PHD #419: Rendered Honors
Rendered Honors
Summary: The funeral for the 26 Marines kill on 15 April.
Date: 21 Apr 2042 AE
Related Logs: The Areion Raid
Pewter Tillman Madilyn Vandenberg Constin 
Starboard Hangar Deck
Set Below
Post-Holocaust Day: #419

The Starboard Hangar Deck, once dominated by civilian living quarters, now holds an ancient ship that took travelers from their homes to their deaths among the stars. Today, in the shadows of this vessel, the Colonial Marine Corps has arranged a funeral service for their members who met their deaths among the stars as well. With the rest of the hangar deck sealed off from this service, there are seats for the still-healing individuals but most of the room is standing-only. The whole area has been scrubbed down to a spot-shine as much as possible in preparation, even the launch tube doors getting a new coat of paint.

The primary seating area is nestled within two vacant Viper bays with overflow to the left and right of the bays, the rest of the deck expanded down for unlimited attendance. Directly opposite the two 'Alert Bays' are a pair of launch tubes that run parallel to each other towards their exits among the vacuum. Each bay contains two rows of six caskets each with a single at the head of the lines, each one draped with the flag of the Colonial Marines. Between the launch tube doors is a single microphone stand while the area in front of and around the mic is empty and cordoned off to create a neat square.

The dress is strictly enforced: Officers are to wear Dress Grays and all naval enlisted are to be in their best greens. All Marine enlisted, Military Police or Rifles, have all of their equipment and boots spit-shined. Belt buckles glimmer in the light and the leather shines with the overhead fluorescents. Their browns, like the naval greens, are ironed, starched, and clipped of any stray thread. The Marines all have their garrison caps on, aggressively perched forward while they stand at ease.

Behind the microphone is a line of officers and one enlisted in various states of recovery. The farthest to stage left is Pewter who is standing with the aid of a cane. Next over is Major Tillman, the Cerberus' Executive Officer. The Major is in a wheelchair, the man appearing still far from a full recovery, with a Marine Corpsman standing behind the chair. There is no missing the trouble and likely pain he has had to endure for putting on Dress Grays and leaving Sickbay for this, but that expression is stoic and determined. Next over is Major Willows-Cavanaugh, the Marine Commanding Officer, who stands tall with the others. One the end, and dressed just as Madilyn, is Lieutenant Vandenberg - the Marine Operations Officer. Both the Marine Officers are in their Grays, the sash across their bodies the velvet blue of the Corps that is easily distinguished from that of the brown of the Navy. At the end and standing just forward is the Master at Arms, Gunnery Sergeant Eleftherios Constin. Standing tall with his sidearm, the man presides over the funeral in gruff silence, his presence personally guarding the officers behind the microphone. In front of the launch tubes is a line of seven Marine Corps riflemen with highly polished rifles, each one staring straight ahead and awaiting orders.

At the stroke of the appointed minute for the funeral to begin, Pewter ambles up to the mic and waits for any whispers to cease. When he speaks, its not the same folksy speech he might normally have. The battlegroup's commanding officer growls out in his gravelly voice, "Others have things to say so I'll just be sayin' a quick few lines." The man taps his cane twice, the rubberized tip almost soundless against the armored steel deck plating. The next words are solemn and delivered with the same sincerity that only a man like Pewter could.

"Hear me, O Death, whose empire unconfin'd, extends to mortal tribes of ev'ry kind.
On thee, the portion of our time depends, whose absence lengthens life, whose presence ends.
Thy sleep perpetual bursts the vivid folds, by which the soul, attracting body holds:
Common to all of ev'ry sex and age, for nought escapes thy all-destructive rage;
Not youth itself thy clemency can gain, vig'rous and strong, by thee untimely slain.
In thee, the end of nature's works is known, in thee, all judgment is absolv'd alone:
No suppliant arts thy dreadful rage controul, no vows revoke the purpose of thy soul;
O blessed pow'r regard my ardent pray'r, and human life to age abundant spare."

When Pewter finishes he returns to where he was standing and the Corpsman behind Tillman moves to take the microphone from the stand. It takes a few seconds of jimmying it free but when it does he returns to offer it to Tillman. There's a quiet 'Thank you, Petty Officer', barely heard through the speakers. The Major clears his throat a few times and takes a breath. "Ladies and Gentlemen, the last time I addressed you all on this hangar deck, it was to present medals for those who fought, and died, so heroically on Leonis. I'm saddened to address you all once again, here, under the opposite circumstances." He pauses to catch his breath and cough a bit. A canteen of water is offered from the Corpsman but he waves it away gently. His words come a bit more slowly this time as he paces himself. "I have to keep this brief, but I wanted to be here to render honors to these Marines… These people who have put their lives on the line since they took the oath, but especially since Warday." He pauses. "We've fought long and hard to get here and to have the enemy become some of our own is a tragedy beyond compare. To fight-" He cough once again. "To fight against what is left of humanity, our pilots and Marines set out to do what has become unthinkable: Kill other humans without remorse. Why? To defend the rest of us. To rescue hostages. To prevent nuclear weapons from destroying what remains of this race. To tip the spear.. and fight and die for all of us is a burden many of our combatant personnel carry with pride. On April fifteenth, these men and women did just.. that and carried the spirit and honor of the Corps to their dying breath." He's slowing down, trying to keep his injuries at bay but the strain is taking its toll. He grits his teeth and takes a breath to keep going. "I am immensely proud to say that I started my service as a Marine. These people who have served us, and those that.. that continue to do so? Nothing brings me more pride than to be your, and their, Executive Officer. Nothing." He seems like he wants to say more but the Major just can't do it. He takes a few hard breathes and reluctantly lifts the microphone towards the Corpsman who returns it to the stand. The man can be heard to cough, attempting to stifle it as he reaches for the once-more offered canteen.

As Tillman finishes, Madilyn takes to the microphone stand. Stiffly buttoned up in dress grays - a fresh set, of course - she looks bound by duty to be here, but conflicted about it at the same time. She has no notes prepared, nothing of the sort, and just stands there for a moment. There's not much sound in the room to die down, nonetheless, she uses that moment for the crowd to digest Tillman's words, then she launches into her statement.

"We've come together here to celebrate and remember the lives of our fallen comrades. While each and every one of us understood the risks and the dangers that could arise during the course of service, none of us could have known that those risks would come at the hands of fellow Colonials…our own brothers in arms. It saddens me greatly to know that the lives of these Marines were spent because of the delusions of one man. While he might have started off with the best of intentions, we see now what toll the tide of war inflicted upon him." She speaks with a clear, firm voice, not letting it waver.

"These men and women died bravely, fighting for a cause that was just. They died doing their job, doing their duty, with unwavering loyalty and dedication. Despite the enemy being our own brothers and sisters. Alongside you, these men and women leapt to action, to recapture the safety and security of this fleet in the face of those who would seek to use terror to achieve their goals. Each and every one of them we remember today gave their lives in order to protect a dozen or a hundred more who did not make the choice to fight." This part of the causes her to begin tearing up a bit, and so she hurries into the next part.

"While I wish I had the words to adequately describe the appreciation and respect I have for these soldiers, so too do I lack the words to describe the sorrow I feel for those opposing the marines we celebrate here. Duped and misguided, they were doing their duty - the same as us - only to suffer an inglorious end that often befalls such zealous behavior. Our victory then - should we call it that - comes at a doubly high price, as we fight for the very survival of our species." By the time she finishes, she sounds tired, weary of grim duties such as this. The look simply says that this should be unnecessary. There's no chanting or rallying, she just turns away from the mic, resumes her previous position, and takes a good hard look at her boots, shading her eyes from glare.

The next speaker, Vandenberg, rises from her wheelchair slowly, Tillman's Corpsman keeping an eye on her as she does so. It takes a moment of biting back the pain but she powers through it and stands tall, both hands coming forward to tug at the hem of her grays to straighten them. She takes the few steps forward to the mic and folds her hands behind her back. Her assortment of decorations hang ignored and showing a bit of wear. Green eyes survey the audience from under her cap for a few long seconds. "Most of the Marines here know me. For those of you that don't, I'm Lieutenant Vandenberg. I led the first wave assault onto the Areion." She pauses and clears her throat, voice still low and informal. "Its so rare when combatant command can actually bring home its dead. Despite the occasion and its reason, this is a privilege few of us in the Marines or our brothers and sisters in Air Wing will know in this war. Be proud for them. The ferryman will be paid." A clear of her throat and then she moves on in the same tone. "I knew each of these men and women personally. Some served directly under me. Nothing we can say to each other will repair the loss or what it means to humanity to lose people of this caliber. ..Or what it means to the Marines. But we try." She then seems to take a moral formal tone as if addressing a class, voice lifting with conviction. "These good, honorable Marines were some of the bravest and best warriors I've ever met or had the pleasure of serving with. In the history of the Corps, we celebrate those who have come before us and paved new ground. Those who have won medals. Those who have done incredible, impossible things. Fought enemies and bested odds nobody would bet a cubit on. Those who have served. And laughed. And cried. And died. …All for each other." She takes a hard swallow and looks side to side to those present.

There's another breath taken as she purses her lips and looks to the deck in front of her. "When a Marine salutes another, we are not saluting the rank or the individual. We are saluting more than three hundred years of tradition, honor, and celebration of those who have come before us. That's driven home in basic and we're never allowed to forget it. Ever. Once a Marine, always a Marine. Even in death." She pauses there and swipes a quick thumb at her nose, coughing once. "Death. In the Corps, we're told its glorious. To die in the service of the flags is something that we should all hope to have the opportunity to have." Natalie shakes her head, voice quieting. "Not like this. Fighting our own? Never. But we don't get to pick our enemies. The Corps did not pick the Cylons. The Corps did not pick the Areion." She stills herself before continuing. "However.. those are the enemies the Gods gave us. But despite the fact the we would be fighting our own? Taking arms against our brothers and sisters? These twenty-six men and women were told the situation and volunteered to come forward with us. To face an enemy that we shouldn't have had to. To brave lethal fire from one of the most highly trained groups in the Corps, before the fall. We shouldn't aspire to lie with them for their fight against other members of our race.. our tribe of humanity. Our fellow Marines. No, but we should all hope to possess the personal strength and clarity of soul that these Marines did when they stepped-up. They gave it all to fight for the soldier next to them.. and the one's behind them. For that, my fellows, the Corps will always render them honors. Humanity owes them a debt we will never be able to repay. But rest assured that with every salute given; with every order followed; every oath taken in the future; we will honor these people the best we know how: By carrying on with the same honor and spirit that they have already shown us. In their death, we should all only aspire to find a better way to thank them for their sacrifice. Gods Bless every one of them for it. We do it all for each other. Semper Fidelis, my fallen friends." The Marine falls silent while the speakers echo. Once more Natalie looks side to side and a hand lifts to the mic. "Gunnery Sergeant Constin: Roll call." She shuts off the mic and returns slowly to her chair, her voice stronger than her body apparently is at the moment.

Constin's movements are stiff as he salutes to Vandenberg's order. The battle scarred sergeant does not step up to the microphone, but draws in a deep breath, and barks out the first name, unaided by amplifiers, in a voice recognizable to every marine who has ever gone through basic training with the Corps. It is the commanding tone of tradition and strength. "Petty Officer Second Class Preston Croke," the first name is boomed out, in volume sufficient to echo in the cavernous room. The sound reverberates off the walls and carries the length of the whole hangar deck in the otherwise cold silence. Before it can echo twice, the second name is called. In alphabetical order, the ship's Master at Arms moves through the twenty-six names of the deceased, giving name and rank for each in the same precise cadence, until the last is named: "Petty Officer First Class Dominic Sabien."

The ritual goes on. "Pre-zent arms," the Gunnery Sergeant calls, answered with crisp, well drilled motions of the seven-marine Honor Guard who bring the rifles vertically before them with uniform precision. Everyone's hands come up in sharp salute. Behind the microphone, the two officers in their wheelchairs rise from them, Tillman a bit unsteady. He's helped by the Corpsman behind him but fights the touch a bit, instead opting to stand under his own power for as long as he possibly can with his arm raised in salute.

"Ready." The boots of the Honor Guard go to shoulder-width, rifle stocks set to the low ready. The semi-automatic function of the rifles does not engage, requiring the mechanical *click-clack* of the bolts manually being cycled. "Aim. Fire." The thunderclap of the rolled shots ring out in unison, the seven shots indistinguishable from each other. As the honor guard fire blanks here, it does not take away from the roar that rolls across those present.

"Ready," that voice booms with precision. Click-clack. "Aim." The guns go to diagonal. "Fire." Again the seven shots ring out. In a normal crowd, onlookers might flinch at the noise. It echoes with the same ferocity of the Gunnery Sergeant's voice. "Ready." Click-clack. "Aim." The guns go to diagonal. "Fire." The final staccato of the twenty-one shot salute echoes through the vast space of the Battlestar's hangar. "At ease," he finally booms, that voice commanding each to leave their salute.

Vandenberg doesn't sit when everyone returns to their seats, including Tillman who looks like he might pass out at any moment. The Marine Lieutenant makes her way back up to the microphone and a hand lifts to turn it back on while the rifle fire echoes into nothing at the farthest reaches of the hangar deck. "Seal the doors," comes the order. The speakers have barely finished relaying her words when the large tube doors begin their lumbering mechanical movements. They lock audibly when they finally close. "Life here began out there." Her chin lifts with her eyes, voice addressing those in the caskets to her back. "It is to the deep stars that we commit you to once more. Safe travels my friends. Guard the shores with pride." A reference to the Marine Hymn about the shores of Elysium being guarded by Colonial Marines. She takes a breath and stands a little taller. "LSO, catshot tubes one-four and one-five, please, sir." Behind Natalie, the sound of the electrical generators can be heard to power for barely a second before each one is fired in order. With a loud, metallic Ka-chunk the catapults engage and carry the sleds down the tubes to deposit the caskets into deep space forever.

The sound reverberates through the hangar, traveling the length and coming back. The Marine Officer at the microphone looks to each side once more. "Detail, dismissed." There's no bravado or upward momentum to her words. Just the simple, quiet command to fall out and return to post. She shuts off the microphone and turns away to head back to her wheelchair. The simple, solemn ceremony is done.

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