Kell catches up to Astraea and tries to get to the bottom of her ire.
Location: Corridor outside the Hangar and the Head
Related Scenes: None
Scene Number: 1245
Though she slows her stride so that Kell can catch up, Astraea does not stop entirely. She's still got enough adrenaline that has been given extra fuel by her anger that she cannot stop entirely. Like a shark, she will die if she stops. At least, that must be how she feels. The tension across her shoulders is all the more visible as she undoes the collar of her flightsuit and unzips it, letting it sag to her elbows. The black lines of her Scorpian tattoos all the more visible upon her arms as she stalls, just briefly, to move her helmet from hand-to-hand as she slips out of the sleeves and works to tie the upper half of the suit off around her waist. Sweat begins to drip from her neck and shoulders as her skin is finally able to breathe in the corridors of the comparatively cooler ship. Chances are, she's aiming for the Head. Perhaps the Mess, but probably the Head.
Catching up to Astraea as she heads off of the flight deck towards the corridor and one of the stairwells, Kell slows his steps to match her pace when he is next to her, his flight helmet tucked under his arm. "What was that about?" He asks, not an accusatory or disapproving tone, more of a curious one after witnessing the exchange between Nova and the Captain that was the mission lead for the interception mission. Razor was tempted to speak up earlier but then decided to hold his tongue, perhaps not wishing to take sides in front of everyone and in front of senior officers. Prudence seems to be one of the Ensign's preference, especially with what happened on Canceron.
There's a look over to Razor and Astraea frowns, darkly. She inhales as if she's about to speak, but catches herself. Nostrils flaring, she looks back forward. Her own helmet finally makes it under her arm as she focuses on the ground while she moves. "We saw th'trap. Hawk had us fall back. We found th'other heavies b'fore they caught us. We had th'frakin' upper hand. We had 'em and we still gave it ta 'em. We gave 'em th'city. Jes' handed it right on over. Have we ever backed down from a fight when we're in that good shape?" Her shoulders shake slightly and she bites into her lip. "I signed up fer th'Fleet ta save people. Not cover my own ass."
Hearing her words, Kell is silent for a moment, as if trying to figure out or decide how to respond. He can see and understand her point of view, but he could also see the other side of it. "Did we give them the city? We killed off more than half of the Heavy Raiders that were reported by intel, and repelled the rest." There is a pause before he adds, "And are you sure we saw the trap? We saw the two Heavies... but what if there were four more Raiders hidden away? Waiting for us to chase the heavies?" Seeing how angry Astraea was, Razor is prepared for a harsh verbal counter.
Finally coming to a stop outside the Head, Astraea turns to Kell and just blinks at him. "Why does it matter? Those people out there're helpless. We're supposedta be th'ones protectin' 'em. There weren't a scratch on me. Or you, from what I could tell. Pitbull didn't touch th'cannon an' I had almost all my Talons left. We barely got inta th'fight. There was not a damn reason ta come back. Four more Raiders?" Astraea's arm comes out and she points at Kell with it. "You an' I have been in battles wit' worse odds an' come out on top. We've survived worse. For less."
"We have survived, but it may have been through a combination of skill /and/ luck. Four more raiders, plus the two heavies, and three Cypers. Not the best odds, especially since we only had you and Pitbull supporting us." Kell says with a slight shake of his head, "And we would've been pincered. I've seen those tactics in the books when we were in the Academy, but usually it's used on the opponent and the results are pretty devastating when pulled off." There is a pause before he adds, "And our job was to intercept the bombers, not be the city's permanent protection, you know. We fly until the threats are neutralized or we are bingo fuel. We can't circle over Bransbur forever, Nova. You know that. We did our job and we kept our birds in good shape. That means we have more equipment available for the next mission."
"Our job was ta go in an' take out th' heavies spotted headin' towards th' city. We only got some of 'em." Astraea steps into the Head and practically throws her helmet at a bench. Well, she does, but she manages to stop herself just short enough of putting much strength behind it. It just clatters to the deck instead of taking out a chunk of itself on the bulkhead. "We failed our frakin' mission by the godsdamned parameters we were given, Razor. How the frak do you, of all people, care so little about that?"
Hearing that, Kell actually frowns as he stops by a bench and locker in the Head, "Nova, don't ever say that we care so little. We fly our hearts out on every mission, risking our lives everytime. Sometimes the difference between flying home an unscratched bird or one that has been torn to shreds is mere centimeters and a bit of luck." There is no anger in his tone but perhaps a touch of disappointment, "And you may say that we failed our mission, I disagree. We prevented Bransbur from being bombed, if that was even their intention to begin with. Like Milkman said, these Cylons are different, they flew with different tactics and this time, it looks like their intent was to slaughter our response group instead of actually bombing the city. The missio parameters changed once the situation changed."
"Really? Do we? Because I sorta feel like we collectively went well, that was easy. Let's just pop back fer an early bite ta eat. I know Picon's been hard, but didn't we wave off a bit too easily? Iff'n they were diff'rent, or usin' other tactics, then why didn't we follow 'em further? Mark 'em a bit more? We're supposedta be th' best of th' best, but we just took th' easy win like amateurs." Astraea sits heavily on the bench, leaning forward with her head in her hands. "We don't know we prevented 'em from bein' bombed. We're just hopin' so mebbe we can sleep tonight. An' maybe you will. I won't."
It seems like Kell's thinking and Academy training was different on Libran as he shakes his head again, obviously not in agreement with the way that Astraea saw the situation. "That's the thing, even the best knows when the back off, when the fight is unfavorable. And Nova, from my seat, it was a very unfavorable flight. The terrain was theirs, not ours, the initiative was theirs, and the reason we clashed in the mountains was because they wanted us there. All three factors has falling back as the right decision." As for her alluding to protecting the city, he shakes his head again, "We /do/ know we prevented them from being bombed. They flew east, the city was to the west. We were between them. Maybe they waited for us to leave, maybe they were waiting for us to be at bingo fuel. Who knows, we did what we could at that time. We can't stay in the air forever, Nova, acting as Bransbur's umbrella."
Scrubbing at her face, Astraea's shoulders just tighten further as Kell speaks. She doesn't look up, not once throughout all of it. She's very still for a moment after he goes quiet and what breaks her own quiet is a bit of a sniff. When her hands do fall away to land heavily on her lap, she just stares forward, blinking rapidly. A look at the right angle would find her fighting tears. "Ain't talkin' 'bout bein' an umbrella. Jes' handlin' th' ones there." She scoffs, quietly. "But apparently I'm jes' a bad pilot."
The silence from Astraea was puzzling and Kell turns his gaze from the locker to the quiet Raptor pilot. Only after she speaks does he realize that her feelings may be hurt as he tried to explain the reasoning behind why they pulled back today. Moving closer to her, his answer is quiet, a hand reaching out to place on her shoulder, "Bad? No, not by far. You're one the most lethal Raptor pilots out there and you're just incredibly dedicated to the our people. I might've had the same reaction as you, if I didn't spend over a week on the ground. On Picon."
The Raptor pilot just sags slightly, shaking her head marginally. "I just..." Astraea murmurs a few things in Scorpian as she struggles to find the words. She lifts her hands slightly before just leaning towards Kell. "I feel like we let 'em down. They called us in an' trap fer us or not, they called us in ta help 'em an' they saw us leave wit' Cylons still in th' sky over their home. What if they go back? What if we're not there t'help? We could've. I know we could've."
"We can't be everywhere all the time, Nova. There are other cities that are under attack, cities that we have lost like Paran City. We just do the best we can." Kell says as he remains where he is when Astraea leans in against him. "And from my count, there are three less Heavies and two less Raiders in their arsenal that was stationed within striking distance of Bransbur. I'm sure Cylons are more mathematical when calculating their tactics. They saw how we smoked them across the board, they know we can do it again so they may be reluctant to send out another group, especially if there are only three Cypers and two Heavy Raiders left in that squad."
"I know there's other cities, but this was th' one we were there for." Astraea sighs, closing her eyes again. "Don't matter how many we take down. They can just make more. That's all they're doin'. Makin' more. For every one we take out... frak, I can't even begin t'guess how many they can make in a day, can you?" She draws in a shuddering breath, lifting a hand to rub at her eyes again. "I just feel like every one we let get away is damnin' people t'die, Razor."
That is something Kell tries not to think about, factories out there just printing out Cylons, Centurions, Raiders, Heavy Raiders. It is a very scary thought, one that could easily weigh down on a young pilot. "If you start thinking like that, Nova, you'll wear yourself out real fast. Then you won't be able to help anyone, the people on Picon or your squadmates." There is a pause before a sigh is released, "The way I see it, after what we have gone through here so far, after being shot down and nearly captured. Anytime we return home without losing someone and inflict more damage than was dealt to us. That's a win in my book. We live to fight another day, to deal another blow to the Cylons. One blow won't knock them out, ten won't either, but eventually, we will wear them down. We must."
"I just... can't sometimes," Astraea says, looking up at Kell. She shakes her head slightly, sitting up straighter. "I can't put it outta my head. That there's so many of 'em. That no matter how many times we go out there, there's still more. How many battles we fight, they just keep comin' at us." Her brow furrows. "You saw it. I've seen it. I've been shot down, not... not like you were, but I've been on th' streets of one of th' cities. It's..." She takes a slow breath, pushing to her feet to stand in front of him. "How can you not think about it?"
Giving Astraea's shoulder a squeeze before releasing his hand, Kell moves to the locker he had opened and stuffs his helmet into it for the time being, "I avoid thinking about it by keeping busy, Nova. The gym, the firing range, reviewing flight footage and gun camera footage. Whatever that can keep my mind focused forward on our missions and goals." He unzips his flightsuit and begins pulling it off from his collar down his shoulder, "After I hit the showers, going to get changed in the berthings. Then grab a quick bite before heading to the Ready Room. Gotta review the footage that Cherry, Farmboy, and I took when we did that recon pass over where Pi's Raptor went down."
Bending over, Astraea retrieves her helmet and moves to a neighboring locker. She fusses with the door before the latch behaves and lets her in. The helmet is set on the shelf. "Doesn't matter how busy I stay. Go t'sleep an' it's there. Close m'eyes an'..." She swallows, pulling off her tanks to toss inside the locker. "Want help wit' that footage? I know I might be grabbed fer that, if y'all find anythin' in it." Being SAR rated as she is. There's a glance over to Razor and the woman is quiet for a short time before she lets out a slow breath. "Thanks, Kell." His name, rather than callsign. "How do cupcakes sound? Can pack 'em in somethin' so you can store 'em somewhere."
That is a realm that Kell has no answer for. Nightmares, unwanted images, ghosts that haunt the mind. "Maybe Stirling can help, or one of the other more senior officers. I'm sure they've flown longer than we have and knows what you are going through, Nova. You need to sleep well or you will be too fatigued to fly effectively." When the subject is changed to the footage review though, Razor manages a smile, "The more eyes looking over what we found, the better chances we have spotting something. I'm sure we'll find Milkman already there when we get there." As for her thanks and the mention of cupcakes, Kell's smile broadens along with a light laugh, "They sound great, definitely looking forward to them, Nova." With that said, he heads for one of the shower stalls for a quick dousing of water.
"Maybe." Astraea rubs at her face one final time before bending over to unlace her boots so she can finish getting out of her flight suit and be done with the sweat collection of the thing. "A new set of eyes can help, too. No matter how much he's looked over it, there may be things he's missed... even if he thinks otherwise. It's th' nature of it." She looks over to Kell and offers a small smile his way before she finishes undressing so she can head for a stall herself.