PHD #309: Unearthing a Fossil
Unearthing a Fossil
Summary: Cidra finds a lone survivor on Tauron. Turns out they've met before.
Date: 01 Jan 2042 AE
Related Logs: None
Cidra Marshall 
A broken warehouse
Post-Holocaust Day: #209

Marshall's spent a long time by himself on Tauron. He was a ways from the Northwestern Quadrant when Warday struck; it was by a stroke of luck that the retired Commander was touring an abandoned bunker facility from the First Cylon War, which allowed him to survive the initial attack. He stayed put for a while, hoping for rescue that never came. Eventually, he gathered what little he had - a briefcase and a small bag - and started to make his way across Tauron, scavenging to keep himself alive. Malnutrition and radiation sickness stopped him before he reached any of the Raupatu, so he holed up in a heavily damaged shipping warehouse. He tried to fiddle with a broken transmitter - a dispatch radio, from the looks of it - but to no real effect. While he was able to get it powered back on, he was unable to fix it enough to actively transmit any messages. But it was still sending out a brief scanning signal every ten minutes or so, which was all he could do.

"Skeeeter, can you get a better fix on that signal?" Cidra asks from the pilot's seat of the Raptor now cutting through the skies of Tauron. She's at the wheel, LTJG Daisy "Skeeter" McCoy in her backseat. A few Marines riding along in the passenger seats, and a couple of Vipers flying her escort. Right now, one can never been sure whether they'll meet survivors or part of the strange, stealthy party of Cylons that've returned to the planet down on Tauron. People still need to be found, though, and Toast was on planetary sweep duty when her ECO noticed the blip of Marshall's signal on the DRADIS.

"I'm trying, Toasty," Skeeter chirps from the back. "It's blipping in and out. Got a hit five minutes ago, north three-carom-niner. Best I can do. I'll keep my ears open. I don't think it's toasters. At least, it ain't a toaster signal. If that means anything. They're onto something weird down here, so who knows?"

The busted warehouse does have a massive asphalt lot right beside it, which is handy for Raptor landing. Unfortunately, there's a ton of broken concrete, debris, and rubble all over it. As for the warehouse itself, it looks like it was picked up by a giant hand, snapped in half, then settled back down on the ground. Its concrete exterior is badly cracked and there's piping and rebar sticking out everywhere. Marshall, who has no idea that there's a possibility of imminent rescue, is sitting outside on a slab of concrete that he favors as his chair. His hair has grown wild and unruly and his clothes - what looks to have once been a fine suit - are in tatters. He's holding his hands out in front of him and mumbling to himself, rocking back and forth slightly.

«Toast, Goose,» comes the radio chatter from one of the Raptor's Viper tag-alongs. «No sign of bandits, on DRADIS or visual. We're coming up on an old…uh, not really sure what it used to be. Frakked-up building.» As if there's a shortage of those on Tauron. «Mushmouth, on my six, in closer overhead, see if we get anything Cylon.»

«Goose, Toast. Copy. Right behind you,» Cidra comms. Her Raptor lags behind the speedier fighters but not too far. While her ECO works the more powerful DRADIS equipment in the back, she keeps her eyes on the ground. "Gods, I always wonder how anything could survive so long in these broken places…" The murmur is more to herself than Skeeter.

The Vipers coming over the horizon aren't precisely quiet as they barrel through the sky toward the warehouse, and should be in visual range for Marshall shortly.

It's been just two months shy of a year that Marshall's been alone. An old man left with only his thoughts and memories for ten months, wandering the proverbial wilderness of Tauron, waiting for salvation. But when the Viper screams overhead and comes into view, he doesn't so much as blink. He's lost in his memories, standing before a large crowd, addressing them with one of his passionate speeches. The sound of the Viper fades into the roar of the crowd's applause as he lifts his shaking hands skyward, still rocking back and forth on his makeshift concrete chair. "For the Gods are merciful," he mutters hoarsely, slightly louder than his previous mumblings. "So say we all."

«Toast, no toasters on visual,» Goose comms to his boss, making slight ironic use of her callsign. «Or DRADIS. We'll keep a patrol pattern overhead in case you run into anything chrome.»

«Goose, Toast. Copy that,» Cidra replies over the wireless. «I am putting her down. I hope without bruising her. The Deck is going to have a talking to me for this landing zone.» And indeed, she's very, very careful as she approaches the remains of the warehouse and comes in for a landing. All the rubble makes a touchy job of it. She makes it to the ground without bruising the ship too much, however. The Raptor doors open and a pair of Marines emerge to 'clear' the area directly around it. A corpsman will follow not far behind. "Gods be merciful there is humanity left here…" Cidra mutters to herself as she waits to see what they shall find.

Marshall, finished reliving that particular memory, stands up from his concrete slab. He walks around aimlessly rubbing and scratching at his forearms. The old man is now well within sight of Cidra and the Marines, having left the cover of the rubble previously obscuring him; he spots them the same moment that they see him. Frozen like a deer in headlights, he stares at them, not comprehending. His mouth opens and closes without making a sound. Finally, with shaking hands outstretched toward them, he says, "You're late. I'm not dressed for visitors." But his voice is so hoarse and weak that his words probably aren't heard.

"Thank all gods," Cidra murmurs, edging out of the pilot's seat to take a peek out the door when she sees the Marines have actually found a human being. Though he's still too far off for her t make out much more than that Marshall is old and disheveled from months attempting to live in the Tauron wilderness. She squints at him as the Marines make their approach to him.

The corpsman will get to checking his vitals immediately, as allowed. And search the old man for any weapons on his person. The corporal in charge of the Marines that're along for this jaunt, a blocky woman in her thirties, goes through the standard spiel to rescuees. We're from the Battlestar Cerberus, we're here to pull you off this gods-forsaken nuked planet, what is your name, is anyone else with you, etc, etc.

Marshall has no problem letting the Corpsman take his vitals or being searched for weapons. Mainly because he's still not a hundred percent sure what's happening, he's so in shock. He's carrying no weapons - or anything, really, for that matter. The only items of note on his person is a broken pen in his pocket and a silver ring on the index finger of his right hand. If the Marines are perceptive, they'll notice that it has the insignia of Assaultstar Victory upon it. "No, no, nobody with me, no," he answers, gesturing in a circular fashion with his free arm. "They're all gone, all of them. Only their, their memories remain. Memories remain. Remaining, remnants, remainder, reminder." He's definitely not in good shape, as his vitals will attest. Alive, but not much more than that.

"You…military old man?" the sergeant asks dubiously, noting the Victory insignia. Marshall /is/ old. "You good to walk? We'll get you out of here." The corpsman supplies, "He's not in good shape, but who is on this damned rock? Should be stable enough to make the trip back."

Cidra, meanwhile, continues to squint at the old man as he's led back toward the Raptor. Something faintly familiar about him tugging at her, though it's but a touch at the back of her mind now rather than true recognition. She remains standing outside the Raptor, taking her flight helmet off so she can get a clearer view of their find.

"Once upon a time," Marshall replies to the Sergeant with a faraway smile. "Upon a time, time upon time, fleeting with the fleet." The repetitions and word mutations are muttered to himself but still audible. "Wait. Halt. Atten-tion." He says the words with the cadence of drill orders but without the tone or force. "Can't leave without my bag. Can't leave my baggage behind." He points with his hand toward an opening to the warehouse. Sure enough, if someone goes to check, there's a small bag and a briefcase waiting side-by-side in the opening like he's been preparing to leave any time.

A Marine private hoofs it back to check for Marshall's briefcase. Which he finds and, of course, tries to search before taking it back with them. In case the old man is packing explosives or deadly viruses in envelopes, or some such.

No, nothing of that sort in the briefcase. Just some pens, an expensive-looking watch, a leather portfolio, and some documents. There's also a spare suit that's been folded up and crammed in there. The documents will attest with photo identification that this man is Janus Julian Aleksander Marshall, an advisor to the Tauron government, former Naval Commander, and First Cylon War veteran. Although he's clean-cut and professional in the pictures instead of this wild man standing before them now. The bag has nothing of interest either, just a pair of worn-out shoes, a frayed and dirty toothbrush, and about ten boxes of crackers.

"Holy frak…" the young Marine who finds the case murmurs as he goes through it. "Sarg! Sir! Major!" He jogs to rejoin Marshall and his sergeant, beckoning Cidra over. "Whoa. You ever heard of this guy?" The papers are handed off to the sergeant, who shows more recognition than the green private. "Commander Marshall?" the sergeant asks with a touch of disbelief. Definitely not what she expected to find.

At the summons, Cidra finally steps away from the Raptor to make the short walk over to join Marshall and the Marines. The use of the name by the sergeant makes her stop short. Blue eyes widening a notch, staring at Marshall, faint recognition finally dawning to something brighter. She gasps, actual surprise registering on her usually-inscrutable features. "Staredown…?"

Staredown, J.J., the tough old son-of-a-bitch - these are some of the names that Marshall has been known by in the past. But when Cidra says his old callsign aloud, it seems to reach deep within him. Frowning, he turns to look at her for the first time, his eyes scanning over her features. "Lieutenant Junior Grade Cidra Nevarine," he says at last. The man has a freakish memory, even after (or maybe especially after) being stranded on Tauron for so long. The last time he spoke that name aloud, he was standing before an assembled crowd in dress uniform, presenting a young pilot and bride-to-be as the Commanding Officer of the Battlestar Columbia. "No… no." His frown deepens as his eyes focus on Cidra's pins. "Major… Hahn."

The years have been kind to Cidra in many ways. While she has more lines on her face and gray hairs, she isn't changed entirely from what she was as a young woman of twenty-seven. Outwardly, at least. The well-schooled inscrutableness definitely wasn't present back then, nor was the sense of confidence with which she holds herself. And that inscrutableness is absent now as well, washed away by sheer surprise. She raises her flight-gloved hands to her lips, stifling a gasp. "Hahn now, sir. Yes…gods mercy upon me…"

And she was but twenty-seven then. Wed on a battlestar rather than a temple because her parents couldn't abide the idea of their Gemenese daughter joined to a Picon Viper pilot from outside the fundamentalist faith. By her CO rather than a priest in that episode of near-elopement. Likely not the way the girl had dreamt of her wedding day, but she was glowing during the ceremony nonetheless, as she was joined to a ginger-haired Viper jock, callsign "Sunstroke." Kind or not in terms of wrinkles, she looks several lifetimes older now than she did a girl of twenty-seven.

The years have also been kind to Marshall, but solitude and radiation have not. "No longer a sir, I'm afraid," he says to her, his eyes creasing with a smile. "I'm afraid, I'm afraid, I'm afraid." His speech is starting to become a little clearer than the mumbled phrases he was speaking earlier. "Indeed the Gods are merciful. So say we all." A shaky hand reaches up toward her face, his fingers almost touching her cheek. Almost, but not quite. He lets fall his hand once more. "Yes, yes… I remember you. I remember you."

It was his second command over a vessel, the Columbia. He'd not been transferred in a month when he received a request to marry two young officers: Toast and Sunstroke. It was his habit to read over all personnel files and keep up-to-date on the people on his ship, but he hadn't gotten to those two yet, so he decided to meet them in person to talk about their request. His hair had been grey then, not shock-white as it is now; he had fewer lines on his face, too, and a proud commanding air about him.

"So say we all," Cidra echoes. Automatically, the intonation of the faiths always automatic from her. She shakes her head, as if to clear it. Return herself to the present.

"Janus Julian Aleksander Marshall. Retired Navy. You recognize this guy, Major?" the Marine Sergeant asks her.

Cidra merely nods, some composure regained. "Yes. Yes, I was on the Columbia during his tenure as commander. It is…I did not imagine to see you again, sir." And she still calls Marshall 'sir', told not to or not. Again, it's automatic. She clears her throat. "We should get back to Cerberus promptly, if there is no one else here. I can…vouch for Commander Marshall's identity, though he will still need proper processing, of course. And examination by Medical."

LTJG Nevarine lacked Cidra's commanding air. There was an inner confidence about her, even then, but it was subdued, quiet, muted by inexperience and the air of a young woman who was still finding her place in the world. A competent Raptor pilot in the Columbia logistics and support squadron, but no stand-out. Not the sort one would probably imagine sticking to with the service long enough to rise to the rank of Major, let alone making CAG.

She'd let Daedrek "Sunstroke" Hahn do most of the talking for her when they'd met with their CO. To ask him to marry them. "It'd be an honor, sir," the ginger-haired pilot had said, respectful but with a boyish, eager grin as he asked. "Sunstroke" Hahn had been a flashier pilot than his Raptor fiancee, outgoing though with a more outwardly kind, grounded nature than one might expect in a young Viper jock. *He* was going places in the Navy.

"Nobody else here," Marshall confirms again. He nods; his head bobs a couple more times as though echoing the nod like he's been echoing his words. "Cerberus. I've heard of her. Heard of her. Over." He allows himself to be escorted back to the Raptor by Cidra and the Marines. His slow movement is not due to age but his poor condition; his knees are weak, his steps shuffling. "Don't tell me you're still piloting Raptor shuttles as a Major," he says to Cidra. "That's beneath your rank, underneath your station, below your position."

Marshall was already an old man by the time he first met Cidra. He was 62 years wise then, and, in his own eyes, past his prime. The transfer from the Victory to the Columbia should have been accompanied with a promotion to Rear Admiral. Instead, they'd kept him at the rank of Commander. So when Sunstroke told him what an honor it would be, he smiled and shook the man's hand - but he knew there was no honor left for him in the Navy. His glory days were over, and the Fleet expected him to fade away into the sunset. He had already started planning for the retirement that would come four years later.

The wedding was small as weddings went, but it was a festive occasion for the ship. Sunstroke was a popular, well-liked Viper pilot. Toast was a competent logistics Raptor pilot. He remembered the crowd that came out, friends and comrades from all departments. The speech he gave was short but thoughtful - he was there as a facilitator, not a motivator. But the crowd cheered and applauded enthusiastically as he pronounced them man and wife by the power vested in him and so forth. He himself had been married three times, but Cidra's marriage was the first one that he had actually performed as the CO of a ship.

"The new Mercury class. Navy's newest, when he was launched…near a year ago. February Twenty forty-one. It's…gods, Twenty-forty two now." There's a hint of shock in Cidra's voice as she says it. Eleven months it's been since the colonies were burnt to cinders. She slides into the pilot's seat. "Strap yourself in, Staredown." The corpsman will help him settle into the Raptor. At his question, she snorts. "I would not take a post that put me behind a desk, or a Tactical board. I command the air group aboard the Cerberus. But I still my fly bus when I can. Never felt more right than when I as flying."

And Toast did feel right then, at that time in her life. Doing the work she loved, even if there was little glory in it. Wed the man she loved. What did she envision for her career back then? Her next pose, after another year on the Columbia, was another unglamorous assignment on a medical carrier. Probably little more than competence and early retirement to start a family with her Viper jock on Picon.

They would be parted not long after they wed, Daedrek offered an early promotion to full LT with a transfer to the Battlestar Heracles. Where his life would be cut short in 2032 on the asteroid fields of Canceron. All that promise gone in an instant, and Cidra remained.

"2042?" Marshall asks, sounding surprised. "That means it's been forty years since I was in your shoes as Commander, Air Group of Escort Carrier Delphus. And nearly fifty years since I was transferred to the Navy's newest back in the War: the Battlestar Galactica." He's not trying to one-up Cidra, he's just reminiscing. "Tell me, Major Hahn," he says after strapping in (refusing any assistance to do so), "who commands the Cerberus? What is the situation of the Fleet and the Colonies?"

Marshall left early on into the wedding festivities. After all, the party wouldn't want the CO staying around and breathing down their backs. Sunstroke and Toast left the Columbia after a short year as newlyweds; he stuck around for another three years before retiring in 2033. Just shy of forty full years in service to the Fleet. His tour on the Columbia had been a quiet end to a career full of excitement, from the First Cylon War through to the Sagittaron Insurgency. But now he felt the beginnings of that same excitement rising up once more. A second second chance.

"I shall be forty next August," Cidra says soft. She doesn't add 'If we all live that long,' but there's a somberness to her tone that sort of implies it. Still, she sounds oddly abstracted just now. Still a little in shock at what she discovered surviving here. Such unexpected remains. «Goose, Toast. One survivor recovered, no sign of Cylon activity I am taking him back to Cerberus.» Message relayed to her Vipers she launches her Raptor into the air with the craft's usual box-like lack of grace. Into the skies it soars, toward space and the distant, alligator-like shape of Cerberus looming in the distance.

The Marsyus would come after the Columbia for Cidra. Toast would rise to squadron leader there, wedding herself to the Navy and only the Navy after she lost her husband. Her life as a career officer didn't truly begin until after Daedrek died. The Aegean followed, then Picon Fleet Headquarters and a stay that was focused on buffing her resume to prepare her to assume the CAG spot on the Battlestar Cerberus. Her career was as a peacetime officer. Born after the war, serving only in the mop-up, peace-keeping aftermath of disasters on Sagittaron and Aerilon and the rest. Hardly the sort one would select to CAG on the last battlestar in the worlds, but such is the gods' cosmic joke on her this last year. «Cerberus, Toast. Inbound, one human survivor recovered. Taking her home now.»

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