PHD #170: The Audacity of Hope
The Audacity of Hope
Summary: Hope is such a cruel and uniquely painful thing. It's also what Trask gives Penelope when he shares the results of the recon mission to Aerilon.
Date: 15 Aug 2041 AE
Related Logs:
Penelope Trask 
Map Room - Deck 7 - Battlestar Cerberus
Post-Holocaust Day: #170
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.
Condition Level: 3 - All Clear

In light of all the recent recon missions, the Map Room is seeing more use than it has in a quite a while. Posted on the outside hatch is a memo stating that the space has been reserved by Lieutenant Kal Trask, which is to say that only key people are to enter during said period of time. It just so happens that Lieutenant Penelope Paris is one such person.

Bootstrap is already here, and has been for quite some time, poring over several maps sprawled across the large plotting table; unscaled models of Raptors have been positioned in specific areas. On hand, there is a laptop, as well as a notepad and a thermos now half-full of the man's beloved Deck coffee.

"Hey…" Penny's greeting is simple and subdued, but her smile is warm. She's dressed in coveralls, obviously just finished with some dirty job or another: goggles around her neck, gloves hanging from her pocket, a smudge of grime on her nose. She rests a hip on the table, scratching slightly beneath the bandana that covers her head. "What can I do for you?"

Leaning thus against the table, the snipe could see the placement markers on each of the maps. The one that currently has Trask's attention — until Penny arrived, anyhow — is of Sagittaron's Jharkhand province. If the mini-models that represent AAA are any indication, he's been busy planning how to make a planetside excursion not turn into a suicide run.

Peering up from his pondering, Kal looks as though he could seriously use some rack time, although that is not going to happen anytime soon. Lines of exhaustion are evident around his eyes, but his gaze is keen from a combination of determination and caffeine. They veritably glitter at the sight of the baldish brunette. "Hello," he roguishly smiles back, not hesitating to snake one arm around Penelope's waist to draw her much, much closer. "I can think of several things…" Although first and foremost would be to kiss her in a manner that is utterly inappropriate for an on-duty officer. Command might even consider it unacceptable off-duty and in a very private place.

Penelope laughs as she's reeled in, arms sliding around Kal's neck, and is very willingly kissed. She tilts her head to kiss him more deeply, threading her fingers into his hair. If there are any violations of conduct, she's aiding and abetting in spades. When at last there's a break for air, the snipe trails a few kisses up to the ECO's ear, fingers tracing tender patterns at the nape of his neck. "Thank you for my birthday present," she whispers, smiling.

One of the things that sucks about being a Squadron Leader is the distinct lack of personal time, especially when missions are on the docket. This is pretty much the first time the pair have seen each other since the evening involving the rainbow clown pr0n wig, and Bootstrap sure as frak is seizing the opportunity to make up for lost time. When they finally take a bit of a breather, the Taurian is smiling the all-too-pleased smile of a cat that just lapped up some fresh cream. Eyes close when Penelope's fingers stroke the nape of his neck, and he bows his head to lightly rest against her own. "You're very welcome," he murmurs in one of those rare moments he doesn't give a smartass reply. After a languid moment and a contented sigh, he adds, "I have another present for you, actually." Affectionately, he squeezes her waist as he starts to direct her towards another map.

"I plan on making those cigarettes last," Penny says with a smile, nuzzling his cheek before turning to view the map. "I smoked one on the day. And I'll have one on my birthday next year, and the year after…" She tilts her head, resting her hands on the edge of the table. "What's this, then?"

The map in question is of Allegheny and, like the maps of Jharkhand and Xenos, there are placement markers and model Raptors. A nearby manilla folder lies open, revealing some recon photos. It is that which Kal retrieves and offers the snipe. Why he does such a thing might become self-evident: they are aerial shots of the Blue Ridge Mountains and several distinctly show signs of smoke that are not of the forest fire variety. To emphasize that point, the timestamps from later images reveal that the source was put out the closer the Raptor flew overhead. Idly, the man rubs at the back of his neck and awaits a reaction.

"Sweet Hecate…" It's whispered against her fingers and through a throat strangled with emotion, the photographs viewed through eyes blurred with tears. She swallows hard, a quick, irritable swipe of her knuckles clearing her eyes. Her hands tremble faintly. Several deep breaths later, she clears her throat. "Chances that they survived the initial attacks," she speaks more audibly, her voice steady and grim. "Divided by chances they survived all the hardship and privation of these past months. Divided by chances that we'll actually come across them, when we get down there." She drops the photos onto the map; they fan out on impact, nudging the landing gear of a miniature Raptor. She takes a deep breath and grips the edge of the table, bowing her head. "Sometimes I think I'd prefer to grieve than to hope, Kal. Hope is such a cruel and uniquely painful thing."

In truth, he wasn't sure what to expect. That he is, thus looks, pained over her heartache isn't something that hits him out of nowhere, though, even if he tries to balance his discomfort with a desire to be comforting. For a moment, Trask simply stands there somewhat awkwardly, and then he's in motion to envelop poor Penny in his arms. "I'm pressing to go there before we tackle the inevitable clusterfrak that will be Sagittaron," he quietly relays, only to sardonically continue, "Unfortunately, it's not my call. We'll go, though." Oh, they will go. That is something the SL has resolutely decided. "No idea who we'll find, but we stand an excellent chance of finding several someones. Seed stocks, too." Hesitating, the ECO admits, "I understand if you're not up to going, but I'd like you to be there. You know the region better than anyone…"

It's comfort Penny accepts readily, wrapping her arms around Kal good and tight, hiding her face against his shoulder. She doesn't break down, breathing through it, only slight tremors in her slender body relaying the excruciating ache within. And then there's the fact that his shoulder gets a little damp. But just a little. "I'm going," she says, simply and unequivocally. That's all there is to that.

Bootstrap is very adept at being physically comforting. He had far too much practice consoling his mother and sister after countless beatings inflicted by his drunkard father. Reflexively, he falls into a tender, yet highly protective role. Snugly, the woman is held, one hand gently stroking the crown of her bandana-covered head. "I'll speak with Dom about it. I'm sure he'll be interested in whatever we can scrounge from the abandoned Cylon bases our sensors picked up."

Penelope nods quickly, pulling back just enough to dab at her eyes, taking a deep breath. She presses her lips together and nods again, then takes Kal's face in her hands and places a series of tender kisses there: forehead, eyebrows, cheeks, and lips. Swallowing hard, taking another deep breath, she looks once more to the maps. "What can I do in the meantime?"

"Apart from kissing me?" Trask will be Trask, after all. Lightly, he rests one hand on the small of the Aerilonian's back. "I'm goin' over the logistics, but any info you can provide about terrain, settlements, flight paths, landing pads, entry points, whatever, would definitely be appreciated. Quinn's from the north." Which means more or less useless regarding this. "Not sure about Bannik. The more data we have, the better we can plan." Beat. "And, y'know, kissing me is always a good thing to do. It's timeless. An event for all occasions." Scampishly, he smiles.

"Not sure about Bannik, either," Penny murmurs, nodding along, eyes on the map of her home. "I know there's a viper pilot, one of the Petrels, who's from Allegheny. Covington, I think her name is." That's almost irrelevant, from the way she's shaking her head, suddenly energized and grabbing a handful of markers. "But I've flown all over this area. Near every homestead had a landing strip 'cause we all had small planes — there's Papa's farm, here." A marker goes down. "And the Tollivers, here. The Edwards, Carpenters, Reeves, Cheeks, Walkers, Serdukes — " a marker goes down on every place she names. She's smiling now, flashing a grin at Kal. "And I know how to get to every hollow and cave formation in the area. Hades, we were all moonshiners. And I can guarantee you that where we set up our stills is where folks would have fled — all those hidden places."

No kisses for Kal. Oh, well. Penny is more upbeat and that suits him just fine. As the placement markers are affixed, he starts typing notes on the laptop. Once finished with that, he retrieves a nearby pen and numbers each marker. Soon enough, he's invigorated by her enthusiasm. "Mention moonshine and stills, and there'll be no way to keep the CMC away," is deadpanned. "Colonel Pewter is more of a snob. He's big on fancy-shmancy rum that's been aged 10 years in amber or some shit. Or maybe it's whiskey. Frakked if I know." Or care. No booze for Bootstrap, kthx. "I knew Skids was from the south, but I wasn't aware she was from Allegheny. Guess her accent got a bit warped after all that time livin' on Picon."

"Might be misremembering 'bout Covington," Penny says, distractedly. "Okay, now, there are farms out here… and here… the old Blevins and Garrity places. Hasn't been anyone out on those farms since before I left, and I wouldn't've tried to land the duster there on a good day, but they'll do in a pinch. The land's probably still pretty flat where the fields were." She turns and hooks a hand behind Kal's neck, kissing him right out of the blue. "Thank you for this."

Tap-tap-tappity-tap. More notes are entered via keyboard. That is, of course, until Trask is stealth smooched. Not that he's complaining. No, he's busy kissing her right back. "Thank you," he smiles, amused, going back in, letting lips scarcely brush lips. "Oh, for the info, too."

Penelope smiles brilliantly, resting her forehead against his, tips of noses touching. Once more quick kiss and she steps back, clapping her hands together and turning to face the map. "Let's get to work."

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