Success.

<FS3> Leyla rolls Raptors: Good Success.

"Come on!" Perhaps the pilot is calling down the wrath of the gods, calling out, not to her ECO who's hard at work in the back, but to the raiders who despite the fact that they can't hear a word she's saying, are indeed coming on, in full force, the little raptor that could even rating its own dedicated basestar. But at this moment in time, Sweet Pea really doesn't give a frak, as she ducks and weaves, dives and rolls, or at least as much as the sheer speed at which the now redlined engines will maneuver her little ship away from the frakstorm of death bearing down on them. Fly it like you stole it. It's not just a catchy phrase, it's the taurian pilot's gospel. And then the countdown clocks runs out, and the wave of silver and red is left eating the turbulence of the raptor, as Bertha winks out of Canceron space and onward to the first jump coordinates Flasher plugged in.

The frakstorm of death nearly catches up with them to weapons range, then finds itself pursuing nothing as the Raptor ~blips~ into the superluminal. The swarm retreats back to it's original patrol pattern while computers aboard the big basestars try frantically to plot a vector for the fleeing Raptor. It doesn't take long for them to throw up their hands in disgust, already knowing that these fly-bys don't originate from a base course to start with. Bertha could've come from _anywhere_.

For his part, Marko breathes a _deep_ sigh of relief, his first breath of any kind since the jump as the Raptor erupts into empty space. "Jump complete." he says unnecessarily, moving to power the ECO's station back up. "DRADIS is clear…" he sighs, shoulders almost sagging with relief. "Recommend we shave a point here and there on our return, just in case."

"Frak I need a smoke." Leyla is already going over her systems, babbling in her nerdy pilot way to the raptor that just saved them from Impending Doom(tm), such platitudes as, "Good girl." And, "I knew you could do it." A gentle pat to Bertha's console, as she checks the progress of the coolant systems now trying to bring the sublight engines back down out of their nearly overheated state. "She's going to need a few minutes to cool her heels, but then we start back to base. Plot in a few extra jumps if you have to." Yes, she wants to get home. And so…after a few duck and weave jumps hither and fro, Bertha, complete with her two person crew complement, jumps back into fleet space and heads for home. "That's it, Flasher. Your wife is mine."

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