AWD #296: Asterion
Asterion
Summary: Bennett, Zhen, and Holtz return to Minos to return the body of the radio operator from Helios Alpha Second Recon. Afterwards, they make contact with the moon's survivors, and Holtz makes a decision Bennett doesn't like.
Date: 29/10/2013
Related Logs: Helios Alpha recon logs
Holtz Bennett Zhen 
Minos
One of the small outposts outside the domes on Tauron's moon of Minos.
IC Date

Three jumps to get back to the system — three jumps, and they've gone from the orbit of Piraeus with its serene blue surface to that of Tauron, an angry, molten, irradiated hell. There were people here once, by the Billions-with-a-"B". And now there's nothing. Nothing at all. Even the DRADIS shows that. For several long seconds, there's the silence of the system as it registers new surroundings. Beep. Beep. Beep.

Nothing.

Not even a Raider.

Nothing.

Just the enormous green mass on the screen that indicates the moon. A moon that, when observed through the glass of the Raptor's front screen, appears to be just as dead as its father-world. The ports are rubble. Every last one. The buildings? So many are shattered, their life-sustaining seals ruptured, exposing their innards to cold, dead space. The scattered domes have hardly faired better. The only sign of any life, any life at all, is a single distress beacon.

It is Tauron's molten, engorged disc that invariably draws Bennett's gaze, once the raptor slips back into normal space with that familiar gut-wrenching shudder. Her hand steadies on the flight yoke as they streak toward the moon's orbit, belly-up. "Rainbow, see if you can pull up the coordinates of that beacon, and get that PIRCS up and running as soon as you are able."

Seated next to Bennett in the copilot's seat, Holtz opens his mouth to point out the distress beacon, but the Raptor crew knows their business, having spotted it already. As Bennett calls out her orders, Holtz leans forward, fidgeting for a brief moment in his seat; it's not often he's a third wheel in the cockpit like this. His eyes move from the DRADIS display to the glass of the cockpit as the Minoan surface draws ever closer, his lips a thin, hardened slash against his face as he surveys the shattered remains of the settlement. "Put us down as close to that beacon as you can get us, Captain," he murmurs.

Zhen is doing that thing she does, keeping her eyes forward and locked on the DRADIS. It isn't untill Bennett gives her something else to do that she allows her attention to drift and she starts multitasking. The PIRCS is powered up and then she tries to home in on the beacon as per the Captain's request which she then announces once she's assured it is correct.

As the Raptor closes in on the lunar surface, one thing becomes abundantly clear. The destruction here wasn't haphazard. It wasn't destruction for destruction's sake. There was no chaos. It was carefully planned, conducted with conventional missiles or mass artillery hits of some kind. The video footage of the PIRCS shows that the majority of the buildings that were destroyed were either in close proximity to the space ports or of some strategic value. The intention was to cripple rather than kill — or at the very least, to kill slowly. The radiation levels, though present, are concentrated outside the settlements proper and are low enough to survive — if exposure were temporary. There should be people here still. There should be survivors. Or if not survivors, at least corpses. But there's no one. Only the single voice Zhen brought up on loop, the static clouding the frequency fading as they approach. The voice is clear now. A man's voice. "— ning settlement Chiraco. Our supplies are running low. We are asking that anyone who can, please send assistance. Contact back on this frequency. Will will monitor it as long as we can." There's a five second break. "To any vessel, human or Cylon, we are requesting help from anyone out there. This is the mining settlment Chiraco. Our supplies…"

Good gods above. How desperate did they have to be, how bad did it have to get, for them to consider accepting help from the Cylons?

Bennett gives Holtz a distracted little smile when he speaks to her in aside, though her blue eyes do not budge from her windscreen as she guides the raptor in through the moon's nonexistent atmospheric ring. The pull of gravity, nonetheless, is felt in an abrupt shudder as the craft is maneuvered belly-down— and the controls suddenly require some effort to manipulate. "Yes, sir," she murmurs for formality's sake, reaching up to flip a switch that activates the bus's LAMPS sensors. "ETA is.. three and a half minutes. Nothing on DRADIS that I am picking up. Rainbow, make a note of radiation levels, please. Let's see how it compares to the last time we were here." Of the planned destruction below, she offers no commentary.

Bennett adds over her shoulder to her ECO, "Are there any recent FTL signatures you can pick up?"

Holtz scowls a little as the familiar recording begins playing in his ears once more. Still somewhat distracted, he nods absently to Bennett. The thought of fellow Taurons(well, Minoans, but close enough) asking the Cylons for help… the very idea still seems to disturb him, at least a bit. For the most part, though, he's calm and collected as the Raptor homes in on the distress signal. "I doubt you'll find anything," he says at last, at the mention of recent FTL signatures. "When Major Franklin and I were here, it didn't look as if anyone'd been around in months, and it don't look any different now. Hell, that damn recording ain't even been shut off."

Zhen gets the chills and closes her eyes for a moment. That is not something one should have to hear. Thankfully she has Butch giving her things to distract herself with otherwise she just might begin to obsess over the fate of those who were… are?… down there. "Radiation levels are safe enough for what we need to do…" There is a pause as she seeks out anything else. "No, no signatures. Looks like it's been pretty inactive here."

Coming in lower, the Chiraco settlement can be picked out easily enough just by the signal strength. The large communications array on the side of the settlement looks to have been shot apart from the air. However, on the roof of one of the still-lit buildings, is a crudely constructed transmission tower. (The Taurans are nothing if not a determined, resourceful people. Even after the apocalypse was rained down on their heads.) But there's no new voice. Only the communique, repeating over and over.

Dropping down closer and circling around the exterior, camera pointed towards the outside and windows, they can see right inside. Within the structure? The lights are on but there is nobody home. Passing a few living quarters, the beds inside look neatly made and throughout, it looks like the location is prepped for someone to come back to a neatly made home. As though this weren't a war, but a vacation. Find a relatively flat place to land and they could probably stroll right through the door. Welcome home.

"It is not colonial jump signatures I am curious about," Bennett explains, low-voiced, and something in the back of the bus begins rattling as they make their descent into the ghost town. The raptor's floodlight is switched on once they're near enough for it to matter, illuminating cracked domes and buildings still standing, innards covered in dust. "This is the spot," she tells the pair accompanying her, "I am going to put us down over there, by that makeshift transmission tower. Rainbow knows where the anti-rads are. I hope you brought your sidearm, sir; one never knows." Could be she's ribbing him. It's hard to say. There's promptly a solid THUMP as the raptor swings in for a landing and sets down with a billowing of dust scattered by its still-running engines.

Grunting offhandedly at Bennett's explanation, Holtz cranes his neck to observe as the Raptor passes the living quarters, slightly curious at the kept-up appearance of the rooms. There's a piercing glance at the Raptor captain at her mention of a sidearm, but not to worry. When the Raptor touches down, he immediately stands; clearly visible on his flightsuit's web belt is not only his duty sidearm, but a long, sheathed and quite non-regulation knife that probably came from his personal collection. "We'll get what we came for first," he states with a gesture in the direction of the control tower, "but then I'd like to get a closer look at those living quarters, yeah?"

Once the ship touches down the ramp is lowered with a hiss of hydraulics that is a bit louder than makes Zhen comfortable. Once their way off the Raptor's lowered fully she gets unstrapped and she grabs for the small anti-rad kit, that held tightly in hand at first. "Altight. Do you guys need me to stay here and keept he Raptor at the ready or should we all go?" As she waits for the answer the small box is offered to Holtz as if anticipating being told to stay.

Bennett unbuckles her harness, too, once the engines have been spooled down. The knife is eyed for a moment, then the viper jock himself, and she retrieves her Five-seveN from underneath her seat without a word. It's slid into its holster at her thigh. "Sounds good," she agrees lightly. "I suppose I should have brushed up on my Tauran before this mission. I never managed the accent too well, even after all those years.." She clambers out onto the bus's wing, once the hatch hisses open. "They used to call me ya kigeni." A slight, self-deprecating smile as her boots hit the ground. Whether Zhen comes or stays seems to be Holtz's call, so she leaves it to him.

Holtz looks at Zhen with a shake of the head in response to her silent question. "Lock down your systems, Lieutenant, you're coming too. Might need a third set of hands… and it don't look like there's anyone around to steal our ride, yeah?" he asks with a quick gesture towards the stillness showing through the cockpit glass. He does, however, reach out and take the anti-rad kit before moving to the hatch, following Bennett out onto the wing and then to the moon's surface itself, a hand resting on his sidearm as he jumps down.

Holtz looks at Zhen with a shake of the head in response to her silent question. "Lock down your systems, Lieutenant, you're coming too. Might need a third set of hands… and it don't look like there's anyone around to steal our ride, yeah?" he asks with a quick gesture towards the stillness showing through the cockpit glass. He does, however, reach out and take the anti-rad kit before moving to the hatch, following Bennett out onto the wing and then to the moon's surface itself, a hand resting on his sidearm as he jumps down.

Zhen takes a deep breath and shuts everything down. "No, I suppose we don't have toworry about anyone taking off with the bird." Shaking her head, Zhen follows the others once she's sure everything's powered off and locked down properly. "Just hope that we don't wind up having to take off in a hurry." She falls into step behind Holtz, her expression held carefully blank.

Bennett pauses a moment to regain her bearings, then begins trudging off toward the control tower. Her hand closes around her sidearm as she moves, sliding it back out of its holster; the safety, for now, remains on. "Any idea how long this fellow we're looking for has been dead?" she asks over the radio, since they still have their helmets on.

"At least four months," Holtz calls out in response, his voice crackling over the wireless. "CAG and I reconned the surface back in June. As for how long he'd been there before that… no idea." His steps are quick in the moon's low gravity, and it doesn't take long before he reaches an outer pressure door. Pulling the release, he shoves the door open and draws his own sidearm before stepping inside.

Zhen eyes Holtz curiously although the look itself will go without notice as she's still walking behind him. "Hopefully his spirit's been able to be at peace…" Stopping herself short, the ECO merely shrugs and trundles along, keeping a wary eye out.

Bennett pivots on her heel, shoulder to the wall of the structure as Holtz goes for the door. She scans the area around and above them briefly, as if half expecting a booby trap to drop down. When nothing seems forthcoming, she indicates for Zhen to go ahead after the viper pilot, and falls into step at the rear.

Abandoned buildings always have a certain aura of decay about them. This is no delapidated ruin. Everything has been neatly stored, folded up, put away. The halls are silent, echoing back every step they take.

The inner door only unlocks after the outer door is shut and the small chamber they're in has a chance to repressurize. Though outwardly he maintains a focused, ironlike calm, his pulse quickens ever so slightly as he pulls open the inner door and enters the settlement proper. "The gods can worry about his spirit, Lieutenant," he says into the comms. "All we're here for is the body." And with that, he steps into the corridor, eyes narrowed as he surveys the relatively ordered state of the settlement as he leads the group towards the control tower.

The setting is creepy as frak and Zhen, for a moment, finds herself wishing her brother was here with them, a fleeting thought given to how he'd protect her from boogeymen when they were younger. That gets shrugged off quickly, however, and she continues pressing further into the building as the Major does. "Yes, sir." A quick glance is given to Bennet from over her shoulder and she manages a little grin. "Have I mentioned how I do not like horror movies and shit like that?"

Bennett brings up the rear of their little procession cautiously, though does not dawdle. Once the chamber has repressurised, she unlatches her helmet's hardseal and tugs it off. Breathable air; it's stale, but it beats the hell out of the limited supply from her suit. Her tall figure casts odd shadows across the floor as she moves, and a faint smile curves her lips when Zhen addresses her. "You have not." Her eyes flick away, and scan the hall behind them. "I do not mind a good zombie flick on occasion, myself."

Holtz leads the group through the halls, his own discarded helmet in one hand and his pistol in the other. "Me, I prefer the ones with explosions." Not a man of particularly refined tastes, is he. His own contribution to the conversation notwithstanding, his eyes maintain a hawklike lookout as they proceed through the corridors. Abruptly, he jerks his head in the direction of a door that looks slightly different from the others. "There. That looks like the entrance to the tower."

A light snort is given by the junior officer although she doesn't say anything else. Zhen's normally not above friendly banter, usually, but this? She's really not feeling too chatty right now. The directions are taken in and, when the turn is made she makes it as well, turning crisply on a heel.

Laid out like the spokes of a wheel, it isn't particularly difficult to navigate the settlement. Move towards the center, then back down another long hall with small off-shoots of its own. The pass by engineering compartments, refining areas, break rooms. Storage areas with their cargo still boxed and labelled, never so much as unpacked. The lights are, but nobody's home. The only sound is them, and the dull buzz of Vit-D lamps that could use changing.

And Holtz is right. This is the makeshift comm tower, intended to replace the ones the Cylons destroyed. It looks like this was once some kind of motor pool control tower for rovers, which are all now gone. But within the tower, slumped in a chair, is the emaciated and decomposing body of a man of an age impossible to tell. He's been dead for months. The pungent stench of death hangs thick in the air, clogging the nostrils, clinging to the hairs inside. But here, away from nature's system to break the body down, he looks mummified with eye sockets sunken and black, his head tilted too far back. Jaw hanging open, a pistol rests between his teeth. The brains and blood he left splattered against the walls has dried and gone rusty-brown and foggy-grey as it sat, untouched, rotting.

It's a violent contrast to an otherwise orderly workspace, a workspace where there's a place for everything and everything is in its — no. No, there's binders missing. Three of them, maybe four. Their spot on the shelf is empty. One sits open on a small desk, but the others aren't anywhere in sight. Blinking lights indicate that both the CCTV monitoring system is still functional, as is the radio, which remains on loop.

"-questing help from anyone out there. This is the mining settlement Chiraco. Our supplies are running low. We are asking that anyone who can, please send assistance. Contact back on this frequency. Will will monitor it as long as we can." There's a five second break. "To any vessel, human or Cylon, we are requesting help from anyone out there. This is the mining…"

Bennett's bootfalls slow, and then stop abruptly as she takes in the sight that greets them in the makeshift control room. Her nostrils flare, and the smell of the decomposing body nearly pushes her back a step or two. Quickly, one of her gloves is tugged off and pressed to her nose. "All right, what do you need us to do?" she asks Holtz. "Grab all the paperwork we can find? I call shotgun on not giving the corpse a piggyback ride back to the bus." Her eyes flick to the CCTV feed, then back to the viper pilot.

As he enters the control room and begins to circle around the periphery, Holtz's lips curl in a fresh sneer of disgust; whether at the smell, the condition of the dead man, or the familiar, desperate sound of the looped recording isn't immediately apparent. He points at the radio. "Shut that damn thing off, for starters," he says to Bennett. Cold, slate-gray eyes survey the room, lingering for a moment on the workspace… and the empty spot in the row of binders. He moves to look at the open binder sitting on the desk as he motions to the body. "Lieutenant, bag him." Then, back to Bennett, as he places his helmet on the desk next to the shelf. "I don't much care about maintenance records or shit like that, but see if you can find any logs, records of what happened. I'd be curious to know what the frak happened here." Then he falls silent for the time being as he starts reading the contents of the open binder, with the occasional glance at the still-functioning monitor screens.

If it were any other pilot Holtz were speaking to like that, he might well be met with righteous indignance. Saint Clair, however, appears to have other things on mind. That, or the viper's acerbic nature just doesn't disturb her calm much. She fiddles for a moment with one of the panels before finding the 'transmit' button and disengaging it. Then, with a glance around the workspace, she begins the search for log books. An armload of binders is pulled off the shelf, and she begins thumbing through them. Any that don't meet their requirements are discarded atop the table, with no regard for the order in which they were found.

It seems Holtz has already found what he's looking for, or at least most of it. The open binder is, in fact, a log book, probably kept by the man sitting before them. It's been a while since he's had to read that much Tauran, but he quickly adjusts. "Here," he murmurs. "Poor bastard's been here since the bombings." He flips through the pages, frowning in concentration. "It starts to drop off after about…" He turns back a couple pages, looking for a date. "… mid-February." Then the writing ends entirely. "Last entry dated May 17th." He straightens, blinking as the implication sets in. "«Gods damn you, Sheperd, this man didn't have to die,»" he mutters in vehement, guttural Tauran. When he turns back to the others, Zhen is gone, along with the bagged body. His eyes settle on Bennett. "What do you have?"

Bennett is moving through her collection of log books much more slowly, owing to the fact that she can barely make out a few words here and there. Fragments of sentences, occasional idioms. "Busaf," she murmurs, flipping the page. Then another, and another. "Busaf. Some sort of automobile manufacturer. Sales reports? I.. could not begin to guess." The book is closed and tossed top a pile of maybes, and the next one retrieved. Another glance at the CCTV feed, and her fingertips brush her sidearm before she sets to perusing the binder she's got. "Let's bring that one with us," she tells Holtz, unnecessarily.

Holtz closes the log binder and moves over to where she's standing, looking over her shoulder at the open binder in front of her. "Busaf's a Tauron company. Yeah, cars, rovers, that sort of thing. Tough hunks of junk." he offers at the sound of the familiar name. "My first car was an old Busaf beater. Damn thing was older'n I was. Still ran okay, though." There's a slight frown as he runs down the list. "Looks like… a vehicle manifest. Everything this settlement had in the motor pool…" He trails off, frown deepening as he looks out the window and down into the vehicle bay. "Except most of what's listed here is gone." He points down into the bay; there's a few large haulers parked in a line against the wall, but the rest of the place is empty. All the rovers and other light vehicles listed in the manifest are nowhere to be seen.

With a contemplative look on his face, he reaches around Bennett and starts flipping pages until he gets to the maintenance records, scanning through them before thumping the paper with his finger. "See that? Maintenance starts dropping off around mid February. Same time as the activity log started falling off." He moves away and starts pacing back and forth in the open space behind the desk. "See if you can find a supply listing, yeah?" Abruptly he breaks his short-lived pacing and grabs for another binder.

"..in the motor pool," is spoken at roughly the same time as Holtz, as Bennett belatedly reaches the same conclusion. She smirks slightly to herself, and looks up from the next folder she'd begun to flip through. A meticulously detailed log of food supplies. "February… eleventh.. seems to be the last entry here, too," she murmurs, skimming through the empty pages remaining in the log book. "Do you think it is odd that there have been no.. personal logs in any of this? At least, none that I have found thus far." The supply book is handed over to Holtz, in case he cares to scrutinise it further, and she slides yet another binder out of the stack.

"Maybe, maybe not," Holtz responds as he accepts the supply manifest from Bennett's hands and starts paging through it. "You might find his —" he jerks a thumb in the direction of the chair the dead man had been seated in until Zhen took his body away — "but I don't think you'll find any others…" He trails off, and there's a nod, as if he sees something he was expecting in the text before him. "Yeah. Lookit this. Weekly inventories up until the second week of February. After that, it goes to monthly… and there's a hell of a lot less listed. As if all their shit just up and disappeared, or… were taken somewhere." He straightens, folding his arms over his chest. "Well, Captain? Think they might have just packed up and shipped out?"

Radio logs. Bennett's binder is full of radio logs. The patterns of the numbers are easily reconizable, even in a language that is barely familiar. Pages and pages of them, dated right up until the middle of May — right up until, presumably, the day he died. It must have been a fair portion of what the last remaining Minoan did with his time, as there are carefully labelled recordings of what was found on every known radio frequency, checked every day. Emergency beacons. Automated signals. Automated signals. Static. Silence. Static. Static. Automated signals. Static. Static. Static. Static. As time wore on, beacons and signals were replaced with static, no doubt the result of the energy sources that drove them dying away. They drop off, one by one by one….

Bennett furrows her brows slightly as she pages through the binder in her hands. The CCTV feed has been mostly — though not completely — forgotten by now, and her helmet sits abandoned atop the desk next to her pile of 'maybes'. "Shipped out where?" she answers Holtz, voice low and faintly distracted as she taps out some sort of rhythm with two fingertips against the page she's perusing. "No way to get off the moon, unless they went underground or something.." She flips the page again, pauses. "Hey.." She touches the other pilot's arm lightly to direct his attention her way. "Hey, what do you make of this?" A page is slid out from near the back of the log book and handed over to him. "I can't make out most of it, what do you think?"

"That's what I mean," Holtz clarifies. "Most of these settlements and outposts either got bombed or were close to a site that did. And fallout's a bitch, yeah? They had to know they couldn't stay here forever. But they go underground, insulate themselves a bit from the ambient radiation…" A shrug. "Ain't perfect, but it'd be better'n sticking around." At her touch, he turns in her direction, and obligingly cranes his neck to look at what she's got. He takes the paper, reading through a series of numbers, until his eyes fall upon a neatly penned line at the bottom. "Here now, what's this?" he mutters. Reading aloud, he translates the Tauran words to Standard for Bennett's benefit. "Sun above and star below; both god and man; lover, monster, beloved son." A glance at the binder, and then at Bennett. "This was in the radio log?"

"Mmhm," murmurs Bennett in some sort of absent agreement regarding Holtz's extrapolation. Or, possibly, in answer to the question posed to her. Another glance at the security feed before she pages back through the radio logs. Searching for something, anything, that might provide a clue to this mystery. "I do not understand. Who could it be referring to.. Charybdis was a monster. Definitely not a lover." She smirks again slightly.

<FS3> Holtz rolls Astronomy: Good Success.

Concentrating on the piece of paper, Holtz doesn't answer Bennett. Instead, he just stares, occasionally muttering to himself. "Something… something in a song…" He grunts in frustration after a few moments longer, but then suddenly a brow twitches. "Wait a minute. Asterion. A son of Zeus, with the head of a bull and the body of a man. The guardian of the Labyrinth." He shakes his head, looking around as if searching for sudden inspiration. "Could be what it's referring to, but I don't get what it has to do with anything."

The CCTV circuits are still functional. It takes a bit of adjustment to bring them back to life — a tweek here, a fiddle there, mostly to get battery power routed to where it should be. The lights flicker once and then dim faintly from the additional drain on a system that's been left sitting for months and months. When the screens flick to life, they're black at first, then brighten to the greyscale of black and white video. They must've shut down to powersaving mode after several days without input, as they unmistakably present a view of the room while his corpse was still fresh. The angle is an awkward one — from above the stairwell, its corners trimmed off on one end in its attempts to focus on the control panels, the people intended to work them, rather than those coming or going. It's an eerie parallel of the room as it is now. Date stamp - 20 May 2005 01:08:21.

"Asterion," Bennett repeats softly. Tap, tap, tap as her fingers move over the security systems' controls, trying to find where recordings might be kept. It's slow going, and a shame Zhen is off hauling that body and unable to help her out. "Gods, but that rings a bell.. wasn't it.. wasn't it a reference to the coins they used to mint here on Minos? Back before the war.. Asterion the minotaur." Her lower lip is trapped between her teeth as she finally brings something up from disk. "Here we go. Sir, take a look at this." She taps the middle screen with a slim finger. "Why the hell would they want to monitor whoever was at the controls? And why would they record it? Unless.."

"Asterion. Ruler of the stars, in the old dialect. Yeah," Holtz confirms with a faraway expression on his face. "Yeah, that's right. And… and they had a star on the underside. It tracks, all right." His head jerks to the side, eyes following Bennett to the monitor screens, first to the date stamp and then to the image itself.

As gruesome as it might be to watch play out, there's something even more disjointed about the last few minutes of this man's life when watched in static-laden rewind-reverse. The blood and the brains don't splatter outward, but retreat back into their proper container. The barrel of his gun slips out of his mouth, as though maybe he's chosen to live. The… wait…. what? His face is agonized as his sidearm returns to its holster, as he rises back up to his feet, as his arm… his arm, bent at an impossible angle, pops back into its place, as though the pair of hands on him belonged to a kindly stranger. But they don't. They don't belong to a kindly stranger at all. They belong to a man, or rather the back of a man, who the Chiraco's late and last host is fighting fiercely, furiously, despite his emaciated frame. A man he's arguing with, vehemently flinging what must have been an impressive range of invectives at him, though the rage on his face is fading more and more the longer the footage squiggles backwards towards its origin. It seems an offer is being made — an offer issued coolly, politely, to the now-dead man, who is doing nothing but sitting in his chair, a look of shock on his face. No, no, he's alone now. He's alone, documenting the latest in his log book — the odd backwards rolling of time, no doubt, merits being written down.

"..unless old stinky here is the one who set it up like this," Bennett murmurs, clearly thinking out loud more than proposing any sort of actual theory. "Ruler of the stars," she confirms softly, blue eyes still glued to the screen. "I am glad we brought you along, sir." The image fizzles out to static as she scrolls back, rewinding it by a few hours. Days, if she can. Piecing through images recorded on a ribbon of tape, that are all that remain of this unnamed man's life. And there, at the start of it all, she presses 'play' again. And he's alone. And damned if she doesn't try to squint, and see if she can make out what page he's on in that log book. "Well, frak me," is barely audible from the woman.

"Only wish we'd come sooner," Holtz mutters in response as Bennett rewinds the footage. His expression doesn't waver as the scene plays out in reverse, though his jaw clenches at the sight of the second man and the altercation. But then, his eyes catch something else. Something on the control panel that the camera is obligingly focused on. "Wait a second. You see that?" Holtz points. "That's a live feed. He was broadcastin' this to somebody."

"Well, you know what they say," Bennett replies softly, eyes still trained on the screen as they watch the grisly events play out in the correct sequence this time. "If wishes were horses.." And then Holtz points something out, again, at right about the same moment she herself notices it. "Yes, I do." Her notepad comes out of a pocket of her flight suit, along with her pen, and she jots a few things down. 'broadcasting to whom?' as well as 'Asterion - ruler of the stars' in her messy lefthanded scrawl. "I think he set this all up with the intention of someone.. or someones.. seeing it. Could you grab that radio log again? I feel like there are some dots we still have not connected here."

"Yeah," Holtz replies, having apparently come to the same conclusion as the Raptor captain. He doesn't move to hand her the radio log, though; instead, he stands in place, rubbing his chin until he suddenly reaches for his own pen and paper. Hastily, he scrawls out a word in Tauran script and shows it to her. "Depending on how you read it, this says either 'Astarion'…" he explains, "… or a four digit number. Since he put it with the radio log… I'm guessin' that's a frequency. The frequency he was hooked into when he was sendin' this out." A look back to the recording. He replays the final sequence, pausing just after the mysterious second figure almost effortlessly wrenches his arm out of its socket. "Who do you know of, has that kind of strength?"

"A radio frequency." Bennett snaps her fingers, and slides off the desk she'd been perched on. Holtz is beamed a smile. "Brilliant." His last words cause the mirth to drain away though, and her blue eyes tip toward the number her viper counterpart scribbled down, then back to the camera footage. "Skinjob," she murmurs. Likely the word on both of their minds. "That is a pretty common frequency, by the way. Wide band, mid-range broadcasting if I remember correctly. Though if they used a carrier signal, who knows where it was going to." She hits stop on the recording finally, and pokes around for a spot where the tape itself might be loaded. "I would like to take this with us," she explains softly.

"Shoulda realized it earlier," Holtz mutters, half to himself. He nods. "Which means there's a decent chance they ain't far." He waves at the monitors. "Go on, grab it." There's another look at the picture. "Can't tell much from that, but it don't look like a Six. Might be a new model. Intel'll want a crack at it, in any case." He leans over the desk, taking a deep breath before activating the radio and keying into the frequency written on the pad of paper. Finally, he utters in Tauran, "«This is Major Kurt Holtz of the Colonial Fleet. If you can hear me, respond.»"

For several long minutes, there's nothing but silence and static on the radio. Like the last operator's log, every frequency, each one — dead. It stretches on, and on, the hiss and the pop of a dead station on a dead world. Until…

<click> "We heard you. We heard it all. We won't believe your lies. And we will never surrender, no matter the cost. We will not come quietly. We will fight until the end." <click>

Gutteral Tauran, with unbridled rage in the man's deep voice. But it isn't a hot, chaotic fury in his tone. It's the cold fury of a man who has long ago settled on revenge, and will not rest until his enemy is left with nothing but the corpses of his kin to cradle and weep over. Blood for blood. It was always the Tauran way.

Bennett has already secured the tape by the time Holtz gives his agreement, and slid it into one of the larger, front pockets of her flight suit. Her jaw tightens slightly, almost imperceptibly, as the crackle of static fills the silence between them. Then a voice, and her breath hitches. Her hand strays to her sidearm, as if by its own will. She served on Tauron for nine years; the impulse to defend herself is likely muscle memory by now. Holtz, however, is given free rein to handle this situation as he sees fit. She's just the bus driver, after all.

Holtz blinks at the radio as the voice responds. There's a long pause before he answers again, but when he does, an echo of the unseen responder's cold anger has begun to seep its way into the major's voice. "«And this is the end you want? You'll die here, buried huddling in the bowels of your dead moon. Alone, unremembered, unavenged. Blood calls out for blood, but you'll get no blood here. Only a slow, agonizing, lingering death. Starvation, suffocation, freezing. Take your godsdamn pick.»" A pause. "«So. Is that how you want it?»"

Voices can be heard in the background — muffled voices, indistinct and unclear. The reception isn't especially good and its likely that most of the speakers aren't near the mic. But a few words can be picked out here and there, in their heavily accented native tongue — supplies, dead, supplies, endure, chance, alive.

<click> "You will have your answer in three days." </click>

Though she isn't able to parse the entirety of the exchange between the Major and these survivors — whereever they are — Bennett isn't blind to nuance. And, perhaps, the occasional word that she recognises. There's a glance to Holtz, and a nod in the direction that they parked the raptor, as if to ask whether she should go and get it warmed up. Her helmet's caught up by its hardseal latch, as well as a couple of binders they planned on bringing back with them.

Holtz wordlessly holds out a hand to forestall Bennett from leaving for a few moments. With only the slightest hesitation, he keys in the mic one last time, just long enough to say. "«I will await your decision.»" He straightens, turning to Bennett and taking a deep breath before speaking in a measured tone. Almost too measured, in fact. "All right, Captain. Head back to the ship, get Lieutenant Salazar and the body back to Orion. But before you leave… I want you to offload all your emergency supplies. Rations and anti-rads especially." A pause, followed by another intake of breath. "I'm going to stay behind and wait for their answer."

Bennett pauses when she receives the signal from Holtz to wait, and pivots on her heel to watch him. Her expression is, for the moment, fairly unreadable. Until he finishes speaking to the Tauran on the other end, and informs her of his plans to stay. "Then I will return Lieutenant Salazar and our body to the ship, and come back for you, sir. I am not sure if you have noticed, but I am your only ride off this rock, in case things go sour." Her lips curve in a smile, though there's slight reprobation in her eyes.

Holtz's eyebrow crinkles. "No, Captain. You'll return with Lieutenant Salazar and the body to the ship, and report what we've found to Major Franklin. There's no point in sendin' anyone back here until the three days are up. The supplies on your bird oughta last me three days, even if I have to stretch 'em out a little." He folds his arms over his chest. "I don't see any point in more than one of us bein' here, and last I checked, your Tauran ain't so good, yeah?"

Bennett's chin comes up a fraction, though her feet don't budge. Holtz may be bigger and meaner, but the Virgan pilot can be stubborn in her own particular way. "I am sure I can find a crew who are familiar enough with the language, sir, if your problem is with me." Her voice remains clear and, as always, just a shade too soft; like one almost has to strain slightly to hear it. "Is there anything else?" Her helmet is hefted up in preparation for her to depart.

Holtz sighs darkly. "Oh, come off it, Captain. It has nothing to do with you. I just don't see any reason for you to be here, yeah?" He dons his own helmet; he'll head out there with her just long enough to offload the supplies. "Or anyone else, for that matter. It's only three days, for frak's sake. I can make it that long." He snorts as he looks past her, off into the distance. "And I can always try'n strike up a conversation with our new friends if I start feeling lonely, yeah?" he deadpans.

Bennett's smile twists wry, and she sets off a step ahead of the viper jock. "I know you don't. But humour me?" She glances over her shoulder at him, not quite imploring, but.. asking. Nicely, even, which is a plus where pilots are concerned. "Besides, with survivors down here, Command is likely to want to send over more supplies and rations. We do not know what the condition of these people will be; there may be some who require medical attention as soon as they will let us in there. If you have a bus warmed up and ready, all the better." Her stride is smooth and surprisingly brisk— or perhaps not so surprisingly, given her height.

As the pair exits the airlock and heads for the parked Raptor, Holtz speaks into the com pickup, a crooked smile tugging at his lips. "You know, Captain, I never asked for major's pins, but they do come in handy sometimes, yeah?" He shakes his head. By that point they've reached the Raptor, and he opens the hatch and starts pulling out the emergency supplies. "This ain't open for discussion. You and Rainbow get that body home and report to the CAG. I'm sure she'll be steamed enough without you tearin' off back here. Besides, I know my people. They ain't about to let anybody in until they've made their decision… and when they say three days, they mean three days."

Bennett rolls her eyes slightly — behind her helmet, of course, once she's pulled it on and re-fastened the hardseal — when Holtz pulls rank on her. But there's no comeback from the woman. "I will speak with the CAG, and see what her feelings are on the matter," she informs him primly, blue eyes snagging his just for a moment as she clambers up onto the raptor's wing. The log books are tossed onto the now unused copilot's seat, and the tape tucked away in a small compartment above her own seat. "Be safe out here, Major." And then she ducks inside and hits the hatch release button, prompting a hiss of hydraulics.

Holtz shrugs at her statement as he meets her gaze. He'd expected about as much. "You do that," he replies mildly. "As long as you tell somebody I'm here. They may've kept up the place, but I'm not exactly feelin' like a long term stay, yeah?" he adds dryly. He stands there beside the supply crates, waiting and watching as the hatch closes and the engines start to spool up. Only after the Raptor begins to rise from the Minoan surface does he softly reply to Bennett's last. “I will.” He waves silently at the departing craft before picking up the crates and heading back into the building to begin his watch.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License