Van tastes the benefits of flying wild.
Location: Over Hyperon, Picon
Related Scenes: None
Scene Number: 576
"Weather today is cloudy with a 90-percent chance of toasters out of the northeast." Despite the tension in the battered cockpits of the Raptors and Vipers of No. 17 Squadron, the wireless transmission from Weatherman gets all of the pilots chuckling, Van included.
"Squire Flight copies, Weatherman, the chum is in the water." After a month under attack, a grim humor has taken hold of some small portion of the defenders of PNAB Triton, including Shark, the flight leader. The woman sniffs loudly into her mic, then adds, "I can smell 'em." Although her callsign comes from her skill with a pool cue, Shark has shown a bloodthirstiness that appeals particularly to some of the younger pilots at Triton.
"I can feel it, Shark. This is the day." Van's call gets amused chuckles from the other members of the flight as their engines spool up inside their revetments. "The deck crew finally got a chance to fix my guncam." Despite getting his KEWs into dozens of Vipers, Van has been held officially scoreless by friendlies distracted by overwhelming bandits and a guncam broken on the day of the Uprising.
"That's what I like to hear, Milkman." The wireless protocol may not be perfect, it may not even be great, but here on the ground, with this tight-knit pack of hotshots, it doesn't matter. Shark's approval silences that chuckling, and the bearded Wolfman gives a howl in response.
"Squire Flight, Weatherman, ceiling is at Angels 11, you are cleared to launch. I want to see some toaster parts raining down over Hyperion in ten minutes." Each of the pilots flicks an open-palmed salute to the crew chief at the door to their revetment, and then the airbase roars alive with the full-throated aural rampage of Viper and Raptor engines.
The Sea Knights form up quickly, directed toward the incoming Cylon fighters by the DRADIS operator. Wolfman is the first one to spot the Cylons, "Cypers, Cypers! Six at two-o-clock! Tallyhoooooo!"
"Up and at 'em, Squire Flight. Let's eat." Shark's call draws growls from several of the other pilots, including Van.
Van firewalls his Viper's throttle, pushing him back into his seat and sending him surging ahead. Rather than chastise the young pilot, Shark laughs and the whole flight throttles up, following after Van. The Cylon-piloted specks grow in size rapidly, and then they begin winking at the Picons, long strings of tracers reaching out toward them.
Van flicks his stick, twisting his Viper into a roll away from the incoming rounds, fires off a quick burst that misses his target, and then kicks his foot pedal hard, standing his Viper on its nose and turning it side-on to his path of travel. In space, it's a routine maneuver. In atmosphere... his speed begins to drop dangerously, even as the tracers walk across one of the Cypers, triggering secondary explosions.
The Cyper keeps flying, however, despite Van's desperate hopes, and he wrenches his Viper into a tight curl to get back on the smoke trail of the Cylon craft. The airframe groans around him as he pushes it beyond its limits, and his vision starts to fade around the edges even as he bears down to try to keep his blood where it should be.
Chatter fills the wireless as Squire Flight tears into the Cylon forces, each pilot choosing a target and going after it in defiance of their training to stick with their wingmen. Within seconds, two Cylons are down -- and another four have joined the fight, working in pairs to pin down Shark and Skinner, the two who dropped their initial targets.
Van isn't watching the overall fight though, instead keeping his eyes fixed on the Cyper he damaged on the first pass. "Oh no, you're not getting away from me..." As the Cyper darts and dodges, Van settles in behind it, leaning forward with anticipation against his Viper's acceleration.
"Flight, Skinner, I could use a hand here! These guys are all up in my thrusters!" The man's Viper whips back and forth, trying to clear his tail, but the two Cypers in their No. 343 Squadron colors hang on tight, taking turns loosing short bursts.
"Almost there, Skinner. Let me just..." Van rolls after the dodging Cyper, sweeping through the smoke trailing after it and then settling back in, "...finish this toaster." Another burst reaches out, just clipping the Cyper, but Skinner gives a yelp as he is hit by one of his pursuers as well.
Shark adds in, "Someone get over there and help Skinner out, damn it!" But the other pilots are all busy as well, avoiding Cylon fire or trying to avoid being penned in by the newcomers.
Van twists, turns, gets another burst in, another, and manages to land a solid hit, the Cyper's port engine exploding and throwing it into a spin. "Yes!" The young pilot celebrates, his eyes widening as he holds his Viper's nose -- and its guncam -- on the Cyper for a moment longer, then twists aside, "Splash One. I'm coming now -- "
But it's too late, Skinner calling out, "I can't shake -- " and then there's an explosion, and the pair of Cypers whip through the space that used to contain Skinner and his Viper. Van darts away as the two turn their attention toward him, and then he's utterly on the defensive, continually trying to turn away from one or the other of the two Cypers.
"They're all over me, Flight. They got Skinner, and they're after me hard." Van continually looks over one shoulder or the other, trying to track both of the Cypers as he does his best to avoid their sharp bursts of KEW rounds. They clip his wing once, but otherwise he seems to lead a charmed life -- or he's pushing the Viper just hard enough to get an advantage, without pushing it beyond what it can do, diving down toward the highrises of downtown Hyperion.
"Otter, Splash One."
"Shark, Splash One."
"Windsock, Splash One."
The calls come in with glacial slowness to Van, as his Viper dances between skyscrapers, buffeted here and there by crosswinds through the artificial canyons. Rolling completely inverted, he twists out over the tram tracks, glancing behind him as autocannon rounds chew up the face of the old First Colonial Bank building.
"Milkman, where the heck are you?" The call is from Otter, and Van tightens his lips as the sidewind from Waverunner Plaza nearly sends him into another building. Suddenly cutting his speed with a burst of maneuvering thrusters, Van turns down a side-street, buildings whipping past on both sides.
"I'm commuting down 15th Ave. No traffic except a couple of road-rage wannabes." Van grunts against G-forces as he makes another high-speed turn over a roundabout. "Heading up Ashworth now."
"I see you. I'll drop in on those two ragers, see if I can't clear them off."
Van has to dodge one more burst, two, and then he sees another Viper in front of him, coming head-on. His eyes widen, and then he laughs, "Yeah!"
His exultation is cut short, however, as tracers drift past his canopy with deceptive laziness, reaching out to enfold the oncoming Otter. The Viper takes fire, twists, nearly collides with a traffic light, and then pulls straight up.
"Frakfrakfrak. Otter here, I got clipped good. Pulling up and out. My starboard engine took a bad hit."
There's no warning when Shark comes blazing down 43rd Ave, diving between the two Cypers and tearing into one of them. It's not enough to destroy the Cylon ship, but both of the Cypers immediately peel off, leaving Van to breathe out a sigh of relief.
"Thanks Shark. Milkman's clear now. That's some hot-ass flying." Van pulls his Viper up and out of the streets, swinging over the bay between the city and Triton. The other surviving members of Squire Flight join up, all of them having sustained hits to a greater or lesser degree, with Otter and Wolfman coming off the worst, each Viper trailing black smoke.
"Just don't forget," comes Shark's voice in Van's ears, "Who dares wins. If you're not pushing beyond your limits, you're not really trying. Nice kill though, way to pop your cherry." The crew chiefs won't be happy with the results though, even if Van has his first official kill and the flight downed six of the eight Cypers -- Wolfman and Otter's birds are going to take some serious time and effort to repair, not to mention parts, and even Van's bird is likely to be down for a while before it's flight-worthy again.