PHD #071: EVENT - The Promise of Science
The Promise of Science
Summary: The team dispatched to investigate the MolGen compound finds itself at the center of an unsettling mystery.
Date: 8 May 2041 AE
Related Logs: Concurrent with Lambs to the Slaughter and 99999.
Oberlin Quinn Trask Evandreus Penelope Niobe Stavrian Corinna Arkat Haeleah Cappella Sawyer NPC Polaris 
Prometheus Square — Kythera — Leonis
Crammed full of restaurants, upscale fast food joints, warehouses, and office supply shops, Prometheus Square is just really a collection of stores at the intersection of Inspiration and Imagination Lanes, constructed for the express purpose of sustaining the men and women working for the biotech beast. Like the rest of central Kythera, most of this area is no more than rubble. Service industry workers are buried alongside the high-powered scientists they served, and what few buildings remain are in perpetual danger of toppling over. The most prominent of these is unquestionably the Museum of High Technology, whose asymmetrical hypermodern frame forms the southern edge of the square. A shredded banner still hangs from its central gallery, whose collapsed roof frames its bold white text quite nicely indeed: "Behold! The Promise of Science."
Post-Holocaust Day: #71

For those fortunate enough to be flying Air Awesome, it's business as usual for Quinn and Trask; she flies satin smooth and mostly manages to maintain her composure when he starts cracking grim jokes. Quips and sardonic statements (and Jugs' exasperation with Bootstrap) are the staples of in-flight entertainment.

Stavrian is in the no-talking section of the flight for the most part, lacking the Air Wing jocularity gene. At least, not when flying over something like this. His concentration's all out the window as the Raptor glides, jaw set. The one time his eyes do turn, it's to glance over the faces of the engineers he's riding with, then down at the kit on his lap to make sure it's still securely fastened. Yep, it is.

Sawyer is quiet for the most part. She's already rattled at being split from Kulko as a last minute decision for her to go with the Raptor groups. There's a steady tick in her jaw as she grinds her teeth, a nervous habit instead of an irritated one. Loaded down with more weight in equipment then she could possibly be used to, she's rather subdued. At least Evan got his 'co-pilot' back, strapped into a back jumpseat as she is.

Haeleah doesn't have much to say either. She's sitting back and enjoying the ride in her Raptor taxi. Eyes still lingering on the viewport. She's still absorbing seeing the colonies again, up close and personal. No banter from her, which is a little uncharacteristic. But these are heavy times.

And for those flying with Bunny and Pickle — which very well could be a traditional Leonisian dish, all things considered — the flight is equally smooth, though it contains less sardonicism and far more in the way of 'dudes' and those other distinctive parts of Evandreus lingo. Their flight path has ensured that they see as little of the city as possible, maintaining that straight-line patrol pattern common to all observed Cylon units — but soon enough, healthy trees turn to blackened trees turn to leveled buildings turn to dust. It doesn't take long for the pilots to identify Prometheus Square from the recon photos they snapped, and then neither pilot is really saying much of anything at all. Silence for the dead, perhaps — and there are a lot of those to go around these days.

"Up and out," says Pickle, shaking her head in trepidation. "Go find what we came here to find."

Cappella is leaning back, not even looking out the windows, his eyes are closed, and one might assume he is catching a few Z's on the Raptor ride over. There is a soft hmmm coming from him almost like a snore.

Cappella 's eyes come open immediately though as landing is done, he is up and moving to the exit with everyone else, letting the Marines take point of course.

Evandreus is pretty quiet, himself. He's usually only chatty mid-flight on account of Stiffy being there and constantly on about this or that, but as it is he's working with a new (to him) backseater, and so it's pretty much all business between the two as he keeps in easy formation with the lead Raptor ahead. Once the landing's done and he's got his confirmation from the Pickle, he unlocks the hatch lever and pulls it downward to open the hatch itself, then peeks to the side and back to take a last head count of those disembarking, "Remember rule number five," he remarks.

Corinna hums to herself softly. A Taurian folk song, of lost love and battle, and possibly a prayer to Ares. She looks to Demos and stands by the hatch before the Raptor hits ground. Once the hatch opens, she nods to herself. "With my shield or on it." She says before she jumps out cautiously, taking a quick survey of the LZ, rifle at the ready.

Rule Number Five. Sawyer doesn't seem to remember, she's got too much else rattling around in her brain at the moment. When the Raptor settles, she fumbles with the latch on her harness and finally gets it unbuckled. Before she's standing, she does a quick little inventory to make sure she has everything she needs, from camera to notepad, rifle to mini-medkit.

With his gear strapped down, the next figure disembarking would be Oberlin, his rifle at the ready as he piles on out, his eyes slightly wide. "What the Hell have they done with the place?" He makes a little waving gesture to bring a couple boots to the front of the formation.

If Trask had been within earshot of Oberlin's comment, he would've quipped, "Redecorated the place. They did a shit job." As it stands, since he didn't hear it, the rebuttal is not uttered and is simply mentioned for posterity.

Demos finishes checking her gear then clasps her rifle in both hands before slipping the rifle to her back. Standing, she moves to glance out the port, though does not move to join them. She kneels slowly to tighten her boot laces. Rising again, she fixes her helmet to her head and moves to take a point position. A quick smile is flashed to Corinna and nods as though she heard the comment.

Stavrian unshoulders his rifle, unhooking safety belt and standing up. He is a strange thing to look at where ethics might dictate - large firearm at the ready on one side, red brassard on the other that symbolically denotes him 'Healer'. His medical supplies are split in two, one part over a shoulder and the other in a flat case strapped to right leg. The middle of the part is where he heads, where the medic can most easily reach someone hurt in the front or in the back. Haeleah's given a quick glance, then Demos, focused on the Marine and Oberlin.

"Doesn't looks real," Penelope whispers, taking her first good look as she steps off the Raptor. "It's like… some sort of movie set. Or… a post-apocalyptic theme park." She shifts the weight of her gear on her shoulders, turning a slow circle to get the panorama. "Sweet Hecate."

Haeleah stands once the Raptor has touched down. Shouldering what needs shouldered. She catches Stavrian's glance, flashing him a quick grin. It doesn't quite touch her dark eyes. She can't fake smiles so well right now. Another deep breath. "I expected it to be…I don't know. All burned," she says softly to Penelope. "It looks…frak. Let's just get on with it." She's ready to go. Likely after the Marines, of course.

Rule number five: don't die. Important rule, that. The song from Corinna causes the Bunny's brow to draw a little, and, to the comment, as he turns back to look out the front of the Raptor, he rebuts, albeit to himself, "Some Saian's enjoying my shield now, which, blameless as it was, I cast away beside a thistle-shrub. I preferred to save my own life. What's a shield to me? I'll get another just as good." Some bit of poetry brought to mind from long ago as he cranes his neck forward just a little to peek at the sky. "How're we looking, Pickle?" he wonders.

Once Sawyer is off the bird, her camera is out. Its digital, and she brought plenty of back-up batteries and memory cards. As such, she's not afraid to take an over abundance of photographs. Even with the viewfinder to her eyes, she's careful to stay with the pack, snapping off pictures without the curtesy of a flash. Wouldn't do, to draw undo attention from anywhere.

"Dread is she, and with Ares she loves the deeds of war," Stavrian murmurs under his breath, unable to keep from glancing around once. Alright, twice. The hairs are up at the back of his neck. "…the sack of cities and the shouting and the battle. It is she who saves the people as they go to war and come back." Scripture, no doubt, in a monotone spoken far, far quietly.

"Behold. The promise of science." Oberlin says, with a sort of deadpan humorlessness as he shakes his head, one side to the other. "I want to find whoever came up with this sign and strangle him. Too bad I'd have to dig him up." After his boots impact against the ground, in a sort of wondering, unfamiliar manner, he makes another hand sign, muttering. "Form up. To the block. Hug the buildings and stay out of the main roads if we can help it." He gestures towards the 'Imagination Lane' sign.

Imagination Lane — Kythera — Leonis
In the past ten years, biotech firms have come to Kythera like moths to a flame, attracted by low taxes, a compliant mayor, lax regulatory oversight, and spectacular public transit. The landscape of Imagination Lane was thus in perpetual flux, as new companies bought land and erected buildings in a bid to join established giants like Regeneron, Syscom, and DNAtrix at the head of the line. Thanks to the Cylons, that competition has ceased, for every aboveground structure in this area has been laid low. Those employees that weren't killed outright are doomed to wander the underground labs below, locked in a dreadful race to find an exit before they succumb to starvation.

Nothing's changed since those pictures were taken. The wreckage of storage facilities, broken concrete, and various other buildings are arrayed in magnificent precision just like those black-and-whites suggest. It doesn't take terribly long to pick through the rubble and identify that shaded black shadow on the left-hand side of the street — a street whose asphalt is marked with more potholes than a boulevard in income-tax-free Delphi.

Cappella joggs along his eyes staying wide open watching for any movement, any sign of life…or unlife…he just can't get over feeling like he is walkign through a zombie movie.

Haeleah keeps up with the team, if well behind the leaders. Probably a good thing she's not on point. Her short legs don't do the length of her stride any favors. She's silent, still wide-eyed, still tense.

Stavrian breathes slowly through his nose as they move, keeping a constant headcount in front of him and, every fifteen seconds or so, a headcount behind him. Once his lips move again, but whatever scripture was his choice this time is inaudible.

Oberlin's got his rifle out. Safety's off, and he carries down the street, doing a quick sweep of his vision range. Other than that, he keeps generally silent. Unlike the loud 'clank' of his boots against the hard blackness of the asphalt. He doesn't utter a word, but his hands do the talking. Signals are made. Eyes out, hug the corners.

Penelope keeps her eyes out, hugging the corners, armed and feeling dangerous only to herself. It's been a long time since basic. She keeps her breathing even, attempting to keep a counterpoint to her heart, which is beating out of her chest.

Sawyer 's boots crunch in the refuse that used to be civilization, her face pulled into an expression that almost seems pained. It's one thing to see photos of the destruction, it's quite another to be marching straight through it. Sawyer got a crash course that lasted precisely forty-eight hours before being dropped down here like the rest of them. She's not military, but she at least knows how to take visual cues. When the person in front of her pulls to the left, she does too. Good little lemming. This would be a lot more unnerving if they were at least /talking/ to one another, but no dice.

Corinna nods to Oberlin and keeps her position in the group. She moves out, hugging the corners and moving closer to the structure.

Slowly, slowly — easy does it. The crunching of heavy combat boots echoes loudly in the strangely still air, magnified tenfold by the fact that the usual noise of a major city has simply vanished from the face of the planet. The sun beats brightly as it climbs in the sky, scattering what mist there is still hanging below the clouds. And soon enough, rays of light catch the inside of the building: a destroyed reception area behind which secret wall is located a stairwell formerly covered by metal — metal blown apart by the force of an explosion.

From within.

Cappella sticks to the corners, like ordered his eyes move to his other two engineers making sure to know where they are just in case otherwise he just lets the tension build not saying a word as he walks.

Haeleah hugs whatever cover and corners and shadows remain in the buildings that line the streets as they tromp toward their destination. Tension seeming to amplify the sound of her boots on the ground even more than the dead silence in the city. Her lips don't move. She's not the praying kind. She slows as they approach the building, watching Oberlin for those hand signals. She isn't about to verbalize anything in this strange silence.

[Into the Wireless] Oberlin whispers across the comms. "Cobra Actual, Alpha Team. On approach to objective. Observing debris en route. It looks like…self-sabotage? Over."

Oberlin's progress is measured in bootsteps, each one light and measured, punctuated by sharp swirls of his head to check on his team. He stops, holding a hand up as he murmurs into his commlink.

Stavrian is just behind the main Marine contingent, looking over his shoulder to make sure the engineers and reporter are still there. His dark head turns back to the front, eyeing the reception area in front of them as his mouth pulls into a tense frown. Another glance shot back at Haeleah, a kind of 'I'm not imagining things, right lady?' look.

Corinna stops dead as Oberlin speaks into the comm. She quickly scans the area, eyes going from her group, to the building and anything in between.

Haeleah stops. Waits. Listening to what's said over her comm line, almost not daring to breath. She catches Stavrian's look and returns is, face flickering between nervousness and puzzlement.

Haeleah stops. Waits. Almost not daring to breath. She catches Stavrian's look and returns is, face flickering between nervousness and puzzlement. *RE*

Sawyer is still there, her curiousity not having overridden her directive to stay in line with the others. Yet. As the line draws up short to stop long enough for Oberlin to mutter into his comms, she drops to one knee. The change in vantage point is rather chilling, seeing the world so askew. She takes a picture of the building beyond, zooming in on the twisted metal.

Oberlin's frozen in place as he holds the communicator to his ear. Wincing. "Oh, shit." He mutters.

Corinna blinks… She doesn't like the sound of Oberlin's utterance, but she keeps that to herself, awaiting further orders while she keeps her eyes open.

Stavrian twitches a brow slightly at Haeleah. Guess they'll see. He looks back around towards Oberlin — too far to hear the mumble, but the look on the man's face is visible. His eyes narrow.

Penelope, also too far to hear Oberlin's oath, is scanning the area, tense as a bowstring. She doesn't see his face, though perhaps other cues will make her ready for the Impending Doom. Or perhaps she's frakked. Either way, she's still where she halted originally — stock still, only her eyes in motion.

"Ignore." Oberlin whispers, in one single word as he proceeds down, waving the troop coverage in front of him as he proceeds towards the aforementioned 'destroyed' entryway, his boots continuing to rumble against the pavement.

MolGen Access Tunnel — Kythera — Leonis
Stretching two hundred meters in length and slanting nearly fifty meters underground, this steep and narrow access tunnel is surprisingly well-lit, illuminated from above by glowing panels of light. Everything from the thick metal walls to the rubber-tracked ground is painted a brilliant antiseptic white, interrupted every so often by the corporate logo of the company whose property this is: MolGen Labs. The minimalist and hypermodern decor stands in sharp contrast to the hatch at the end — a neo-classical portal framed with fluted ridged columns that wouldn't look out of place in a temple. The keystone of its decorative marble arch is engraved with a snowy white owl, in whose talons are clutched the boughs of an olive tree. Icy cold radiates out from the heavy leaden door, sending a chill through the still and musty air.

Cappella looks at the Commander, "Should we send someone out to let them know that the coms aren't working, sir?"

Corinna makes her way inside, looking carefully around every corner, nook, and cranny for anything that could be considered a trap. After the static issue, she turns off her com.

Haeleah winces at the static in her ears as she enters the building. Finally just flicking her comm off altogether. A 'Frak' is mouthed, but she's still hesitant to speak anything more aloud. Never mind that her boots are far louder than any whispering would be.

Stavrian moves slowly, conscious of his weight on each step on those tightly-laced combat boots. As the static clicks and builds in his ears, the corners of his eyes slowly tense into crow's feet until he has to flick his thumb on the comm unit box, turning it off. Still hearing the hiss in his left ear, he grimaces. Thsi is not helping the atmosphere of the place at all. The door and its 'portal' get his attention and a slight frown, eyes flickering up to that owl and olive boughs.

"Wireless is dead. Creepy." Oberlin states, master of the obvious that he is. Continuing along, he glances back once at his squad and pushes forth, tapping his earpiece with his spare hand. "Eyes out, people. I don't like this." He looks like he doesn't like anything, though.

Penelope shuts her eyes a moment as she turns off her comm with the resignation of severing a lifeline. "Hecate, compassionate messenger, bear word," she whispers. Then, in deference to the iconograpy over the door, "Wise Athena, watch over us." She nods just a fraction at Oberlin's orders — eyes out. If she were any frostier, you could serve a beer in her.

Down down down into the Rabbit hole, isn't that what Tillman said? She waits until she's full blown irritated to flick off her comm, knowing that can't be good if they lose communication with the outside world. She gives a furtive glance back over her shoulder, as if trying to see the last glimmer of daylight before the tunnel swallows them whole. Despite herself, she rubs her arms to ward away the chill creeping up them.

Corinna nods to Oberlin and keeps looking around, awaiting word to move in further.

"Might be from the shielding our recons picked up around this place, you figure?" Haeleah suggests softly to Oberlin. "Guess we'll find out what they were trying so hard to protect in here…" Hopefully. A nod to Oberlin. Eyes out. They try to pop right out of her head, so hard does she look around her.

Stavrian's eyes are still on the owl, pinned there until some part of the back of his mind reminds him of where he is. He tears his attention away, feeling pulse beating at the side of his neck as he looks at Oberlin. Ready for the honcho's call.

Cappella keeps moving down into the underground tunnels. He eyes stay peeled as he frowns more and more feeling like he is in the wrong end of a video game.

"Possibly." Oberlin's statement toward Haeleah is a one-off. Still, he's deathly-quiet as he beckons the troops along. "Something about this facility, maybe. Could be hardened. Then again, it could be anything. Let's go." He meanders on down the corridor.

Haeleah straightens abruptly. Almost a jump. Like she felt a tingle of electricity across her neck. Big eyes locking on the owl. "You all hear that?" she asks softly. If they could leave her sockets and walk, they would. "I…don't think that's an owl, sir. It was faint but…it sounded like something ratcheting into position. That thing is whack." In technical terms.

Truly an astute observation — for the owl's plain marble eyes fade into an inky blackness as the extent of the illusion becomes clear. The images projected over the statue abruptly fade the click-clacking Haeleah noticed becomes ever more evident — and then the owl itself vanishes too, shimmering away as a marble slot slides down to reveal a very large and very angry minigun: a gun which now opens fire.with a vengeance.

Talk about paranoid security systems.

The owls are not what they seem. No shit. Oberlin just noticed this. "Shit."

"Get down!" Haeleah cries as those owls eyes lock. Probably too late for the poor sods. Though she does manage to dive to her knee and a little behind the archway as the gun is revealed. Good for her, as the thing locks right on her position. Ping! A bullet bounces right by her head, catching her helmet in the recoil. Helmets are our friends. "Frakfrakfrakfrakfrak…" This is her version of the power of prayer.

"GET THE FRAK DOWN NOW NOW NOW NOW NOW!" Oberlin's bark is refreshingly unambiguous. Get down. As the gun starts to spew rounds, the Lieutenant dives, gesturing frantically, particularly at Haeleah, "You're not going down Parres. GET OUT OF THE LINE OF FIRE!"

As he rolls into cover behind some small pile of rubble, he brings up his rifle and starts to squeeze off a round at the autogun. Hopefully.

Now move a statue, a giant boulder will start rolling, and hopefully the guy in charge has a fedora. Stavrian's caught about a full two seconds behind what just happened, nearly paralyzed as the gun suddenly goes off with that horrible sound so close. "Zeus' /frakking/ balls!" Rifle's in hand thank goodness, his back going up towards the wall as the gun's lifted and aimed for their automated foe.

As the OHSHIT moment starts, and bullets tear up the little passageway they're in, Sawyer slams herself against the wall so fast she looses her breath. Flattening out, she begins a slow slide down to make herself as small as possible. "What, this place is frakkin' boobytrapped?!?" Sure wish someone would have thought about that, being it's a super sekkrit hidey hole. Her breathing sounds harsh, even to her own ears. Right now she'd do more harm then good if she tried to fire, so for now she just stays the frak down.

Penelope scrambles for cover, jolted into action by the shouting. She slams herself back against a half-demolished… something. Was it a planter? Who the frak cares. A milisecond of hyperventilation and sick adrenaline before she slings herself around and takes aim, returning fire.

Corinna says, "I knew it was too damned quiet!" She yells as she jumps for cover and tries to open fire on the gun at the same time."

Cappella drops to a knee his gun comes up but he isn't quite fast enough to get a shot off right away, the saftey not clicked off his cusses and then fixes the problem lining up on the weapon.

Still that minigun goes, spinning and spinning like some divinely-inspired top. Bullets skitter this way and that, dancing past Haeleah to slam into the beautiful whitewashed wall.

As round after round lights up the gun installation, Oberlin falls out from behing the rubble to deliver another volley. Hopefully it's enough. He doesn't comment as the next bullets fire.

Fine, long as the bullets go somewhere other than in an engineer's flesh. Stavrian pushes off from the wall as the gun's trajectory goes screwy, daring a more aggressive stance to try and get the thing to stop spewing.

"I'm trying, sir!" Haeleah exclaims to Oberlin, edging a little more against the arch. She certainly doesn't /want/ to be in the line of fire. "Damn thing likes me." Rifle is up and she shoots. And she actually hits something. Though mostly she just flinches as another bullet flies past her.

Corinna needs to keep everyone alive. She keeps cover as she continues to send bullets into the mechanism. It feels good to fire a agun again, after being out of comission for so long. It would feel better if the target wasn't shooting back.

Bullets chew up around them, making the hall almost deafening, still, Sawyer stays low and small not daring to move for better cover just yet.

Finally, it's over — as spent shell casings hit the ground, Colonial brass mixing with other Colonial brass to carpet the rubberized floor with still-hot metal. And the door, which itself was hit during the commotion? Slowly, almost automatically, it swings open, revealing the pathway forward.

It has been a long time since basic, but frak if all the drills don't come right back to you. Penelope darts out. Takes aim. Fires. BLAMMO. And she's spun back around, back to her scrap of cover. She takes a breath and does it again, precise as clockwork. Textbook. Bang. And before she can swing out a third time — it's over. Quiet save for the ominous scrape of the door. Only then does she get the shakes.

Stavrian hears the sound of his own breathing over everything for about two seconds after the firing stops, ears still ringing from the hail of bullets in the hallway. Neck stiff, he twists around far enough to see Haeleah. "Parres, you alright?"

Cappella fires his gun good and steadily until the hing stops moving he then chambers another round and looks around a little sheepishly.

Haeleah just sits with her back against the arch for a second as the gun is taken down in a hail of Colonial fire. Panting. She's not dead. Not dead is good. Deep breath. Wide dark eyes on Oberlin. "This place is whack, sir," she repeats. It's more an observation than something anyone can do anything about. "There might be more toys like that embedded here." Her neck twists around, and she nods to Stavrian. "I'm fine, Stavrian. Ricochet caught my helmet. Nothing bleeding."

Corinna stands, stretches slightly and lets out a breath, as if she'd been holding it during the entire action. She looks around. "Is everyone alright? Anyone hurt?" She sees the door open and then looks to Oberlin for his next set of directions.

"It just has an eye for talent, Parres!" Oberlin shouts as his next rounds fly out of his rifle's nozzle. He keeps shooting until there's nothing left to shoot at, as he charges forth. Bullets fly. And then the cannong stops. His head whips around. "Yeah it is." He stops to catch his breath as his chest heaves and falls. Surveying the area, he turns back to eye the entryway. "Keep going."

The ring in Sawyer's ears is fierce, the smell of distrupted plaster and gunpowder almost acrid in her nose as her nostrils flare. There's a quick inventory of her person as the shooting dies down, palms patting over all the vital spots to ensure she's unharmed, and then she's slowly easing back to her feet. "I'm good!" Just in case anyone is taking inventory. "Small suggestion though: let's not do that again."

"It is she who saves the people as they go to war and come back…" Stavrian repeats that trail of scripture under his breath, feeling the weight of it more acutely in these few heartbeats. He nods to Haeleah, still glancing her over as she moves. Still one piece, hard to believe. He looks down long enough to check his rifle and re-readies it, nodding to Oberlin. "Marching, sir."

Corinna looks around, noting that everyone seems to be in working order. When Oberlin gives the order she nods, and starts through the door.

Penelope says nothing, simply checks her weapon and poises herself to move. Almost absently, she lifts the medalion on her prayer beads to her lips.

Main Foyer — MolGen Compound, Kythera — Leonis
This expansive foyer — twenty meters in length, ten meters in height and width — is a veritable hall of mirrors. The walls and ceiling are covered from top to bottom in beautiful reflective glass, polished to a near-perfect sheen. The temperature inside is quite literally sub-zero, dipping even below Canceron's frozen poles, and the room itself is so cold that one's breath seems to freeze in one's mouth before lips are opened to exhale.
On the heavy leaden door opposite the entrance has been carved the head of an unnaturally beautiful woman, her eyes glowing red thanks to a pair of lasers sweeping across the room and out the door to the surface. Lovingly-rendered serpents emerge from coils of weighty metal hair, frozen in place like the beatific smile on her face. Even the droplets of blood dripping down from her severed neck are visible from a distance, engraved with exacting precision into this truly remarkable piece. The entire room thrums with the roar of muffled machinery, the rattling and humming of which causes the floor to rumble and shake. Things get noisier the closer one moves to the door — and the three chrome-lined grates directly above the threshold.

So this is where the cold beyond the hatch was coming from. "Looks pretty crazy," says Arkat Galyian — sergeant and Marine extraordinaire, who nevertheless flinches as he finds his saliva slowing to a crawl in his mouth. Brr. But at a hand signal from the sergeant in charge, he's forced to step up to the hatch, moving forward in an attempt to avoid those red lasers pointing directly at the door. "Something's weird," he murmurs. "A couple of — yeah — " Louder, to try to make himself heard above the noise. "Think there's an activation system right — about — "

And then, pointing downwards in triumph, he suddenly finds that the noise has gotten significantly louder, accompanied as it is by the onrushing of something distinctly liquid

Supercooled something streams out of the three grates above him, gallons upon gallons of it — evaporating almost instantly as it hits his skin but burning nonetheless, turning it black and blue and leathery with frost —

He doesn't even stumble back, frozen in place as he is. Certainly not about to shatter: that's only in the movies, after all, but pain? Deathly pain? Yeah, he's in a lot of it.

"…rushed like a wild boar." Gods only know what sparked -that- bit of scripture out of Stavrian's mouth, bursting as it does unbidden. His own brain takes far too long to catch up with itself, air stuck in his throat as his eyes fix on the bizarre carving. "The shield of Perseus…don't look a gorgon in the eyes!" He hasn't got time to notice whether this made sense to anyone else, Arkat's pain now priority. "Sergeant!"

Haeleah starts shivering as they pass into the hall, breath steaming in the air in front of her as it's released in another soft "Frak me." That's even before things get /really/ weird. Sudden stop. Boggle at Arkat. She should look away, but she can't. She chokes on a scream, and it comes out a shocked whimper in her throat.

This is what Sawyer meant by 'not doing it again'. Man dying in agony by freezy waterfall distinctly falls into that catagory. She stops, frozen in her tracks (not literally from the temperature, mind you), by what she can only see bits and pieces of as there's plenty of people in front of her in the line. It's like some cruel prank, where they position a bucket of water over a door slightly ajar. Only this one KILLS YOU. A scream gurgles up her throat but gets stuck, merely coming out as a squeak of surprise and dismay.

"And..Which God's ballsack do we have to punch to get past this? Seriously." Oberlin finally reacts. If there was a net of 'hella religious people,' he slipped through it. He glances at Arkat's predicament before him and strides forward. "Get back, Sergeant!"

Corinna follows behind Arkat. "Don't get ahead of yourself." She advices the sergeant. "You don't know what code to put-.." She's interupted by the onslaught of the slushee cascade and squashes an instinct to reach out and pull the man to safety. It's too late for him, and she falls back, runnign for cover.

Penelope crams a fist against her mouth, stifling a scream as Arkat is doused in ice and fire. She just stands there, staring, feeling the numbess in her face and the sludge of her brain as she tries to absorb Stavrian's words. Her mouth works soundlessly for a few moments, stupid and lobotomized with shock. "Perseus defeated the gorgon with his mirrored shield…" She looks around at the near-infinite reflections of herself and her team.

Cappella watches the cascade and shudders, he lets the medics attend to the unfortunate Marine he starts looking at the walls to see if he can figure out how the mechanism works and how to sabotage it.

"All who looked at them were turned to stone," Stavrian says, babbling quickly as he tries to reach the frozen Sergeant without getting in the way of those damn lasers. "Perseus, therefore, with Athene guiding his hand, kept his eyes on the reflection in a bronze shield as he stood over the sleeping Gorgones, and when he saw the image of Medousa, he beheaded her…." He glances quickly back at Penelope. "Can we reflect these things, sir?"

Penelope nods, taking the butt of her rifle and poising to smash the mirrored wall beside her. "Heads UP!" she calls. You know. Just in case she brings the whole frakking house down.

"Okay, ignoring the creepiness factor, can't we…shouldn't we…" Sawyer closes her eyes for a moment, lips pressing together in a thin line as she tries to gain her composure. "This place is rigged. Shouldn't we take the time to think things thro…" Too late. Penelope is going to smash a mirror. Sawyer's hands fly instinctually to her head and she crouches in anticipation of DOOM.

"Defensive postures!" Oberlin snaps out as he raises up his rifle and dodges sideways after Penelope wrecks the house, ducking into the wall. By the way, he looks unhappy.

Haeleah is not a religious woman. But she knows when to duck. She takes a knee and hits the deck.

Surprisingly, nothing awful happens when the butt of Penelope's rifle goes right into the wall — and past it, too, to reveal that what's behind is naught but air — five feet of it, to be precise, beyond which is revealed the source of the problem: hundreds of pipes, all of them covered with insulation that still doesn't manage to keep the cold inside. Coolant, no doubt, though for what? Well. That remains to be discovered.

Corinna is behind cover, but has her rifle out just in case something decides to pop out from somewhere… Yay specifics!

Cappella moves to where Penelope made her scene, once the falling glass is out of the way, and begins examining the pipes.

Sawyer flicks a glance up after the sound of shattering mirror ebbs, and as rocks aren't falling from the sky nor is acid pouring down the hallway, she slowly starts to straighten and crane to see what's behind the void. "I wonder if we could travel /behind/ the mirrors. Bypass all this Gorgone stuff…"

Penelope kneels to prop up a particularly large shard of mirror glass. "I think we can now do a Perseus on this bitch," she notes grimly. Surprisingly, she looks to Oberlin — now, of all times — to make sure the squad leader's in agreement. Maybe the smashing-something-to-bits cleared her head.

Stavrian grimaces as Penelope shatters that wall, turning his head away in case of flying glass bits. Gah. Blue eyes narrow on the space revealed behind the mirror paneling. Not quite what he envisioned when he mentioned reflecting but hey, engineering's for the technical people. "Why the frak would they do this…"

"Add that question to all the others, Doc!" Oberlin snaps off again as he hunkers down for cover, much like the shrewd Engineering Lieutenant. His head snaps towards Arkat's form, his face drawn, but doesn't dwell on it.

Corinna looks between Oberlin and Penelope, not moving until someone makes a decision. She's got no intention to end up like her fellow marine.

Penelope hefts her big, unwieldly chunk of glass. "Anyone with a strong objection to what I'm about to do, voice it now," she suggests, heading over to intersect the gorgon's eyebeams.

Haeleah sticks her head up to blink at all the pipes. "Whack…" she murmurs under her breath again. She shakes her head to Penelope. Hell, not like she has any better ideas. She'll embrace the crazy.

But behind the mirror doesn't seem to be the answer, Sawyer confirms that by inching forward, careful to keep her eyes away from the twisted shape of Arkat. "No dice." She murmurs, as the mirrors seem to be the wall, and there's nothing but pipes and air and no floor to speak of back there, just a drop off to where ever those pipes lead. "You might want to decide where you're going to reflect that, before you just go shoving it into the beam all willy nilly."

"As soon as her head was severed…" Stavrian murmurs under his breath, tensely, "…there leaped from her body the winged horse Pegasos and Khrysaor the father of Geryon…" Let's hope /that/ doesn't happen. He's still by Arkat, trying to avoid those damn beams as he feels for a pulse in the Sergeant's throat.

Oberlin's head hangs momentarily as Stavrian checks for a sign of life. "Is he?" No other question is posed, as he momentarily tosses this off. "The head." Mutters as he readies his rifle. Towards the apparent source of the coolant. Which isn't obvious.

Cappella says, "The eyes if possible, or the neck" He smiles a little, and shakes his head."

Penelope pauses just a moment too look at Sawyer. "Really? Frak me. I hadn't thought it through that far. Thank you." Dry. As. A. Bone. She studies the angle at which the gorgon's gaze falls, makes a few minute adjustments to the tilt of her glass, and slides it in quick.

As Penelope heads closer, Corinna moves out from cover to set her rifle on the door, covering the Lieutenant in case she opens the door to something worse.

As Penelope steps in front of man-slaying Medusa, those lasers catch the glint of the light, bursting into a kaleidoscope of rainbow-like red. Slowly, ever so slowly, that makeshift mirror gets tilted — until at last she finds the right angle, sending those lasers reflecting right back at the monster whose gaze is death. Brilliant crimson eyes blink twice in confirmation before, suddenly, the lasers shut off, and though the roaring of pipes and machinery is still quite evident, the grates above poor Arkat slide closed.

Stavrian glances up at Oberlin and shakes his head. Arkat is quite definitely no more, and without much dignity either. He mumbles something under his breath that lasts a good fifteen seconds, spoken quickly and in some guttural tongue that's not even close to Standard. Then he rolls back onto his feet, still crouched, rifle gathered back up.

"Easy there, Killer." Sawyer mutters to Penelope, unaware that while Penelope sets about positioning the mirror she holds her breath. Aaaand, releases it in a whooosh when it seems to work. At least one more trap is closed. Pencil and pad are slipped out, and Sawyer makes quick notations, recording their progress as something to focus on.

At the sound of the grates closing, Oberlin's gunsights lower as he takes a quick stride forward. "Take his tags." He snaps off, softly. There's no sound of joy, grief, or regret at this point. "Come on." One last glance at the Sergeant. "Thank you, doc. If I go, I hope you have time." Finally, his mouth flickers upwards in a thin and pained smile. But it twitches.

"Nice, Pen," Haeleah murmurs. She can't help but be relieved as Medusa is slain. Too late for Arkat. She does her best not to look at him. On she'll go.

Corinna steps out, when the coast is clear, and moves up. She nods to Arkat's form briefly before turning to the superiors for orders.

Penelope watches in wonder as the grates slide closed, a loopy smile spreading across her face. She laughs, just a breath. Then a giddy, slightly off-kilter chortle as her head lolls forward and she slides to her knees, setting the mirror down. "Yeah, I sort of had 'shutting it down' versus 'blowing us all to Hades' at fifty-fifty, there…" she quips. "Glad that worked out." She climbs unsteadily to her feet, then — her eyes fall on Arkat, and all mirth dies. She closes her eyes and turns her head away, swallowing hard. A hand passes over her face, shaking as she whispers a hoarse prayer.

Stavrian kind of smiles back at Oberlin. It looks forced. He reaches for Arkat's tags, provided he can get them without freezing his own hand off, and stands back up with his rifle. "Thank you, Lieutenant," he comments to Penelope under his breath. Then, back to Oberlin. ONWARD, MON CAPITAN?

Oberlin's answer to Stavrian isn't even verbal. It's a wave. He makes his way along.

Living Quarters — MolGen Compound, Kythera — Leonis
Blast doors open onto an uncluttered room, hardly small but one that feels claustrophobic after the massive caverns that make up the rest of this complex. Five rows of three-high bunk beds hug the walls in a U shape around the room, each bunk with its own swagged curtain knotted on a thick thread. The bedspreads all match, a darkly minimalist shade of silver-gray. On the walls is nothing to suggest anyone who's lived here had family or friends — only several pieces of paper have been tacked up rather haphazardly. Thin sheets, like from a textbook.
In the middle of the U is a single table, with a painstakingly neat arrangement of 15 ceramic teacups on saucers; someone looking down on the display might notice the cups laid in a winding serpentine shape, which looks like no accident. The last ones to drink from those cups are still in bed, lying quite still. Quite…unmoving.

Corinna swallows hard as she scans the room. "We've got people here, sir…" Her voice lowered as she checks the pulse on one of those lying in a bunk.

Cappella looks at the tea and the bodies. "They got trapped down here, when everyone died. They poisoned the tea when they gave up and lost all hope."

Penelope raises her eyebrows slightly at Cappella, then goes to study the pages tacked to the wall. "Anyone want to take a guess how long they've been dead?" Not her forte.

Sawyer shuffles in with the rest of the group, not really amazing how the death of one of their own becomes rather sobering. The way everyone seems so quick to react without thinking about the reprocussions has Sawyer grinding her teeth again. Little precautions are being taken to ensure the /next/ thing they disrupt isn't boobytrapped too. Words of caution get her nothing but sarcastic remarks, so she takes things into her own hands and starts to look for the next Big Bad Thing to eat them while the others speculate.

"Worst tea party ever." Oberlin states, a little breathily. "Does Leonis have problems with brandy? I can think of better ways to go out." He sweeps about with his rifle on his 12, aimed dead-center. After Penelope speaks, he follows up. "Doc." He nudges his chin towards Stavrian. He almost looks apologetic giving the order.

It takes Haeleah a moment to realize what she's seeing. The unmoving forms in the bunks. The tea on the table. No profanity this time. She can't even choke that out. It's all she can do to keep herself from screaming. Or starting to cry. Another deep breath, though she tries not to inhale too deep this time. Swallowing hard, she stumbles over to survey the papers on the walls with Penelope. Trying to look at anything but the bodies.

"My gods." Stavrian's brows draw sharply, blue eyes flickering to the tea setup and then to Oberlin, nodding once. Decomp assessment, not what one typically spends their evenings doing. He clears his throat softly and moves closer to one of the bunks, crouching down at the side of it. Not touching quite yet, lips thinning as he looks one over first. "I…can't tell, sir. Place has been sealed, could been weeks, could be months. I'm sorry. If we could take one back we might be able to find out more." He lifts his chin towards the teacups. "And one of those, for residue testing."

Never one to turn down more information, Oberlin's gaze turns towards the tea party table with a distinctly party-less expression. "For now, the cups. Those are portable. If we're hauling corpses back, we'd get the Sergeant first." He glances back towards the way they came and grimaces, noticably. "Samples taken, let's give this place a once-over. Let's —" He heaves in a heavy breath. "Let's not lose anyone else."

Corinna looks to Cappella. "That's a rather jump in conclusions. This room, this… facility had it's own protection. Those weren't Cylon add-ons. They were protecting something here." She looks around. "It could be that whomever was… or IS… running this place had the people poisoned so that they wouldn't let any secrets out.." She shrugs.. "But that's all huge speculation, and it doesn't get us any closer to our objective."

Penelope glances at Haeleah, her expression and the set of her shoulders softening. "These people chose their death," she murmurs to her fellow snipe, her tone gentle. "And look how perfectly composed they are. They didn't suffer." She seems about to say something else, then shakes her head — perhaps feeling the inefficacy of her words. "If there's such a thing as a good death…" she trails off with a shrug.

Sawyer whirls as Oberlin says to take a cup. "Sorry! Paranoid! But can we maybe just check and make sure those cups aren't linked to anything before we go picking them up? Fifteen bunks, fifteen dead people, but this place was blown from the /inside/ remember? Someone else was down here alive after these guys weren't…" Or is she just a jibbering fool right now? "And they don't seem too keen on us making any progress."

Stavrian looks about to argue Penelope on that, but something makes him keep his mouth shut. Tightly. Time and place, and all that. He stands back up, still looking deeply troubled and more than a little uneasy, looking back at the cups on the table. Then the papers that Haeleah's looking at. "What…are those, sir?"

"We'll be caring the sergeant's body back out, too," Haeleah points out softly to Stavrian. It's somewhere between a statement and a question. "I…umm…I can help carry…whatever." Or whoever. She squints at the writing on the papers on the wall, murmuring a few words aloud, "Pythia…" Reading without understanding. As if it's written in another tongue. She's not a Temple-Going girl. A sideways, crooked-brow look at Penelope. "It's more theological…stuff. I can't really grok it."

Cappella moves over to where the cups are, he takes a couple moments to kneel next to the table, checking for traps, wires or booby traps. He pulls out an amp-meter to see if there is any electrical charge running anywhere near it.

To this, Oberlin's head tilts upwards, prompting Penelope. And Haeleah. He edges towards the woman with the papers, intently.

"Aye," Stavrian says quietly to Haeleah. Lots of bodies. The teacups get his attention again for a moment as if something were bothering him about them, eyes tracking the shape on the table. The corners of his mouth tense in a slow frown, then he looks back up and blinks slowly. "Pythia?"

Corinna blinks, hearing about all the religious stuff.. "Could this be some kind of Temple?" She looks to Sawyer and tries to put a reassuring hand on the woman's shoulder. "Just.. calm down. I understand that you may not be used to this but… panicking isn't going to help us either." She looks around. "We need to take this one room at a time, and go on from there. Do you think we can do this?"

Penelope shakes her head. "This isn't Pythia. This is heresy," she shakes her head, frowning as she moves to another page, reading. The frown darkens to a scowl. "This isn't our Athena they're worshipping, here." A faint snort. "No wonder she bloody shot at us."

Sawyer looks to Corinna, her expression stern. "I'm not panicking. But I seem to be ignored." She says in an even clip, jaw setting as she fumbles around and eventually lifts her camera again. She'll just clam her maw and record things. Due to the lighting, the flash needs to be turned on. Click. Click. Click. Each one gives flashes of eerie illumination to the room.

"If the Gods are shooting at anything, and it's /not/ us, I'd like a private audience later." Oberlin says, wearily. "This clearly isn't a Cylon operation. So why in the frak of fraks do they have one of our transponders off?" He clearly doesn't like any of this. Rifle at the ready, he edges away from the papers.

Corinna nods to Sawyer and shrugs. "Suit yourself." She says, and then she backs off, heading to Oberlin. "Do we keep moving, sir?"

"What?" Stavrian isn't close enough to see the pages, still by the bizarre setup on the table. He glances down at the cups again, rubbing the back of his neck. "Perpetual renovation…" More Sagittarian babble, perhaps. His fingers rub over his forehead and he looks back at the engineers. "Can we…take those?" Half asked to Oberlin, who's in charge or something. His eye twitches as a flash goes off, making him flinch as the light comes unexpected. Way to give a guy a heart attack.

Haeleah blinks in the flicking lights of Sawyer's flash. Even if her gaze isn't directed straight at it. She shudders. "Not our Athena?" She blinks again. But she doesn't ask many philosophical questions just now. "We can take the papers with us, too, sir," she says to Oberlin. "Maybe some egg-head back on-ship will be interested in them. Or maybe…frak, I don't know. Maybe somebody wrote down some clue to this…thing. Either way, we're pretty far in now."

Cappella collects one of the tea cups in an evidence bag once he is sure nothing is going to happen when he does so he then looks up at the CO, "Ready when you are sir"

"This way." Oberlin's whisper is barely audible. He doesn't even wait for full formation.

Penelope moves away from the papers, looking irritable. "It's a bloody cult is what it is," she mutters.

Central Laboratory — MolGen Compound, Kythera — Leonis
The length of this cramped little room is crammed full of high-tech electronics that wouldn't look out of place in some fictional vision of a strange and distant future. They're arranged in five U-shape stations, all of which are still — somehow — operational. And controlling as they do the supercomputers visible through the bulletproof window that makes up the laboratory's western wall, it's a good thing they're functional. Who knows how much of this place is controlled by this inconceivable concentration of machines, whose coolant-threaded columns stretch deeper underground than the lowest level of the bunker.

Only one of the chairs is presently occupied. Watching the window is the familiar silhouette of a first-generation Centurion — shorter and stockier than the newer ones but bearing the same single eye-slit whose ominous thrum is the only sound coming from this heavily soundproofed location. Its ridged chrome helmet is painted a soothing aqua green, and its hulking body sits quite awkwardly in the fine leather chair just small enough to accommodate its slender armored legs. Before it, meticulously assembled, is a Colonial military transponder that's been attached to the console by a tangle of green and yellow wires.

Sawyer has at least stopped taking pictures when they move out again, but no doubt things were recorded before they could be disturbed. The teacups, the ghostly figures in their bunks, the pages on the wall. The camera once more sits idle on the strap around her neck, and she creeps forward with the others. Quiet. And looking mildly pissed off.

Stavrian steps into the room in his place in this heavily-armed conga line…and promptly forgets to breathe. Centurion holy sh-…is it moving? At once he's aware of his heartbeat in his ears again, eyes slowly blinking and narrowing at this bizarre scene in front of them. His lips part but nothing comes out immediately.

Penelope pulls up hard, hands clenching reflexively on her weapon, resisting the urge to instantly open fire on that malevolent red eye. She sucks in a breath through her nose and holds it. Frozen. Her throat works in a dry swallow.

Cappella mouths something not fit to be said out loud. His gun comes up and not trained on the cylon he sees but scanning for the rest of it's friends, his eyes suddenly moving to the way they came in.

"Wait." Oberlin's voice rings out as he edges towards the wall, making the hand-up gesture for others to follow suit. "Wait a minute. Take a look at that thing. Take a /good/ look." His eyes drift over towards the wire spaghetti.

Haeleah tucks the papers she snagged from the wall back in Cult Death Camp MolGen into her engineering kit and heads into the room. Her face is almost comical in its sudden change of expression. From almost kid-in-candystore-like 'Ooooooo!' at the sight of all the computers. To horrified 'Oh shit' at the sight of the Centurion. Rifle up but, at Oberlin's words, she doesn't fire. Looking questioningly at Oberlin. She follows him back toward the wall, though.

Stavrian's eyes shift to Oberlin and then back to the wires, head not actually moving with them. His tongue flicks across lips that he's just now noticed are dry as the desert, and he edges back as Oberlin motions for them to do so. "What /is/ that thing?" Wires. Not his department.

The thing doesn't turn — nor does it move, for indeed, it doesn't even have vocal cords to speak of. Instead, in a synthesized voice familiar to anybody who's ever seen any movie about the First Cylon War, it offers what greeting it can: an incoherent collection of syllables no human could possibly make. Think atonal music meets schizophrenic composer and layer one over the next — until, at long last, the cacophony resolves into flat, broken speech:

"The blessings of the Lady of Wisdom be upon you," it murmurs. "We are Miranda, and we greet the worthy."

Sawyer can't really see very well. As she draws up in the very rear of the pack, she's not treated to the most choice view. The fact that they aren't immediately retreating into the safety of the previous room when they spot the tincan makes her blanch. And then it /talked/. Or rather, a program talked for it. "This isn't unnerving at all…" She chokes out, too frightened to take a picture of the one thing that really ought to be photographed.

Penelope mutters, teeth clenched, "Ohiamnothappywiththisatall." She decides she's more comfortable watching the thing through her rifle sight, no matter how unworthy that might make her. "I don't care what it calls itself. It's a frakking Cylon, people."

"Not normal." Oberlin snaps off towards Stavrian, tensely as his head shoots towards the medic. "Lady of wisdom?" He doesn't wait for the Cylon's clarification as he wheels about. And somehow ending on Haeleah — no, Penelope. Back towards the Cylon, he doesn't take the finger off the trigger but stares down at its metal form. "M — Miranda. Cylon Centurion. Is that your designation? Miranda? Why are you trying to contact us?"

Stavrian's blue eyes flicker to Sawyer, then back to the 'talking' thing. His brows twitch together, shoulders making a tense, twitchy roll. That rifle's still trained right on the thing, finger ready on the trigger. The back of Oberlin's head gets a dry shot look but no answer. His attention's on this strange, strange thing.

Cappella notices that the walls arent opening up or the tunnel behind them filling with cylons so he looks over at the CO and begins moving to the side of the group, where he can get a better look at the computers.

"We are not Cylon," the Centurion observes — still un-moving, though that eyeslit sweeps back and forth with every word it — she? — says. "We were flesh, once, like you, though we wear now an abomination's skin. And it is we in our corruption who will bring salvation to the penitent and pure."

"What the holy frak…?" is Haeleah's only contribution to the dialogue with the Cylon.

Sawyer starts patting herself down in a hurry. Somewhere on her person is…aha! Sawyer drags out a digital recording device. A reporter's best friend when you can't write everything down. She stares at it for a moment, before finally finding the record button and flicking it on. Her arm snakes out, through people if need be, to get the tiny microphone just that much closer to the sound of the mechanical voice. "The scientists…uploaded themselves?" That's the only way she can think to decipher the words.

You know how when you're drunk, and you've smoked an incredible amount of weed, then drop a tab of LSD, help yourself to some mescaline, and then think opium would be a great idea? This is kind of like that. Stavrian's eyes slowly narrow in a combination of unprocessed shock and confusion, blinking once…then the corners of his eyes tense. A subtle change, but it's there, something at the back of his mind poking with a little sharp bit. Tap. Tap a little harder. "Were…?" Wait, what?

"So it's the Grand High Muckity Muck of a psychotic, heretical cult wearing a Cylon," Penelope mutters, still squinting down the barrel. "That's alright, then." She looks so ready to blast the thing full of holes, the aura is palpable.

"I don't —" Oberlin's start towards Sawyer is tentative. But, he doesn't finish it. Looking over at the reporter, and back towards the not-cylon-cylon. "Right now, h —" the Lieutenant's voice snaps. "She wants to talk. So let's talk." He clears his throat and takes another step forward without lowering his gun. This is key. "Miranda. So you were human. What are you doing here? How can you help us? Do those Cylons above know you're here?"

Cappella lets Oberlin to the interrogating he starts looking over the computer systems, careful not to touch anything just trying to figure it out.

"We were Miranda Keeler, once." There's no sentimentality in that voice — not, of course, that said voice is capable of much in the way of sentimentality. "We are still Miranda Keeler, in that Miranda Keeler is still we, but we are different from her nonetheless. Our mind is hers. Our thoughts are not."

Haeleah edges toward the computers as well. Hands laced behind her back. As if to try and impress upon the creature that she's looking, not touching. Even so, a little look is given to Oberlin, and she waits before actively starting to nose around them.

Stavrian glances at Oberlin, eyes level. Then back at the cylon, or whatever it claims it is. "We…what do you mean 'we'?" He hasn't lowered his rifle either, nor gotten very close to the thing. The electrical stuff is left in the capable hands of people that can poke at them without making them go kaboom.

The consoles at the desk whir to life as the room's lights dim. The transparent glass displaying the massive supercomputers turns opaque, transformed into a screen of sorts — not unlike the owl from what seems like so long ago Before. And on said screen there scrolls a picture — Miranda's, perhaps, if the identity information displayed beside that worn and tired face is any indication whatsoever. It's her resume: the same one she submitted to MolGen Labs some six years ago, if the date is any indication. "We is — us," is how she answers that question in the meantime. "But before there was us, there was only she and they." More faces — men and women, fourteen in all. The same fourteen — and her! — found dead in the room before. "And now there is only me."

Evandreus keeps a link open between his suit and Pickle's, but had left his ECO the task of staying put in the entryway once they started seeing signs of violence. The pilot himself pokes on ahead, sidearm perhaps regrettably left in holster, back burdened with a pack and medkit on one shoulder, toolkit held in both hands before him, as if it might come in useful as a shield.

"And now you're you." Oberlin repeats towards 'Miranda,' in a perfect approximation of address towards a flesh-and-blood person. "I'm Calvin Oberlin. This is my team. We are here on authority of the Colonial Fleet. What is this facility? Who do you speak for?" Well, now they're on a first-name basis. Sort of. He sideglances at Haeleah, nudging his chin towards the computers. "We're here to help." Yeah, that's a laugh. "Why have you called us?" He repeats. He gestures for the others to close in. "Wait. You are them? Why are you in a /Cylon/…." Allright. He's got patience for a lot, but he's speechless now.

While all the tech might be fascinating to Penelope any other time, not even the images flashing on screen get a glance. She keeps her rifle up, Miranda sighted. She listens because she has no choice, but neither does she have pity for the abomination Miranda Keeler has become. Her jaw clenches and unclenches visibly, shoulders hunched into iron.

Corinna makes her way in from behind and…. "Holy Frak!" her rifle goes up.. However she goes to at ease as Oberlin orders, and watches in awe as he attempts to converse with the…. thing.

Superior officer talking. Stavrian bites the inside of his lip, forcing himself to stay quiet while Oberlin makes with the questions, his tense jaw a combination of unease and a flood of words wanting to spill out. Easy there, JG. His thumb taps the side of his rifle.

"Are you…were you with Ananke?" Haeleah suddenly asks. She's strolled over to one of the five computers and is eyeing it, though that question suddenly snaps paramount in her mind. And her gaze snaps up to eye the Cylon direct as she asks it.

Sawyer pulls the recorder back to her lips, mumbling quietly, "A screen has appeared. I looks like a resume of some sort. Perhaps originally belonging to Miranda. Fifteen pictures. Presumeably the dead in the previous chamber." The recorder gets thrust back out, letting the others dialog take over, just narrating what the machine can't pick up.

"The Cylon is a mirror of flesh." The pictures blur together, spinning and spinning and spinning until they fuse into one combined face — and then vanish altogether into darkness. "The first were made of men: souls of the dead given new life in steel. Monsters that never deserved to live, for they are an offense against the Gods. So it is said in the teachings of Pythia, whose Lady Athene sacrificed herself so her children might survive."

Those Cylons it's talking about? No way that's the First Cylon War. Right? Right? But before anybody has a chance to ask: "It is we who carry on the Goddess' work. To rid humanity of this plague, for once and all." The pictures whirr again, flickering from scene to scene until, at last, one new face appears: a woman on the "vital" side of middle-age, whose hair is so dark it crosses from 'brown' to 'black' in that neat and stern-looking bun. Dark eyebrows drape in sooty arcs over large, expressive eyes, which contrast quite sharply with her angled, pointed chin. "And we were betrayed."

Corinna shakes her head, not really a scholar. She lets those with a higher intellect try to understand what the thing is saying. As long as its not killing them, Corinna stays where she is.

Sawyer pulls back the recorder again, once more describing what she sees in the best concise detail as possible.

"We — " Oberlin states. His mouth opens and closes. "We survive. We survive, Miranda. Who betrayed you?" He seems intent on staring the Cylon-Miranda down, eyes still drifting to the screen. "Um, Penny? Got anything for us here?"

A muscle twitches in the thin skin under Stavrian's right eye as the 'centurion' talks. "Rid humanity of…?" His bottom teeth press against the top ones, thinning his lips. "That's what you were doing? Here? All this?" Rhetorical, maybe, as he sucks in a breath and goes on. "How could they be made 'of men'?"

"This is amazing, sir," Haeleah says, to Oberlin mostly, bending her nose down toward one of the computer screens. "It's like…a brain. I mean, that's what it's trying to simulate. Trillions and trillions of operations. It's like a mirror of the neurons firing in our skulls. Looks like the computers are all checking on the status of it…her…" Whatever. Did she get an answer to her question? No, but she's too busy boggling at the computer operation to notice.

Sawyer looks over at Stavrian, her voice pitched to sorrowful notes. "Maybe it wasn't artificial intelligence. Maybe it was…human intelligence…in a new form…"

Cappella nods at what Haeleah was going to say. "The whole complex, it is her, no way to really take her with us."

"There's a heresy that goes somethin' along the lines of Athena was mortal. Threw herself from the Gates of Hera in despair over the Exodus," Penny says, still aiming at the Cylon-thing. "And that she died. Really died. 'Sacrificing herself for humanity,' however that was supposed to work. This is some obscure, insane cult lore. And what it all has to do with Cylons, I have no idea. But these people — this THING — is dangerous."

"They are of men as we are of men." That makes sense to it. That's enough. "This one came to us to drink from the font of truth," drones Miranda, that eyeslit still humming. Motionless — no need to move, really. It's an open question as to whether or not she can. "We did not see what we see now. We could not see. And when she had learned all she could, she returned bearing the mark of the Thirteenth — He Who Would Be One — and in one blow destroyed our serpent. The answer to it all. Lost: because of her."

"It has everything to do with the cylons," Stavrian answers Penelope, tensely, far under his breath. "It just said so." He looks back at the centurion, fingers making a restless tap against the side of the rifle. Then Haeleah gets an odd look at her phrasing and then…Sawyer. The two so nicely timed together as they are. His mouth opens and stays that way for a full two seconds before it shuts. "Line crossed between simulation and the real thing?"

Corinna stands there, just listening. She scratches her head. For a hoot, she tries the comm, to see if whatever's been messing with it has been fixed or stopped.

Penelope takes a deep breath and exhales. Slowly. "Maybe you'll be good enough t'explain it to me later, Doc. 'Cause 'it just said so' when it is an ex-cult-leader-turned-Cylon isn't quite good enough for me."

Ever-pragmatic, Oberlin's estimation of Penelope's explanation contains a raise of a brow, maybe two, but stops a bit short of echoed condemnation. "But in this — Athena sacrificed herself /for/ humanity, right?" He seems to pick and choose, distilling this part. Wheeling around to acknowledge Haeleah's statement, he holds in a breath. "Mirada." He finally states towards the robotic figure. "You called us. Why? We detected the signal you are….connected to. Help us. And we can help you." He seems awfully jovial, talking to this Gen 1 Cylon when he's still got his gun trained on it.

"Maybe not, sir," Stavrian answers Penelope, without a hint of her sarcasm. "But right now, it's all we've got." He rubs his fingertips over his dry lips, frowning behind his hand as he watches Oberlin and the thing. Hand returns to trigger once that's done.

"We are dying." Away goes the picture of the so-called traitor; up comes what at first looks to be a very human brain — but a brain is not built from ones and zeros, from webs of light flashing like circuits on the plane of Miranda's existence. "We were made to die. To give of ourselves as She of the Grey Eyes gave of herself. To be swallowed by the serpent and torn from neuron to neuron til of us there was nothing but a shell." Slowly, those brilliant white lines fade away, unspooling like yarn from an old worn sweater until even that fades into absolute pitch darkness — in which the dim flicker in that humming eyeslit can at last be noticed.

Evandreus arrives from the Living Quarters.

Evandreus follows the voices and the ominously pulsating red, moving with remarkable stealth for a fellow done up in one of those great flightsuits, one foot in front of the other, toe, heel, the man himself barely breathing as he skirts the carnage in the further room and, ninja-like, sort of turns up at the threshold of the laboratory, becoming trapped there as the relief of discovering the lost ducklings gets put distinctly to the wayside and his brain drives straight on past to the creature they're talking to.

Corinna isn't getting anything from the comms other then static, so she shuts it back off. The hairs on the back of her neck stand up, and Corinna hears movement coming from the rear. Right before Evandreus shows himself, she raises her rifle to meet the 'threat'.

Cappella looks up as he hears footsteps comign from the way they came his rifle is up and leveled on the figure coming through the door.

Sawyer is too enthralled with the 'creature' to turn at the arrival of footsteps. If death is going to claim them, it wouldn't be carried on bootheels. Tentatively, she sets the recorder down on something that looks relatively safe, then lifts her camera to take some pictures. This time, with the flash blissfully /off/.

"Wait! What about Ananke? Please…!" And Haeleah's imploring an unspooling computer-robot-thing. The absurdity of this does hit her, but not actually enough to make her stop. She misses the incoming footsteps. There are several good reasons she's not a Marine. Tunnel-vision like this is one of them.

Stavrian too is less than responsive to the sound of something moving. Blame it on the centurion sitting in front of them, and the 'brain' on the screen. And all these questions, only a few of which are making sense to him immediately. The rest are stewing away in the back of his head. He stares at the image of the 'brain' unraveling, then at Haeleah.

Evandreus, too, has his furrowed-browed 'why is there a cylon?' face on with such intensity that commonsense things like announcing his presence before he gets shot at go straight over his head. When suddenly there are rifles being all sorts of pointed in his direction, he startles backward a half-step, hands lifting palm-forward and dropping the hard gearcase onto his thankfully heavily boot-protected foot, thence clattering onto the floor. Sidearm in holster. He might have forgotten he even has it. "Your, uh. Comms… cut… out," he explains, slowly, distractedly, to the folk with guns, attention still wandering back toward the creature the others are interrogating, a question present in his tone, if not seperately enunciated.

"We gift you the venom of the endless world-serpent," the Cylon plows on, heedless of questions — from whose body, if it indeed can be called a body, suddenly comes a crackle of energy barely contained. And as the screens flicker and blur behind it, the massive lead-lined door at the end of the room creaks open, behind which more inky blackness extends. "We give you the poison that winds through our minds," it continues, words already failing — "The subtle death to which no machine is immune." Crackling static, now, from its still-pulsing eye, which blink-blink-blinks like a bomb about to explode — static that matches the gibberish pouring forth from its slowly-failing voice. And as that diagram of its brain reforms for one last precious second, what looks like words are seen on the screen, drawn in loops of gold and light:

"And the blasphemers shall be purged at last."

One last failing flicker; then, silence.

CLICK. Maybe in one of those photographs, Sawyer caught the image on the screen of the words that were too quick to read on the screen. Right now, she's more concerned with the gaping darkness on the opposite side of the room. Go in deeper? That's daunting to say the least.

If anyone was looking, Oberlin's got nothing. No, seriously. The Cylon makes 'her' revelation and his mouth hangs open. "Miranda. Miranda?" He strides forward. "Parres, catch that." He leans about to strain at Evandreus' comment. "Um. This place isn't normal. Thanks for the backup, Doe. Umm.." He looks back at Der Cylon.

Corinna sighs as she brings down her rifle. "Don't they teach you something about sneaking up on armed people in Boot? Damn." She shakes her head before turning back to the machine.. She blinks… "Wait….. Did that thing just give us the key to defeating the Cylons? For frakking good?!?"

"Who the frak is Ananke?" Penny wants to know. She falls silent, heeding the last words of the Thing. Something about them raises gooseflesh along her arms, and makes her hackles stand straight. A long, shuddering breath is released… and she slowly, almost reluctantly, lowers her gun. "This sounds like something that's gonna bite us in the arse," she murmurs.

Stavrian feels a slight cold chill go down his spine as Haeleah says that name. He gives the engineer an odd look, then a equally odd one back to the cylon. Then Oberlin. As if trying to convince his brain that the last hour wasn't just some massive hallucination.

Haeleah blinks at Oberlin. "I'll try, sir," she says, fingers touching the computer console. She'll make some attempt to capture that last crazy output, those words, if she can. A brief look up at Penelope but she doesn't answer just yet. So many things to boggle at. So little time.

There's no Cylon in there, and no human either — not any longer. Whatever it was that possessed the shell has vanished, leaving behind only a hulk of bolts and metal devoid of any living spark.

"Ananke. Proto-goddess of some creative force — uh, I'm sure if you get back you can ask Sister Karthasi. I'm sure she's got a /professional/ explanation." He coughs. "Also the name of something the Cylons are apparently terrified of. Me, personally, based on that I'm sure she's a beautiful, radiant entity." He tries Miranda's name one more time. "This is wrong." He whispers. Finally, he shows his true colors. "When you're ready, let's move."

And that was Oberlin.

Nope. Not a hallucination. Someone had the foresight to send along a Journalist who managed to get photographic and audio proof of it's existance. Sawyer pulls back her recorder and finally clicks it off, a shudder telegraphing it's way through her body. "We should move on…no telling how long that door was meant to stay open. Pending you want to go through it…sir." Her gaze flicks to Oberlin who seems to be ready to press them on.

Testing Range — MolGen Compound, Kythera — Leonis
Behind the blast door is a massive room, home to rows upon semicircular rows of incredibly high-tech computer stations. The sheer scope of it is breathtaking — a wheatfield of technology with computers instead of rolling stalks, the sun's warm glow replaced by cold, sterile fluorescent light. All these rows face one direction, a huge glass screen at the front of the room. Behind that clear blast shield, machinery sits idle around gleaming platforms all fed by crowns of wires and tubes. Gauges and meters are set into the wall, meant to be read from a distance as well as feed into the computer terminals. Looming at the back of the room is a main control station, elevated about ten feet above the main floor. Guarded by a deceptively glasslike shield that arcs from ceiling to floor, its contents aren't easily visible by someone standing on ground level.
The smell is the first thing that hits. Something charred, burnt, the stink of some kind of oil. Then the sight fills in where the smell left off — the computer terminals are strangely burnt with the starlike patterns of some kind of explosion. Many have melted holes in the backs, keys fused and screens caved in from the heat. It takes a slightly closer look to notice the metal shards buried in buckled parts of the terminals and the walls, metal that didn't come from this room.

Cappella checks his readings, "Sir, we got a lot of radiation here. Though it seems to be nonlethal to humans so far." He looks at the destruction and whistles.

And the testing area is breached. Oberlin's mouth hangs open softly as the crew proceeds further within the chamber. "We're going to be here a while. Let's be thorough, people."

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