Philosophy in the Glass Cloud
Location: Observation Deck
Timeline: Backpost: PCH-13 2200 Hours
Amaris had been working almost nonstop for weeks. She’d been sleeping very little and thinking even less. So much had been lost; she was doing everything she could to avoid thinking about Martin. She remembered his handsome face and tried to push it from her mind and she remembered the blood stains his head injury had left on her uniform. Everything was different.
She was glad that the observation deck was empty and everyone else seemed to be living their lives elsewhere. She sat leaning against the huge window and observed the beautiful scene outside the Battlestar. The Polmar system was full of spatial anomalies, so it was a colorful view in the extreme. Her large brown eyes filled with tears; they flowed freely down her cheeks as she shook and weeped. Her sounds of pain droned at first like a ghostly sigh, but it increased in volume over a series of minutes until she was wailing, repeating the word “no” over and over again like a mental patient. Her eyes were closed and she had sprawled out completely in front of the window.
After nearly a half hour, the wailing had stopped and she had picked herself back up into a seated position on the floor. She looked out of the window expressionlessly as tears continued to fall from her eyes.
Ranulf wanted some quiet time, he could read in the bay with all the background noise but tonight he just wanted some peace and quiet. He loved looking at the stars, but he had no flight scheduled and with resources what they were he had a snow-balls chance in hell of getting a non-essential flight. He remembered the observation deck, few people went there except for couples seeking a romantic spot to hang out. It was late so he figured they would not be there at this time of night. He had a bag of books and note pads, all the stuff he needed to calculate weak points on the Cylon Raiders, best angle to fire on them from and that sort of thing. He was trying to learn how to conserve ammunition so he could stay in the fight longer.
He was thinking about the problem with the type VIII’s and hoping it was sorted out soon as he entered the lounge and stopped. The XO was there and the first thing he noticed was.. She was crying? Her cheeks and eyes were red so she had been at it a while. His first reaction was to reach for his handkerchief. He took a step closer offering it to her. “You can keep it Colonel, I will just leave, I did not mean to barge in on you Ma’am.”
As soon as Amaris realized she wasn’t alone, her eyes grew large. She had no desire to be seen crying, especially by junior officers; by anyone, really. When the man stepped forward with a handkerchief, she raised her hand in refusal. “Thank you, but..” she began, her voice raspy. “I have my own.” There was a moment of silence between them where she realized how glad she was to have someone around, despite her hesitation about being seen this way. “You don’t have to leave.” she said simply, looking at him.
Ranulf saw her hesitation, and nodded “No worries Colonel, I won’t mention this to anyone ever.” He sat down on the bench but not close. He figured it might ease her mind if he told her some of his story. “Colonel I did not have a lot to lose, me and my folks were never close. My Dad only ever saw me as a servant and my mom sort of never liked any of us kids. She never wanted children you see, I was an accident. I worked about everyday I didn’t have school since I was about ten or so. As soon as I was big enough to be useful. So I did not lose very much. You ever been to Aquaria? Cold and barren it is for sure. Not very forgiving at all.” He looked at her making eye contact, “I sort of envy people like yourself who had something to lose, someone to have good memories about.”
Amaris furrowed her brow. Emotions were rather high for her at the moment, and she didn’t receive his last sentence with the honor it likely was meant to represent. “You have no idea what I have to lose.” she said in a chastising tone. She didn’t know who the man was and he wasn’t wearing any rank insignia. She settled on him more easily, her frustration slowly evaporating. “I’ve never been to Aquaria, but my dad used to show me pictures from his trips there. I’m from Tauron and I’m used to things being warm.” she finished her thought. “Who are you, exactly?”
“Yes you are right, I only know you to see you.” He relaxed when she asked who he was, he had thought for a moment her disdain was because she knew something of him. “I am Ensign Ranulf MacCloud, I joined the Solaria just before things went South. I was with the Viper Type III they sent with the Solaria. This was my first assignment.” He frowned as he watched her eyes, “that likely saved my life on the day the bombs fell. From all the stories I have heard since then the Type VII’s cost us a lot of pilots.” He took a deep breath, “Colonel if you want to talk go ahead, sometimes it helps. Rank has nothing to do with being human.”
“Rank has everything to do with this, Ensign.” she said resolutely. “I’m second in command of the last remnant of humanity waging all out war on an enemy bent on killing each and every one of us. I can’t afford to be human.” She pulled her knees close to her chest and looked out of the window again. “This is a terrible first assignment, Ensign. You barely got to taste normal fleet life.”
“I will concede you have greater experience in most everything Colonel. Seems to me if we can not afford to be human then there just wouldn’t be any reason to survive at all.” He watched her face wondering if he was going to far but he was on a roll and his tongue just kept going. “Ma’am, I am not afraid of death, As I am sure you are not. I am afraid of two things myself. One is to fail my unit. To make a mistake that costs the lives of my fellow warriors. The other though is I am afraid to lose my humanity.”
I met a small boy that first day, he was lost and alone and I took the time to comfort and help him. He is braver than any of us warriors because he is brave despite being so very vulnerable.” Ranulf’s expression grew firm “that is what being human to me is about. Being strong but feeling responsible for the weak.” He dropped his eyes “sorry Colonel, just folks need you a lot more than they need me. I know you need to be strong, at least to show other people. I hope you never lose your humanity though.” He looked back up “I would not want to follow someone who no longer cared for those we defend.”
“I think being human means having a heart, lungs, a brain, and two parents.” she said simply, looking up at him. “If you disagree with me, that’s your business. But the reason I’m a good leader and the reason I should be followed is because I’m willing to do anything, even to lose my humanity, so that people like you can wax philosophical about moral absolutes. Without people who are willing to be hard and sharp when things get dangerous, without razors, humanity has no hope of surviving.” she said, sounding more like the man who raised her than she had in weeks. “Let the civilians debate whether or not we deserve to survive, Ensign. Our job is to do whatever is necessary to make sure that we DO survive. That means destroying anyone who threatens that survival…even if it’s ourselves.”
Ranulf shook his head but he laughed “well Colonel one thing is for certain, no one would believe this conversation if your saying I am philosophical!” His expression became serious though as he thought about what she had said. “I am afraid I will never agree with you though Colonel. I would never want to be a razor as you call them. That sounds like a living death and a useless way to live. I would consider what you just said a coward’s way out. If you cast out feeling then what courage is there. It would be like me stealing food to be strong and letting others starve. If they starve then what was my defending them worth. When I fight I know what is on the line, my pain proves that. Your tears prove you are alive and feel. I would kill for the woman who cried, so she could live to cry again. If I died it would have meaning. If you stopped crying I would be dying for nothing.” His voice got softer as he spoke, his thoughts deeper than usual. He shrugged “Anyway Colonel even if you do stop feeling I will be there to the end.”
“You’re not dying for me, Ensign.” she said, getting up to her feet and standing close to him. The tears had been wiped away and she was back to her usual self; the woman that made grown men piss themselves. “Because I’m YOUR senior officer.” The man didn’t know her, so he couldn’t have known how outrageously insulting his words had been. He’d called her a coward and called her way of life a living death and useless. She got him in her sights and her anger flared. “I’m not your ward or a defenseless woman you’re sworn to protect, I’m your god. I have climbed from the bottom to the top and I’m your bosses bosses boss. I make the rules. I command Battlestars. I know about giving my life for others and I won’t take a lecture from an Ensign 30 days out of the academy about leadership and sacrifice!”
Her voice echoed through the small room and her heart beat loudly. “Without razors this ship, this fleet would be ashes, blood, and scrap metal.” she leaned in to him, close to his face, all of her grief directed in his direction. “You’re on the wrong list now, puppy.” she said darkly, more roaring than speaking. “Enjoy the view..” With that, she turned and walked briskly from the room, her hair tossing as she went.
Ranulf’s dad was bigger and louder and he had been unable to defend himself. She was daunting, more so than his drill instructors during his training. He knew he had overstepped. When he was a kid his dad would have beat the hell out of him. He stood to attention when she left. He had nothing to say. He had lost a lot of respect for her though. Just like his dad when he was growing up, when he was wrong and knew it he yelled the loudest, hit the hardest. He sat back down once she was gone, looking out at the black. As long as she did not ground him, as long as she left him fight, her disregard for him was something he could live with. He was on the Solaria for pissing off a senior officer. He seemed to have a knack for that