PHD #311: Wager
Summary: Cora and Mathers cross paths post Pewter meeting, bets are made in the end.
Date: 03 Jan 2042 AE
Related Logs: Immediately following Cry Havoc.
Mathers Cora 
Map Room
The one object that dominates this room is the one it is named for: the giant plotting table in the center of the room. Bottom-lit like the plot in CIC, this one is twenty feet across and about the same distance wide. The maps, which are rolled and kept in a locker at the side of the room, provide much more detail than most of the charts in CIC and are especially useful in planning tactical operations. Unscaled models of ships are available to be situated on the surface of the table and risers on each side of the room allow for a small audience to watch or be briefed. A single large LCD screen is built into the wall at the far end to display reconnaissance or other supplemental material.
Post-Holocaust Day: #311

The Map Room is quiet, the majority of the staff has been up in CIC surrounding the excitement of the recent CAP and the brass just finished their meeting with Pewter but here Mathers sits, his attention on the LCD screen. He's just staring at an image of a star system, lazily gnawing on a toothpick while he plays connect the dots with his eyes. The marine XO is seated in a chair, one boot up on the edge of the map table but despite his casual air, he's still fully dudded up in his duty uniform.

Cora was part of that staff up in CIC, the Officer of the Watch on duty, in fact, for the last block of hours. She seems to be coming off-duty now, busy lighting a cigarette as she heads into the map room, a sheaf of papers tucked under one arm. "Captain Mathers," she greets the marine as she looks up and spots him, one brow arching as she eyes his casual posture, "Settling in comfortably, I see?"

As the hatch opens and someone enters, Zane pushes himself upright and his boot falls back to the deck with a plop. Caught in his slouch by Cora, he offers a slow smile that's off-kilter by the toothpick tucked in one corner. "Captain Nikephoros. You get used to being bounced around from one deployment to another, home becomes a rather relative term. What's the word?" He rocks smoothly to his feet, reaching for the remote that controls the LCD screen and quickly shutting it off. The room is now lit by just the pale blue running lights around the bulkhead until someone hits the switch for the main.

"Word is, the new Engineering liaison they sent over can't understand a single thing Pewter says," Cora informs the marine with a sliver of a smile as she tucks her lighter back into a pocket before blowing smoke at the ceiling. She doesn't ask if he minds. She heads over towards the map table, glancing up at the screen just as he shuts it off. "Don't stop on my account," she replies, with a dismissive flick of her wrist, "I can tune it out easily enough. Working on planning that potential boarding op?" She forgoes the main lighting for the time being, instead flipping on the lights of the plotting table.

As the map table catches light, their faces become illuminated from beneath which causes odd long shadows on Mathers face, catching light at his cheekbones, the curve of his bottom lip, and the underline of his nose and jaw. He stays just that pace off, perhaps well aware that his eyes are hard to read in the semi-darkness. "The lieutenant should learn to keep such impressions to himself. Especially when we are still in the presence of the Colonel's aide." There's a flick of wood, as the splinter of the toothpick is switched from one corner of his mouth to the other. "They know we're here. The trick is going to be making them think we're /still/ here, even when we're sneaking up to their backdoor to add a little man-sized ventilation."

Cora leans over the map table slightly, tilting her face and the shadows with it as she puts weight onto her non-smoking hand. There's a map already on the table, visible now that the light's on. She seems to've been expecting it, maybe having left it there herself, earlier. It's shifted a little and then she snorts softly and replies, "I'm sure Yeoman Parry is well acquainted with the consternation the Colonel's manner of speaking often causes. Personally," she goes on a bit more dryly, "I thought he was more intelligible than usual this evening." She taps one corner of the map absently and then nods, "They know we're here but don't seem to care. Nor do they seem to know that we know they're here, but we shouldn't necessarily assume that's true. Not that it matters, really, since they'll have to wonder when we start taking out the mines all around their little factory."

"I hope by that time we already have a team cutting through their hull. I'd rather send a covert team than full on seeming assault, especially when we don't have the manpower to back it up." Mathers' jaw drops, pulling the toothpick with it and with a flick of his tongue he flips the toothpick around to gnaw on the previously unscathed end. "But that's not my call. My men'll be ready when you make the final decision." A thump of his forefinger on the map table, "What's this then?" He doesn't bother identifying it, when he can just ask.

"I got the impression the mine-clearing would be a mission run prior to the assault on the station," Cora replies, "But I may have misunderstood. It does seem as though it would be wiser not to advertise our presence in that way if we're not simultaneously cutting our way in. If we were, then it could serve as a distraction instead." She looks up just in time to catch the toothpick act, which draws a faint lift of a brow. "You know, I saw someone do that once and get the toothpick caught vertical and stab himself in the mouth." Just saying. She turns back to the map then and replies, "Parnassus Anchorage, and its environs. Most likely our next destination."

"The trick is to know what the frak you're doing, and if I fail, I know I'll have you as witness who'll never let me live it down. Sometimes the key to success is the fear of failure." All this about a toothpick instead of the upcoming Op. Mathers plants his hands wide on the table and leans over. "What is it about the Anchorages that give me the creeps."

"That and the painful mouth wounds will probably help you remember as well," Cora offers helpfully. She leans back a little, blowing smoke over her shoulder, away from Mathers before replying, "We don't seem to have had the best of luck with anchorages, in the past. The battle at Audumbla was a nightmare, and I wasn't aboard yet for the last visit to Parnassus but it sounds as if it was… strange."

Arms eventually go akimbo until he's sunk down to his elbows, half-bent over the table to rest them with fingers steepling out together in front. Mathers' face is suddenly awash with the light, though the transparency of the map gets transposed to to his features. "Tell me when the last time it was that you've had an encounter that /wasn't/ strange." The plotting table momentarily forgotten, the marine affixes his gaze solely on the woman's face.

Cora more or less retains her current posture, shifting only to turn a sideways, leaning one hip against the table's edge as she looks back at Mathers. She considers that question for a long moment, smoking contemplatively, and finally, shakes her head. "I have no idea," she admits.

"February fifteenth, two thousand forty one." Mathers answers his own question, unbidden by the TACCO. "I had a four day furlough, a tent, a pack and a mountain to conquer. It was the kind of quiet where you don't even hear your own thoughts anymore. Your breath. Your pulse. That little trickle of sweat that slides into your collar." There is a long pause from the marine Captain where he doesn't even chew on his toothpick. Finally he straightens, palm smacking the map. "Not /this/ kind of quiet." The kind found at the anchorages, of course.

Cora lifts one slender brow at that precise answer, and then nods as he explains. She smokes silently for another moment and then asks, "What were you climbing? Which mountain, I mean?" She asks as if she knows something about mountain climbing, or at least mountains, but whether that's actually the case, who knows.

Mathers moves around the plotting table with the conversation, coming to rest his hip just in front of her in mirror image. "The Zion range on Scorpia. Are you familiar with it? The highest point is only twenty five hundred feet, but it has some great free climb facades." As she lifts her hand to take another drag, he reaches out in attempt to cup his hand over hers and scissor away her smoke. The move is slow, Cora has plenty of time to refuse the transfer.

"I've heard of it," Cora replies with a shake of her head, "But never been. The Aberdarsh, in the northwest of Scorpia? I've seen those. The deep water faces, mostly." As he reaches out for her cigarette, brows shift faintly but she lets him take it, offering, "Keep it if you like, the shortage is mostly artificial," and reaching into her pocket for the pack. "I thought maybe you were quitting," she remarks, nodding with her chin, "The toothpick."

"Deep water faces?" His toothpick gets pulled out of his mouth and tossed to a convenient ashtray, Mathers soon replacing it with the filter of her cigarette. A deep pull has the paper crackling and burning away, his eyes slitting with the pleasurable influx of the toxin into his lungs and therefore bloodstream. "Let me know when you want to take off the training wheels." He doesn't so much as exhale as he does part his lips and just let the smoke eke its way back out. "You're right. These things'll kill you," comes the low rumble of his voice before he stamps out the cigarette that's nothing more than filter now.

Cora's expression is dry as she replies, "The deep water faces up there are fun. The rest of the range is crap. And I didn't say that was all I've done. I'd expect better analytical skills from an XO." She watches him smoke down her cigarette and pulls out another, offering the pack over as she lights up again. "I'll take a slow death from cancer over most of my choices, these days."

Finally there's another smile from Mathers, a flash of teeth that seems a little feral in close proximity. And personal space is something the man doesn't seem to keen on, in fact he reaches out to brush a fleck of ash off her lapel. "I've got plenty of skills. Maybe we can rig up a wall in the Hangar bay. I've got some chalk in my gear. First one to the top relinquishes a carton of smokes."

"Civ freighter has a wall, actually," Cora informs him, "I haven't had a chance to try it yet, but I'll take that wager if you want to give it a shot." She turns her head just barely enough to avoid blowing smoke in his face, eyes never shifting their gaze. "One carton of cigarettes seems too easy, though, especially for a former S4. I'd think you and your skills should be able to rustle up something more interesting than that."

Mathers takes a half step forward so he can tower, though tower isn't really accurate as he's only a few inches taller than the woman. It's enough, though, that she'd either have to step back or tilt up her chin. "I was making it easy on /you/." He never took the offered cigarette from her, but he looks sorely tempted to steal the one she just lit again, to toy with her. "So what is it then? Tell me what Cora Nikephoros misses the most and I'll deliver it or the next best thing. Pending, of course, you can beat me to the top of the range."

Cora no longer takes pains to redirect where the smoke she exhales goes, as Mathers looms closer. Her head tilts slightly to the side as she looks up at him, not the type to step back, it seems. She considers the question for a long, smokey moment or two, and then replies, "Virgan-roast Scorpian coffee, truffle oil grilled cheese, and professional spa treatments. That's what I miss most."

Mathers' nostrils flare as the smoke filters up, his eyes creasing against the haze from her exhale. "That's a heavy order." But not one that seems to daunt him. "And if I win? I want a new pillow. Yours, to be exact. I figure it's nice and broken in, and maybe even feather. Your pair of favorite jeans and…" His lips purse with thought, and he looks to Cora's own mouth. There his gaze lingers as if he might ask her for something truly inappropriate like a kiss. "A private session. You, me…and that sketchbook."

Cora's mouth, just at that moment, continues to be occupied with smoking, which she does with an impassive expression, even as Mathers rattles off his demands. "I don't own a sketchbook," she replies, head tilted to blow another cloud of smoke just barely over his shoulder, "And my favorite jeans were blown to ash along with the rest of the Imperial Standard Hotel Kythera, but you have a deal."

There's only one sketchbook they've both 'shared' that he could mean, but the fact that she tries to blow him off about it has a bemused expression in Mathers' eyes. "Like I said, next best thing. Deal. As soon as the Condition gets bumped back down, we're on the first transport. Unless you can pull some strings and call it a training exercise."

"Hmmm," Cora muses thoughtfully, reaching for the ashtray and flicking the cigarette against it. "I might be able to do that. We'll see."

Mathers leans forward as she turns slightly in search of that ashtray, his cheek in close juxtaposition to her cheek much as the day they raided the estate, thought this time he's standing in front instead of behind her. With a hand resting lightly on her shoulder, his voice is a velvet baritone with less ice than he displayed in the studio. "Be seeing you, Captain."

Cora again does not step back, instead just tapping the cigarette once or twice more against the rim of the ashtray and then returning it to her lips. She otherwise remains still. "Evening, Captain," she returns to Mathers, "Good luck with your welding training."

Mathers has a crisp gait on the way to the hatch, even with his hands thrust into his pockets. "You're going to need luck too, convincing Pewter not to go in guns blazing and hooping and hollering like we're at some damnable rodeo." Because that was her idea, right? To use the mines as a distraction while the marines go in the back way? At least that's the way he seems to believe.

"I think the colonel is more of the front porch swing sort of country than the rodeo sort," Cora replies, tone dry once more, "But we'll see what can be managed. I would advise you learn how to cut through metal very, very quickly."

Mathers turns around slightly, offering her a lopsided smile before he shoulders through the hatch.

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