PHD #384: The Man Behind The Curtain
The Man Behind the Curtain
Summary: Sawyer gets a first look at The Gun courtesy of Kepner.
Date: 17 Mar 2042 AE
Related Logs: Cost of Business (Similar Intel being given to the Marines) & Colonel Pewter's Two Step Twist (Kepner and Sawyer meet, promise of the tour is given). Any other mention of The Gun.
Kepner Sawyer 
Good Ship Areion
Post-Holocaust Day: #384

The Raptor was right on time to pick Sawyer up for her engagement with the commander of the Areion, and it touches down on the flight deck of the spook ship now. As it's doors open, the Commander himself stands waiting with a pair of MPs that are presumably going to act as escorts along with him. In his blues, freshly shaved, the very picture of Command for the occasion. Kepner had promised her the access of tour of his fair ship - as 'Fleet historian' - ages ago, yet always seemed to find a reason to put it off. So his easy acceptance of this particular request might have come as something of a surprise.

The usually prim and proper journalist steps off of the Raptor wearing marine combat black cargo pants and boots with a light, long sleeved grey sweater tucked into the waist. Once her boots hit the deck, she fixes the man in the middle of his MP throng with a warm smile. "So we meet again, Commander. I hope you don't mind my appearance, but I took the liberty of dressing for mess, should you deign to give me down and dirty version of the tour. High heels don't work well in Engineering corridors." Her hand extends for a polite handshake.

"So we meet again indeed, Miss Averies." A grin comes to Kepner's face at Sawyer's choice of attire. There's an almost boyish quality to the expression, deep as the crags in his face may be. Though it doesn't quite touch his eyes. He takes her hand, shaking it briskly. His grip is firm, but not overly so. He's making no effort to grip her too harshly. Once that ritual is done, he extends his arm to her. As if meaning for her to take it. "Welcome aboard the C-E-X Areion. You're the first civilian ever to set foot on this deck. It was never meant to be seen by eyes without high-level security clearance." His grin crooks, like that was a joke. Except…not. "Times change, however. In ways some can't imagine."

As for the hangar deck itself, it's not particularly remarkable. Much like the one aboard Cerberus, save smaller. This is no titan of a Mercury-class battlestar, after all, but a simple escort carrier. Made into something not-so-simple.

Sawyer smirks at the arm extended to her. "You'll forgive me, Commander, but a girl's got to keep both hands free. For note taking, of course." She pulls out a pad of paper and lofts it in demonstration before flipping to a blank page and nudging the pen free of the binding coil. To his introduction of the ship, she comments. "Well, I thank you for opening her doors and being hospitable. Were you her Commander at the launch?"

"That depends on how you define 'launch'," Kepner says. Lowering his arm. No trace of offense, save a slight dimming of that grin of his. "This way, boys and girls. Let's show the lady our humble home, and the best chance this Fleet has for survival." On that note, he strides toward the stairs up the catwalk, which lead into the corridors of the ship proper. Motioning for Sawyer to follow.

"The bones of this ship, her basic framework, used to be a bucket called the Chiron," Kepner says, tone easy and conversational, and ringing with pride as he talks of his ship. "Old carrier, set for decommissioning. But Admiral Madeline Hauck had other plans for her." That pride takes on a note of fierce devotion - even adoration - as he mentions Hauck. "The Chiron was towed to Parnassus Anchorage in 2035 not to be broken down, but to be reborn. Do you know much about Admiral Hauck, Miss Averies?"

Sawyer is dutifully following behind Kepner, keeping pace even if that means she has to lengthen her stride a bit to do so. When her hair can't be flicked out of her face with a quick toss of her head, Sawyer uses the end of her pen to tuck the heavy lock behind her ear. "I'd be pleased if you'd share with me what /you/ know." Which is a polite way of saying 'uh, no'.

"It's a name the people of the Fleet should know," Kepner says, tone firm as he leads Sawyer into the corridors of his ship. The MPs flanking them, silent for now as the commander talks expansively. "If there'd been more officers in the Navy like here, the Twelve Colonies wouldn't have been blown to seven hells and you'd still be back on…where're you from? Libran? Caprica? Well, you take my point. Admiral Madeline Hauck is the reason this ship exists. It was her pet project when she was running Parnassus Anchorage. She commissioned it when the Navy made her head of Advanced Research and Projects Department. She knew the Cylons were coming back, it was just a question of time. Pity more didn't share her vision for preparedness."

He pauses. "You might be more familiar with another one of Admiral Hauck's projects. Code-name Ananke. Much of the work on it was farmed out to contractor by the name of MolGen…with which you're familiar from your time on Leonis, as I understand it." His smile, still in place, takes on a sort of edge.

For just a split second, Sawyer's frame tenses at the mention of MolGen. She becomes reanimated quickly enough, doing a double step to return to Kepner's side. Her note taking is furious, but some of the motions are just little tick marks on the side of the paper, should any of their escorts be any the wiser. This is how Sawyer controls her nervous fidgeting. Tick marks. "So you're familiar with the work product that MolGen produced? How does this relate back to the Areion?"

"Passingly familiar," is Kepner's reply to that. The corridors of the ship are likewise unremarkable. More narrower than those of the Cerberus. The whole ship is more compact, though the plating and other fixtures all look similarly new, much like those aboard the battlestar. The rebuilding project on the ship the commander mentioned must've included new carpeting as well as whatever improvements military intelligence had in mind. "Ananke was a separate project from my Areion here, but they were both part of the same anti-Cylon preparedness endeavor. And utilized much of the same technology." He paused. "I read your little manifesto, you know, Miss Averies. About MolGen. The phrase 'secret underground facility was a monstrosity of human conscious' was a particularly poetic turn. I do enjoy a well-written. Pity it was so misinformed."

"I prefer not to work off conjecture, but when it's all that you have…" Sawyer gives him a dainty little shrug, followed be a the curve of a smile that betrays they both know she's full of shit. "So would you care to fill in some of the blanks then for me, Commander? Tell me about your gun. The Gun."

"My Gun is what all the girls will want to hear about," Kepner says, laughing at his own joke. Manner still friendly enough, despite his previous words. "And boys, of course. The Gun is a simple enough idea. Putting it into practice is a hell of a job, but when it has time to charge up it works like a charm. This way." He turns to lead her down a stairwell. "This'll take us to Engineering. The Gun is designed to *disperse* what the heroes of MolGen and Admiral Hauck created. It's a specialized radiation weapon. Now our ships - this carrier, that battlestar out there, even the standard Viper and Raptor - are designed with shielding from basic radiation. Breaks down our human condition, as it does. But the Cylons, nuclear residue and the regular stuff doesn't bother them. No need for lead lining when there no soft bits inside you to fry. But what *this* puts out…this disrupts Cylon neural function. Specially designed, took years of work based on data gathered from the War. Well, the First War. Or so the theory went. We hoped we'd never have an opportunity to use it. Didn't even know the damn thing worked until after the attacks, and by then we were running for our lives, same as you fine people."

"So you harness this…bear with me, I'm not an engineer…you harness this nuclear energy, focus it and project it like KEW towards the Raiders or the Foundry and…poof? So why have you been picking and choosing when to use the weapon? And why have we not been focusing on implementing such a weapon on the other ships?" Questions, not accusations, from the Blonde whose boots are ringing down the stairwell next to Kepner.

"Oh, it's not quite nuclear," Kepner corrects, albeit still casually. "Truth be told, Miss Averies, I'm no engineer either. I am up through Intelligence. I just regret I was born too young to fight the Cylons the first time around. Gods! What a time that must have been. Our enemies defeated, building our society…pity we weren't better stewards of humanity, better protectors. Pity this ship was only an experimental project. A whole line of these would've saved billions of lives." He takes the questions in stride. "Unfortunately, The Gun takes a fair bit longer to charge than it takes our jump engines to spool. My thinking is that's why the Cylons have been throwing these small-cubit encounters at us. Jump in with a swarm of their damned Raiders, do some negligible damage, get gone. Day in and day out, it adds up. The Gun requires full, concentrated support, or else it can't do what it does. Tactically, it's a smart moves. Renders the Gun to a non-factor, unless we're willing to stick around and lose more and more planes to do small-cubit damage of our own. I won't claim she's perfect."

As for the rest of that. "The Gun itself, unfortunately, can't be replicated. The Areion had to be specially designed around it. Everything on this ship is focused on bringing it to bear, from the extra interior shielding in the walls to our larger-than-standard Wing of air support for a ship like this. To keep the Raiders off us so we've got time to charge. There is something the ships of the Fleet can do to power her, though. The Gun's range is driven by our electronic warfare network. Limited by it. Work is underway right now to link all the ships of this Fleet into that network, so the radiation wave will carry farther, become more powerful, and have the ability to frak up more Cylons."

"So it can't be replicated. It's slow. And the range is short. What you're telling me is this isn't the miracle we'd all hope it to be…then why all the secrecy? Why am I the only civilian that's been allowed on the ship? Why aren't the other military personnel aware of what it is or isn't precisely capable of? For instanced, is the Cerberus' CAG particularly aware of your needs so as to add to the protection you'd require during combat in order to fire this puppy up?" All this walking and talking, and Sawyer doesn't even sound breathless. One thing is for certain, she has prided herself on keeping in shape so she can be a war correspondent and not a liability.

"I'm not a believer in miracles, Miss Averies. But I work with what I've got. And I'm sure Major Hahn is well aware. Our CAG has worked very hard to establish close working bonds with his Cerberus counterpart. And I've given Colonel Pewter and the other Fleet Commanders all the particulars. But perhaps you've a point about the secrecy." Kepner shrugs. "That's in part why I'm letting you in. My crew and I have spent the last years in one of the Navy's most heavily classified projects. Secrecy is a habit. But I think it's important for the people of the Fleet to begin to know us. Our Gun is, indeed, not a miracle. But once those ECM improvements are in place, its range should be anything but short."

"So. Now you've got me here, this is your chance. What would you like the public to know? I don't claim to have a wide reader base, but if I can be flattered and pleasantly surprised that you read my publications, perhaps the word of mouth that I've written of the elusive gun will travel and your words will reach the masses." Sawyer pauses in her walk, pen poised to take down any sound bytes which might be offered.

"I want the public to know that the men and women on this ship are committed to the fight against the toasters, and we'll use everything in our arsenal on behalf of this Fleet," Kepner says. "That we all need to fight together, combine what remains of our strength, because that's the only hope we have to survive. It's not the Raiders that scare me, Miss Averies. Oh, they can damage us, but at least we know what we're fighting. I'd rather face a thousand Raiders every damn day than go to sleep knowing there are frakking skinjobs in our midst." He makes a turn off the stairs, down a corridor. "Right this way."

"When you're able to use the ECM improvements, will that be usable against any skinjobs aboard our ships? The humanoid models that are at the heart of everyone's fears and are making paranoia run rampant in both the civilian and military sector. Will you be able to turn the gun to our own ships without causing any mechanical damage to our vessels or human inhabitants?" With the anticipation of seeing this Gun up close and personal, the Journalist steps a bit more lively.

"Our ships are shielded against radiation in both interior and exterior plating, which includes that output by the Gun," Kepner replies. "That's why the three-headed dog of a battlestar is still sailing, despite that nuke that went off on her hull. So, pity to say, mass-blanketing of the Fleet with it would be…impractical." He sounds a little sad about it, too. "Pity we can't run every man, woman and child in the Fleet through the Gun's radiation chamber and just see what happens, eh?" He chuckles, though it doesn't precisely sound like a joke.

"Well, that would be unethical, now wouldn't it? But yes, pity in some respects about the ships' shielding, but as you've said, it protected us against more threatening nuclear attacks. It's just this way, you say? I've toured some of the engineering on the Cerberus, but this will be a treat." Sawyer ducks her head to make a few more notations on her pad of paper, following Kepner's footsteps to keep her on the right track so she doesn't run headlong into a bulkhead or hatch.

The Areion's Engineering deck is state-of-the-art, worked by a lighter crew than it generally takes to man the underbelly of the battlestar. Several heads look up from their consoles when Kepner and the reporter waltz in. But they must have been warned she was coming, as they pop off crisp salutes and try not to stare too much.

"Unethical. Of course. We won't be able to take you directly into the Gun chamber itself, I'm sorry to say," Kepner says as he leads her to a catwalk lined witha railing. "Our testing hasn't demonstrated the type of radiation output by the Gun is harmful to humans. As I was saying before, it's targeted to degrade Cylon mechanical neural systems. But we still have our engineers and Weps working directly in its chamber wear HAZMAT gear. Better safe than sorry, eh?"

"I appreciate your concern for my wellbeing. Of course, you know I'd be happy to wear a HAZMAT suit, if that would get me closer?" Ah Sawyer, ever the opportunist. Before he can scowl too much, she's glancing around at all the buzy bee workers, who are doing their best to keep their noses down and to the grind stone. "Looks like you run a tight ship."

"Maybe some other time. I've got a meet with my XO in a half hour. She's working with some of Cerberus' Marines on security concerns within the Fleet. The threat of skinjobs is making everyone paranoid. Not that that doesn't meant nobody's out to get you, of course." Kepner winks at Sawyer, leaning over the railing and prompting her to enjoy the view. It is, indeed, a radiation chamber, enclosed by high walls with a few crew members in environmental suits checking over the equipment inside.

From a distance it does resemble a nuclear reactor core, but who knows what differences are in the details. "I can take you through our CIC, and then around to our crew quarters so you can meet some of our men. It's the crew that make the heart of any ship, Miss Averies, and I firmly believe the men and women who've survived to serve with me today are the most loyal, finest soldiers to ever grace the Colonial Fleet."

And so Sawyer follows dutifully along with Kepner after rubbernecking the radiation chamber a little longer, jotting some more notes down on her little pad of paper. She asks a few more standard questions of the CO before she's shovelled off to lower level management and then finally dumped back aboard the Raptor for a very quiet ride home.

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