PHD #172: Old Habits
Old Habits
Summary: Cora and Tisiphone discover that old habits die hard in more ways than one.
Date: 17 Aug 2041 AE
Related Logs: In and Out
Cora Tisiphone Stryer 
Map Room — Deck 7 — Battlestar Cerberus
The one object that dominates this room is the one it is named for: the giant plotting table in the center of the room. Bottom-lit like the plot in CIC, this one is twenty feet across and about the same distance wide. The maps, which are rolled and kept in a locker at the side of the room, provide much more detail than most of the charts in CIC and are especially useful in planning tactical operations. Unscaled models of ships are available to be situated on the surface of the table and risers on each side of the room allow for a small audience to watch or be briefed. A single large LCD screen is built into the wall at the far end to display reconnaissance or other supplemental material.
Post-Holocaust Day: #172

Cora has enlisted Tisiphone's aid for this portion of the mission planning, staking out the map room during the latter half of the lunch hour. Another officer in the intelligence division is currently setting up the transmissions for review while the lieutenant flips to a clean page in her notebook and flips through a code book absently, waiting for everything to be ready to go.

Ensign Apostolos, for her part, was strangely reluctant to agree. Surely there was someone more qualified, or more experienced, or more /anything/ than her who could do this… wasn't there? It's with the air of someone who feels like they've drawn short straw on a very unpleasant duty that she slips into the Map Room, scrubbing once at her overgrown scalpfuzz before making her way over. "Uh. Hey."

That other officer, meanwhile, is now giving Cora the thumbs-up from the LCD screen at the far end of the plotting table. "Looking good over here," she reports, sliding the remote across the table like the shuffleboard expert she is. "Hope somebody brought snacks. This might take a while." Her nasal, cutting alto is tinged by a slight Sagittaran accent. "I mean. This might take a while, sir," she adds after a moment. "Sorry. Oberlin — my usual boss — well, he doesn't really go for formal. Not sure if you're about that." The implication being that she decidedly isn't, though she's gracious enough to leave the final determination regarding the tenor of the meeting to her superior. "I'm Iris Stryer. El-tee jay-gee. Nice to meet you both."

"Thanks for coming," Cora offers to Tisiphone, ignoring the grudging-ness of her arrival and gesturing towards a chair. LTJG Iris Stryer is looked at for a moment before the LT nods, "That's fine, Miss Stryer. Nice to meet you, as well. LT Oberlin mentioned you'd be best for this exercise. Unless there are any other preliminaries, let's just jump right in?"

"Smokes are snacks, aren't they?" mutters Tisiphone — to the floor, apparently, as her attention's directed downward while she digs her cancer sticks out. "Sir," she greets Stryer, as she looks up, nodding once. Such a polite little Ensign is she. A chair not far from Cora's dragged out and unceremoniously slouched down into, her restlessness playing out in the flick-flick-flicking of her cigarette.

"Mister." The older woman scratches at her furrowed forehead, the sleeve of her uniform dropping ever so slightly to reveal the edges of a colorful tattoo. "Mister Stryer. It's, uh. It's a Fleet thing. Not that — not that I'm a mister, exactly, you know, but." Her features — now twisted into a wry little grin — emphasize every last day of her thirty-four years. "Anyway, I've set up the big screen to link into the computers at your chairs. Don't worry, we're not networked to anything else except each other, so if this is some toaster trick all we'll see are a few busted monitors and some smoking aitch-dees — but yeah, it'll visualize the encryption so we can match it against our current database. Only problem? Our electronic database never got loaded. Picon, boom boom, oh my gods gotta run, jump jump jump — " Stryer pauses her rapid-fire delivery to drop her boyish frame into a nearby chair, snapping her fingers at Tisiphone to request a smoke while she's at it. "So yeah. We get to input things by hand. Hope you guys scored well on your pattern-recog tests when you were kids."

"Yes, I know," Cora replies to Stryer, "I just think that particular protocol is particularly stupid." Anyways. She listens to the LTJG's explanation of the system they've got set up, grimacing faintly at the mention of the lack of that database. "Unfortunate," she replies, "But alright. I guess we'll see how it goes." She gets out a cigarette of her own, lighting it before nodding, "Ready to begin whenever you are."

"Pattern recognition? Combinatorics? What do I look like, some kinda mathematician?" Tisiphone's restlessness gives way to a bark of amused laughter. Some private joke, maybe. Leaning over onto one hip, she digs her smokes back out of the opposite pocket and slides the pack, along with her intricately-engraved zippo, across the table to Strye. Shuffleboard: Round Two. "We…" she starts to say, trailing off for a moment with a peculiar blink at Oberlin's underling. "Yeah," she finishes, a beat later. "Here's hoping."

"It's also particularly not my call, babe." Iris allows herself a burst of short laughter before she calls up the first of the transmissions on the screen. "Right. We'll start with what we know. Harrier-303 picks up some funny squawking around the Jharkand Basin, here."

The short woman removes a laser pointer from her belt to circle the area of Sagittaron on the maps spread out on the table while her other hand pushes play on the remote. A burst of truly offensive static slashes through the room's relative quiet, lasting for four full seconds. "Harrier-303 runs it through the scrubbers on board, figures out it's not the toasters and definitely not us, which is weird because it's military-grade. I tried all the old codes I knew but came up with zilch. Course, last time I was wet was like, so many years ago, so. Looks like the terrorists got smart after '36. Oh. Thanks." Stryer lights up while she waits for the others to process what she's said.

Cora glances sideways at Tisiphone in response to that somewhat-random laughter but turns back as the laser pointer comes into play, eyeing the map as Stryer speaks. She listens, and makes a couple notes before offering, "So we're dealing with one of the major players, then. All our intel on the area says the fringe groups and splinter operations don't have the funding for something like this. Any way to narrow down further which one it might be? There are only a few who come to mind who could get their hands on that sort of tech, but they've all got ties to the Jharkand Basin, if I recall correctly."

"We were holed up in the Sagittaran Embassy in Kythera for a couple weeks," says Tisiphone as she collects her pack and lighter, and slides them across to Cora, pale brows lifted in silent query. Smokytreat? "Three of us went through a bunch of the diplomat offices. We found a lot of paperwork from the Sagittaran government asking for help- Leonis and Tauron, especially- in framing the insurgent groups to try to sway public opinion." She rakes her bottom lip with her teeth, once. "Taint a water tower, blame it on them. Bomb someone's car, blame it on another faction. Don't know if Lieutenant Oberlin managed to get any of it back, but." She shrugs, pulls smoke deep into her lungs. "Might be why it's military-grade encryption. Maybe some Taurian frakkers got stranded down there pretending to be insurgents."

"Or," says Stryer, breathing in a lungful of smoky air. Big eyes — magnified by her massive glasses — glance over at Tisiphone, as if to ask Who brought the conspiracy theorist? "Or, they're terrorists. SSLF would be my guess, or what's left of them." The Southern Sagittaron Liberation Front, of course. Iris simply assumes that everybody in the room speaks acronym. "Heard of Operation Market Cage, that really big op in thirty-six I mentioned earlier? CMC busted up two of the nine SSLF cells and got two of the leaders: Erato and Kalliope. Chicks named themselves after the Muses — some crazy nationalist-slash-religious thing. Go figure. Anyway, Kleio and Thaleia went public a few months later, started negotiations, when — bam. Two SUVs packed full of enough explosives for as many Colonial day parades went boom in the complex." Iris tsks loudly as she shifts in her chair. "Whatever happened to 'give peace a chance,' right? But yeah. Do your computer thing and try those guys first."

"You'd think they'd have seen that coming from History and Comedy," Cora mutters dryly, already flipping through her code book. "Alright, SSLF keys first." She holds the book open with a hand, one finger marking her place on the page and the code info she's plugging into the computer, other long-fingered hand doing the typing work of two. "Errors," she reports, "But we've got a half-dozen others, here, so." She spends the next little while tracking them down in the book and inputting them into the computer, finally watching the screen for longer than before on one of the last. "Alright, this one here from 2040, the newest in the book, that got us through two layers of the encryption, but there's at least one more beneath it. So maybe we're looking for some variant of this, either for a particular division, or… clearance level, or something?"

Cora adds to Tisiphone, "Thanks," and helps herself to cigarette and lighter, looking intrigued by that information but only for a moment. "Something to consider," she agrees noncomittally, before going to work on the easier/more likely scenario first.

Conspiracy theorist? Crazy people getting named after religious figures? Who, /her/? Stryer stares at Tisiphone, and Tisiphone stares right back — until abruptly breaking eye contact for a round of scrutinizing her cigarette cherry, instead. She doesn't speak again until silence falls while Cora's computer works, and then it's to a spot on the scattered maps between them. "You were with the Fleet back then, Jig?" And then, without much time for an answer: "Krotos would be the one in charge."

"I see it." Iris' eyes follow Cora's progress while she does a number on that cigarette. Because nicotine makes her sharper. "That's not any code I know, and no." Her voice turns chilly as she matches Tisiphone's glare — and Stryer isn't the one who breaks first. "I was CIS." The Colonial Intelligence Service. "The Farm was nice enough to pull me out of deep cover after the talks went south — same prick who gave the SSLF the conference location also blew me wide open." Her biting laughter is a few notes short of friendly. "Wish I'd been there to see the CMC take him. Apparently he tried to resist arrest. Funny how they never found the body." Tisiphone receives something of a wink before the intel officer gets back to work.

"So. 2040. Krotos must have found somebody to make that new squawkbox of his; probably some bored tech from Leonis into the whole 'Free Sag' bullshit. Assuming distro lines stayed the same, the splinters would have gotten modded copies only when he could be arsed to give it to them. Last time it took, like, eleven months to finish the wireless upgrade." Conclusion: this one probably won't be in the book. "Hope you're as good with crypto as you are with curling tongs."

Cora is focused on her computer for the most part, glancing up once as Tisiphone offers a name, watching the ensign for a long moment. Then she's fiddling with the decryption algorithms, swapping and rearranging various modules, trying common permutations and distortions in an attempt to find something that works. She looks up again only when Stryer mentions curling tongs, and then to give the Jig a deadpan look. It lasts just long enough to make clear that her hair just looks like this on its own, thanks, and then she looks back to the screen, plugging in another attempt.

And suddenly, when Stryer hits 'play,' the incessant waves of static displayed on screen give way to modulated curves approximating speech — for just one tantalizing moment. Ear-numbing buzzing resolves into what seems to be a woman's voice, though what she's saying isn't quite clear. But what comes next is quite clear indeed: the click-click of a wireless receiver acknowledging receipt of message, followed by the sudden report of a single gunshot.

Tisiphone doesn't often win those charming little staring/dominance contests with other Saggies. Her cigarette always tells her to look away. "Never did find the body, but look how green the grass grows…" she mutters under her breath, as if it's a line from a poem or particularly black nursery rhyme. "End of message, end of messenger," she adds with smoky snort, blowing smoke out at the ceiling.

"Progress," Cora calls it, one finger scratching at her hairline for a moment as she peers at the readout. She's silent for another minute or two, looking at the decryption program thoughtfully. "Odd that they'd be transmitting a gunshot," she comments after another moment, "Makes you wonder if they knew the recorder was running. But I suppose it wouldn't likely encrypt automatically."

"Well, the good news is that we got confirmed survivors," says Iris, leaning back in her chair. She's almost swallowed by its bulk even as she takes one final puff on her cigarette. "Except for whoever was on the receiving end of that bullet. He's frakking done. You can take the world from the terrorists, but you can't take the terrorists from the world, wot?" A nursery rhyme of her own, spoken as her gaze settles on Apostolos just long enough to send a smoke ring the pilot's way.

As for Cora's bit of speculation? "Yeah. My guess? This wasn't a firefight. This was somebody putting out orders for a hit, and another somebody making sure the first somebody knew that the hit had gone well. Still don't have enough for a voiceprint trace, though." Her cigarette spins quickly in the air in the universal signal for hurry up.

"It's what they do." Tisiphone's attention has dropped back to the table — and much of her blood has gone to her toes, considering her abrupt pallor. Her fingers are tight enough on her cigarette to crush the filter slightly as she rolls it back and forth, back and forth. "Ring the boss up while they've got the hit sitting next to the phone. Finish the job while they're listening." Making the checkmark on the list with blood and brains instead of red ink.

"No, definitely not a firefight," Cora agrees, "But why someone would still be sending out hits and executing messengers like insurgent business as usual after the apocalypse is a little beyond me." In other words, she wants the rest of that message. Tisiphone gets another glance as she explains standard operating procedure for terrorist hits, earning a smokey nod before the intel officer goes back to fiddling with the computer. Her cigarette remains tucked in the corner of her lips as she types, trying this, trying that, tweaking what worked in hopes of making it work better and swapping out what didn't for something entirely different, working through the list of possibilities.

Crackle, hiss, buzz — and then from the room's built-in speakers comes two voices from the aether — a man's, gruff and furious; a woman's, cool and collected. They're speaking in a language that is decidedly not Colonial Standard, replete as it is with the aspirated voiceless obstruents and the trilled alveolar flaps and the palatalized velar stops that give students of Sagittaron's ancient tongue so much grief.

Students like Stryer. "Shit," she mutters. Not a Saggie, she, in case it wasn't clear before. "That word — that word there — I think that's 'found,' but I can't be sure." A face-twisting grimace. "Been too long since I was in, but I bet your pet reformed hostile over there might be able to make something of it, huh?"

"Back the frak down," says Tisiphone, suddenly, slouching unease swapped out for coiled tension and a steady stare, sleety eyes full of frost. "Pet reformed hostile? I'm not the one wearing Thaleia's ink and smirking over missing bodies." Translation's put on the back burner for a moment, the pilot's priority seeming to fall upon whether it would be faster to go over the plotting table, or around it.

"Shut up, Junior Lieutenant," Cora speaks over Tisiphone, tone going cold and her gaze hard. The bit about ink catches her attention and she glances at that sleeve where the Jig's tattoo peeked out earlier before adding, "Ensign Apostolos is providing valuable help. If you haven't got useful intel to offer, keep your mouth shut and let her translate." That no-nonsense look is turned on Tisiphone then, the meaning clear enough: ready, set, translate.

"Undercover, babe. I keep it as a memory of the good times — and yeah, I'm as shocked as you that the terrorists bought it. Guess that's why we won." And ever so slowly, Stryer raises the butt of her cigarette and sights down its length to target Tisiphone's face. Then, with lazy contempt, it's flicked the pilot's way, tumbling end-over-end across the map of the southern continent like a 500-pound bomb. "And Blondie, if you think you'd make more progress without me, I'm more than happy to let you and your lonesome do the figuring while I suck the face off that beautiful Raptor pilot I was supposed to meet with thirty minutes ago."

Cigarette filters jink slower than Raiders do — and though there's no laziness to the gesture with which Tisiphone slaps it out of the air, it's contemptuous all the same. "Undercover. Yeah," she mutters. "Convenient way to cover your frakking ass when things get too hot, run crying to the frakking-" She manages to put the skids on her heated words about then, forcing her eyes away to one unoccupied spot in the Map Room after the other. Finally, after several deep breaths: "They found the Captain who did Aera Pona, and his wife. She was scavenging near a spook safehouse. Then the gunshot. You want more precision than that, I need a recording and a couple playthroughs."

Cora just sort of looks at Stryer at that remark, gaze cold and bored. She doesn't look away as Tisiphone slaps the missile out of the air and mutters, or as the pilot gets down to the business of translating. "Looks like we have this pretty well covered," she says then, "You're dismissed, Ms. Stryer." Yeah, Ms. Deal with it. She rises, and crosses the room to collect the recording, piling it atop her notes and turning to Tisiphone to add, "I'll have one made for you right away, if you come along to the office." Which apparently means… now, because she is exiting without further ado.

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