2237-04-30 - An Offensive Idea

Van talks to Ryan about the possibility of going on the offensive.

Date: 2237-04-30

Location: Ryan's Office, //Vanguard//

Related Scenes: None

Plot: None

Scene Number: 996

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It's now hours after the defense of the shipyards. It's even hours after Van spoke with Webb, although far fewer hours. Some of that delay, no doubt, was due to the fact that Van actually requested permission to speak with the senior Picon officer. He reports in his blues, tapping on the office door, then enters when given permission, drawing himself to attention two paces in front of the desk and saluting palm-out.

Ryan looks up from his computer when Van enters the room, shutting down the monitor to give the pilot his full attention. He nods to the salute, then motions Van to the chair on the opposite side of the desk. "At ease, Lieutenant. Have a seat. What's on your mind?" he asks, his manner casual.

Stepping forward to take a seat in the chair, Van settles in carefully and then gives his right thigh above his knee a little rub, careful of the precise crease in his pants, "Thank you for seeing me, sir. I know you must be busy with the move to Vanguard." He takes in a breath, then lets it out slowly, re-collecting his thoughts, "I know that I'm not privy to a lot of the intelligence reports undoubtedly circulating through the upper echelons of the fleet, but I was thinking that our transfer to the Vanguard may be an ideal opportunity to actually strike back at the Toasters, rather than staying on the defensive. The Battlestars clearly have to remain in defensive postures, given how we're being hammered, but something as small as the Vanguard? I thought it might be possible."

A corner of the commander's lip quirks up at that. "I like how you think, Newton. Actually yes, that was part of the motivation for splitting us off into a separate unit. A cutter has a lot more flexibility than an entire taskforce."

Getting a positive response from a commander after stewing on Webb's dismissal of his suggestion leaves a little surprise around Van's eyes, and a hint of a smile at his lips. "Thank you, sir. Along those lines, I've been thinking..." there's a pause, and a tiny, wry, self-deprecating touch to his voice as he continues, "...probably a little too much, about the Toasters. They clearly know how to inspire fear, and I was wondering if it's possible to understand fear without feeling it. The basestar retreating without its Raiders yesterday shows that they have some sense of self-preservation beyond military expediency, I think, and I thought it might suggest that if we could hit them at their own construction yards, we might actually cause them to act out of fear -- or caution, at least."

Ryan leans back in his chair a bit, chewing over Van's words thoughtfully. "I'm not sure I'd draw the same conclusion about self-preservation there. What is a tactical retreat if not military expediency?" He turns a hand over in a vague gesture. "Say you could take human emotion out of the equation. Weigh everything like a machine would. Seems like you'd fight until the odds were no longer in your favor, then withdraw."

"I suppose it could be valuing the recovery of the Raiders less than repairs to the basestar, sir," Van admits, "Which in itself suggests some things about their capital-ship repair capabilities versus their fighter construction capabilities, doesn't it?" He pauses then, frowning in thought for a moment, "I'm not sure that we should weigh things as a machine would though, sir. Unless the Toasters had humans advising them, the massacre at Big Blue Stadium shows either hatred or an understanding of how to cause fear, doesn't it, sir?"

"Sure, but I'm not sure what it suggests that doesn't mirror our own experience. A few dozen Vipers are a hell of a lot easier to replace than any capital ship. Even if you're weighing the human cost, assuming that they value their individuals as 'people', risking a couple thousand crew on a capship to save a couple hundred... the math doesn't add up. We don't think that way, of course, or the fleet would've left the rest of us to rot on Canceron. But maybe that's how the Cylons think." The mention of the stadium causes the normally amiable Ryan to frown, a sadness creasing his eyes. "You tell me, Newton. What do you think Hyperion was about? The siege, the stadium massacre, Triton. What's your tactical analysis?"

Van nods his acceptance of the alternative (and probably more likely) interpretation of Cylon actions over Scorpia. The pilot's eyes unfocus somewhat as he thinks on the question, cheeks tightening as he goes back to those horrible days at Triton. When he responds several long moments later, his voice is tight, sharp with the pain of the memories, "I think they needed a big win and fast. If they were ever going to have a chance of us backing off and leaving them be. I think that we kept that from happening, so they wanted to break us. They tried starvation, they tried fear, they tried despair... then they used overwhelming force."

Ryan listens to the analysis, nodding slightly. "Not a bad hypothesis. We don't know, of course. I think if anyone really understood Cylon Psych 101 - Greystone included - we wouldn't be in this mess in the first place. But let's run with that theory for the sake of argument and ask the million cubit question: Do you have to feel fear to understand it as a weapon? Or do they understand us in the same way that we understand animal instincts?"

Van nods acceptance again, then frowns slightly at the question, "Well, sir. I would say that we understand animal instincts because we have them, to some degree. But I'm a Viper pilot and a software engineer, not a psychologist or a zoologist." He shrugs a little helplessly then, "I would say that in order to cause fear so effectively, you have to know it. That might be wishful thinking though, sir."

"Me either," Ryan admits with a brief, somber grin. "But I'm just an old rescue pilot. And maybe you're right, maybe they do have them to some degree. But you don't train a dog the way you do a toddler. Some of the base instincts may be the same, but you gotta understand what makes the dog tick. Can the Cylons feel fear? If so, what scares them? Do the Raiders you've fought ever act like they're afraid?"

"Afraid? I don't know. They've cut and run some times, but that could just be pragmatism or self-preservation." Van shakes his head, "I've been trying to watch, since I started thinking about it, but I don't know. It's hard to tell one from the other."

Ryan taps a pen on his desk a few times and then points it at Van as if to say 'there you go'. "Humans make illogical decisions when they're scared. We lash out. We run away even when doesn't make sense. Do the Toasters do that?"

"I've seen them stay when it doesn't make sense. I don't know that I've seen them leave when it doesn't." Van's thoughtful frown deepens, "Then again, whether it would make them fear or just cut into their supplies, hitting their means and materials of construction would be good for the war effort, would they, sir?"

"Of course," Ryan agrees readily. "Rules of warfare 101. An army can't fight on an empty stomach." He smirks. "Of course we have to extrapolate that a bit for the Cylons," he admits. "They need Tyllium and bullets same as we do. Otherwise they wouldn't be fighting us for territory."

"I was thinking more the materials to construct more toasters." That brings a little more fire to Van's voice and eyes, "They kill our children, I say we kill theirs -- metaphorically speaking. Find where they're making more, and take it out. Especially the Raiders or basestars."

"So say we all," Ryan agrees solemnly, that pen tapping again. He then squints a little at Van, perplexed. "But... I'm not really sure I understand what you're driving at, Newton. We already launch attacks on their production facilities when we can. You were in that raid against that factory in Arlask, weren't you?" Maybe Van missed that particular mission on Tauron, but the Wolfpack was there. "And we took out some production facilities in Honnal when we hit it."

"Of course, but we don't know where they build the basestars, do we?" Van shrugs slightly, "Or at least, no one has ever told me." He doesn't sound put out by that. "If Intel doesn't know where they are, I thought that was something the Vanguard could contribute. Valuable knowledge, yessir?"

Ryan considers that for a moment, but then shifts his weight forward so his chair tilts and his elbows come down onto the desk. "Well, Lieutenant. Any information the fleet intel service may or may not have on the location of any basestar construction facilities would be classified. But of course you're right, that would be a valuable target indeed. Assuming that cracking such a hypothetical target wouldn't be a suicide mission."

"The way I figure it, sir, we don't have to crack it. We just have to find it. I figured that the battlestars could probably be spared for a targeted strike. If we could find a target." Van smiles ever-so-faintly, "Because if it's alright with you, I would like to avoid suicide missions if possible, sir."

"You and me both, son," Ryan agrees with a brief smile. "What I meant though, was..." He puts the pen down on the desk. "You gotta figure there's three possibilities." He starts ticking off fingers. "One: Either we know where the basestars are being built, but we don't have the resources to go after it. Two: We've been looking but haven't been able to find them. Or three: Fleet intel is too stupid to look for it or plan an attack if we could." Ryan then flashes a grin. "You can draw your own conclusions, Newton. But either way, I appreciate you sharing your concerns with me."

"If it's three, we're in trouble, sir." Van responds to the other Picon's joke with good humor, "I just..." he shrugs slightly, "...I suppose I had to bring it up myself, not because I didn't think Intel -- or you, sir -- had thought of it, but because I needed to be doing something active, rather than reactive." Van's smile fades away into a slight grimace, "It would be good to hit the Cylons instead of being hit. Strategically, I mean, not just tactically. Certainly it would do the Timber Wolves good, sir, after the hit we took losing Twinkle Toes."

"I understand," Ryan says, seeming untroubled by the pilot's need to talk strategy. The mention of Twinkle Toes draws a sympathetic frown. "Bad luck, that. Never easy, losing a man. Though at least Tomlinson's going to make it."

Van hesitates slightly at the mention of bad luck, "Perhaps not the choice I would have made, sir, but it was a brave one, sacrificing himself to defend the shipyards." And apparently that's as far as he'll go, as he readily nods at the mention of Jigger, "Absolutely, sir. He's a good pilot, and would have been missed. It's a testament to the team that we lost that few in a fight that big. Definitely my biggest scrum since Triton." And likely a good bit larger than Triton, but you have to have some Picon pride.

Whatever Ryan may think about Kaz's choice, he just offers a somber nod. "He was a good man. Good soldier. But yes, the squadron put in a good showing. And so did you. Brought down three, if I recall from Webb's report. Keep up the good work."

"Just three that no one else was shooting at, sir. Hammerhead and I spilled a lot of oil out there." Van nods a bit more, "But thank you sir. You put us where we'll do the most good, we'll do it, sir." Apparently, that's all that Van had for the senior officer.

"We'll do our best," Ryan promises. Seeing that the lieutenant doesn't seem to have anything further, he says cordially, "Dismissed, Lieutenant. My door's always open."

Van stands up when he's dismissed, bracing to attention and saluting once more, "Thank you, sir." And then he about faces and departs.


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