PHD #370: Moment of Understanding
PHD #370: Moment of Understanding
Summary: Khloe and Trask chat about swarm stuff. A moment of understanding emerges out of typical Trask irreverence.
Date: 03 Mar 2042 AE
Related Logs: Swarm stuff, character growth stuff.
Khloe Trask 
Ready Room - Deck 7 - Battlestar Cerberus
With the hatches at the rear of the room, the walkways on both sides slope down towards the dais at the front of the room. The stadium seating forms a partial semi-circle around the speaking podium and provides enough seats for all three hundred members of the Air Wing. The walls are adorned with the patches of each squadron aboard and their mottos stenciled in white lettering above each one. Behind the podium is a set of large LCD screens that can display any matter of material from reconnaissance to maps to gun camera footage.
Post-Holocaust Day: #370

Despite the swarm's continued pressure, the radiation surrounding Audumbla Anchorage continues to provide a sort of intangible shield for the fleet. The raiders, no longer willing to commit to an extended conflict, have been weakly throwing themselves once more unto the breach and meeting limited success. Casualties mount on their side, and only minor injuries and equipment damage sustained on the "good guys'" side. Still, they persist. Why?

Khloe sits in a darkened ready room, studying side-by-side footage from seemingly different Viper KEW cameras. At times the frames and action seem completely disjoint. Then, Khloe will pause the frames, rewind or fast-forward to different indices on both frames, and play them again. She's looking for patterns in behavior, specifically on the enemy's side. And from the looks of her empty thermos, she's probably violated her "no caffeine" rule of "Khloe's Guide to Clean Living" and has been pounding tea all morning… or perhaps all night leading up to the morning.

Part of the oh so exciting job duties of a squadron leader is to review a frakton of flight footage. Not just of battle engagements but also of the day-to-day to monitor overall performance. Since arriving in Audumbla, Bootstrap has no less been studying the former; the latter, he's placed faith in his more experienced people to flag what needs his attention during their own mandatory reviews of their footage, permitting him to concentrate on the less experienced. Part of the reason for this is that he's still spending time working on the Deck. The bulk of the reason is that he's flying more CAPs than most due to his familiarity with the region and its electrical futzing properties, and because he's also riding along to first-hand observe and instruct those Harriers who are struggling in the radiation field.

Perhaps Poppy lost track of time, or Trask simply showed up when it suited him, but he's here now to go over the reels from last night's skirmish. "Vakos," is the simple, amiable enough greeting as he sets down his things in a nearby collegiate-style desk.

Khloe pinches the bridge of her nose and clamps her eyes shut when Trask comes in and disturbs her train of thought. Or, perhaps, it's an excuse to allow her to give in to her fatigue. "Trask. What the frak time is it?" She asks tiredly, not turning to face her fellow reluctant Captain.

"Time for you to hit the rack, evidently," is the easy but ultimately not all that helpful reply. Without breaking his stride, Kal commandeers one of the large LCD screens not in use and starts queuing the first of the footage from his own squadron. "Eleven-hundred hours," he more helpfully provides, himself looking as though he recently snagged a few hours of sleep so he could review everything with clear eyes and a non-foggy mind. Not that times of day matter in the Fleet. Shifts are stacked and staggered, eradicating the concepts of morning, afternoon, evening, and night.

"Eleven… hundred?" Khloe asks in disbelief, sounding more like a child questioning something astonishing than a seasoned, hard combat pilot well into her thirties. "It's practically l… lunch t…" And that's when she lets out this tremendous, but silent, lioness-like yawn, complete with arms stretching upward and at odd angles. "Lunch time. Sorry. Feh." She glances towards the master screen again with a passive tired expression rather than her usual stony frown. They say it takes far more muscles to frown than to smile, and apparently from that yawn and stretch, all of Khloe's face is taking a short nap. Rubbing her eyes with her fingers, she asks, "What're you here for? General Harriers footage or are you following breadcrumbs that go nowhere, like me?"

"For you, maybe," is faintly smirked about it being lunchtime, seeing how they are not working identical shift schedules. Up comes the first of the footage, and he returns to his seat, the linked remote in his hand. "I'd offer you some coffee," for his thermos is full, "but I have cooties. If you wanna risk it, though, pour yourself a cup." Sitting down, he flips open a notebook, clicks his pen, and answers the question, "I /heard/ how my kids did," over the TAC channel, "but I still wanna see for myself." Pressing play, he doesn't immediately fast-forward through the combat launch. Why? So he can actually converse. "String works better. Birds tend to eat breadcrumbs."

Khloe gets up from her front-row seat with her thermos cup top in hand, and shambles over to where Trask is seated. "You tell anyone about this and I will shiv you in the night," she mutters, perhaps only half-serious. It's not like she's doing drugs or drinking alcohol, but still, it's serious enough to her to warrant a friendly threatening. She pours herself a half-cup to start, and when she goes to smell it, there's an immediate re-coloration to her face and she actually cracks a smile. "Hello, old friend." Sip. Even crappy military coffee seems blissful to her.

"I've been trying to figure out if these marked raiders have any sort of strategy whatsoever," Khloe says, voice gaining some clarity now that the sheer memory of coffee alone is enough to bring her back to focus. "They're just, well, swarming us. No logic. No thought. So I asked myself if maybe they were completely fresh raiders with no previous experience or downloads. I can't find a common flight pattern between any of them. The odds say you'll find a needle in a haystack before you'll fight the same raider again, but you'd expect that they'd all at least be programmed similarly." A beat, as she sips again. "It's like these raiders know how to fly, shoot, and jump. That's it. Otherwise they're completely frakking stupid. Oh, and they know when the radiation's going to kill them." She shakes her head, glaring at the master display - there are some of those frowny muscles again. "Makes no gods-damn sense."

"Kinky," is Bootstrap's reply to the threat of shanking, "but I have a long-standing, uncompromised policy of not mixing work and pleasure with those I immediately serve with. And, just so there are no misunderstandings: as much as I love my coffee," his oh so precious Deck coffee, blacker than black, as if flavored with engine grease, "the offer is a professional courtesy and not some come-on."

To the rest, "Honestly, no clue. Nor have I really given it much thought. Interesting theory that they might be noobs, though." Yes, noobs. "That one Eleven claimed their Raiders download upon destruction so they can improve their combat chops. At this point, I'm just glad coming here hasn't been a clusterfrak. I was /hoping/ they wouldn't find us — and THAT, really," important enough that he turns to look at Khloe, "is the REALLY interesting bit. How they know how to find us here. I'm startin' to wonder if they actually /can/ transmit and download from within here. If they differ from skinjobs in that respect, or if something gets corrupted if they die," he makes a little face at the choice of the word, "or whatever the frak they do when they're in here. /That/… well, if that's the case… shit, man." Think of the possibilities.

Khloe returns her attention to Boots, eyes narrowed. "We've only known each other professionally for a year, Kal, and I'd think by now you of all people should know that you're not my type. Work comes before play, in any case." Eyes remain narrowed as she listens to Trask talk. Shaking her head, "I don't care so much about how they found us. The brass is already running those numbers, I'm sure. We're pilots, and not MPs. Let them find the skinjobs, or the covert equipment, or whatever it is. I'm confident they will. But what's really got my goat is that these frakking toasters don't seem to have guidance. I mean, if they're programmed to fight, and get better with each engagement - death or survival, they should be getting better. And they're not. They're hardly more skilled than 'My First Viper' Nugget scenarios."

"I know I'm pretty," Kal quips, "but that Y chromosome isn't goin' anywhere." The way it's said, the man might honestly believe she's into chicks and not those with dicks. As Khloe continues, he snerks and rolls his eyes. "Please. Far as anyone who's not Command can ascertain, Command's been doing shit. It sure as frak wasn't their idea to come here, and they sure as frak aren't the ones planning the upcoming assault." Bitter much? More than a wee bit, perhaps, but that's because he doesn't feel that Command has been pulling its weight. Going back to the other point, after pausing the footage, "Maybe when the Marines yanked that thing," the hybrid, presumably, "it screwed-up something network-wide. We have no way of knowing if those things are linked. If, upon demise, they also download. Could've frakked-up their entire production set-up for all I know. If that's the case, though, you're lookin' in the wrong place. Sometimes, all you can do is establish a pattern. Seems like you've done that. Gotta look elsewhere for answers now."

Resting her free hand on her hip, she gives Kal a withering glare at his comments about chromosomes. But she lets it go; she's not about to get into an argument over the merits of the male form versus the female form, especially not with Kal Trask. "You apparently do not trust your superiors. And that's fine. That's your prerogative. I implicitly trust Toast, and that trust conveys upward to Gravel and the rest in CIC. If we're the sword and shield, they are the shoulders that hold us up and the arms that swing us. So don't give me any crap about them not looking out for us, because they are." Her entire military structure depends on it.

Khloe glances over her shoulder at the master display, still in freeze-frame. With a resigned, irritated sigh, she says, "You're right. There's nothing to be gleaned from this data. Looking back at Bootstrap, Poppy suddenly has a look of revelation cross her tired features. "Kal, maybe you're right. Oh, gods, am I going to regret saying that," she groans. "Look, maybe that hybrid thing is the key to all of this. I mean, it's not plugged in, right? It's dead? Have they cut it apart to figure out what makes it tick? To see what it did?" A pause. "Is it a machine? Can't we plug it in under isolated conditions and figure it out?"

Perhaps it's a side-effect of the harsh conditions of Tauron, but Bootstrap most certainly does not wither. In fact, it is rather blandly that he points out, "As long as it's not a nugget, a skinjob, or someone in the Chain of Command, I honestly don't give a frak who you frak, if you even /do/ frak. Although, if you could keep it out of the Wing entirely, that would be appreciated." With that, he enjoys a swig of coffee. Just as calmly, he notes, "I trust results. Having us jump daily for nearly 2 weeks straight until /I/ get so fed-up that I have to petition Toast that we come here is not my idea of Command doing its frakking job. What's the point in having a CO, an XO, or a TACCO if it falls to /us/ to plan Fleetwide security beyond the standard flying, fighting, and dying?"

As for the hybrid, "Dunno. I've been leaving that to Engineering. Since there's a new ChEng — oh, and all other the snipe friends I had have all since died within the past six months — I really don't visit as much as I used to. If it's anything like anything else we've scavenged, there won't be much to determine. We /still/ can't even figure out how to power-up a Heavy Raider." All nonchalantly relayed and followed with more coffee. "There /is/ someone I can ask and who I'd definitely like to take a look at it, if that already hasn't happened. I'll follow-up on that as soon as I've finished here."

"All right, now you're starting to annoy me," spits the Knights SL, setting the mostly-drank cup of black evil down on the desk. "My sex life, or lack thereof, is not for discussion. You're like the anti-Dave Wright. Enough." She folds her arms across her chest, continuing to glare. "Just because I drank your damned coffee doesn't invite you to needle me."

On the topic of COs, XOs, and TACCOs, (oh my), as she glosses over the engineering bits, Khloe shakes her head. "I would much sooner charge headlong into the maw of the enemy and blow it to hell rather than do all this running. Morale is low, our birds look like freakshow biology experiments all sewn together, and our pilots are barely maintaining. When you don't have any options left, Kal, and you're in a corner, you run at the problem and stab it until it stops moving. Or die trying."

Totally unruffled, the Harriers SL lobs back, "You're the one who felt the need to point out I am not your type. I concurred, and then you got all defensive about it, so I told you I really don't give a frak who you frak, beyond those few points, or if you /even/ frak. Not my business, beyond those few points, nor of even remote interest." He pauses then, studying Khloe, mouth pursing pensively. Damaged enough himself, he has an uncanny ability to sense certain kinds of damage in other people. And when he doesn't blatantly refuse to acknowledge such things, he's inclined to lessen the hurt, even if he's usually at a loss as to how that can be accomplished. "Truly, Poppy," he asserts, no longer glib and certainly sincere, "I don't care. I don't. And you shouldn't care whether or not I do, or if anyone else does, for the matter. You do yourself and your comrades honor with your service. What or who you do in your free time, as long as it harms neither yourself nor others, is your business."

To stress the importance of what he's just said, Bootstrap refrains from further snarking about Command. For now, anyway.

It's as if Trask's sudden sensitivity completely derails Khloe, because her mouth hangs open just a tiny bit as she stares at him, eyes widening ever-so-slightly. Then, jaw lifts, mouth shuts. "Thank you," she mutters. "I think I'm done here. The master display's a lot easier on the eyes than squinting at a monitor. Feel free to discard anything I have in the buffer." And with that, she takes a step back, head tilted in a way that suggests, suddenly, she's a bit distrustful of her fellow Captain. But then, she turns and heads down the ramp towards the hatch.

If the sudden suspicion somehow upsets Trask, there is no indication. He merely reverts to his default stance when confronted with another person's vulnerability: he pretends as though he sees nothing, even though there is a sense that he is aware. Not one who ever likes feeling exposed, this is one of his ingrained points of courtesy. An unspoken understanding. Instead, he simply nods in response to the display and buffer. "I'll let you know if my spool of string leads somewhere." Seeing how breadcrumbs haven't been much help.

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