PHD #067: Two Alpha
Two Alpha
Summary: The team from Tactical and the CAG meet to discuss an upcoming operation: 'Cobra Talon'.
Date: 04 May 2041 AE
Related Logs: All Ananke and Cylon IFF logs.
Rime Abbot Kulko Oberlin Cidra Tillman Parry 
Ward Room
A large oak table in the center that is surrounded by high-backed, black leather chairs, and is one of the few compartments that has carpeted floor dominates the Ward Room. There is a large LCD screen at one end of the room for presentations that faces the CO's position at the head of the table. At the other end of the room is a small counter for refreshments and has stacks of legal pads and writing utensils available for those that use the room. Nearest the hatch is a small screen set into the wall, which provides a readout for a customizable set of data. Along the starboard wall, stand the 12 flags of the colonies.
Post-Holocaust Day: #67

The admiral's been here for quite some time, having set up shop at the head of the table — a place he's grown quite accustomed to using, judging from the neatly-stacked files laid out by his yeoman within easy reach of that high-backed leather chair. A pewter ashtray, already smoking, lies nearby, its dull metal hollow filled with used and stumpy cigarettes. And near the LCD screen behind him, glowing a neutral blue while that yeoman fiddles with her computer, is a stack of transparencies in case high technology fails: recon photos taken by Cerberus' doughty Raptors, resting beneath an extendable steel pointer on an ancient projector's lid.

As for the man himself, he's looking remarkably tense, his knuckled fingers fiddling restlessly with a model basestar constructed from plain grey plastic. It's one of sixteen laid out on the two-dimensional grid being projected onto the shining reflective table; indeed, the rest of them are clustered about a coffee carafe that represents the bombed-out planet that is the target of this operation. Cerberus, her escorts, and Eidolon are there as well — palm-sized chrome pieces that wouldn't be out of place in an eight-year-old's box of toys, if eight-year-olds planned Fleet operations with the future of humanity in the balance.

Cidra enters the Ward Room, pausing to salute the Admiral and get all of that protocol nonsense dispensed with. Presuming it's acknowledged in due order, she gets herself a cup of coffee and takes a seat at the table. Lighting up a cigarette of her own. If the boss is smoking, she's taking that as invitation. She eyes the chrome pieces, expression pursed, and anything but playful.

Tillman makes his way through the hatch with a stuffed folder in one hand and his mug in the other. "Admiral," he greets with a nod to the man as he makes his way to a chair at the end of the table nearest Michael. "Should have something worth hearing for you, sir." As he settles down in the chair he flashes a quick smile to Cid. "Major." He then turns his attention to the Yeoman. "I'll handle it. Thank you for the set-up."

Kulko follows in shortly after Tillman, snapping off a collective salute to his betters and finding a seat somewhere out of the way. He skips the customary coffee and cigarettes - apprehension, perhaps? Ascetism?

Looking more cleaned-up than he has in the past several days, the next entrant, clutching two pieces of standard-issue equipment to him like talismans against the horrors of the universe. A steaming cup of coffee and an official-looking folder, stuffed to the brim with paperwork piece after paperwork piece and schematic after schematic. His boots impact gently against the metal of the deck, glancing from face to face already present, assessing the situation. Well, it would seem.

This would be — Lieutenant Oberlin.

Lieutenant Rime, Tactical Liaison from the Praetorian, enters at a brisk clip and snaps off a salute to the Admiral that barely seems to slow her stride. Years at Picon Fleet HQ have taught her well in the ways of saluting one's superiors while still getting one's own business handled. She takes her seat two chairs down from the Admiral and slides a small black notepad onto the table in front of her. Her eyes linger on the small tactical figurines for only a moment before the others gathered at the table are given a longer inspection.

"I'm looking forward to it, Major Tillman." There's an edge in the admiral's normally smooth voice as he sets down that angular grey model, pushing it towards the makeshift planet with what looks like a cross between a billiards cue and a shovel — the tactical officer's favorite implement, which he passes off to the departing yeoman with a curt nod. That symbol of power is handed without fanfare to the XO before the redhead salutes, spins, and leaves, closing the hatch behind her with a definitive and powerful clang. "Let's skip the introductions and pleasantries, as this might be a very long night. Feel free to help yourself to some coffee; my yeoman just put in some fresh grinds." As evinced by that wonderful smell coming from the mug he keeps right next to that ashtray. "We'll begin with a quick and dirty brief to make sure everybody's up to speed, and that includes me."

Abbot smiles tightly: no pretensions to genius here. "Once the mission parameters are established, I want you to put together an operational plan that, in your collective judgment, has the highest probability of success. But before we get going, I want to make one thing very, very clear." A long drag on his cigarette emphasizes the point, ash fluttering onto his duty blues with every tap of his finger. "I believe that the privileges of rank tend to disappear when subject to the light of good ideas." Icy eyes seek out the gazes of everybody in the room, sweeping from left to right before returning to the cluster of ships. "Ultimately, the final decision is mine to make, but if you have objections or suggestions, I expect you to raise them as powerfully as you can. Are we understood?" The fact that he doesn't pause for an answer suggests the rhetorical nature of that question. "Good. Major Tillman, proceed."

Cidra offers Tillman the barest hint of a smile and inclination of her head. Similar inclinations are offered to Junior TACCO, the spiffy Intel and the Praetorian's rep in turn. Then, down to business. She takes a drag on her cigarette then leans back in her chair. Her own posture is more fluid than rigid, though it's straight enough to seem quite proper. "Quite understood," the CAG says simply. Smoking and coffee-sipping as she gives Tillman an ear.

The XO picks up a small handheld device to cycle any slides already set-up, nodding as he gets the go-ahead. "Admiral, assembled crew, Lieutenant Oberlin suggested an operation two nights ago while we were discussing the details of this Ananke investigation. This operation, which we'll be calling 'Cobra Talon', involves a landing on Leonis with two aims: First, to gain intelligence on what was going on at Parnassus that the Cylons seem so protective of. Second, to possibly raid supplies at a Colonial airbase in the area near Kythera, which is where the proposed mission will be heading." Tillman sips at the mug of coffee. "I won't lie." He looks around to those assembled. "With the defenses arrayed around Leonis, this operation will be extremely dangerous to the crew but I still consider it quite important to furthering our understanding of what's going on and finding a major weakness that we can exploit against the Cylons. It will utilize some untested tactics and the crew of the ship, which will be on the MV Eidolon for this hop, will be going in almost defenseless to a Cylon aggression in space."

Kulko, at that comment about dispensing with the pretensions of rank, digs out his soft pack of Colonials. A single cigarette is shaken out, and his flint lighter struck against the side of his uniform trousers. Something about being in a room full of other smokers smoking, and all that. He lights up and listens up.

"Cobra Talon." Oberlin, who gingerly sets the folder and the coffee down in turn before gently pulling out a chair and sinking onto the surface of it with one swift motion, sits upwards and lightly glances between the XO and the Admiral in turn, sliding his chair back in with a twitch. Curling his fingertips around the coffee cup, he brings it to his lips and tilts his head back with a sip. "Not /completely/ defenseless, sir." He interjects, almost apologetically.

No cigarettes for Rime, though she does pour herself a cup of coffee. Her small black notepad is opened and, with a few quiet scratches, she writes ? Cobra Talon ? at the top of the page, underlining it with a snake-like line. A few more words are jotted down before she rests her pen across the page and picks up her coffee, watching Oberlin for a moment as she blows cautiously across the top of the steaming liquid, then Tillman.

The admiral's thin lips curl up in a semblance of a smile at the name the XO's chosen for this project, but he's got some more serious issues on his plate. "Not completely?" Michael's steepled fingers bend downwards as smoke rises upwards from the cigarette he's still clutching between his fingers. "Hold on a moment, Major. Explain." That unblinking gaze settles on Oberlin, whose apologetic tone has assuredly been noted.

Cidra also opens up her little black folder and begins taking notes. Writing with her right hand, smoking with her left. She's a long-time tobacco-user, so she's developed a rhythm to this sort of thing by now. When Kythera is mentioned her blue eyes lift. She's something to say about that. But she tables it while Tillman continues. A notation is made.

Tillman nods to the Admiral and turns his eyes to Oberlin. The Major takes the time to get another sip of coffee while he waits to continue.

To this, there is some scribbling at the margin of a document that Oberlin picks up a pen and applies to, after flipping the folder open. Anyone who is close enough can see that it's something about 'Cobras' with a question mark at the end. Rapidly switching his gaze from said paper to the XO as he is prompted and then back to the Admiral, he starts to look around every face in turn as it sort of dawns on him that it might be a good time to speak. "Well, we're working on something now. It seems like a longshot, but we've uncovered some sort of Cylon transmitter devices that may just be enough to fool the enemy. We have two of them. We're in the /process/ of getting it working, and I think we may have had a breakthrough. We're just coming up with a way to accurately apply a telemetry probe. In other words, try to see not /what/ it's saying, because that's pretty much impossible at this stage. We're going to look at /how/ it's saying it." He pauses, letting the pen drop as his lips purse. "Oh, and at least one Raptor or other small craft will be deployed on that freighter. And just in case everything goes to Hell, some nuclear ordinance. As long as they're dormant, Radiological alarms shouldn't be tripped. We think."

"Cylon technology." Abbot sits back in his chair, his attention still fixed on Oberlin. "Poetic, sure, if it works like you say it does. Slip in and slip out, right beneath their noses." It's hard to tell whether his humph is one of approval or displeasure. "And if it doesn't, they vector eight basestars to intercept and we're down some nuclear ordnance, at least one Raptor or other small craft, and however many skilled personnel we send. Unless you have a contingency plan in mind?" That last question's for the rest of the room.

Cidra nods to Oberlin. "Keep me apprised of how your efforts proceed, Lieutenant. If it goes well it shall have wider uses for our Raptors at least." If it goes well. The woman's nothing if not a realist. "How large is the force that shall be deployed down upon the planet, do you think? The men and women going down on the Eidolon shall be risking much." As the Admiral just so grimly outlined.

"Contingency plan is to jump out the second they show /any/ sign they know somethin's up." This the first from Kulko, who straightens in his seat and leans forward. "While Eidolon takes all the hits, the crew can pile into the Raptors, launch, and jump home. Then we're only down the ship we found anyway."

"As far as the armaments and defenses go, to include the idea of nuclear weapon employment, most of that has yet to be decided. The posting of Vipers and Raptors to the ship is quite likely, though." He glances to Cid with the last before he continues on. "As far as contingencies go, that's something I can go over afterwards. Kulko's suggestion is one option while there are others." He clears his throat after taking another sip of coffee. "Anyhow, once installed and the ship is stocked with supplies, craft, and crewed, Cobra Talon will proceed. The ship will jump into Leonisian orbit, probably here." Tillman uses the laserpointer on the handheld to circle where on the map. "The Eidolon will then de-orbit down to the surface where it will land and ground operations will begin. This will consist, as stated, of a two-pronged movement to explore Colonial Fleet Air Station Anadyomene and explore downtown Kythera to investigate the offices of two defense contractors - one of which had a fleet transponder activated inside at the time of our last recon. Once the two objectives are accomplished the Eidolon will jump away from Leonis and rendezvous with the Cerberus battlegroup at a location yet to be selected."

"Another thing, Major, while you are summarizing." Rime's voice, lifted unhesitantly, her Virgan accent carried on a soft Actae lilt that makes the XO's rank sound more like 'majeure'. "The overall philosophy for this operation, what is it? Operation names are often given as a tactical summary or…shorthand, if you will. I'm curious what 'Cobra Talon' is meant to signify for this operation." Her brows lift slightly at Tillman before she sips her coffee.

"I suspect that Major Tillman selected that name from a database of intimidating nouns," is Michael's not-quite-wry reply. "And — if I understand you correctly, Ensign, your proposed contingency plan is to abandon ship and mission wholesale?" Blue eyes flick over to the rank pins on Kulko's uniform before he corrects himself. "Lieutenant, that is." It's accompanied by a noncommittal 'Hmm' at said plan. Abbot examines his cigarette with a critical gaze, watching its tip flare orange and red in the semi-darkness of the wardroom — and then, switching it out for a pen, he too begins writing on the notepad provided. "Carry on, Major." As indeed Tillman seems to be doing.

Rime's accent indeed provokes a bit of a twinge in Oberlin's attention as his eyes drift to study her as she speaks, measuring the ideas she's putting out here. "Are you saying Cobras don't have talons, Lieutenant?" If it's meant as a joke, it's delivered, straight-faced. "I believe this addresses an answer meant for the broader audience here, though." He takes in a great big breath and delivers it at once in a sigh. "Again, if I may, sir. We need what's on that planet one way or another. The boarding took out our Viper Fabrication facilities, we'll need the parts from the facility down there to get it functional again. Also — nothing about the Cylons' obsession with this 'Project Ananke' make any kind of sense unless you boil it down to one thing. They're afraid. Damn afraid."

Kulko has little to say in response, and so falls back into silence. He flips open his portfolio and writes out a sentence in shorthand, tapping out ash into the nearby tray. Visibly deflated.

Tillman looks to Rime and shakes his head. "Not this time. The Admiral is correct. True, they have been chosen like that in the past but we can't risk the Cylons figuring out something clever. These are simply go-words spat out by our computer system. Neither one bears any relevance to the mission. By using this practice, we can maintain operational security and leave the Cylons clueless. In the future we can be more direct and the process of being random has already been established. Thus, they shall remain confused no matter what." The XO then looks to the CAG before glancing around. "To answer Major Hahn's question, we are expecting a crew of between fifteen and twenty, probably on the higher-end. More would be preferable, obviously, but as it stands the Eidolon only has accommodations for thirteen and there's no telling if the life support system can handle much more than what we are putting aboard. We're expecting as many as six members of the Air Wing, a Marine fireteam, two members from Tactical - to include the CO and XO, a few engineers and a couple deck hands to handle air wing operations. The Marine fireteam will have to include the medical personnel."

The question of naming elicits a jerky shrug from the admiral, who really has nothing more to add on that note. Instead: "A curious suggestion, Lieutenant Oberlin, that machines can feel fear." More rapid scritch-scratching from Abbot's pen, black ink pressing small and precise letters into his blue-lined paper. It's a mild observation to which the admiral really doesn't expect too much of an answer: philosophy really isn't his thing. "But setting that issue aside: does anybody fundamentally contest that reading of the mission objectives, whether regarding the objectives themselves or the extreme importance of those objectives to the security of this Fleet?" Blue eyes fix on Kulko, whose sudden slouch doesn't fail to elicit a faint hardening of his already severe expression. "You, Lieutenant. If you disagree, I want to know."

Kulko perks right up, locking eyes with the Admiral. "No, sir. Not in the least. We can't slog it out ship-to-ship; we need an ace in the hole. Reckon this'll be the best chance we get." He taps the back of his pen against the paper twice, clicking the writing point in and out. "That said? Twenty officers in an unarmed freighter? Gotta have a keen eye on survivability as we plan this thing."

"I concur that the objectives of this mission are of utmost importance to us going forward," Cidra says. "As for beyond Leonis…well. That is to be talk for later."

"As for contingency plans, we do have the option Kulko voiced. We also have the option of jumping the ship away at the first sign of aggression. While the Eidolon will have Vipers aboard, these are purely for the defense of the ship during ground operations once a few have been, ahem, 'requisitioned' from Anadyomene. I do not advocate placing any Vipers aboard the Eidolon from our stock. By taking some from Anadyomene, we can maximize the cargo space aboard the Eidolon and recover whatever is needed. However we will need deck personnel on-hand at Anadyomene to patch the guidance systems before the pilots fly them out. Weapons stockpiles can also be taken from the bunkers at the base. So, as it stands, I'm advocating that if the on-site commander feels that there is sufficient threat of attack then they have command authority to abort. Seeing Cylons won't cut it, but if they attempt communications or approach with targeting DRADIS up?" Tillman shakes his head. Get the hell out of Dodge. He's briefing the strike so him contesting the objectives is probably pretty low on the scale of 'How Likely Is This?'.

Rime's eyes move to Lieutenant Oberlin for a moment at his question to her. She, too, remains straight-faced. Her gaze moves away to the others as they speak, holding steadily and intently on their faces. "The more crew we take, the faster this can all be accomplished. The faster this is accomplished, the less time they have to spot us. Taking another look at the life-support systems would be a good idea. So." She taps once at her notepad with her pen. "We fly in with as much empty cargo space as possible, grab as many supplies and Vipers as possible, and get out again. What if this… Ananke issue…" She seems unbriefed on the topic. "…turns out to be at another location? Are the success parameters the supplies and ships, or that?"

"A semblance of fear." Oberlin replies smoothly, "Sir." He glances up at the Admiral with a slight lifting of his brows. "We still take them offline but call that 'killing' them. But that's a point. What makes a machine behave like something poses an elevated threat? We apparently have an answer." He falls silent now, clearing his throat, taking a sip of his coffee, and adds one final thing. "I think, Lieutenant — All of the above." This last bit is directed to Rime.

"Concur," Cidra says firmly, as to Tillman's bit about the Vipers from their stock. "We are at point where we are flying less ships than we have pilots aboard. We cannot afford to lose more, or even remove a portion from the CAP rotation for a sizeable length of time." She still clearly has a question nudging at the back of her mind. And it's voiced now. "Will we be making any attempt to see what is up within the city of Kythera itself? There is still the matter of that Fleet transmission from the civilian company, Molgen, and those heat signatures, our Raptor reconnaissance picked up. There may be survivors down there, and the place is shielded in a way that may have protected them from Cylon detection. As well as radiation. Of course…Engineering did not rule out the possibility it could be a Cylon trap when they went over the signatures."

"So let me break this down, Lieutenant." Abbot drops his pen in favor of his cigarette, nodding at the others in the room as he does: it's his version of 'Glad we're all in agreement.' But to Kulko in particular: "I concur. This is the best chance we'll likely have to obtain that — 'ace in the hole.'" His cultured accent enunciates the idiom with unusual precision. "It's a matter, then, of determining the degree of risk to which we're willing to subject the volunteers for this mission. If the CO receives discretionary authority to abort, we may leave with empty hands. If the CO is under strict orders to proceed under any circumstance, we sign the death warrant for twenty-odd soldiers, and having done that once already, it's not something I'm eager to repeat." Old cigarette is ashed; new cigarette is withdrawn from the pack in arm's reach. Gods bless that yeoman. "So the CO's mandate will be as follows: disengage only if subjected to overwhelming Cylon attack that renders impossible the attainment of mission objectives." As for what those are?

"My initial read, Lieutenant Rime, is to prioritize the Viper snatch-and-grab. From the reports I've read, this Ananke business may well be smoke and mirrors. Admiral Hauck has — had — a reputation for floating mad rumors in the constant scrabble for funding, and I'm not willing to stake lives on something that might well be — " Abbot nods in Cidra's direction. "The Cylons have used misdirection before, is all. Do we have anything concrete that might suggest this project is more than a bureaucratic power play?"

"Cobra Talon only encompasses the recovery and recon of this specific part of the planet. I don't want that crew down there any longer than is absolutely necessary. If they recover something that is actionable and time sensitive, then I'm up to leaving the choice to the on-site commander. However, my recommendation is that the orders call for this to be as fast as possible. Thus, I'm in complete agreement with the Admiral." Tillman finishes with a nod as her reaches for the mug once more. "As for intel to say otherwise, sir, I don't have anything specific. Just a lot of odd coincidences. Such as the Cylons prioritizing Parnassus' destruction over an engagement with our battlegroup."

Kulko pulls a deep drag off the cigarette, and blows it towards the ceiling before offering a response. "That's in spite of the fact that they acted drunker'n skunks around Parnassus - maybe they were affected by whatever she was working on?"

"Enunciate, Lieutenant Kulko." Like Abbot, whose syllables are so clear they might as well be die-cut. "'Drunker than skunks'?" And you thought he had trouble with 'ace in the hole.' Click goes his lighter, which bursts blue-orange in the darkness before disappearing into the haze of smoke. The acrid smell of tobacco has long since filled the room, whose whirring ventilator can barely keep up.

"Agreed, as a possibility. /Something/ had them cooked." Oberlin interjects, mildly, following up on Kulko's suggestion. He doesn't have anything further to add, beyond that, burying his face in his coffee as he again dangles the cup aloft.

"It is quite possible," Cidra says with a small nod to Kulko. "We had seen nothing of the…'drunken' is a good word, way the Cylons behaved at Parnassus before. They ran toward our ships with little tactics whatsoever, and they suffered badly because of it. Anyhow. I do agree recovery of the fighters should be priority. If there is room to look deeper into it, we can assess that either on the ground or later."

"Major Tillman has the reason nailed. The Cylons aren't interested in where Admiral Hauck's funding was coming from. They were interested in what she was doing with it — so interested they wanted the Anchorage destroyed more than us." Rime slides her half-drained coffee a short distance away from herself, and moves her shoulders against the high-backed chair, trying to find a comfortable position.

Tillman nods to Rime in thanks. "Exactly. They went on a genocidal rampage through humanity and nearly succeeded. That was their primary goal - or at least that would sure seem like it. For them to not bother with the remnants of humanity means that whatever the Admiral was working on has them at least feeling threatened. If that's even possible." He steeples his fingers over the rim of the mug. "But yes, recovery of the Vipers should be a major priority. As well as attempting to recover any medical supplies we can find. Anti-radiation doses, especially. Considering the base is intact, likely we should be able to find some of them laying around."

"All due respect, sir?" Kulko offers, voice turning upwards. "Have to disagree. We can build more Vipers - I think this project Ananke, whatever it is, ought to be top billing. Not that we shouldn't go after the spacecraft, but…" he trails off, eyes bouncing around the conference table before dropping to the ashtray.

"It can be as real as it needs to be. If we can get a clue to what this is, maybe that's a card up our sleeve in the future." Oberlin suddenly interjects, after a mouthful of coffee. "I'm with Lt. Rime and the XO on this one. Not to get metaphysical, but even a perceived threat can be a weapon." Then, to Kulko. "And, uh, we can't build more Vipers thanks to our unwelcome guests coming through the wall and torching the Viper fabrication plant. Not without some two-thousand-odd replacement components, if the Damage Control estimate was right." His voice is more than a touch rueful. "Those components are down there."

"As Lieutenant Oberlin has noted, the Cylons just made it rather difficult to construct Vipers for at least the next several weeks," Abbot observes coolly. "Moreover, we don't even know if Hauck's secret weapon is at all operational, and the price of what time our scientists might need to make it operational will be felt by our Air Wing above all others — hence, Vipers." A brief nod signals the admiral's assent to Rime and Tillman. How many of his questions are genuine and how many are meant to prod at his officers' assumptions is impossible to know, and those granite features are sufficiently stony to betray him not. "Which brings us back to the previous question of force disposition. What Vipers we have must be kept aboard — on that, I will defer to Major Hahn's judgment. But any attempt to plumb Kythera's secrets, as I believe we should — " Here, a tight smile for Kulko. "Any such attempt will require at least a pair of Raptors for transport of recovered materiel from Kythera City to the Eidolon's cargo bays, assuming there even is materiel to recover to begin with. How do we mask them?"

Tillman dips his head to Oberlin and looks to the JTAC. "Look at it this way: If we recover something and we need to go back to Leonis, and we don't get the Vipers, then we won't have the capability to go back to Leonis. Sure, we can jump in and cause all sorts of trouble but without an Air Wing?" The XO shakes his head. He then looks back to the Admiral. "It may not even be possible. Lieutenant Oberlin? Think we could transfer the IFF between the Eidolon and Raptors if the Eidolon stays on the ground and off the DRADIS?" Then something occurs to him and he blinks before looking ot Cidra. "Major. We pulled some bombs and door guns off the Parn. First, are the pilots up on their air-to-ground deliveries? Second, any interest in turning a Raptor over for a gunship modification?"

"I must admit I am conflicted," Cidra says. "There is *something* in Molgen. That much is clear. And if there are survivors there - and there's more than a dismissible chance - my heart is black to simply leave them. But I do agree the equipment should be our main priority. If there was only a way we could do both…but that risks splitting the baby, as it were. And succeeding in nothing." A long drag off her cigarette is taken before she replies to the admiral. "I will give my Raptors to it if we go forward with it, sir. Could we perhaps use the same masking we intend to use on the Eidolon on the Raptors themselves? They are smaller craft to begin with, and we managed to get in and out of the last recon without detection. My pilots are as up as they can be, Major Tillman. It shall have to be enough. And if you need to make modifications to one of my birds you can, though I fear over-complicating matters as it is."

"If we're not bringing Vipers under the assumption that if they're needed, we've already messed up — by the same assumption, there's little point in gunship modifications to a Raptor, non?" Rime looks from Cidra to Tillman as she points this out. She gives up on trying to get comfortable and leans forward instead, folding her arms gently against the edge of the table.

"Not necessarily," Kulko counters, putting out the dregs of his cigarette. "Six Vipers can't very well hold out against a wing of Raiders, but a door-mounted minigun might make the difference against a squad of Centurions."

"Yes, Major. Agreed. There's something there worth investigating. Survivors would be fantastic but even if we don't find anyone, that transponder should be checked-out. As for the Raptors?" Tillman shakes his head. "I won't give that order. Not now, anyway. These are your ships. But we could potentially be facing ground forces." He motions to Kulko as he looks from Rime to Cidra. "As the Lieutenant pointed out, if the situation and mission is compromised somehow, a gunship would make a clean difference. Especially considering our limited number of Marines that will be able to go. The Vipers, once taken from the base, can be loaded up with bombs and missiles. Their guns could come in handy, also. But the Vipers would be held in reserve in case of an attack by Raiders. At least, in a broad statement." He shrugs. "Battlefield contingencies must be dealt with as they come up."

"When in doubt, bring a few extra guns? I think that's the operational assumption here." Oberlin immediately addresses Rime in the most neutral of tones. At this point in time there's no indication of approval /or/ disapproval. Just a statement of fact. "Ahem." Another clearing of his throat. "Anyway, Major, to answer your question? The transmitters appear to be modular in design, mounted in the," he gestures with a slight tip of his hand, "curiously /habitable/ internal cockpit of those larger Cylon gunship/transport hybrids. Best case scenario is we get both of them working. Theroetically we could mount one in /any/ small craft. Yes."

"Point." Cigarette bobs towards Rime. "And point." Now, towards Kulko. Abbot's content to let his subordinates hash this out, it seems, having picked up his pen while keeping his cigarette clutched between his surprisingly white teeth. Precise writing has become quick scribbles as the plan begins to take shape. "I've got another. We start slinging around air-to-ground ordnance and chances are the Cylons will figure out our ruse right quickly." These words aren't enunciated as well as they should be; such is the price of talking around a smoke, which dips up and down as he mutters. "But on the other hand, if we're already engaging Centurions, well." A long drag sends a grey cloud billowing forth from his lips before the cigarette is returned to his hand. "Bigger guns might mean life versus death during an exfil that doesn't quite go according to plan. So. Deck and Viper pilots to Anadyomene, defended by — " Eyes flick towards his notes. "One fireteam. And the rest, including a demolitions crew, in Raptors — perhaps with Oberlin's modular transmitters — to MolGen HQ, to rendezvous with Eidolon at the air station upon completion of their investigation."

Cidra passes a look between Kulko and Tillman. And says simply, "If you gentleman need a gunship. Well. We shall have to get you a gunship. To be used only if worse comes to worst, of course." The barest hint of a smile. A short nod to Oberlin. "If we do not get them working, Lieutenant, it seems this whole idea is moot to begin with. So, make a couple to reserve for a pair of Raptors for Kythera as well."

Kulko snaps his fingers. "Wait just a damn minute," he says, looking to Oberlin at the Intel officer's words. "Why don't we bring the Heavy Raider? If it's got flight controls, and life support shouldn't one of the Raptor sticks be able to fly it? Built-in Cylon IFF? Clandestine transport when we're planetside?"

"Exactly, sir," Tillman says to Michael. "The ordnance would go along purely for aesthetics - hopefully. If it turns out its needed, then I can personally vouch for the fact that its a Godsent gift. When you're in a firefight, having close air support is something that doesn't just make the force more combat effective, but it boosts morale. But again, its semantics at this point." He then looks to Cidra. "The decision is yours, Major. I'm just making the case for it. You know the force dispositions of your aircraft better than I do so.." He lets it hang. The man seems to genuinely want to defer the ultimate choice to her. He'll let Oberlin address the point about the Raider.

"There are two small problems with that plan, Lieutenant." Comes the measured, weighty sigh from Oberlin's lips in response to Kulko's question, as he leans slightly in his seat to address the Junior Tactical Officer directly. "First of all - you're asking our pilots to fly in an unfamiliar ship. That would likely take weeks of training, and last I checked, the Cylons didn't leave an owner's manual in the glove box." Another swill of his coffee and his fingertips start to drum on the table's surface at an odd rhythm. "The other? This is the real killer, though. The Deck crew tore that thing limb from limb in an attempt to catalog it. Our people are good. No, they're great. But good enough to re-engineer a fabrication process on a piece of alien technology? They don't even know the conditions and environment in which it was assembled — that could be key as the components. In short, glue guns and duct tape aren't an option here."

"Even if it was not in pieces. The Raider is not simply a Raptor with some goo inside either, Lieutenant," Cidra says. "Is a craft we might, with a great deal more study and training, be able to fly? Perhaps. But we cannot at this point pilot it. It is a piece of alien technology we are only at the beginning of understanding." Blue eyes flick to Tillman. "You will forgive me, Major, but I shall not be risking my people for morale. That has, I think, clearly been proven to accomplish little but pain of late. So let us not speak of that as a factor. Still, I believe such ordnance of gunship capabilities could be a benefit to your mission, and I believe we can deliver it for you. So it shall be done, as I did say before."

Kulko raises both hands in defeat. "I stand corrected, sirs. We'll fly domestic." Someday, perhaps, there will be a filter between brain and lips. Not quite yet.

"Unfortunate. Lieutenant Kulko's idea had merit." The admiral clamps his lips about that cigarette once more, pulling deeply at Oberlin's answer. "But — " Knuckles whiten. "There'll be time for recriminations later." And consequences, though that word remains unsaid. "Right now — Lieutenant Oberlin, I want that Cylon device tested and installed aboard the freighter as soon as humanly possible. No surprises. Major Hahn, begin putting the word out amongst your pilots for volunteers. The same goes for you, Major Tillman: coordinate the personnel selection process with the other department heads. No mission details are to be provided to anyone not tapped, but be sure to impress upon all candidates the — risks — involved. And Lieutenant Kulko, I want you to work with our guest from Praetorian to come up with a preliminary exit strategy for our people on the ground should things go the way of the proverbial handbasket. On my desk. By morning." Hey, he gave them coffee. And in case it wasn't clear: "Assume the worst."

"Before we adjourn, Admiral." Again, Rime speaks up without hesitation, looking directly at the man. "How long are we anticipating being planetside for this operation, and who's going to be in charge down there?"

Tillman just dips his head to Cidra and let's it all go. He then lets out a long breath as he taps fingers along the rim of the mug once more. Once the admiral begins speaking, the XO turns his attention to the man and simply nods. "Aye, sir. I'll have my request to you within the hour. As Lieutenant Rime mentioned, who do you have in mind for the on-site commander? Because, sir, its an operation I'm assembling and I'm more than qualified. I won't put together something like this and not aggressively pursue assignment to it." Tillman seems more than a little insistant.

"Volunteers. It shall be done, Admiral," Cidra says simply. As to who's leading, she does not add her input. On the ground as it is, this won't be an aerial-helmed assignment. She'll have to stay behind in her CAG Cage.

"No longer than we need to, Lieutenant." The admiral crushes his cigarette between his thumb and forefinger before chucking it into the still-smoking ashtray. "And regarding our on-site commander, well." Blue eyes sweep over to Tillman, narrowing ever so slightly. "Expertise is a valuable commodity, and it would be the height of imprudence to dispatch any of Cerberus' senior officers on a mission where the possibility of success is contingent on so many factors out of our control. Should we lose them, we do irreparable damage to our cause." Translation: No. "Major Michelle Bartholomew of the Praetorian has volunteered for duty with the permission of her CO, whose judgment I will not question. She will be advised by Lieutenant Stephen Kulko, unless the lieutenant has some place better to be?"

Kulko jots down a few notes in his folio and flips it shut. "Have it to you by 0800, sir," he assures. As Tillman concludes his pitch, Kulko appends simply, "There's a job to be done down there, Admiral, an' I'd be grateful for the chance to help get it done."

"Right. Assume the worst. Per usual." Oberlin repeats, nodding his head a bit as he looks from Kulko to Rime and back to the Old Man. His eyelids raise a little as he hesitates over the issue, just staring across the table and unmoving save for the single arm that stretches out to heft the coffee cup, lifting it to his lips. "You know. If anything O.N.I.-encrypted is down there, I'd possibly be able to save time in getting it out. Unless I'm shot to pieces."

Tillman sets his jaw and meets the eyes of the Admiral. Someone's already planning a protest. He clears his throat, in the end, and just nods. "Aye, sir." He glances to Kulko. There's going to be a conversation after this.

Oberlin adds, a bit sourly, "Or, I can just give Lieutenant Kulko the codes and pout as he gets all the fun."

Is that a sympathetic look Lieutenant Rime shoots toward Kulko, as first Tillman and then Oberlin turn sour? It's hard to say, and it's gone in a moment as she looks back to the Admiral with a nod. "0800, Sir. It'll be there." She hadn't touched her coffee since she drank the first half of it, but thinks better of that now, and reaches for the rest of the mug.

Cidra shifts a look between Tillman and the admiral. Then back to Tillman. Almost sympathetic. Maybe. The woman's never precisely easy to read. Her cigarette's gone down to the nub, so it's put out. She drinks the remainder of her coffee. Nose wrinkling just a little. That stuff's gone cold.

Kulko straightens in his seat and lifts his hand in a salute. "Aye, sir." That's all. No gloating. A slight bit of apprehension. Tillman and Oberlin get their looks in turn, Tillman's held a little longer. Stephen knows what's coming.

"Don't be grateful, Lieutenant. I just told you that you're expendable." Grim humor seeps into Michael's voice. "Consider this extra incentive to get that draft just right. And you, Lieutenant Oberlin, should be careful what you wish for. As the only individual aboard this ship with ONI experience and replaceable skills, you're to lead the recovery team at MolGen." Abbot pushes himself to his feet, snapping closed his notebook. His papers are left behind for his yeoman to collect. "This is usually where most admirals would tell you that everything's going to be okay — and you know, I could write something vaguely convincing if I had the time or energy, but you deserve more than platitudes, so let me be straight and say only this: fail and you'll die on the surface of an irradiated planet, alone amongst the wreckage of the ruins of humanity. But succeed? Succeed, and you may well be responsible for the turning of the tide." The admiral shrugs, already proceeding towards the hatch. "You decide. Good night, ladies. Gentlemen."

Tillman rises as the senior officer does. "Aye, sir." That's all he says. The man glances to the overstuffed folder in front of him on the table and gives it a disparaging look as he clears his throat. The Major isn't happy. He looks around the room to those assembled. "Alright. Looks like nobody is sleeping tonight. Lieutenant Kulko? A word, if you don't mind?" The Major points towards the hatch with his free hand as he scoops up the folder and coffee mug in one hand.

Kulko rises quickly, holding off on a second salute and closing his portfolio. He follows along in Tillman's wake.

Well. For once, Oberlin just gets caught speechless. His mouth opens a little and his jaw is held there, tight. "Well." He says. "Understood, sir." He finally snaps off a salute towards the Admiral. "We'll give it everything we have. And maybe steal a little more and put that in as well." Under his breath, he adds, less-than-clandestinely. "It's usually all stolen, anyway." Saluting the XO as well, he ambles slowly to his feet. "Well. How about that?"

"Leave some hide on him please, Major, unless you want me to submit the proposal on my own." Rime calls this after the departing Tillman and Kulko, with the first suggestion of humor capacity since she entered, albeit somewhat grim.

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