Battlestar

Artemis

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Death And

Posted on 10/21/2019 @ 8:02pm by Captain Arthur Theron

Mission: 1 - Twilight
Location: Flight Deck - BSG Artemis
Timeline: MD 01

"Taxman!"

The greying Viper pilot with the perpetually hangdog expression fumbled his clipboard. He'd found it tucked at the back of the hangar bay, lists for equipment checks abandoned years ago still snipped in, but they made good scrap paper while he tried to take stock of what, and who, the Artemis' flight deck could bring to bear.

But his CAG was back and the list wasn't done. He whirled around and stood with his hands behind his back, to show respect and also to hide the clipboard in case Lockdown wanted to see it. "Sir."

"Get the Outriders together." Lockdown's flight suit was zipped back up to the throat, which he probably thought made him look more like he meant business. Taxman thought it just looked uncomfortable, but at least this way he wouldn't have to watch the captain fight the urge to fiddle with his wedding ring. Like he was the only person worried about people.

Admittedly, Taxman's ex-wife was probably dead in a crater that had once held a dive bar on Aerilon, and his only regret was that a Cylon invasion probably precluded him from picking up the life insurance he knew he was still on the paperwork for. So he didn't really share Lockdown's regret or fear. Just his ex-wife's likely lingering desire for a drink.

"Didn't hear the action stations alert, sir," Taxman said.

"No action stations. But if we've got birds ready to fly again, there's a mission going out."

Taxman made a face. "We're still refuelling after the salvaging."

Lockdown looked like he'd swallowed a lemon, which in Taxman's experience was the CAG's usual reaction to the basic limitations of humanity conflicting with the stick rammed right up his ass. But Taxman also knew better than to argue, and with a few waves and shouts the pilots of Outrider squadron, the beleaguered survivors of the Battlestar Bellerophon, were gathered on the flight deck.

"Listen up," Lockdown started like he always did, as if gruff assertion was going to power this bunch of miscreants. When Taxman wanted something, he didn't shout or hustle the Outriders, and he reckoned he got better results by treating them how he'd treated his children when he was a new, doting young father and they bright-eyed toddlers: bribery.

"It's rough out there. No news coming in is suggesting this is anything but slaughter on a scale we've never imagined," Lockdown said. "And Artemis isn't going to stick around now we've got the basic supplies we need. We're going to punch our way away from the fighting, and slip past the Cylon lines." A ripple of approval ran through the Outriders, and something tight in Taxman's chest unclenched. Then Lockdown said, "But first."

The fist in Taxman's chest returned.

"We're Colonial Fleet. If we don't protect the people, we're nothing."

If we're dead, Taxman thought, We're also nothing.

"That's why Colonel Porter wants a Raptor jumping a distance away, transmitting a signal to Colonial ships. Survivors can come to the Raptor and the Raptor can bring them to us. Anyone we can help. Anyone we can save. I need a pilot to join me out there in a Viper; if the Cylons send in anyone - recon raider or basestar - then we protect the Raptor and the others getting out."

Taxman squinted. To his relief, young Hijack was the first to ram his hand in the air and not bother waiting to be called on. "And then we die, Boss?"

Lockdown's beady eyes locked on Hijack. "We cover our fellows as they escape. We protect the civilians following that transmission as their hope to survive."

"Sure. Can't the Raptor, I don't know. Keep its FTL drive spooled and ready so the Cylons don't need to treat the exploded remains of my Viper as a roadbump?"

"This is a volunteer mission -"

"To do absolutely nothing and be pointless or to die, nothing in between -"

"Hijack." Taxman was surprised to find himself speaking, cutting the kid off. But Lockdown had that beady look in his sharp eyes, and Taxman knew if he got Hijack to shut up, then the CAG wouldn't spread the kids guts all over the flight deck. "We'll take that as you not volunteering."

Lockdown's gaze flickered to Taxman, and as ever Taxman saw no gratitude there. The CAG probably just saw the simple truth that Taxman wouldn't be volunteering either. As if the Outriders needed both CAG and Deputy to go on such a stupid mission.

As if Taxman's days of daring heroics weren't smouldering somewhere alongside his dreams.

"This is a two-man job," Lockdown pressed on, looking across the flight deck. "And like I said, strictly voluntary. The Colonel understands the stakes and will understand if no Vipers are going."

And in the hushed silence that followed, broken only by the awkward shuffling of Outrider feet, it became very clear that no Vipers were going.

Again, Taxman found himself acting, going to clap his hands but remembering he was holding a clipboard. "Right. That case, we're going to help the deck crew get the birds refuelled. We don't know when we'll get a lull like this. Current CAP is back in an hour, I want the next flight ready to take over without the rigamarole of last time. Move, people." This time, his bribe was 'don't be anywhere near your CAG right now.'

Lockdown's jaw was tight when Taxman approached him, his gaze fixed on something very distant, and he reached out his hand. "How's the inventory coming."

Frack. Taxman reluctantly handled the clipboard over. "Work in progress. We still need -"

"I want the missiles re-counted. Considering the load we took in on salvaging."

Taxman was glad his was not an expressive face. This kept him out of a lot of trouble in his time. "I'll make Hijack do it."

"Good. He needs to learn discipline."

At the end of the world? He needs to learn to not shit himself in fear. "You got it, Captain."

"Right." Lockdown pushed the clipboard back into his hands. "I'm going to make sure my bird's fuelled up. If something happens, I've got to be out there."

Taxman watched him go, content in his role as quartermaster rather than first warrior. Because the damning thing was that Lockdown wasn't wrong, exactly. The Outriders would fly better with him in the air, because Lockdown was a better pilot than any of them on their best days and his worst.

But he always had to be so self-righteously insufferable about it.

 

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