PHD #432: Of Treachery and Trinkets
Of Treachery and Trinkets
Summary: Toast and Bootstrap discuss treachery and trinkets… and gravy.
Date: 04 May 2042 AE
Related Logs: To Fly and Fight and Die (Medal shmedal); One (Rejn); Project Super Secret (Cylon transponders); The Public Weal (Queenie and Abbot); Of Flesh and Memory (Leyla off the flightline); & Debriefed (the apology Kepner never received); Also: Cidra's Prayer Journal, Entry 6 (Queenie's letter)
Cidra Trask 
CAG's Office - Deck 10 - Battlestar Cerberus
Post-Holocaust Day: #432
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

The CAG has been back on full duty for awhile, though there is still enough aerial bureaucracy to keep her tied to her office more than she'd like. And such Cidra is today, one of the usually-lively chats with the Harriers squadron leader on her docket. She's sitting at her desk and smoking, as per usual.

Unlike the CAG, aforementioned SL has not yet returned to full duty if only because Medical has yet to clear him to return to the flightline. The time ordinarily allotted to CAP rotations and sitting Alert status has simply been spent on other administrative and training matters. Something the nastygram he sent his direct CO explicitly spelled out in detail after he discovered one Leyla "Sweet Pea" Aydin went over his head to get permission to do something that she knew would have her grounded — especially since he sure as frak wouldn't have given the go-ahead until his own wings were no longer clipped. What transpired largely defeats the purpose of having an appointed second, after all.

Perhaps he's here for round two of: when I am not in a coma, I remain part of the VAQ-141's Chain-of-Command. What is for certain is that he's dressed in his duty greens and sans cigarette. "See, now you're just being petty," he sasses at the sight and smell of smoking, for he's gone cold turkey, yet again, to aid his healing factor.

Cidra's reaction to the nastygram was twofold: sincere contriteness at not considering his opinion might differ and annoyance at the *tone* of it. She is the CAG, after all, the the buck stops at her door. She broke even somewhere in the middle, but did not expect the matter to resurface. Nor does she today, particularly, so it's with rather some curiosity that she greets Trask's latest meet. And, in a show of good manners, she puts out her cigarette. The CAG is nothing if not one for good manners. "I am many things, Bootstrap, but I hope never petty. What is on your mind?"

Having not yet hit the three-week mark of no nicotine, the pangs of withdrawal have not fully abated, but they are few and far between. A faint nod is offered as silent thanks that the cigarette is extinguished, but it doesn't ease the disgruntlement that Cidra had been smoking when she knew they had a scheduled meeting. Even so, this is not a battle he has current interest in fighting. Nor does he revisit the reasons for and the contents of aforementioned nastygram. Instead: "So. Queenie's an 'it'." Inscrutable CAG, meet scrutiny.

"Trevor Cairn McQueen…" He gets no familiarity of a callsign from the CAG. "…is a Cylon agent. Model Two. A skinjob. And gods knows what mischief it got up to for the more than a year it was aboard this ship." Cidra shifts a somewhat mourning look at her cigarette, but it's not lit up again. "And it has carried all it knows about us back to Gemenon, and its fellow skinjobs thereon." She uses the pronoun 'it' a touch pointedly, and less naturally, than she might with the other Cylons.

To all that is said, he listens with an impassiveness off-set by the intensity of his damnably emotive eyes. Finally, "Keep hopin', Toast, 'cuz, in this, you're bein' petty."

Cidra's blue eyes narrow at Trask. "So your reaction is like Poppy, then. To shrug at the enemy we had flying beside us for more than a year. Who could have done us all manner of treachery we even now do not know about. She claims there is not to be done about it now. Well. Perhaps. But we should have seen it, Boots. No. *I* should have seen it. I only pray we find what damage *it* did before it does us more harm. And that whatever effort we might launch upon Gemenon is not entirely compromised now."

In response, those oh so expressive eyes roll. Blatantly. Bootstrap stows the verbal barbs, though. For now. "Seriously? You think this has /somehow/ jeopardized Gemenon?" No, he's not buying that. "Nuh-uh. This is personal to you. You know how I know? 'Cuz Ryan Shaker still remains 'Salt'. /Also/," his tone pitches just enough for that single word to be a verbal dig, "not an 'it'. Even those Elevens are graciously bestowed a gender by you. No, some of this is misplaced butthurt 'cuz the *Areion* actually did serve up a vomit-inducing amount of treachery. The rest, though… I'm not sure what, but it's definitely personal."

Kal further clarifies, "Am I saying he's /not/ the enemy? No. Am I saying he /didn't/ do anything shady beyond keeping his identity hidden? That would also be a no. Hells, for all I know, he's the reason those Cylon transponders ever worked. Maybe he even did something to 'em that tipped our hand and resulted in us getting shot down during Operation Clusterfrak. I don't know. What I /do/ know is that he flew, and fought, and risked dying just as much as any of us."

"McQueen was heavily involved with the IFF project that we attempted on Leonis. And it managed to involve itself with the decoding of the message from Sweet Pea and Shakes' last recon to Gemenon. And the Cylons kept finding us somewhat, during all those Swarms." Cidra's tone is dark as the lists all that. "Salt. The Elevens. Gods." Cidra grimaces as those are mentioned. "Salt had a chance to betray us at Picon, and by all we know, he did not. The Elevens… perhaps they are playing some strange, long game on us all. Money Shot thought they were. Yet one saved our people down on Leonis and another saved us all in the back of that Raptor you and I flew over Sagittaron. I cannot forget that. McQueen… gods knows what its game was. Do you remember… no, you would not, come to it." Cidra pauses. "You were still trapped upon Leonis when he… it… made that little show…"

"That's right. I was stranded on Leonis 'cuz an /anti-aircraft missile/ blew through the cabin and Jugs an' I had to eject." Dry, that, especially when keeping in-line with the whole 'McQueen might be to blame for that' premise. "So, please. Give me the recap of the performance." A bit sardonic that, but it's not like this is a feel-good topic. Whatever else Trask has to add, it waits.

"It was during the mutiny, to use the plainest term, when Major Tillman… Colonel Tillman now. When he and Lieutenant Colonel Willows-Cavanaugh relieved Abbot of command. I sanctioned it then. Stood behind them when they did it. I still believe we could not have undertaken the Leonis rescue with a possible skinjob in command. But those are excuses. It is done now, and Abbot is dead." Cidra goes on. "During the taking of Abbot in the chapel, McQueen stood against the arrest. He… it… seemed *convinced* the Admiral would not sell out 'his own people.' Those were the words he used."

"In McQueen's letter…" Has she mentioned a letter before this point. "…it said it always knew what it was." Cidra frowns. "I wonder if it knew what Abbot was. Or what he was not." The late Admiral gets a 'he' pronoun now, apparently.

Trask is still not getting what Cidra is trying to get at. Vaguely shaking his head and shrugging, he attempts to play along. 'Okay… So?"

Cidra sighs, blue eyes turning slightly upward. "I shall not require you to humor me anymore on this subject, Boots. I already want to go over the report on that night with the Master at Arms again, so I shall waste his time and not yours. Is there anything more you have, on the subject of McQueen? I have been going over the actions undertaken by it while on board, but apart from the IFF project and the Gemenon message decoding, it is all guesswork in terms of what it might have been involved in."

A look is leveled at the CAG. "Please. When do I humor anyone?" Abrasive and impatient as he is, the Taurian is nonetheless making an effort to understand what the big deal is seeing how it evidently is a big deal to Cidra. "So, basically, a self-admitted, self-aware Cylon, whom the Elevens have more than once claimed wanted to side with us, sided with Abbot… and this, what? Is leading to questions about Abbot? He's dead. In Audumbla, no less. Odds are /he's/ not coming back even if he /were/ a Cylon."

"I have many questions about Abbot still, for my part. Though you are correct in that there is nothing we can do about it now. Whatever he, or it, was." Cidra sighs. "Though perhaps it does not matter now. It does not get to you at all, Boots? That we had a traitor in our midst for so long, that we called him… *it*… a friend. A comrade. This does not trouble you?"

A faint frown forms. For once, he speaks frankly in a manner lacking flippancy. "See, Cid… unlike most of the remnants of humanity, I don't require the Cylons to be bogeymen. People plenty much suck enough, as far as I'm concerned. Commander Crackhead and his goons recently reaffirmed that. I don't discriminate, in that sense. No one gets carte blanche from me. Everyone starts in the negative and has to claw their way up to whatever passes for decent." True, the words are far from neutral, but his tone is matter-of-fact.

Pensively, he pauses, his expression growing more nebulous as thoughts and their corresponding emotions start to whir. "I don't know if Queenie is a traitor and, if he is, just who it is he's betrayed. I was there when Rejn told us to cut 'im up. I don't think it was just the booze talkin' when he said the others would likely see 'im boxed for what he was gonna do." No, this is a disquieting course of conversation, if only because it hits too close to home for reasons that have nothing to do with skinjobs.

"I understand not why the one that called itself Allan Rejn did what it did. Or what it might have left behind in this ship when it did it. But I owe my life to it. Him. Whatever the skinjobs are. I cannot deny that." Cidra sighs again. "All reports from our technical personnel say whatever Rejn did to our systems left nothing traceable behind. Though I cannot quite bring myself to believe it. Well, we shall keep looking and what is there shall reveal itself, one way or another. And I shall keep looking back at Trevor Cairn McQueen. Over all he did…" Her eyes flick to her walls, though at present they're free of memos or pictures of McQueen. She clears her throat, as if suddenly recalling something. "Speaking of Commander Crackhead." She rummages in her drawer. "I owe you something, Boots. To attention, please."

"I guess it comes down to whether or not you believe it's possible for someone to be more than what they were made to be…" And that is a conflict Kal Trask has spent most of his life trying to reconcile, shading the timbre of his tone. Perhaps he strives in vain, but he will die trying to not be like his father. So when Cidra calls him to attention, he does not linger on such disquieting existential quagmires. "Is it a lock of his hair that I can toy with and taunt?" Even so, the man assumes the position, if a bit languidly. "Yanno, I never did get around to apologizing to ol' Rudy." A flicker of a smirk surfaces.

"McQueen only left you the one token," Cidra deadpans. Not without humor. She saw it. It cannot be unseen. "And Kepner left you none. Though this is as much by him as anyone. Command has issued decorations for the Harriers personnel involved in the holding of the line against the Evocati, your and Poppy's section in particular, as it was deemed vital to getting those boarding Raptors through. Captain Trask, for actions in combat on April the Fifteenth day of Twenty-Fourty-Two after Exodus, you are awarded the Fleet Commendation Medal." She lifts a little box she was rummaging for, and pops it open. A pause. "For whatever it is worth."

Some people 'ooh' and 'ah' at shinies. Bootstrap does not appear to be one of those people. "I would've preferred the hair, but the sentiment is noted. I'll put it in the mini-display case I'm building for the shrapnel." Which, really, as far as he's concerned, has more value than the medal. Even so, he accepts what he is offered.

"Better than a promotion for getting captured and slapped about by the grandest error of your personal life," Cidra says wryly. "But, honors to our service nonetheless. As you were." That's dispensed with quickly. She likely knew he wouldn't be big on the ceremony of it all, which is why it's handed over as an afterthought here rather than with some pomp in the Ready Room. She sits again. "Is there anything else? I have no more metal to weigh you down with this day, for my part."

"Seems like Command's handing out brevets like the quartermaster does cigarettes. You've been in the service at least 16 years, though. One could argue you were due, especially since there really isn't competition these days." It's true, but nonetheless delivered wryly. "And don't even get me started on the idiocy of the lot of you going over there like you did." Bootstrap did not jump on this bandwagon; he frakking steered it like an eight-horse chariot at the Olympic Games of yore. As for anything else, "What's the deal with Wright? He still in the brig?" Which is probably lead-up to the SL stating he doesn't want the nugget (should Shiner ever earn a commission) in his squadron.

"Well, if we ever meet another ship of madmen, chances are I will outrank their CAG," Cidra says dryly. As for Wright. "For the moment. His situation is slightly different than those others involved in the attempted mutiny on the Deck, as he was not an active participant in the violence. From the Master at Arms' account he acted as a look-out. I am unclear if he knew the full extent of his actions. I have a want to shake him down personally." There is a frustrated bite in Cidra's tone.

"Best case scenario: he's an untrustworthy moron." No, Bootstrap is not impressed. "I'm not sure how much of it's 'cuz he's so damn young," most pilots and ECOs enter the flight academy at the age of 22, "or just stupid. You and I both know that a lack of good judgement will get someone killed. We run rough enough odds, as is, with /skilled/, /responsible/ people. And /I/ am not so desperate for another stick that I'm willing to put the lives of my Wingmates on the line for someone who's simply filling a seat. We don't have to like each other, but we need to trust each other. And trusting him to seriously frak up is not the kind of trust I'm talkin' about."

"Wright actually shows decent promise as a pilot, in terms of his flight skills. But that is not the issue at hand." Cidra's expression is inscrutable on the matter, but grave. "I did some decidedly stupid things when I was his age. Being on the flightline snaps the ones who can take it out of it. Breaks those who cannot. I am as much concerned about loyalty, though. He was complicit in an act that, had it succeeded, would have betrayed his Wing and led to the deaths of his flightmates. It must be answered for."

"Like I said, trust is mandatory. The rest is just gravy." Beat. Quizzical look. "That's the saying, right? 'The rest is just gravy'?" Never mind that he's asking /Cidra/, of all people. "Whatever. It doesn't really matter. The point is that he was selling us out, which, really, is only acceptable when the orders are illegal. Then we're actually duty-bound to refuse, like AWOL, Birdie, Dizzy, and Fiasco did. But you're the choir and I'm preachin'." Kal's mouth quirks and he idly waves in a dismissive manner the hand not holding the box and medal. "As far as I'm concerned, he committed an act of treason."

"Is it? Standard has such strange turns of phrasing." Cidra shrugs. "I will take your word upon it." Her head bows slightly at mention of the turned Evocati. "The Areion would call the Spectres traitors nevertheless. Yet they are good sticks, and were with us when it mattered, and I shall not turn them away. We shall see yet how they fight and fly with the Checkmates. Blowback seemed willing enough to take them in hand. Poppy is… skeptical." That's probably putting it lightly. "For my part… Kepner was mad. And Baer was a monster." Tone black for that one. "Most of the rank and file pilots seemed as much soldiers as the rest of us. We were just more fortunate in commanders than they."

A moment's consideration, eyes narrowing. "Yeah… yeah, I'm pretty sure it is. Sure as frak not something we say in the Country. I've also heard one about icing on a cake." A mild shrug. This is someone who found three square meals a day reason enough to sign away the rest of his life. (Abject poverty will do that to a person.) So, really, colloquialisms involving food aren't really part of his idiom. As for the Evocati, "No, see, that's not it. Not at all. I worked up the ranks. What is expected of enlisted is different than that of NCOs, and commissioned officers are held to an even higher standard. A soldier is not paid to think. An officer is meant to. 'course, all bets are off if an officer's opinions happen to align with those of a raging jagoff on a sanctimonious power trip." Cue the snicker. Then, somewhat less snidely, "After what he did, though, Birdie might be better off dead."

"At present I am unsure if Wright shall even be allowed to keep being a soldier when the JAG is done with him. For my part… well, I shall hear what he has to say for himself." And that is all Cidra has to say about that. If she's not /quite/ as grim on the subject of Shiner as McQueen, there's that same air of disappointment about her. "Anything more, Boots?"

"Not at the present, no. Should anything else come to mind, you know you'll hear about it," Bootstrap says with a bit of self-deprecating humor to off-set the impish cast to his face. "Thanks for the chat." And, with that, he draws into a cursory salute, waiting to be dismissed.

"I doubt it not." The salute is acknowledged fluidly and she gives him the cursory dismissed. Cidra will have the courtesy to wait until the hatch is long closed before relighting her cigarette, at least.

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