2237-07-16 - Long Shot

The pilots try to find a non-suicidal plan to search for the missing Raptor and its crew.

Date: 2237-07-16

Location: Hangar Deck

Related Scenes: None

Plot: None

Scene Number: 279

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Stirling is down on the deck in her green fatigues, running through some things with one of the deck crew. She points to one of the birds and frowns. Even with the deck gang working round the clock, entirely too many of their birds are down for repairs.

Eva is sitting at one of the roving duty stations that the LSO team or the deck crew use when signing paperwork, or receiving supplies that are being brought back. A sheaf of paper is being riffled through, a pen crossing out this or that. She seems to be mostly keeping herself, to herself. Marking the time until the work seems to be dying down. Not that it ever does, really. Finally, though, there's nothing for it but to just brave the tide, and she starts off towards Stirling.

Luckily, Kell isn't one of the pilots that have brought their birds back home in poor shape as of late. Then again, the last bird that was met with misfortune was entirely lost when he was shot down. With his scheduled duties for the day completed, Kell has changed out of his flightsuit and is now back in his duty blues, which he apparently prefers over the more laid back double tank top of brown and grey. Right now, he is on a mission, searching for Major Stirling and soon enough he is pointed towards the flight deck. Stepping off of the stairwell, the young Ensign asks one of the deckhands nearby where the CAG is and is once again pointed towards the broken birds that are lined up for repairs and he begins making his way towards Stirling, seeing that Eva is also on her way.

Stirling nods to the deckhand, scribbling some notes on the clipboard. The deckhand moves off, back to work, and Stirling stands there frowning at the notes. She's oblivious to the pilots seeking her out until one of them comes up.

"Whisper, if you have a moment." Eva pauses, catching sight of Kell, but making no move to wave him off. "I know this might not be the ideal time. But I need to submit a requisition from you. Or...at least, to see if I can requisition a ship from one of the other ships in the battlegroup." Not that there is such a thing....but the Vanguard has been working with other colonial and Picon vessels.

When Kell gets there, he respectfully waits his turn but he does greet the two other pilots respectfully, "Major Stirling, Captain Thorne." After that, he falls to silence as Eva makes her request which has peaked the Ensign's interest but he tries to not show too much of it, standing off to the side and hoping not to be a distraction for the moment.

Stirling looks up from the clipboard. "Cherry. Razor." They're each greeted in turn, then Eva's question gets a quizzical look. "What do you mean, requisition a ship?"

"I would like to see about taking a ship down to the planet to attempt another rescue mission." Eva indicates Kell, "I know that the wing is doing everything they can, but...I know that we can do more. I'm not asking for a viper, I know we can't afford to spare any of those." Truthfully, they can't afford to spare any ship, "But I am qualified on raptors, and I can figure out any other small transport, if it comes to that."

When Eva further explains her request on requisitioning a ship, Kell realizes what the purpose is and isn't surprised that it is similar to his visit. But the Ensign continues to remain silent, choosing to stay out of the way for now between Captain Thorne and the CAG. He is interested to see what Stirling's answer would be since it would help him gauge how he may field his own request when Cherry is done. Eyes are now on the CAG.

Stirling shakes her head to Eva. "We all want to get our people back, but I'm not sending a single Raptor on a suicide mission, Cherry. But we haven't forgotten them either. Picon Navy's sent out a couple sorties and we've been devoting sat time when we can. Milkman's also been pitching ideas. He wants to send a Viper on a fast, low pass with a camera."

"I'm asking for a single raptor, because I have to start somewhere, Whisper. I can't force anyone to go on a suicide mission with me. I won't ask the raptor crews to do something I wouldn't do myself. But a Viper also can't bring anyone back. So I start with the one thing I can control, and then I look at seeing who I can get to back me up. I know Milkman wants them back, but a single Viper won't be enough. They've been over a week, probably injured, likely on the run. They won't last."

This time, Kell chooses to pipe up about his own request since it can relate to both Eva's and Van's ideas. "Major, do we have any CAPs scheduled in the near future where it will bring is near Havison? If so... is it possible to equip three of the Vipers with the cameras? This way we can cover more ground and protect each other while remaining in the area of the original scheduled mission." There is a pause before he glances to the Captain, "Captain Thorne, I know we can't lift them if we find them, but if we do find them, we have a better location and can call for immediate evac if it is available." A hop, skip, and jump away.

Stirling's expression is sympathetic. "I told him 'no' too, Cherry, for the same reason," she replies calmly. "If I thought that a Raptor SAR had a decent chance of bringing them back, I'd fly the mission myself. But it doesn't. We don't know where they are. There's too much ground to cover, and the area's too hot to linger. We can't afford to throw another ship away." She listens to Kell's suggestion then slants a questioning look to Cherry to see what she thinks of the idea.

Eva takes a moment, considering Kell's suggestion, lips twisting, in a thoughtful expression, before she turns her attention back to Stirling and the no she should have expected. But every problem has a solution, right? "If we had a raptor prepped, ready to jump, with good coordinates, we could do a interorbital insertion, to pick them up. The Vipers could go in low. Adding cameras wouldn't be a problem, though we'd lack an uplink for immediate evaluation." Curse the cylons and their theft of the net.

When the CAG doesn't immediately shoot down the idea, Kell looks to Eva and nods his head at her words, "That is true, but I don't think it would hurt to add them just for this mission. With luck, they can send a signal somehow, whether it be a flare or smoke if they see friendlies in the air. If we're /really/ lucky, we may see them with in the open." There is a pause before he continues on the camera, "At worst, if we see nothing, we can review the footage from the cameras after the mission and we may see signs of their transit. Whether it be Cylon salvage, camps, or any other unnatural disturbances that may allow us to plan a second flight with a better direction."

How do you keep a worried fiancee from worrying too much, or from smoking himself into an early case of emphysema? Keep him on duty. It may not have been Whisper's plan -- she may not have even messed with the flight schedules, but it certainly feels to Van like he's been on duty since the Raptor went missing. He runs through the checklist of his still-ticking Viper quickly, then pops the canopy and descends the ladder from the cockpit. Spotting the cluster of pilots, Van passes his helmet and collar-seal off to the deck crew and hustles over in that direction, "Sirs, Razor." Even if he hasn't had time to learn to tell them apart, spotting the differences between Cherry and Whisper when they're standing together is easy.

"Right," Stirling agrees when Eva mentions the lack of an uplink. "We can't process that much camera data at those speeds live. The odds of you getting eyes on them on a fast pass are next to nil, and even if you did - I wouldn't send in a Raptor SAR to that area with only three Vipers for cover." Again coming back to the whole 'suicide mission' thing. Which brings her back to Kell's point. "No, Razor, let's be clear about this. 'At worst' is we lose three more Vipers and three more pilots that we can't afford to lose." She sighs, frowning, and that's when Van comes over. "Milkman," she greets. "We were just discussing SAR options for Havison, including the Viper run you pitched." She considers for another moment, still frowning, then says, "Three Vipers. One mid-altitude pass. You'll get better resolution than the sat images -" Which are spotty anyway given limited sats available. "And be high enough to give you reaction time against SAMs. Fast enough that you should be in and out before they can scramble fighters. Still risky, still a long shot, but it's the only idea I've heard so far that isn't suicidal."

Eva looks over, as she catches sight of Van moving in their direction. "Milkman," in answer to the 'Sirs', and, for the time, she's serious, so she makes no other comment, turning, instead, back to Stirling, and her evaluation of what she feels might give them a fighting chance at a successful recon of the area. "Considering how dangerous the area is, I'm not sure that any mission would be anything but suicidal. But I don't see that we have much of a choice, Major. We..we can't leave our people down there, not until we've exhausted every resource at our disposal." And then, a moment to consider, "We can't process data...but what about one of the wet navy ships. A much lower transmission distance."

When Stirling puts everything into perspective with actual mortality at play, Kell looks slightly abashed as he realizes the dangers of such a mission as well. He was too focused on trying to get Pi and the Marines back that have gone missing that he forgot that particular perspective. There is definitely not argument from the Ensign and luckily enough, Van's arrival distracts him as he turns to Milkman, inclining his head respectfully, "Lieutenant Newton." Then his attention returns to the Major and the Captain as the discussion about a possible recon mission is being tossed around, the details being laid out.

Van drops himself immediately into the conversation, focusing in on what Stirling is saying. He nods a little hesitantly, letting out a breath as he digs out a matchbox and pulls a matchstick from inside. Tucking the (non-striker) end into one corner of his mouth, he puts the matchbox away, nodding slowly, "Three Vipers is better than one, sir. I only pitched the nape-of-the-earth run because I figured we would below acquisition level for their SAMs. Mid-altitude is better, as you say. One run, back to the ship to go over the pictures, find the crash site and track down their most likely route from where they were forced down." Damaged. Force down. Not destroyed. Eva's suggestion causes him to hesitate thoughtfully, then shake his head, "I don't believe that Picon Naval electronic countermeasures are any better than Colonial ones, Cherry. They would be just as vulnerable to an open datastream. It enforces some delays, returning to the Vanguard or a local airfield," and doesn't that burn his backside, "but it also ensures the safety of the rest of those involved."

"The comms blackout is going to wreck havoc with any attempts to live-stream the data, even to the surface." Stirling nods to Van. "Better acquisition, sure, but also a better chance of them tagging you. Too risky." She looks between the three of them. "Let me be clear about this: If I thought this was a suicide mission, I wouldn't send you. And frankly I don't think Pi or Vic would want me to, either. We will do everything reasonably possible to get our people back, but that doesn't mean taking dumb chances." She lets that sink in for a second before continuing on. "One pass. Stay at altitude. Get the pictures, turbo out. Don't engage unless you absolutely have to. You get pounced by an enemy flight out there..." The ominous way her voice trails off says enough.

Eva doesn't hesitate, doesn't offer any discent, as she hears the parameters set out by the Major. She only looks between Kell and Van, and then back to Stirling. "Of course, Major." She takes a moment, considering, "We'll need some time to prep. I'll have to get the cameras installed and feed them into the drives. But I'm prepared to go as soon as you give the okay. I have no doubt I can get a pilot to cover my shifts. Just in case we need it."

There is no argument from Kell on the requirements that the CAG has laid out and he is taking her unspoken warning very seriously. He's already been to one inquiry and that is one too many for the Ensign. There is a nod from Razor though to show his understanding of where the line is, the one that is absolutely not allowed to be crossed. The only question is the timetable and luckily, an Ensign has less responsibilities compared ot those with higher rank.

"If it was a suicide mission, we would find another way, sir." Van sounds weary, determined, but weary. The parameters draw a slow nod, and the hanging words draw another, "...the flight breaks off and returns to base." He might not, but the Flight will. There's a moment of delay, and then he asks, "Would basing out of a planet-side base protect the Vanguard, sir? So it didn't have to linger?" He nods to Eva then, "I'll help the deck crew set up software integration to link the camera pods to our HUD." He'll trust others to worry about who's covering his shift. Like Kell, it's a benefit of not being a Captain. There's another pause, and then he shifts a little, "If you or one of the other Raptor pilots has the time, sir, it would be good to have a SAR professional look over the proposed flight-path."

Stirling nods generally to all of them. "I can do that," she responds to Van's latter point first. "Planetside base would mean you having to make two passes over enemy territory - one out, one back. Orbital insertion and return means less exposure. Vanguard doesn't have to linger; it can drop you off and jump back in to pick you up. You three can sort out the details, and let me know when you have a final plan and the equipment prepped. I'll make sure the schedule's clear."

Eva nods, as she hears the no-go on the planetary base. "And if we time it just right, we can use any atmospheric disturbances to mask our arrival and potential departure. Very much like the cruiser did." When Kell was shot down. But as Stirling speaks, Eva studies Van, moreso than Kell. Kell, for all intents and purposes, has no more of a horse in this race than she does. And then, gently, "Milkman. if we go out together, we come back together. I don't intend to leave one of my pilots behind. If you can't agree to that, I'll ask that Whisper grounds you. I know that you and I have never seen eye to eye, but, I'm sorry, I won't sacrifice you that way. Don't think that I don't know how you're feeling. If it were Farm Boy" She pauses, "If it were Finn, I would never want to leave." Because that's the god's honest truth.

The warning being given by Eva has Kell remaining silent once more, his part already played in this impromptu meeting with the CAG on the flight deck. But his eyes do widen slightly, his gaze shifting from the Captain to the Lieutenant once the ultimatum was issued. He may have his own words for Van but Razor is choosing to be silent right now, especially when the CAG is present, not wanting to risk anything of having him benched from this mission. He knew how much effort Isolde put into trying to find him, he needs to repay her and then some.

Van nods to Stirling, "Thank you. And a good point, sir. Just trying to cover all the options." He glances to Eva and to Kell, nodding once, "We will." Shifting the matchstick over to the other side of his mouth, Van turns his gaze back to Eva. His expression is flat, even blank, for all that his hands clench and unclench slowly at his sides. "Sir, with all due respect, only one of us has a history of remaining in the operational zone after recall." There's very little gentle about the words, and they may even come out cold, for all that they are a brittle, like glacial ice. "I'll do what's required of me."

Stirling watches the exchange between Eva and Van, lips pressing together. She slants a look at Eva. "Cherry, why don't you go start seeing about those cameras. Razor, you're dismissed." Van, not so much. The CAG doesn't look at all upset, though, or even really surprised. Her expression is cool and even.

"Ah, then you do recall those occassions of being told to return to Galactica and refusing the order." Eva doesn't push things further. Nor does she look particularly surprised, or upset by Van's open hostility. Instead, she nods to Stirling, offers a, 'Sir," and moves off, away from the two junior pilots, and off to find the chief of the deck to see about making those upgrades to the vipers they'll be flying.

When he is dismissed, Kell nods his head and acknowledges rather quickly, "Yes sir." He does give Van a brief glance, as if almost unwilling to abandon a wingman but this isn't combat, and what words the CAG wishes to share with the Lieutenant is for their ears only. Turning, instead of heading towards the stairwell, Razor makes his way towards the Ready Room.

Van looks to Stirling, starting to draw himself up in preparation for being dismissed, and then he's not. Eva's words surprise him even further, blinking in confusion and starting to question them, then closing his mouth with a click of teeth. The lingering by Kell draws a slight nod from Van, thanks and reassurance mingled. And then he looks back to Stirling, clasping his hands behind his back, and a moment later realizing that the matchstick in his mouth makes 'at ease' look a little ridiculous and snatching it free before settling back into the relatively relaxed position.

Stirling doesn't say anything at first, just watching Van while the others move away. She's still holding a clipboard, and balances it on her stomach in a relaxed posture. "So," she begins gently, "You think taking cheap shots at a senior officer is the way to convince me that you're squared away for this mission?" Her head cocks in what some might call a 'come on now you know better' mom look.

Van grimaces a little at the gentle words, looking down. His thumb brushes against his right ring finger where his class ring would be if he weren't just out of the cockpit, and he shakes his head, "No sir. I'll have to apologize to Captain Thorne." There's a moment's pause, "Although I must admit that I'm confused by her response."

Stirling nods once to his statement that he'll apologize. Then she watches him for several seconds before saying, still in that gentle tone. "That's something you should straighten out with her. There's nothing in your file about disobeying orders. That said, you take risks, Milkman. More than I think you should, and in a situation like this - I need someone who's flying with a clear head." A sympathetic frown settles on her features. "I know, deep down, you want what's best for Pi and Vic and the marines. Which is why I'm sending Farm Boy."

Van nods slightly at the suggestion and the mention of his file, although a frown settles onto his features at the mention of taking risks. It is, unfortunately, an expression that is completely wiped away by her last point, his brows shooting up in disbelief, his jaw dropping, and his hands falling to his sides. The matchstick bounces on the hanger floor before coming to rest, and it takes him a good half minute to recover, "But sir... I..." He tries again, "Major Stirling, please. Please don't take me off the mission. There's no one on the ship who is going to be more focused than me." Which is distinctly not the same as flying with a clear head. "I'm also one of the best chances to get that info and get it back safely. I've made it at least five furballs without more than a scratch on my Viper, sir. I can do this."

Stirling shakes her head. "It's not your flying skill that's in question." Her lips thin in an unhappy line. Some parts of the job just plain suck. "You're too close to this. Your judgment's clouded, and we've got no room for error here. I'm sending two of our best pilots and your own wingman out there, Milkman. They've got your back. They've got Pi's back."

Clearly, Van wants to argue. He even opens his mouth to do so. Then he shuts it again, his jaw clenching hard as he draws himself up again. For all that his brace to attention is stiff and precise, his voice trembles more than a little, "Acknowledged, Major." His pride holds through that, and for another moment, and then his shoulders slump a little, "Will you at least allow me access to the data when they return? To help try to find where they were forced down?" Damaged. Forced down. His control is fraying, and the Picon pilot swallows hard.

"Of course. And you can help plan their search route." It's not the same as flying, she realizes, but it's as far as Stirling can go. "You should consider talking to the counselor or the chaplain if you haven't already. Everyone's under a lot of stress, but this - this is above and beyond." There's a slight pause, while she debates saying something else, and then she lets out a soft sigh. "And look, I don't blame you for being pissed. If it were my husband, and my CAG benched me, I'd feel the same. Just remember - we all want them back." She lets that settle for a moment and then turns to go.

"I have a proposed route already, sir. I'll bring it to your office immediately." The suggestion to talk to the counselor or chaplain causes Van to hesitate a moment, considering, and then he sort-of-agrees, "Once they're back. It's not just Izzy, Major. Doc made it out of Triton with me. I want to make sure I've done everything I can to get them back as soon as possible. Then I can worry about me." Despite his self-professed lack of concern for himself, the Picon pilot is shaved, and his flight suit is still neat and tidy -- or at least as neat and tidy as any flight suit is after time in the cockpit.

Stirling nods to the route, then offers a sympathetic smile. "Just ask yourself whether they'd want you to wait until they got back to take care of yourself, Milkman. It's not an either/or thing." And with that, the CAG is moving off, to deal with the small issue of their busted planes.


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