PHD #317: The Things We Carry
The Things We Carry
Summary: Captain Gabrieli gives notice to his CO.
Date: 09 Jan 2042 AE
Related Logs: Pressure Points - Damage Control
Gabrieli Pewter 
Commander's Quarters — Deck 4 — Battlestar Cerberus
The CO's quarters are as stately as can be expected. One of the few rooms on the ship to receive carpeting, it also possesses several other amenities that would be unthinkable anywhere else. On the port bulkhead, a small door opens up onto a personal bathroom with its own shower and sink. Two plush armchairs and a single handmade rocking chair surround a coffee table placed directly in front of the head, its glass surface perpetually covered in coffee grounds and a dusting of creamer. Nearby, a queen-sized mattress is recessed into the wall, capable of sliding out over the knotted tweed rug that lends a cozy touch to this makeshift sitting room. Above the mattress are four wall safes where the CO keeps his classified documents, private effects, and other things not meant for the public eye.
Despite its creature comforts, however, this room remains a working office, and its current occupant evidently works best in an atmosphere of controlled chaos. The wide oaken table facing the exit is covered with reports, reconnaissance photographs, and internal memoranda all hours of the day, with islands of personal memorabilia scattered here and there to break up the monotony: a glass tumbler bearing the insignia of the frigate Corsair, a black-and-white photograph of a fishing boat, and — nailed to the front of the desk — a twelve-pound rainbow trout stuffed and mounted on a polished mahogany plaque. Only the Colonel's five bookshelves are organized in any semblance of order. Framed family photographs sit next to what must be the largest remaining collection of fine spirits and liquors remaining in the universe, each bottle strapped to the rear bulkhead by thick Velcro bands — to protect them in case of turbulence, no doubt.
Post-Holocaust Day: #317

Andrus Pewter's just come back from a long day at the office. Having overseen the ship's jump to Parnassus and the subsequent scouting missions to ensure no unfortunate surprises lie in store, he's now getting ready for a few hours of rack time while he has the chance to decompress. His rumpled duty jacket lies in a messy pile on the carpet, chucked toward his hamper with a half-hearted throw. Standing by his rollout bed in sweats and the requisite blue slacks, the colonel waits for his coffeemaker to ding, flipping idly through one of the books lying about on the glass table nearby.

Not many people would come busting in on the CO during the man's off-duty time, but then again the ship's never known Dominic Gabrieli to be terribly mindful of protocol. A knock on the hatch is followed by his scratchy voice, taking responsibility for it right off the bat. "Sir. Captain Gabrieli."

Depending on how well he hears, Gabrieli might notice one or more of the following noises in succession: an irritated grunt, the slamming shut of a book cover, the sharp trill of a coffeemaker, and the heavy thumping of boots against deck. It takes about seven of those for Pewter to get to his jacket, which he slings over his shoulders and hastily attempts to button. "Come in," he calls in the meantime, back to the hatch so the ChEng doesn't have to see his gut. Gods know the poor man's been through enough.

The hatch opens, admitting the Cerberus' Chief Engineer in his olive off-duties and the ubiquitous cap he's worn since the fire months and months ago. It covers what never grew back of his hair and casts a decent shadow over the scars on his face, though what might've lingered of its professionalism is mitigated by a big heart drawn on the brim in permanent marker. Gabrieli lets the hatch shut, a small envelope tucked into one elbow instead of his right hand, which stays against his side and doesn't move much. Spotting Pewter's back he smirks. "I didn't put on any makeup for this sir, don't feel you have to."

"Careful, boy." Pewter's laugh is so deep it should rightly cause the very deck to vibrate. Gods bless the soundproofing effects of carpet. "Y'all might be complete et up with them rads, but I can still whup y'all up the side of y'all's head. Coffee?" He's moving to serve himself; he might as well offer.

Gabrieli nods towards the coffee machine, then smirks at his CO as he heads for a nearby chair. "Just be gentle, sir."

"Surely. It being y'all's first time and all." If it's coffee Gabrieli wants, he'll get it the way Pewter makes it — with a healthy dash of creamer mixed in not with stirrer but finger. "Watch the mug. Last one in the galaxy with that picture on it." Of a really young Pewter holding up a swordfish about his size.

Gabrieli grins at Pewter, settling down on the chair. "Careful, sir. I hear you taking credit for my limp and there's going to be problems." The finger in the coffee appears to bother him not one bit, and he lets the mug rest on the desk rather than cradling it. The reason why is quite blatant — there's a tremor in his hands that gets worse as he's cautious with the cup.

"Son, I git done with y'all and y'all won't got no leg to gimp around on." The jab is followed by a tight, humorless grin. Pewter doesn't say a damn thing about the ChEng's hands, instead settling down with his own mug at the lip of his bunk. "So to what do I owe this pleasure?"

"Shit to sort, sir." Gabrieli slides the envelope from his elbow, tapping it against his knee. "And I admit I've been avoiding it for a day or two." Avoid it still he does for a few more seconds, silence lingering in an uncomfortable last stand before he tosses the envelope onto Pewter's desk. "Dr. Bia was going to send this directly to you, but I told her I would do it my damn self." He clears his throat, looking at his superior officer. "Sickbay feels…it is not in my best interest to continue as Chief Engineer."

"Ain't nothin' roll up my hill 'cept shit these days." The colonel takes a sip of his special brew. By now, he can deal with the burn without even a flinch. "Hand me them readin' glasses over there? Somewhere on the desk." While in the meantime he opens the envelope, squinting hard.

Gabrieli looks away from Pewter, picking up said glasses. He holds them up with a blithe warning, "Catch." Before tossing the short distance towards the man's bunk.

"Same goes for those as went for that mug, boy. That there's some priceless shit." Which he got for twenty cubits and change at the local supermarket down on Leonis before BSG-132 deployed. Funny what nukes will do to the laws of supply and demand. "This won't take but a second." Because he'll read only up to the point at which the recommendation stops and the explanatory jargon begins. "Well. Sheeeeeyit."

The bitching about the glasses earns a mild teeth-sucking and nothing more. Gabrieli's silent while the ship's CO does his poring, coffee steaming away unmolested on the man's desk. There's a long, long silence after Pewter's reaction. "Anyone ever tell you how I became ChEng of this boat, sir?"

"Can't say nobody did, nope." Pewter chucks the letter back toward the coffee table. It flutters to the deck a few inches away — short, as per usual.

"I wasn't supposed to be." Gabrieli's light green eyes turn from tossed papers to CO, shaded slightly by the cap brim. "Major Jenna Koskaris, that was the ChEng's name. She was there from the time the Cerberus was a fetus on a couple blueprints. Pulled in the team that was going to build her. Including me, some asshole Lieutenant with a new PhD and an attitude problem. Helped her construct this ship from the ground up. Years designing it, every stress test and emergency hatch and console. The new FTL drive, I made that. But when it was done I was supposed to get shipped back to Tauron and live in some damn peace." He clears his throat. "Then one day about two months before she was going to launch I get a call from Koskaris and she's got cancer. Kind you don't walk away from. Told me she'd gone through everyone she knew and I was the one she came up with that she trusted with this thing she'd birthed." He gives a dry chuckle. "Don't think I've ever respected or hated anyone that much at the exact same time."

The colonel listens in silence, pausing only to take a few small sips from his coffee. "She birthed this ugly sumbitch, huh." His tight grin is back, pushing up his glasses on his sizeable cheeks. "Must've had some wi-i-i-de hips." But other than that attempt to light the mood, Pewter is silent, allowing Gabrieli to get to the moral of the story at his own pace — if in fact there's a moral.

"She was a piece of work," Gabrieli agrees, with not much mirth at all. If there is a moral, indeed — his silence after that doesn't seem to know where to pick back up. "Shit, I don't know why I'm telling you this. I never got to tell her that I take care of this ship the best I damn well can…not like she can hear me now. This is just frakked up."

Pewter doesn't answer immediately, choosing instead to slurp down the bitter mix of creamer and coffee grinds at the bottom of his cup. Then, with a heavy sigh, he's pushing himself off his mattress toward one of the safes located on the nearby bulkhead. "Avert y'all's eyes," he instructs, before punching in the combination. And what secret document does he withdraw? Nothing but a photo album all pink and baby blue, an album that's very clearly home-made. It's handed over to the ChEng for his perusal. Certainly the captain's trembling hands can deal with a book, right?

Gabrieli averts as asked, taking the time that the CO's back is turned to take a sip of coffee. Where the shaking won't be observed. By the time the photo album's out he's just pushed the cup away a good distance, spills not tempted, and raises an eyebrow as he takes the book. "If this is how you hide your porn stash, sir, we need to have some words."

"Red — " Pewter's faithful yeoman. "Yeoman Parry threw out that stash when she moved my shit over from Corsie." Deadpan, perfectly deadpan. "This ain't that." If Gabrieli bothers to look inside, he'll find a series of family photos taken in a variety of settings. They all feature the same people in the same poses: a vivacious woman on the verge of middle age, a handsome muscled man standing possessively beside her, and, in the center, a little baby boy. There are sixteen photos in all, four on each facing pair of pages, each subsequent photo taken three months later than the one that precedes it. "Name's Ajax," rumbles Pewter. "He was gonna be a pilot."

Gabrieli does the album the dignity of opening it, indeed. The adults in the photos get glances, but it's the child that keeps his attention on each page. Longer than really necessary, not easy for him to be looking at. After Pewter speaks he keeps the book open but looks up, silent.

"His momma always said he took after his pops." The colonel's voice is a bit raw around the edges, but it's a gentle kind of raw — not the thunderous kind of raw that might have been evident on the Tactical channel during the late unpleasantness regarding hostages. "Fleet had me on deployment when she birthed him. Ex-wife told her not to invite me; said cuttin' things off was better than her askin' and me sayin' no. Didn't even hear 'bout it 'til my other daughter sends me a picture of her and the young'un all smilin' 'n' shit. And right then I say to myself, I say 'Gravel, y'all's gettin' out soon as y'all make y'all's thirty.'" His grin turns just a tad bit wistful. "And warn't his momma so happy when I told her she started sendin' me them photos. Well."

The corner of Gabrieli's scarred mouth pulls. Not amusement so much as memory. "Had two boys myself. Tauron." Tauron, the place he was supposed to have been shipped to instead of here. He exhales slowly through his nose and nods to Pewter, signal to go on if he's going on. "Well."

"Ain't nobody out there got done all the things he says he'll do," Pewter observes, half to himself. He doesn't ask for the album back, instead settling back down near the indentation at the edge of his (very comfortable) mattress. "I did read the report, Captain, y'know. Not like I sit here all day holdin' my very substantial cock. Weren't for what y'all and y'all's people did out there, I very much doubt there'd be a ship for y'all to come round and mope 'bout. So y'all do whatever the doctor says. Apple a day or some shit. And — hand to the Lords — I promise y'all there'll still be a ship for y'all to play big momma over when y'all's gets good." At that, the colonel allows himself a little chortle. "Still got three years left 'til my thirty, after all."

Hard to swallow. Quite literally, as it feels to Gabrieli as though his entire throat has closed up just below the adam's apple. Then mention of moping does at least get a thin half-smile. "Not trying to mope, sir. I'm just shit with empty nests, if you know what I mean. I'm still here, that isn't going to change till the gods say so."

"Sure ain't," Pewter agrees amiably. "But I catch y'all bustin' y'all's very well-constructed ass without the doc's say-so, next time y'all's comin' up here, don't bother unless y'all's bringin' me a switch, 'cause it's me who's gonna be boxed 'bout the head by that true fearsome CMO if y'all up and die on me."

"You're turning me on now sir, come on." Gabrieli closes the photo book, treating the cover carefully rather than let it thud. "So what makes your life easier right now? List of my El-Tees that won't shit themselves at the mere hint of great responsibility?"

"I won't get involved in y'all's personnel decisions, speakin' general. It'd be like sleepin' with my sister, if I had a sister." Which isn't to say he'll accept automatically any decision the ChEng renders, of course. Nevertheless, significant latitude has been granted. "I'd say names on my desk by 0900 tomorrow, but that might cause y'all's darlin' irradiated heart to thud a bit fast." The colonel stands, a signal perhaps that this audience should be drawn to a close relatively soon. "We've also got a few guests from Areion comin' over to do some funny amplification shit. Might want to work with 'em when they get here, seeing as y'all designed the damn FTL in the first place. Spot of thinkin', maybe, to keep y'all on y'all's toes. Or y'all could always play Triad."

"I hear those frakkers cheat." Gabrieli also stands, though it takes him draggingly longer than the CO to do so. Both hands on the chair to push up, help for his legs. "0900 is just fine. Probably have something else for you look at by then too." Once securely on his booted feet, he looks down at the photo album for a moment, then back at Pewter. "Colonel." For all the offtime intrusion and off-duty dress, the man gets a damn fine salute.

"Captain Gabrieli." Pewter returns the salute with a snappy one of his own. Then — aw, shucks — he's thudding over to where the guy's standing before attempting to pat the younger man on the back like a bear would a rabbit. A grizzly bear, that is. We're not talking some anemic black bear bullshit. "Y'all keep y'all's head high, hear?" And now his avuncular grin is genuine. "And if y'all take more than five ticks off my clock to clear out of my space, Lords of Olympus have mercy on y'all's gamma-toasted soul."

"Sure you could raise your leg high enough to kick me out, old man?" Gabrieli makes those words sound not in the least bit unkind. In fact, actual words notwithstanding his tone would be saying 'thank you'. "You take care, sir." His hand lightly claps Pewter's shoulder in return and then he's off for the hatch. Taking six seconds, just because he knows he can.

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