PHD #360: Whittled Down By Small Cuts
Whittled Down By Small Cuts
Summary: Tired of the tedium that is the Swarm attacks, Trask calls a meeting with Cidra and Khloe. It's not the only seemingly endless cycle that ends up being discussed.
Date: 21 Feb 2042 AE
Related Logs: Logs pertaining to the Swarm attacks, Cylon motives, and assorted existential crises.
Cidra Khloe Trask 
Map Room - Deck 7 - Battlestar Cerberus
Post-Holocaust Day: #360
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.
Condition Level: 2 - Danger Close

Eleven days and counting. That's how long the BSG-132 has been plagued by swarms of red-marked Raiders that come out of nowhere, finding the Fleet wherever it goes. By Bootstrap's estimation, that is ten days too many. Simply because he is able to shoulder great burdens and plough forward like a mighty bull doesn't mean that he's inclined to do so. It is now rodeo time, and he's quite determined to buck off and trample the mounting irritations that are these recent daily attacks. All of which is why he has arranged to speak with both the CAG and his primary Viper SL cohort. In the Map Room he waits for Toast and Poppy, dressed in the grease-stained orange decksuit that denotes he's been busy repairing broken birds. Restless with the agitation of annoyance, he paces a bit while smoking.

Cidra is prompt, as she is wont to be. She's dressed in flight gear, for her part, though she's not had to go up today. She was sitting Alert status with the Vipers earlier, during the Mighty Lions rotation on CAP. The swarms have been more punishing on the Vipers than Raptors, not that she's had to go up in a little bird yet. "Boots," she greets the SL simply, sans ceremony, taking a place a the plotting table and lighting up a cigarette herself.

Khloe arrives on time, looking a bit rough and faded around the edges, but still more or less making her usual obsessively high level of precision. Her uniform might not be perfectly pressed, and her braid might have a few errant wisps of hair, and there might be dark circles under her eyes… but Poppy thrives in this sort of environment. No time to think, no time to dally; all duty. "Looking to toss in your wings, eh, Boots?" She quips as she walks in, noting his choice of garb. "Or are all of your uniforms in the wash?"

"Toast. Poppy." A smooth stream of exhaled smoke and a faint smirk follow. "What? You didn't realize that I'm only moonlighting as an SL?" The man has been handling his administrative duties and launching on Condition One, but it's no secret that the rest of his time has been spent putting wings back on Vipers that had them blown off. "I /have/ been considering makin' it my day job, though." Har. Har. Tapping some ash onto the floor beneath the table, Kal continues, "As much as I enjoy gettin' ample playtime on the Deck, the tedium is bound to kill me before those frakkin' Raiders do. An' since I'm not lookin' to kick any buckets, I wanna know what the frak we're gonna do about it. 'Cuz, seriously? I am so bored," eyeroll included, "of this plotline. It's like bein' trapped in some rerun. Time to change the channel."

"Quite agreed, Boots, and if either of you have any suggestions as to how to get the Cylons off our backsides, I am all ears for it," Cidra says. "As it stands. Engineering has turned over the relic we retrieved from border space and found no sign *it* is being used to track us. The 'hybrid' creature we retrieved from the foundry during Operation Silent Mastiff is dead as a coffin nail. Though it does not look as if they have a direct bead on us. They keep hunting, with these pairs of scout Raiders, though how *those* manage to hunt us so well is itself a troubling question."

"It's going to be the same reruns until the end of time, so you better get used to them," is Khloe's immediate advice for Trask. Shrugging lightly, she says, "I really have no idea how to shake these triple-hashed Raiders. And if the old man told us to fight them day after day until we died one way or another, I'd be okay with that. But I can understand how some of us might want some semblance of normalcy around here." She snorts lightly. "Normalcy. Being attacked once a week or once a month as opposed to every day. I welcome to keep trying."

The Fleet is being harried on a daily basis and Trask is complaining about tedium? Yeah, that sounds about right. Irreverent attitude aside, he's actually earnest in his discontent. "What we're doin'? What we've been doin'? That…" His head vaguely shakes and his shoulders scrunch in a 'wtf?' gesture. Yup. Definitely annoyed. "It's frakkin' stupid." Stating the obvious ECO is stating the obvious. To Khloe, he quips, "Clearly, you've been watching too much tv. Brain rot. That's the only explanation as to why Captain Khloe Vakos is resigning herself to something so utterly non-productive." Then, wryly, he remarks, "What I consider normal, most people deem to be dysfunctional and frakked-up, at best."

Back to Cidra, the Harriers' SL notes, "For all intents and purposes, the Raider we snagged a few days ago is pretty much identical to the ones we already had, those external markings notwithstanding. So, unfortunately, that's likely a dead end. What about shipwide sweeps? It's possible someone brought back somethin' on the sly that they shouldn't have brought back." After all, there supposedly are unaccounted for skinjobs still in the Fleet.

"So far as I know, Engineering - on every ship - is undertaking every angle to search for what might be upon us. To no avail as of yet," Cidra says. "But we can run another suggestion up the chain. Identical? Hmm…" Cidra chews on that. "And yet… they are odd, are they not? With those three marks upon them…?" She gives her head a slight shake. "It is almost as if it *were* a specialized force being sent against us, and yet they are no better than the Raiders we have faced in the past. Not as sharp, in some ways." She looks to Khloe then, as the SL has done deeper study of the Raider habits than she.

Khloe nods in agreement with Cidra. "They're slightly slower and less precise than the average Raider, actually," she explains. "It dawned on me when I was reviewing why Decoy was having such a high success rate against them, and it's because of his bad habits." A pause. "Decoy likes to go for flashy cockpit kills and likes to chase engine exhaust. It's something that would get drilled out of you if you attended the proper two years of flight school." Crossing her arms across her chest - no, more like wrapping them around her midsection - Khloe's demeanor shifts slightly. "I had a thought regarding what those three marks might be. At first I thought they might correspond to a Centurion's claw, but doing some simple measuring disproved that right away. And then I got to thinking, aren't there supposed to be twelve skinjob models? Could the three hash marks mean an ancient numeral three?"

Silently, Bootstrap smokes while the ladies express their own observations. "Well, here's the thing: however those things are programmed? We don't know. All we can do is analyze the hardware to the best of our ability. Dissection against dissection, there is no discernible difference apart from those markings. In action, though… yeah, they lack finesse. Why that is, I can't say. No idea if it's intentional or a design flaw. I imagine doing a fleet-wide sweep for transmitters an' the like will turn up nothin', but that's no reason to not be thorough. 'sides, it'll give the MPs somethin' to do." Smirkity-smirk. "We do still have those transmissions from that Heavy Raider at Taupo and that spook basestar above the rock." That being Tauron itself. "We should experiment with 'em during the next attack. Meanwhile, those things are comin' from /somewhere/. Real frakkin' shame we've yet to be able to crack a Raider's nav history." Beat. "Well, provided they even have such a navigational system." As it stands, no one is sure how Cylon ships actually work.

That all said, Poppy's suggestion draws from the man, "Threes, huh?" Another drag and exhale. "S'possible. I mean, intel says they're workin' with the Fives, Nines, an' Twelves. Something about developing weapons systems. Think this might be their answer to The Gun?"

"Nothing flashy about aiming for a bright red bulls-eye. Helpful for a weaker shooter, in some respects," Cidra says to Khloe. Though the rest meets with a nod of agreement from her. "In any case. Slower. Less precise. Yes. No less destructive when thrown at one by the hundreds, but that is a matter of strength by numbers, not skill. I got out of a meet with Colonel Pewter not an hour before I went on Alert this day. They've been following your research into this, Poppy, and the higher-ups concur with you in terms of the…juvenile quality of these enemies. Or at least from some less-than-top line. Command's line of thinking is that this is related to that Cylon foundry we destroyed in wilderness space near Tauron. We have got their attention. And there may well be more of those foundries out there, perhaps churning these things out at a quick clip."

As for Khloe's suggestion about the Three, she drags her cigarette, considering it. "Could be… could well be… Lieutenant Colonel Baer tells me the Gun is useless in encounters like this. Takes too long to charge, battles are over too quickly, it would no be warmed up by the time we were ready to jump away. If they cannot beat it by might, perhaps they try to defeat it by these repeated, small waves. And a Raider is a weapon, if not precisely a new one…."

Khloe furrows her brow. "The trouble is, the tactics might work, but it's not economically feasible. The metal has to come from somewhere. The guts… have to come from somewhere." Poppy begins scratching at the inside of her left arm - a sign of fatigue, usually, but in this case, she may be on to something. "This is also another thought I had, but it's far-fetched. Let's say you have a military force that has units that all look alike. How do you tell them apart? Transponder codes. But what if you need some other means of identification that goes beyond transponder codes? I mean, all Raiders emit the same signature, don't they? What if the markings are… purely for their benefit? Logistics?"

"I've been wonderin' somethin'…" Trask begins, going on a tangent. "Any idea if The Gun works on skinjobs? Like, what would happen if the pulse was aimed at the Fleet itself?" Returning to the original topic at hand, though, "Dunno. Maybe it has less to do with the Raiders themselves. Calling card? Artist's mark?" Mildly, he shrugs. "We still have moles in the Fleet. Those markings might mean somethin' to 'em." Once more, shifting gears, he asks of Cidra, "Think Command might be willing to jump to one of the lighter fortified inner Colonies? Certainly wouldn't be the craziest thing we did, and we might actually learn something watching these swarms interact with the other hives."

"The Cylons hold the inner colonies tight. All the mines of Canceron, the industry of Picon, all that debris from the killing fields of Virgon. While their resources are not 'infinite,' they are as close to it as can be called it," Cidra says. "They do not lack in materials, if they are birthing new Centurions and Raiders. What Command wants from us initially is to scout for further foundries around the outer colonies. It should not take much. Three Raptors out on half-day runs from our stock, Papa has promised another three of his to scout elsewhere, and even Commander Laughlin is willing to loan out the two buses he has aboard the Praetorian for taxi service. That is the short-term, to find where they are being made if we can. The long term…"

Blue eyes sharpen on Trask. "Upon the Fleet… that is a thought, is it not…? The energy it puts out has not harmed our Vipers or Raptors in the field. If it could somehow suss out a skinjob… my, my. That is worth pursuing, that is. Prepare a proposal, perhaps in conjunction with Engineering, and coordinate with the Areion's people. If it is doable, and will not harm our own, I would like to give it a try." To Khloe. "Nose art?" An odd term to pick out, perhaps, but she does nod a little as she says it. "Or branding. Identifying markers. You may be right, Poppy. It is as much explanation as any."

It's at that point when the ship's PA system sounds, with someone looking for Captain Vakos. "I need to go. That's probably the update on Drips' and Hosedown's conditions that I requested." And with a nod to Trask and Cidra in turn, she goes.

"See ya, Poppy," is all the farewell the other SL offers, although it's amiable enough. Another drag. This time the smoke flows out of his nostrils like exhaust. And since he's ever one to tear something apart in order to (ideally) make it better, the sardonic observation about Command's proposed plan should come as no surprise. "Yeaaaaaah. Just one itty bitty, teeny weenie problem with that: We have no way of knowing when the swarm will attack…" And it surely /will/ attack, "Which means our hunting party will have a helluva time finding its way back home if the Fleet needs to jump. We could have a pre-arranged rendezvous point, but there is the outside possibility that the Fleet will have to bail a second time for whatever reason. So, before I sign-off on anyone goin' out, we need a contingency plan and a contingency plan for that contingency plan."

As for his idea about The Gun, his logic is thus, "In Audumbla, Morgenfield was acting weird. Apart from the whole being a murderous bitch skinjob thing, that is. It's possible she was faking — and seeing how I was kinda frakked up from CEE-OH Two poisoning, I might've been delusional or hallucinating — but I really believe she was genuinely freaking out over the prospect of dying in that soup. More to the point, she was acting like she was similarly sick like we had been, except her oxygen tank was uncompromised. And when we made the jump out of the radius of radiation, she seemed to regain her wherewithal. If The Gun's radiation is similar — and I have no frakkin' idea if it is — we could scan people for similar symptoms. No small project that, and it'd require I dunno how many runs to examine the populace, and we sure as frak will need to monitor the people doing the monitoring. Still, it might help narrow down things."

"A rendezvous point is a necessity, I quite agree," Cidra says. "They must have some way to find us if they are away when the Swarm sets upon us. Perhaps we should not send them out all in one swoop. Lower the chance of eight Raptors getting cut off from the Fleet. And it would make them less noticeable, perhaps able to wait for an escort bus we send to a pre-arranged meet point, if worse comes to worst." As for the Gun's radiation. Well, the CAG is a Raptor pilot, not an engineer. But this clearly appeals to her. "That… could truly work. And it is simplicity; I am surprised we have not thought of it before. I know not if the Areion's radiation would debilitate humans put under it as well as skinjobs. I… understand not how it works myself, honestly. It is certainly worth proposing. Medical has found no way to tell a skinjob from a human before now, but I do not think this an option they have tried."

"I'd asked Doc Adair to run some tests, but I'm pretty sure that Five was exchanged before he had the opportunity. So, we have no samples to observe." Which certainly displeases Bootstrap. "That one Eleven — the one calling herself Atropos," AKA the one fried in the Raptor that Cidra and Trask were operating, "she somehow jacked in, but no one found any kind of subdermal port. And, if they did, I certainly didn't hear about it. It got me thinkin', though, about how it might work. She was too fried to check for nanites, and Morgenfield — well, it's possible those bits degraded upon death. The doc said something about how certain things are undetectable after X amount of time being dead." The ECO certainly is no physician. "Anyway, I was considering what could be different, yanno? Like, what is something that isn't standard testing? And it occurred to me: silicon levels. All of which is moot because we have no viable samples to check for elevated silicon levels. So, with that no longer an option, I came up with this."

As for the rest, "Staggering the search parties wouldn't be a bad idea. We also need to determine the time frames of the excursions. The swarms come every day, but not like clockwork. We can't loiter forever." Giving it further thought, the SL muses, "We need to designate a Lost and Found point. Somewhere the Raptors can wait for the Fleet to do a pick-up, if necessary."

"No more than six hours at the absolute outside was my thought so far as time frames," Cidra says. "Unless something goes absolutely backside-over-tea kettle, the Swarms have not been hitting us heavy enough thus far that we should have to jump twice in that time frame. But we shall still need a Lost and Found point." A pause, as if she's reluctant to suggest it. Though she eventually does. "Audumbla seems a logical one, given the concentration of radiation there. The Fleet found some safety inside it, while we were there." It was getting out that proved tricky.

Audumbla brings a small frown to Trask's face, which he attempts to cover with more smoking. This makes him come across more pensive than brooding despite the fact that he actually /is/ brooding. "Yeah, well," he finally says, "they were tipped off." For which he blames himself, having been unable to prevent Morgenfield from committing suicide so she could transmit her consciousness. Never mind that this incident is how he concluded skinjobs were able to do such a thing, which Intel has since more or less confirmed. "If we go to Audumbla, it does not go beyond Command. The only people who need to know are the COs until they tell their navigators to plot and make the jump. We still have at least one mole in CIC. It could be the XO, the TACCO, even the yeoman. For security reasons, this should not go beyond Pewter, Laughlin, Kepner, and Payback. We tell our drafted pilots and ECOs where to go right before they launch. No leaks."

Cidra does some smoking as well at mention of Audumbla. She exhales a long plume of it, murmuring something under her breath in Old Gemenese. "Well, we got the ship out of it. Paid in blood. And honors to our service." Is that bitterness in her tone? Perhaps. She nods in agreement to all that. "Concur. No reason the navigators need to know until they input the coordinates. I can sell that to Pewter easily, I do think." A pause, and another drag, before she speaks again. "Spiral talks as if we should start shaking the storage closets for 'Cylon sympathizers.' I would call him paranoid, but I suspect such paranoia will take hold of large part of this Fleet as this continues."

"Just make sure that he's buying that his precious Parry is also on that blacklist." Is that distaste in his tone? Perhaps. Trask may be difficult, but he generally has very sound reasons for what he says and does, even if it's well after the fact that people realize how sensible he actually had been. As far as the matter of Spiral, he taps some more ash from his cigarette. "Paranoia's not the problem."

Cidra's brows arch a bit at Trask's comment about Parry. "She is but a yeoman, no reason for her not to be. Though Pewter does trust her implicitly. Well. We all have to trust someone, or we shall go mad. Though I admit my trust does not extend far beyond those I fly with these days."

"Abbot did, too," he points out with a wan, wry smile and an indiscernible expressiveness in those big brown eyes of his. What is for certain is that Trask most certainly doesn't trust the redhead. "Out of curiosity, do you know if she was ever suspect in that whole fiasco?" Evidently, he trusts Cidra enough to ask that.

"I do not know," Cidra admits. "But there should have been a thorough investigation of all possibilities during the preamble to Abbot's trial." The way she says 'should've' doesn't indicate this is a thing in which she has complete confidence. "The evidence all fell so strong on Abbot when that tape from Leonis was discovered. It would have been folly not to consider every angle, however. Abbot, his closest confidantes, Major Tillman. Everyone who ever touched a console in CIC. I think Spiral is winding himself in knots too much, but he is not actually wrong. Just because one is paranoid does not mean they are not out to get you. Whoever they may be. A little paranoia is healthy in these times."

Without missing a beat, Kal quips, "Spiral has a hard-on for hate. If it weren't Cylons or Cylon sympathizers, he'd be chompin' at the bit over somethin' else. Paranoia serves no practical purpose. Prudence and pragmatism should definitely be cultivated more. Too many people are being permissive about the wrong things. And /that/ is the point of concern. Do I believe we have skinjobs in the Fleet? Yeah. Do I think they're a threat? Well, they're certainly far more likely to rat us out to their brethren than a human would. Are they the sole threat to the future of humanity?" He levels a look that all but conveys 'yeah, right'. "Would I airlock one on sight? Morgenfield I sure as frak would. Well, maybe not on sight. That's what Audumbla's for." Can't permit those transmissions, after all. "An Eleven?" Mildly, he shrugs. "A child molester, though? A rapist? Hells, yeah, I would."

"They are the enemy. They colluded to the near-genocide of our entire species." It seems to be a habitual response whenever the Eleven is mentioned around Cidra now. Though she's not so quick to spit about 'abominations' where that one is concerned, either. "And yet I wonder why they just do not finish it." There's hissed frustration in her tone. She seems half-surprised she spoke aloud, but she goes on once she does. "Perhaps they are now with these swarms. But why *not* those dozens upon dozens of basestars, if they truly are hunting us? Why not have just ended us all when we sat crippled over Tauron? Or lingered over Aerilon, or Sagittaron - before we met the Areion and its Gun. Why did that Eleven not kill us all when we had her in our Raptor…?" 'Her,' not 'it.' "Why did its copy not kill Ibrahim and Money Shot and the others down on Leonis when they encountered it? Why come so near to annihilating us and not just finish the job? It near drives me mad, Boots. The wondering over it."

Smoking the last of his cigarette down to its filter, he pensively considers what Cidra is saying. In the end, he simply exhales one more breath of smoke, drops the nub to the floor, and grinds it out under his left boot. "Dunno why, Cid. I'm not one of 'em. I /do/ know that we're our own enemy, too. And not just in the sense that some jagoff built those frakkers, although there /is/ that. Why do people prey on each other? Harm? Exploit? Abuse? Some of 'em are just sick fraks. Others… maybe others don't know any better. I. Don't. Know." And, really, it's not something he wants to ponder. Empathy for the few people from his past that he hates isn't something he's ready to cultivate. "Maybe they need us for something." The skinjobs, that is. "Or maybe that Eleven wasn't lying. Maybe there's dissent. Maybe they're busy gearing up to fight each other, thinking that we'll be easier to pick off than their own kind, so we can wait. If they were made in our image, that's a really frakkin' human thing to do."

"The Gods made us. Flawed, sinful, stupid creatures that we are. We made the Cylons… perhaps it is all just a sick wheel turning around to the same over and over again. They destroy us, then destroy themselves, then whatever is left eventually turns on the leavings, until there is nothing left at all to destroy." Cidra's smoked her own cigarette down to the filter. It's ashed and allowed to die in the tray that - as with any place the CAG spends any amount of time in - is close at hand. "Perhaps that is how it all ends. Like these swarms, everything whittled down by small cuts." She shrugs. "Well, I do not know either." Though she will likely keep pondering it, in whatever corner of her brain this question always burns, sometimes brighter than others. "Gods willing, the swarms will not get us today. I suppose that is the best we can manage."

"This has all happened before, and it'll all happen again," is sardonically snickered. Glancing at the map table, which strikes him as somewhat alien in the blankness of its current disuse, Trask lets his eyes linger. "All I know is that if we don't find a way to break the cycle, it'll keep repeating itself." There is something a touch rueful in his tone, having struggled with the ill legacy of his own bloodline. Viewing such dysfunction on a cosmic level really doesn't make him feel any better, and all these personal parallels he can't help but draw leave him feeling somewhat morose. "How we've managed to last this long, I have no idea," he finally concludes with a wry smirk tinged with a sadness for the human condition, and with a dark sense of humor that recognizes he's part of a sick joke.

And now thoroughly displeased with the turn in the conversation, he reverts to his defense mechanism of blithely shrugging it off. "What I can say with certainty is that there are some Vipers in the queue that are probably worried I'm standing 'em up." It's amazing how he can will himself into imperviousness, shoving what ails him into a lockbox. "I'll see about drafting that proposal, though. Not sure how much time I'll have to confer with Engineering, but I'll be sure to poke Dom. I'm sure he won't mind doing a lot of the legwork. I'll leave it to you to pitch Audumbla."

"So say we all, Brother Trask," is Cidra's oh-so-rueful response to that. Quipped with the faintest of smiles. "I should get to it as well. Should get to Pewter, then to pluck some Raptors to sift outer colonial space for foundries, then perhaps some rack time. Swarms permitting. That is a cycle I pray shall break this night." Not that she thinks it will. "Dismissed."

"The fun never ends," is the cheeky rejoinder. Then, with a jaunty, two-fingers tapped to the temple salute, it's back to the Deck for Bootstrap.

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