PHD #473: What About The Children
PHD #473: What About The Children
Summary: Khloe and Vandenberg talk about what's going on down on Gemenon.
Date: 14 Jun 2042 AE
Related Logs: Gemenon stuff
Khloe Vandenberg 
Marine Officer Berths - Deck 6 - Battlestar Cerberus
Almost an afterthought, this is the smallest berthing on the ship. A few short rows of bunks are set one over-top of the other. The lockers here are a bit larger than most elsewhere on the ship so as to accommodate the bulky combat gear associated with the security details of the officers that live here. A single table sits in the center of the room with chairs arranged around it loosely; more available than there are bunks in the room.
Condition Level: 3 - All Clear
Post-Holocaust Day: #473

The last few weeks have had Natalie quite busy with dealing with everyone and everything after the recon to Gemenon. With the contents of the AAR leaked, everyone knows what they saw. Some have hunted down to pester Van for details. One or two have been more pushy. Nat has taken to wearing her sidearm even off duty to get the point across that people should not bother her about it. For now, she's freshly showered and dressed again - sorta. Pants, tanks, gunbelt.. but no boots or socks yet. She's running a brush through her hair, straightening it out while it dries with her head tilted to her left while she stares blankly to the floor.

No longer taking to skulking in and out of the marine officer berths at odd hours, Khloe Vakos now comes and goes freely - mainly because there are those marines here that wouldn't say anything disparaging, and the ones that would… well, they'd have angry Cancerans after them. Pick your battles, and whatnot. Affecting a small smile, the fatigues-dressed Poppy looks similarly recently showered herself, having just come off CAP. "Hey," she offers. "Thought I would stop by to see if you were here."

Natalie lifts her eyes to the voice and reflexively smiles. "Hey hey, beautiful," she says quietly through her brightening expression. She continues brushing a few more strokes and reluctantly slides off her bunk to the floor and waits for Khloe to move closer. 'Let her control the pace' has been a mantra for the Marine. "Kinda glad you came by. Got a bunch of stuff on my mind. Specifically Gemenon." Her smile seems to dull a bit.

"You're asking the wrong person, if you're going to talk about Gemenon," Khloe responds, closing the distance with quick strides of long legs. She rests a hand on the woman's hip and gives her a quick kiss on the lips - nothing particularly passionate or knee-quivering, but enough to greet her lover. "But I'll at least listen," she murmurs, and drops down into a chair. "What's wrong?"

Natalie doesn't say anything until after the kiss. She can't help squee'ing just a smidge internally. Some things can fix any problem. She tiptoes during the kiss and settles easy afterwards and takes her brush back as she watches Khloe sit. The Marine follows suit and sits across the corner from her at the table, legs crossed primly - an everpresent reminder of her strict upbringing. "No, I think I'm talking to the right person. You're not involved with this investigation or the recon. And I know you think its a trap. That's why." Nat sighs, going back to brushing as she looks to the table. "A Specialist Lagana that jumped with us got the soil samples back from Lampridis last night. The air is alright for breathing - just inside tolerable levels to skip the anti-rads. But the land is dying. It won't be long before they won't be able to farm or even hunt. We saw some wild game while we were there, but the specialist is pretty sure it won't last long."

Khloe listens, mirroring the leg-cross, although the Viper pilot often just rests her ankle on her knee rather than the more feminine cross of Van's. Her brow creases as the information rolls around her head and she begins processing the likely outcomes. "Well, then, either they're going to die there, or they're going to beg us to take them with us," she offers. "Still a trap."

"Lagana thinks that this is one of the reasons they are begging for our help. That they know they don't have long. I-" Natalie sighs, working through a tangle before switching sides. "I'm not sure its a trap. But like you, I always default to concerns that are bigger than me. Its why I admire you so much." She ghosts a smile. The conversation isn't about either of them so the segue is gone as quickly as it arrived. "If the people love the Cylons so much and its mutual, why don't they shelter the civilians on the baseship?" She shakes her head. "But the one thing that kills me? Radiation kills the small first. Birds, cats, dogs.. children. I'm really worried, Khloe. There's a bunch of children down there. It won't be long before doses reach dangerous levels for them. Long term health problems, sterility, DNA and then organ breakdown.. death. They're just kids, Khlo." She looks to the floor, her voice quiet. "Can we just let them die down there like that?"

Khloe shrugs lightly in a noncommital fashion. "Those children have parents. Those parents have chosen to lie with Cylons. They will reap what they sow… kind of like Sagittarons, and Gemenese. Some of them are downright nuts with their outlooks, but their outlook is protected by the Constitution of the Colonies. They're entitled to live their lives how they choose." She scowls again, sniffing, and rubbing her nose as she mulls. "Although, if brass determines that under military law these people are committing illegal acts, we'll take them away from the Cylons, I'm sure."

"Do the children have parents?" Natalie asks, finally looking back up. "Let's say your guardian was a religious zealot and you're just a kid. The guardian tells you that the Cylons are good.. but the guardian is blinded for whatever reason. Is it fair to say the children have chosen to lie with the Cylons?" Natalie's expression sours and she looks down once more. Its hard for her to relate here. She grew up with white picket fences, horses, and a nanny. "If the kid doesn't know any better can we really just write them off as traitors? Some of the kids we saw through rifle scopes were.. Gods.. they were young."

"Children are beholden to their upbringing," Khloe responds. "I was, you were. We're all partly defined by our experiences as children and how our parents, or guardians, brought us up. Case in point: I'm an addict, and you're a princess." The corner of her mouth quirks upward at that. "But, we're also a product of our dreams. We both became soldiers in the Colonial armed forces. We both made something of ourselves. But, these children. What futures do they have, especially if their guardians have chosen to ally with the murderers of mankind?"

Natalie can't help a quirk of her smile at the remark about being a princess. That's not an inaccurate point. She works at another tangle before setting the brush down and removing a hairtie from her wrist and gathering up her hair behind her head. "We both made something of ourselves because we had our own impetus. I wanted to piss off my parents and I ended up throwing my whole life at the Marines. For you? It was a lifesaving line thrown. If you hadn't been thrown that line, what would you have done? You may not have been beholden to your upbringing.. maybe you were.. but you took the offered line and look at you now. Can we just dismiss these kids because of their upbringing and their guardians bedding Cylons? Can't we shape their dreams and futures the same way someone did for each of us?"

Khloe shakes her head. "The military is not about telling civilians how to run their lives, Nat. It's about protecting civilians so the can go about their lives how they so choose." She folds her arms across her chest, glancing away. "I'm sorry. I can't bring myself to give a frak. They're just faceless numbers to me, and I want it to stay that way so I can do my job without confusing or muddling the issue."

"Well, no, I guess that's not what I was getting at." Natalie sighs again and looks at the brush on the table, poking at it after she draws her hair into a ponytail. Its started to grow back in places where it had been burned away. "I agree that we shouldn't be telling civilians how to live their lives. I don't believe in conscription, either. But we could give them a chance to live out the rest of their lives.. rather than die horribly and slowly over the next couple months." Nat wets her lips. "When I was on Tauron my group was clearing a tunnel system of insurgents and they had moved their families in there. Some didn't want to be there but they felt like they had noplace else to go because the zealots had convinced them so. Even the kids. When we came in, we convinced some of them to let the families leave so we could fight it out. Those that wanted to leave? They let them. We took them back to camp, fed them, gave them medical attention, we set them up with homes and jobs. A life." She pauses. "I guess its just different. In the Marines your can't help but seeing the faces. You can chalk up the enemy to the enemy.. but those in the grey areas? We save lives. Its what we're supposed to do, right?"

"I'm a Viper jock. All I do is fly around and shoot things. Don't expect me to be sentimental." Khloe's brow creases again in a deepening frown. "I'm sorry, Nat. I really am. I can't be motivated to care about folks that have no impact on my life. I'm just here to do a job. It's…" She glances away again. "I can understand if you think lesser of me. Frak, I would, were our roles reversed."

Natalie puts her hand out on the table, opning and closing it in beckon for Khloe to take it. "I don't think less of you, darlin. Its who your are. Gods, I think the world of you but I don't expect us to see eye to eye on everything. Its okay." She pauses, her eyes moving over the other woman before settling on her face. "I know you've got the capability to care, hon. I've seen it. I've felt it. I can't tell you how much it means. I don't expect its easy to go there for you. But its okay to open your heart to things, too. Even kids. They're innocent in all this. I'm not saying we should go sing songs with the Cylons, but you don't think we shouldn't make an effort to help those who can't help themselves?"

Khloe glances down at her own hands, then reaches over to place them in Van's. "I care about you because… well, I don't know why. The sex is good." Giving the woman's hands a squeeze, there's another slight smirk. "Seriously, though, Natalie, I have no idea why you and I happened. I'm still trying to figure it out. How can I give a crap about someone I don't even know when I can't even figure out my own emotions?"

Natalie smirks. "Aye, its pretty damned good," she whispers, squeezing Khloe's hands. "I don't know why we happened either, but when it comes to things like us you.. I guess we just accept it like it is. I'm not going to question something like this. But you've been in bad places, hon. I know you don't talk about it but its in your eyes. When I lay next to you I can see it there. The way you look during conversations like this. Think about your own childhood. What if someone could have come by earlier and offered you a hand. Prevented your own.. prevented you from diving in like you did and closing up?"

Khloe shakes her head and threatens to pull her hands away. There's that tension, that resistance when Khloe can't face what she's feeling. "No, I'm done being bitter about what I was. That girl is long dead. Now, I'm someone different, because I made myself into something better. I made the decision. Nobody gave me a hand-out or a hand-up. It took almost dying, but I picked myself up."

Natalie squeezes to try and hold here there gently. "No, hon. I'm not asking you to feel bitter. And you weren't a 'what', you've always been a 'who', love. Someone deep into drugs, but still a person. She's not dead, either. You are still her. You've overcome it against huge odds, too. Remember I said that it takes strength to fight and that's one of the reasons I admire you so much?" She smiles meekly. "Look, I know I can't get you to change your mind about Gemenon, hon. That's okay. But think about who you are because of who you used to be. If you hadn't travelled the path you had, you wouldn't be here. I'm sure it was a hell I can't ever possibly imagine, but that person is a woman I care deeply about now. Someone I'm intimate with on physical and emotional levels. I'd place my life in your hands without a hesitation.. Former addict or not. People love you, darlin, and its for who you are. All of it."

Making a soft sound of disbelief, Khloe rolls her eyes. "People don't love me. Maybe respect. I'm not sure I can ever see things the way you do." Her lips draw taught in a half-grimace, half-smirk. "I appreciate the kind words, though, dearest. Thank you. Even if half of them are outright lies." She winks, indicating that she's joking around.

"People do love you. I have for a long time, hon. You don't have to love me back, but if someone like me can find the beauty and light in you, others can. The difference with me is that you took a chance to care and chase your heart - something I'm eternally grateful for. Joke as you like." Natalie winks. "But I'm serious, hon. That picture I gave you? Those people behind you don't just respect you. You risk your life for your pilots. You wouldn't just do that for someone you respect. My itty bitty humble opinion? That titanium box I mentioned to you on the firing range that one day? I think I was wrong. I think you love too, you're just a little shy about bringing it out. But that's okay. I think its adorable." Her smile broadens.

"Okay, okay, now you're stretching it," Khloe protests, "There's only so much lovey-dovey crap I can take in one sitting." To indicate that she's still not mad or upset, she gives her hands another squeeze. Her voice quieter, she admits, "You don't have to stop reminding me, though, from time to time. It's… nice to hear."

Natalie gives a short, abrupt little giggle thats stifled by her hand. "Sorry. I know I get carried away." She winks to her lover. Nat then leans down to the table to kiss Khloe's hands, each in turn before sitting back up and looking the pilot over. "You're a great person. And I think in time you'll start to see things a little more from my angle, but the same way I've been taking strength and clarity. Keepin' my Crazy in check. But there's no rush." She sighs happily, tilting her head as she watches the other woman. "I've been trying to get back there." Gemenon. "We need to go, even if most of the fleet doesn't know it yet. It would be like leaving our own humanity behind. I'm not about to steal a Raptor or do anything against regs. I swear." Well that's a change. "But I'm commited, love. I feel strongly about this. And I'm okay with you disagreeing."

Khloe nods slowly. "I'll do my duty and shoot down anything that tries to interrupt the operation. I'll do what the brass says. I won't like it, but I'll do it." She worms one of her hands free to lightly stroke calloused fingers against the smaller woman's face. "When it comes to duties, my own wants and desires are secondary. Tertiary, even. Non-existant. But I'll keep an eye out for your Raptor, just in case. Just don't tell anybody."

Natalie turns her cheek and slightly nuzzles her face into the touch of Khloe's hand. "I know you will. Just like you know that I'll be doing my own. We're both in positions where it has to be that way. But I think that's why we work." She turns her cheek slightly to kiss Khloe's palm. "I feel better knowing you all are out there. Even if you might be looking out for my Raptor and I can't tell anyone. Probably the same way I have to resist the urge to 'guard' the hangar deck when you all come back from a mission."

"Gods know we could use a mission. It's been too quiet around here. All you marines and Raptor pilots having all the fun, lately," Khloe quips. When Van is done with her hand she reaches up to stroke her temple, brushing still damp hair back. "So, can we stop talking about icky emotions, now?"

"Its been too quiet for everyone, I suspect. Even us though its hard to complain about coming back with a sunburn. Smelling the dirt and grass was like a little slice of Elysium." Natalie just smiles and takes the grooming. There's no denying that she loves this. "Ohhhhfine. No more emotions." She winks to Khloe. "For now. Thanks for talking to me, though. I needed to talk to someone about that. Someone who wasn't going to just agree with me." The woman glances to her bunk. "I should get ready. I have to give a semi-promotion to one of my Sergeants this evening." She should. But she looks reluctant to get up.

Khloe nods sharply, and probably much to Van's dismay, the hand is quickly retracted. Duty was mentioned. "Right. I'll see you later? No CAP tonight, and nothing until late tomorrow morning." That means she'll stay longer than the six hour window she normally stays. "I should go handle some paperwork and inspection reports, anwyay."

Damnit. Natalie glances to the retracted hand and slides her own off the table. Well at least the news is brighter! "Hey! Awesome! I don't have anything until midmorning so we can laze around in the bunk. Yesss!" There's even a little fistpump with it. Sometimes Nat can't help being a little childish. "Well you have fun with your paperwork. I need a new platoon sergeant. Not interested in the job, are ya?" She grins.

Khloe shrugs lightly as she pushes up out of her seat. "Elf often says I'm in the wrong branch of the military." As she turns to go, she casts a glance over her shoulder at her lover. "See you later. Have fun." And with that, she's gone.

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