The Trick is to Keep Breathing
The Trick is to Keep Breathing
Summary: Sister Karthasi shows up to give Mr. Gars the last rites.
Date: 56 ACH
Related Logs: What You Don't Know

The hatch clicks, creaks, and opens, light streaming into the darkness only blocked by two vague figures, guards, presumably. And then a third, with less easily defined shape, between them, moving closer. "Mister Gars?" a gentle voice speaks, the Chaplain's, remembering that he prefers to be so addressed.

Off on a simple bunk, sits Gars, currently flipping a qubit into the air to pass the time. His face showing signs of a five o'clock shadow as he clearly hasnt shaved this morning. Looking on over at the door, he slightly squints. "Yeah?" he says, somewhat unsure whom to expect that would call him Mister.

The guards enter behind the Chaplain and close the door behind them. Greje is robed and hooded in Apollo's robes, dark greys and reds, a specral sort of apparition in the cell, the rope wrapped around her wrist with a pouch dangling from each end telling in no uncertain terms why she's here. Equipped to give last rites. "It's Sister Karthasi. Do you remember me?" she continues speaking gently and calmly.

"Yes, I do, ma'am" Gars says and sits up in the bed, eying her outfit with a supsicious look. "What's the occasion?" he then asks.

Greje comes slowly closer, her face covered in shadows, only the faintest edge of her profile coming into the light when she turns to look at him from just across from his bunk. "I'm here to serve you," she tells him, "To give you peace, if I'm able. Would you like to talk to me?" she asks, not pushing anything on him.

"I aint no religous person, ma'am" Gars says and scratches his neck a bit. "I learned to accept collateral damage a long time ago, so Im in no need of counceling. I'll await my trial and deal with it as it comes, thank you."

"That's alright— I'm not here to force religion onto you," Greje replies, "You're at peace with what you've done?" she asks gently.

"At peace?" Gars says and chuckles and shakes his head. "No, ma'am, Im not at peace with it. But I accept it. I shot legit targets who approached out of a civilian crowd; collateral damage was to be expected in the situation. If there was innocents killed, I truly regret it, but it was a hostile situation where I had to open fire to defend a wounded comrade…" he takes a moment to think upon the situation, he smiles and shakes his head at it all. "And now Im in here… for shooting in self defense… Against legit targets… Frakked up world, aint it?" he then says and turns to look at Greje.

"You did kill innocents," Greje replies. "Thirteen of them, and injured two more. I know that you saw them as a threat, that you thought you were acting in the best interests of this crew. But of all of them, only one was armed with anything more lethal than a pipe. I'm glad you feel regret. Regret is good when you've done something wrong. Do you want to help me pray for the souls of those you've killed? Apologize to them?"

"Excuse me?" Gars says and turns annoyed eyes on Greje. "Only one was armed? That's a load of bullshit; We were approached by a group of people, several of which were armed with pipes, bats and knives, and atleast one had a firearm. I saw it, the other marines must have seen it. They came straight at us and funned down Staff Sergeant Scipio. They were frakking combatants and legit targets and I opened fire to protect a wounded marine that could not have been evacuated before they had been on top of our position. Whatta frak do you mean only one was armed?"

"I mean…" Greje replies, keeping her voice on an even keel, "That after the incident was over, the civilians were searched for weapons. And only one of them had a gun. A handgun," she adds. "I know that in the heat of the moment it must have looked like a far more dire situation than it was. But that's the truth, Mr. Gars. You fired an automatic gun into a crowd of civilians armed with baseball bats and pipes," she says, no accusation in her voice, just letting him know, objectively, what happened. "And I understand you had reasons. You thought you were protecting your comrade. A noble intent. I can accept that. But can you accept that in acting on that good intent you have erred— with the consequence being the loss of thirteen lives and a deep rift of strife between two sides of what's left of humanity?"

"Listen" Gars says and frowns. "The definition of a Combatant is a civilian armed and attacking military personnel. A bat swung to the face can crack frakking skulls wide open! It doesnt matter if only one had a handgun! Fifteen or more people rushed our position with weapons that could be lethal if brought within range! They rushed us with knives, bats and pipes! All of which could have killed us if allowed to get within swinging distance! And they were rushing us to get their weapons in range! That made those frakkers Combatants and legit targets! I fired in self-defense against a group of armed and dangerous people who were out to do us harm! They were combatants! What is the problem with people? You wanted me to hold my fire, allowed them to approach us and start swinging? Is that it? One wounded marine wasnt enough? I fired to protect us against an assault! What they did was no different than a frakking bayonett-charge! Frakking Idiots!" Gars is now up and walking, pacing as he throws his tantrum. "By Militarty Law and Rules of War, I engaged legit targets! Armed civilians attacking military personnel are Combatants and legit targets to engage and kill! Military Law!"

Greje stays still, a calm counterpart to Mr. Gars' pacing and tantrumming. "I know you were only doing what you thought was right," she repeats, not looking to fight him on points of military law. "But there were consequences to your actions: deaths of innocent civilians; civil strife. You said you felt regret. Do you regret those consequences?"

"Look!" Gars says and aims a finger at Greje. "I opened fire at a hostile group of legit targets that emerged out of a civilian crowd. I knew collateral damage was to be expected and I frakking regret it. But I would frakking regret seeing my comrades get killed because I didnt have the nerve to act in a necessary fashion to protect them. Stray shots may very well have wounded or killed innocents, but more legit targets are dead than there is collateral damage. That is the frakking equation of the situation. I didnt ask those Combatants to hide in a civilian crowd, nor did I ask them to rush our position and gun down Staff Sergeant Scipio… But they did, and I had to act. I regret civilian casualties, yes, but I also know that it is unavoidable in a conflict with civilians present and I just gotto deal with it." He sighs and starts pacing to calm down, shaking his head. "Thats part of the job, unfortunately. You will cause collateral damage. You can try to minimize it, but you can never avoid it. And it seems that our officers, in their infinate wisdom, thinks that we live in a fantasy world where only the badguys gets killed. Well I got news… There is always civilian casualties in war, and this time, it was thanks to the frakkers who decided to attack us out of a frakking civilian crowd."

Greje again refuses to argue details of law with Gars. "And there could have been a lot more civilian casualties," she does add, however, "Not to mention our own casualties, if the people you antagonized had succeeded in blowing up the Nebula," she points out. "But we won't dwell on could-have-beens," she corrects herself quickly. "You killed innocent civilians, and you regret it, though you still believe you were doing what was best for the crew at the time," she sums up where they'd gotten to so far, just to see if it brings forth any objections from him.

"Frakking naive POG's" Gars growls and he paces back and forth. "Hades!" he exclaims then and shakes his head. "Yeah, I regret if innocents were killed, but I had to act or a mob of combatants would have overrun our position and done us harm. So I did what I had to do. I protected my comrades by gunning down the frakkers rushing out position. Collateral damage was to be expected and could not have been avoided. Its that frakking simple. Had I not fired, more marines than just Staff Sergveant Scipio would have been harmed, and possible even killed. That was the situation."

Greje nods her head slowly, though the motion is obscured by the hood. "There's no 'if', Mr. Gars. Innocents were killed. Do you want me to help you make peace with them?"

"So frakking innocents were killed!" Gars growls aloud. "It was a combat situation! It frakking happens! And all thanks to the frakking combatants charing our position out of hiding in a civilian crowd. Collateral damage is regretable but unavoidable. I saved the lives of my comrades, and in the end, that is all that matters. Sad frakking truth of being in uniform. Learn to deal with it change your frakking job."

Greje pauses for a while to see if Gars will add anything. "I suppose not. I'll pray for them for you, if you'll allow me," she offers quietly. "I've given them their rites— I know you're not religious, but some of them might have been, and they've been put at peace, if that means anything to you," she adds, as though she doubts it does, but offers it anyhow. "And there are still more consequences of your actions yet to come, of course. Do you accept them?"

"I have no frakking choice, do I?" Gars frowns as he paces. "I have to face up to the frakups of my superior officers who sent us marines equipped for combat and understrength to deal with civilian crowds. With only leathal force at our disposal, I have to face the consequences of my superiors frakking incompitence of prepping a standard frakking operation. Yeah! Im prepared to face the consequences. Probably the only marine around here willing to do so, cos my commanders sure as hell wont, I guarantee you of that."

Greje moves, then, almost seeming to float toward the bunk on which Mr. Gars had been sitting. "Will you sit, Mr. Gars?" she asks him quietly, an offer, not a command. "You haven't transgressed any divine law," she assures him, "You're in no trouble with me."

"Well aint that frakking peachy" Gars growls throug grinding teeth and moves on over to the opposite wall and leans up against it. "Look, all I know is that I was issued a rifle with live rounds and two fragmentation grenades. No flashbangs, no rubber bullets and no teargas. Four marines went to the Nebula, with no warning of the civilian populations status towards military personnel. I had nothing to work with but lethal force. There was no way we could have subdued that rushing group of combatants with aimed and precise fire. No way in Hades. We were not prepared for that situation, because our superior officers had not equipped us for handling civilians. They had equipped us for combat and for killing. And you're asking me if I have problems with it? I had no other choice than to gun those people down! I had no non-lethal options… What was I supposed to do??!" And with that, Gars slides down to the floor, leaning against the wall with his head, eyes aimed at the ceiling. He shrugs and shakes his head. "Whatta frak was I supposed to do?"

Greje turns slowly to follow Gars with her eyes until he slouches to the floor, then shifts toward him again, slowly lowering herself until she's kneeling beside him, arm stretching out to rest a comforting, sympathetic hand on his upper arm, slowly moving it up to his shoulder, if he lets her. It's still hard to see her face, but there's sympathy in that touch. "We're all doing the best we can in the worst imaginable situation," she murmurs quietly. "You've had problems before… consistantly, since the war began. I don't blame you. It's been hard enough on -me-, and nobody asks -me- to carry a gun and bear the burden of the survival of the human race on my back. I can't imagine what you've been going through," she states softly.

Gars frowns with a sneer, shakes his head, and then slowly, the frown turns to something else as his mind is flooded with memories. "You know…" he says with a soft sigh. "During the food-riots in Shakaar province on Sagittaron… I was stationed at the Thessios Compound ( can be read about on my wikipage )… Our orders were to defend the aid-workers from the crowds… It was a mad riot, I tell you… They stormed us… Fathers, sons, brothers… Hungry… They were so hungry that they ignored our warnings. All they wanted was to feed their families… And we were ordered to open fire.." suddenly, the darkness of the memories overtakes Gars, and a tear begins to emerge in the corner of his eye. "We gunned them down… Frakking civilians who only wanted to feed their families… Twenty or so dead… Twice that wounded… I got a frakking promotion for doing my duty in a tense situation…" He moves his hand to rub his eye and rid it of the tears emerging. "I dont know" he then says and shakes his head. "Maybe this is the Gods finally taking judgment on me for what I did that day… Divine payback."

Greje listens quietly, hand simply moving up and down his upper arm between his shoulder and his elbow as she does. "Maybe so," she replies softly, not sounding judgemental, herself, "I find that people often know best themselves when the hand of the Lords is upon them. It could well be some father's prayer over a son untimely lost… the hand of Zeus moves slowly, but with force. You never made peace with what you did that day," she notes, stating the obvious, as it's quite plain from the tears. "You should do so now, if you can. Before you pay back the price of the lives you took in full. I'm here to help you, as well as I'm able. -Can- I help you?"

Gars chuckles halfheartedly and shakes his head. "Frak it… You know, we grunts have a saying; Its not the enemy that will get us killed, but command. And here I am, getting judged by the gods for following given by officers to gun down civilians, payback in full as I took part in a mission where officers had not eqiupped me to deal with the situation we would encounter." He turns to face Greje and shrugs his shoulders with a smile, "Seems like officers have it in their power to turn the gods against their own men, dont it?"

Greje smiles faintly, "No. Not even officers outrank the Lords," she assures him. "Forget the officers… forget your orders. None of it matters. How do you feel… about what you did, then? That's what matters. You need to be at peace with your own actions, regardless of circumstance. If you're not, you'll only live the remainder of your time wounded and flailing… like a hart in the woods with a spear stuck in her flank," she quotes from scripture, "Turning here and there with no design, only injured and afraid."

Gars sighs as he gives it some thought, looking at the floor infront of his feet. "On Sagittaron" he begins, a bit cautiously, "Back then… They werent armed. They just came at us, and we were ordered to fire… That was frakked up… But the Nebula; those people were armed and attacking our position. I have no regrets about gunning them down. If innocent bystanders got hit, it was unfortunate. But back in Shakaar" he says and shakes his head with a sigh, "In Shakaar… Hungry frakkers, unarmed… I cant… I dont know… It's seems different somehow."

Greje stays kneeling— her knees are used to long periods of abuse, and she nods her head gently as she remains by his side. "Do you feel guilt?" she wonders quietly.

"About Shakaar?" Gars says, eyes never leaving the floor. "Maybe… I dont know… I've killed too many people to even care anymore." He sighs and shrugs his shoulders, "Maybe… Shakaar was… Those people didnt deserve to die. Teargas would have pushed them back. They were just hungry. But those frakkers on the Nebula… They frakking deserved it, and I dont regret opening fire on them."

Greje inclines her head, "I can't believe that," she utters gently at his sigh. "You're not inhuman, Mr. Gars… you feel. I can see that. You regret. You have an idea of what's right and what's wrong. It's your job— and it's been your job for a long time. I don't know how many people you've killed, and I don't know the reasons and particulars of each case. But you've been protecting your fellow men from one another— with lethal force when needed— for a long time. That would burden anybody, Mr. Gars."

"It's human nature to kill" Gars says as if it was the most obvious of facts. "It's in our nature not to care when it becomes a way of life, when it becomes your job." A sigh and then he glances briefly at Greje, "You aint a soldier. I dont expect you to understand. But my job is to kill the ones my superiors point out, or those that threaten the safety of my comrades. And that's all there is to it, and I would not wear this uniform if I was not ok with that fact."

Greje looks into his eyes, though her eyes aren't readily visible. "It's in our nature to comfort ourselves with reasons. It's my job. I was told to do it. This is the way life is. But if you've really come to peace with all you've done, you're luckier than most men," she finally states. "You don't— strike me as a man at peace, but I could be wrong. Tell me. If you died today, would you go with an easy mind, leaving behind no regrets, no restless memories?"

Gars begins to laugh at the question. Not out of spite, but out of some strange amusment over the sincerity of it. "If I diead today?" he then says and shakes his head with a smile. "If I died today I would die with many regrets. Few about what I've done on duty, though. Like I said before; if you dont like the job, get a new one."

Greje pauses, and nods. "Mr. Gars, the Commander has called for your execution," she tells him quietly. "If there are any regrets that you would like to talk through… job-related or not…" she offers, "Well, that's -my- job. To listen. And help bring you peace, if I can. I know you're not very religious, but if you'd like services… or to have the final rites… or if you just want to talk. I'm here for you."

Gars then bursts out laughing, a hearty honest roar of a laughter. "My execution? Without trial? Well thats rich! Ha! I am to be executed for dealing with a situation my commanders put me in without adequate equipment, chosen by my commanders? And I dont even get a trial? I havent even been interrogated. I was placed here and now I am to be executed? Well thats just great; Looks like out dear officers on top have gotten a case of megalomania." He cant stop grinning as he shakes his head. "Frakking wonderful… You know what I told Major Gaelan as we were in the Raptor heading for the Hera? I told him, that it would make our job so much easier if we only asked these civilian ships to allow us to dock on an empty hangardeck to avoid potential incidents. Aint that ironic? I suggested, before we had landed, a procedure that would avoid hostile contacts, and it was ignored and here I am, about to be executed without trial. You tell me; Should the Gods place some righteous vengeance on the heads of my superiors, who obviously are pretty frakking incompitent and now it is I who suffer the justice they are due?"

"It's not my place to dictate to the Lords what they should or shouldn't do. If you'd like to pray to Zeus for vengeance… I can do that with you," Greje offers, staying even-keeled, non-judgemental. "If that would make you feel at peace."

"Frak it all!" Gars says and gets on his feet and then throws a punch at the wall. "If this is Zeus justice, I will frakking gun him down with my M115 when I see him. I will rip his head off and shit down his neck if this is justice in his eyes." Gars then spits at the floor infront of Greje. "Is this justice?!" he asks her, his tone well and truly agitated. "I did what I had to do to save a downed marine from getting beaten to death by a rioting crowd. And I am to be executed because my superiors are fraking incompitent and cant even plan a standard fraking operation that involves civilians?! Why didnt they equip us for riot control? Why did they equip us for combat?! Why didnt they listen to me when I told them to clear the hangarbay as we came in to land to avoid confrontation with scared and frightened civilians?! Why The Frak Should I Die Because Our Officers Are Idiots!!! Where is the fraking justice in that?!"

Greje tips her face upward and her features finally come to light as the hood shifts backward on her head. "Declaring war on the Lords is an act of Hubris," she reminds him. "If you wish purification, I can offer it to you. You haven't been condemned by the divine, you've been condemned by mortals. If you feel the hand of the divine upon you, forcing you to some dire end because of unclean acts in your past, that's your guilt you're feeling, and you had better come to peace with it. That's no way for a man to die, with a soul bitten by guilt and remorse." She stands, then. "Let me help you."

"Help me?! Help me?!" Gars frowns and growls. "You can do one thing to help me, if I am to die because my superiors are frakups. If I am executed without trial, then this has become a fraking military dictatorship ruled by fascists, and those civilians who attacked us were within their rights to try and kill us. Inform this crew and the civilians what kind of fleet this is. A fleet with trial without representation. Execution without trial. And incompitent officers who are more than willing to kill their own men to cover up their own mistakes and faults." He spits at the floor one more time and then punches the wall yet again, before leaning up against it with both arms, head hanging limp down against his chest as he breathes to regain his calm. He sighs as he cools down. "If I am to die, I will do so with a clear contience, knowing I saved Staff Sergeant Scipio from certain death at the hands of that lynchmob." He then looks up and turns his attention back to Greje. "Had I not fired, thier bats could have cracked our skulls, their knives cut have cut our throats, and their feet and fists could have wounded us severely." He turns and rests up against the wall with his back, and lets out yet another sigh. "If people are so frakking dumb they dont realize our lives were at risk on that hangardeck… Then we fraking deserve to die at the hands of the Cylons."

Greje stands up to Mr. Gars' onslaught with the same peaceful demeanor, then eases closer as he calms. "You did what you did for a reason, and would do it again. I understand, and it was a noble thing to try and save your comrades. If you still believe you did the right thing, then stand firm and accept your punishment with a steady heart, knowing your innocence in the eyes of the Lords, and trusting that all things which go 'round will come 'round again. If that's what we deserve, then that's certainly what we'll get." She pauses. "Will you accept purification and the last rites?"

Gars looks on over at Greje with an annoyed glance at first, muttering something to himself and shakes his head. "Frak it" he eventually says aloud. "If it will make the Gods kick the asses of the fraking incompetent idiots running this show, I will do anything you tell me to. I will gladly sacrifice my life if it means my comrades will get more proffesional and competent leadership. Because this halfassed civilian crybaby bullshit going on right now, it will get all us marines killed in the end… Executed even, by our own officers. What do I need to do?"

"For the last rites?" Greje asks calmly, "Why don't you sit down? Close your eyes, breathe slow and deep?"

"Sure thing" Gars says and follows the intructions, kneeling, closing his eyes and breathes as instructed.

Kneeling works, too. She kneels in front of him, reaching out to take his hands in hers, putting them together with palms together and hers with her palms on the outsides of his. "Breathe in… and out… count the breaths, focus on them. Feel the air fill your body with life, from your chest, out to your fingers and toes… and then it retreats back into your chest, leaving you relaxed, at ease in every part," she murmurs to him, leading him in some mild meditation to just help him calm down.

Following instructions, Gars slowly but surely calms down, perhaps even finding some form of peace in what he is doing. He listens and follows instructions, inteant to please the Gods for the first time in his life to perhaps get some form of justice in the life hereafter.

"Let the breath take you back. Let all your regrets come to the surface… don't hold them down, don't tense… let them come to you… people you've wronged… things you did… or things you didn't do, but should have. Make peace with them in your heart, in your chest— forgive who needs forgiving, ask forgiveness from those you never asked it of— and exhale, and let them go…" Greje continues to lead him through the meditation. "Let them bubble up and out until your spirit is whole, unblemished and without care."

Listening, Gars tries his best to follow instructions. Sitting in serene calm, eyes closed, his breathes are slow and gentle. What floods his mind? A mind that has seen how war affects civilians and soldiers alike… Who knows. A myriad of scenes of torment, anguish, fear and pure adrenaline pumping through your system. War. Conflict. Death. Too much of it? Perhaps. Remembering the boy he once was, the man he used to be and the soldier he is. His face is calm, his breath quiet and prolonged.

"Those who have wronged you in the past— make peace with them— and let it go," Greje leads him through the breathing, "And those who wrong you now— make peace with them— and let it go, breathe… breathe…" she murmurs peacefully. "Accept what you must, and leave your anger with Zeus, who avenges injustice. Will it to the God, and let it go. Breathe."

Perhaps Gars has not been this relaxed in a long time. Perhaps for the fist time in his service, he faces his inner demons. Hate is apart of a soldiers life. As is anger and rage. The three fundamental pillars upon wich Killing is resting upon. The pillars built and constructed and enhanced by the military. Strengthened by experience. Crumbling atlast? Equilibrium accomplished maybe? At ease, content, acceptance? What ever is the case, Gars looks like a man asleep with a clear consience where he sits. A face free of guilt. Touched by some ethereal grace? Or just simple coming to terms with who he is?

Greje watches the peace fall over Mr. Gars, giving him a good long time to come to it fully. "This is who you are," she says, in rhythm with the breathing. "This is your Self, your Being— the sum of what you have done in this life. Be at peace with the Self, and feel the Spirit, the Breath fill you, and leave you, fill you… and leave you calm and at rest." She brings her hands away from his, leaving his upraised and palms-together. She lets him breathe while she opens up the two pouches in a fold of her robes, extracting from the dirt a small phiale and dripping a drop of water on his forehead, "Be cleansed of hate and violence and hubris against the Lords. They will be your keepers," she murmurs, and puts the phiale away. "And feel the Spirit, it comes, fills with life, and goes, leaves you calm and at rest in every part. Don't fear the moment when the Spirit leaves you altogether, for you will know a peace much deeper than this, a rest which you deserve," she tells him, taking a pinch of dirt, then, and lifting it to smudge his damp forehead, letting the water mingle with the dirt and leave the dark stain smudged on his forehead, "May your Self prove no feast for dogs and birds, but be forever unspoiled, a monument to your life." She takes a piece of silver from the other sack, and touches it to his lips, "And may your spirit leave in peace and find a place where it will live forever, at perfect peace with those whom you have sent before you and those who will come after."

"So say we all" Gars mumbles softly and opens his eyes to look into the eyes of Greje. "My father always said, that living is in the way we die. That we define our life in death." He sighs and lowers his head in thought. "I am at peace. Death has never troubled me. Not even my own." He then looks up at Greje once more, with something akin to regret in his eyes, "I have only one fear… That with this execution, marines will be afraid to defend themselves in similar situations. Afraid to suffer my punishment. Afraid to pull the trigger when it is required. My one hope, however, is that our officers will come to their senses and equip and task my fellow marines accordingly henceforth, no matter the mission. If my death will give my comrades the chance to overcome obstacles without retribution from incompitent officers… I gladly come to terms with my death."

"So say we all," Greje repeats. "Have no fears. We're all learning lessons from this incident, and you're not the only one who is undergoing punishment. Give your fears to the God… and let them go. Put them in his hands, and pray for your fellow marines and the officers who guide them. They need all the prayers they can get. Would you like me to bring you down a copy of the Scriptures so that you can read and pray?"

"No thanks" Gars says. "I think I can pray on my own to the Gods that will listen to what I want. If they are interested in justice, they will listen."

Greje nods gently, "Alright," and stands. "If there's anything else you need from me, from now 'til then… send a guard to get me. Any time, day or night. I'll be praying for you," she tells him softly, and reaches forward with a hand to stroke back along his head. "If I don't see you. Have a safe journey, and go in the serenity of the Lords."

Gars moves on over to the simple bunk and climbs in and lies down to rest, arms folded behind his head. "Its alright… Im gonna think up a prayer that will stir the Gods interest."

Greje looks over, and nods quietly to him after a moment's thought. "Good-bye, Mr. Gars." She then nods to the guards, who open the door and follow her out, closing the hatch again behind them.

"See ya around" Gars says as he closes his eyes to get some rest.

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