A flight of Raptors loaded with pilots is being sent to collect some new Vipers to recover the Wing's losses.
Location: An Undisclosed Location, Various, Picon
Related Scenes: None
Scene Number: 304
As the two Raptors approach, there are numerous chirps of AA missiles checking them and a pair of Vipers streak by to verify the identity of the two birds from the Vanguard before directing them on an approach on the south side of the facility. There, parked along the runway are roughly a dozen fresh off the assembly line Vipers, still with their plastic in place to protect them from the dust, waiting to be unwrapped by the waiting flight crews as the Raptors are cleared to land.
Strapped into one of the seats in Astraea's Raptor, Kell is silent for most the flight though he doesn't have a very pleased expression on. Nothing to do with Nova's flying but it looks like Razor is not a fan of being a passenger while in the air, the feeling of not being at the controls and not being able to anticipate how the bird is going to move has his stomach feeling queasy. Those near him can see that both of his hands are gripped to the bottom of his seat as he waits.
As a pilot, it's terribly difficult to sit in someone else's plane and let them ferry you about, regardless of how much you trust the person behind the stick. Perhaps it's for that reason -- or maybe because terrible hospital coffee as well -- that Alain seems a tad jittery, not even able to rely on his usual pre-flight rituals to calm his nerves. He keeps attention fixed anywhere but what he can see of the cockpit window, mostly studying his fellow jocks strapped in the back of Astraea's raptor. "So, anyone else looking forward to that new viper smell?"
Aubrey is settled into one of the seats, with a somewhat faraway look on her face. Her thoughts are with her father, in a hospital bed in town, but also with the other citizens of the place she calls home. The hospital visit gave her a firsthand look at the state of the city and it presses hard on her. Alain's words have her looking his way and giving him a small smile. "I just want to peel off the plastic, really slowly. Don't get to do that often."
It's strange having other pilots in your bird. Like, Viper pilots. They don't belong there! Another Raptor pilot on a long recon mission, sure. You trade out. Astraea's done those. Long, multiple jumps. Sometimes sitting out in space somewhere for eight, twelve hours. Just you, an ECO, sometimes a second pilot. But knowing you've go other jocks in your cabin is just weird. Marines tend to sleep or banter amongst one another; they pay no mind to the person driving the bus. That might be why she's so hyper-focused on what she's doing. In fact, she's singing a Scorpian song. A lullaby, in fact, by the way the harmony goes. It's not that bad a flight, really. It could be worse. They could be in Jackson's Raptor. What they can't see is the way her knee is jittering.
After almost...how long has it been now, over fifteen years flying spaceframes, Eva has learned one important thing. When you're young, you want to be at the controls. When you get old, you take no small amount of pleasure in letting someone else do the driving. And so, the oldest woman in the wing is taking advantage of being driven around, settled on to one of the bench seats, lightly dozing. That sort of in between state where you can sort of hear what's going on around you, but you can't really be bothered enough to care. Sadly, this raptor did not come with a pillow, or peanuts or any damned thing. So, in a rather ironical fashion, if only to them, Eva is leaned against Emrys, the older pilot's frame the only thing keeping her from falling off the side of the bench completely.
Emrys is sitting perfectly still, because that's what you do when you find someone sleeping on you. You do your best not to wake them. He seems to be in the middle ground. He's not troubled by being flown around, but he's not so cool with it he's going to sleep the time away. So there he sits, bolt upright like a statue, staring across the raptor.
For some reason, Mason keeps glancing up towards the cockpit of the Raptor he's in with Irene. The younger woman seems to have triggered some memory with him, but he can't quite place it. Mainly because he hasn't directly addressed the Aeriolnian pilot yet as he glances aside to Eva, but finding her asleep, his attention turns to Emrys. "Hawk, ya know our driver?" he asks in his own thick backwoods accent as he scratches at his chin hair. "She looks familiar."
Irene "Iris" Harris has been on light duties for a long time, after taking a proper thrashing during a bombing run and being turned inside out and shook by her ankles by the ship's surgeon to get all the shrapnel out. Back in raptor again, she's all smiles (even if she keeps most of them inside). Gotta keep that officer reserve going, as was properly beat into her via the academy and the Virgon Royal Navy after that. Still, her eyes are crazy bright the whole trip. Not even the Picon vipers giving challenge dim them, she just answers and follows the directions given, making sure to bank just a touch to get a look at the factory fresh fighters. "Well aren't those a pretty sight." She murmurs before righting the big bird and setting up for a nice, clean landing. "Wake up and grab hold of something solid. We're putting down in seconds."
Eva's voice is a soft murmur, as she catches at least some of the question poised in her direction, if not actually aimed at her, "Don't tell me you watch Virgon melodramas, Jar." Eva opens her eyes, sitting up, and freeing Emrys from his suspended animation. She doesn't look at all abashed, but rather, grateful, and follows it up with a, "Thank you." She doesn't elaborate beyond that though, as she squares herself away, hands reaching up to tuck the strands of hair that have fallen out of her braid behind her ears.
"I think so. I think she's the girl from all those recruiting posters the Royal Navy came out with when everything went south." Emrys tells Mason in response, before nudging Eva. "Wake up, sleepy head. We're landing. They said to get a hold of something solid, so grab my ego yeah?" Jokes at his own expense? New Vipers must have put him in a really good mood. At the thank you, he just smiles. "You're welcome."
The lead technician is waiting for the pilots as they disembark. "Captain Thorne?" she asks as she puts in some information in her datapad. "We were informed that you get to have the first pick of the Vipers as the current lead ace." Just like on the farm where the best rider gets to pick her horse first, Cherry gets to ... 'cherry-pick' her ride home.
Without a word save the necessary over the comms to Picon Naval as she comes in for a landing, Astraea angles the raptor in to the ascribed landing zone near those new, shiny Vipers with their wrapping. If she can manage a combat landing with a barely functional bird, her day-to-day landings are actually quite smooth. She's just had one too many passenger with the misfortune of being on board while she's been shot down. There's no real word of departure offered to them; just the hiss of the hatch as she hits the button for it to open once the landing struts have hit hard tarmac.
Aubrey shoves her arms into her flight suit, which she's had down to her waist until now, when they start landing. "Thanks for the lift, Nova," she offers as she steps out into the familiar heat of Picon. She holds a hand up to shield her eyes, helmet tucked under her arm, and looks for the other trio of Viper pilots.
As the Raptor begins its descent, Razor's expression scrunches up slightly, his stomach rolling slightly as if he was on a rollercoaster ride that had just crested one of the peaks. Clutching the bottom of his seat until the very end, Kell waits until the Raptor safely touches down and is no longer moving before he reaches for his safety strap. Then he's out the bay door and off of the transport, no word of thanks surprisingly, as if getting out was a major priority. Only when his boots touches the concrete does he release a long breath, taking in long, slow breaths before releasing in the same manner, his stomach and heart settling down.
"Naw, ain't nothin' like that." Mason says, a small smirk at Eva at the very idea that he might be a secret teledrama fan. "..somethin' my little sister watched - the third one. Nevermind, might just be a coincidence." he shrugs his shoulders as he pushes himself to his feet once they hit solid tarmac and snorts, gesturing to Eva and Emrys. "After ya, double-E."
"Might have to fight the deck crew for that honor, Banshee," Alain tells Aubrey, somewhat wryly. "Or, hell, probably sign a few calendars, since you're on home ground." He might, just might, let out a breath when they finally touch down. "Thanks, Nova. Smooth ride," he adds, appreciatively, as he steps outside after Aubrey, gaze immediately going towards the new birds with an appreciative whistle.
Eva steps down from the raptor, offering back, a, "Thanks for the ride, Iris." Because it was a good one, and these little things are important. Her attention shifts, as the technician approaches, and she steps forward, "I'm she." And then a nod, as she hears the woman's words, and she nods, offering a flash of a smile, "Thank you." But she doesn't head for the vipers right away, instead making her way towards Astraea's raptor, peeking her head in, "Nova, you coming?"
Aubrey lets out a low whistle of appreciation at the sight of the fresh new Vipers. With how much she bangs the things up, she barely remembers what a new one looks like. "Aren't they the prettiest thing you've ever seen?" she murmurs.
It's hard to say what all Irene heard of the conversation, probably all of it, but she can at least pretend she was too focused on the landing to reply. At this stage in her career though, she could definitely land a raptor while blindfolded and debating the intricacies of the Articles of Colonization. She gives the trio of viper pilots an all clear gesture without looking back, but she stays in her seat as the door cracks open and they clamber out at their leisure. Eva is given a cheery, "Any time, sir." Otherwise, she's got to have words with her bus, giving the console a gentle whap with the heel of her palm. "What's your problem? I heard that whistling."
"Smooth ride, Iris." Emrys shoots their pilot a grateful smile on the way out. Customs and courtesies are important. He might be vibrating just a little in place, as he surveys the new Vipers. "So beautiful...."
"Want to take a bet on how long before you ding one of these pretties up?" Alain asks Aubrey, with a grin and a nudge of elbow. Because his last bet went so well for him, but this one is surely a solid bet.
"Of course," Astraea answers Alain, but the words are distracted. Almost robotic; definitely not with the warmth she'd usually offer the Gemenese pilot. In fact, she's already got the post-flight checklist out when Eva leans in to speak to her. She looks over to the Hibernian woman and blinks a few times in surprise before looking back to her console. "Why? I'm... jes' gonna be flyin' this one back while y'all get th' new ones, aren't I?" There's a lot of uncertainty on her features; almost fear. Like she's forgotten something. A hint of panic, perhaps.
Aubrey nudges Alain back with a grin. "I thought you were done betting, Jigs? Haven't you learned your lesson? Or do you need another can of gravy to chug?"
When Kell is settled and mostly back to his normal self, he straightens up his posture, watching as Eva walks by to talk to Astraea, glancing back at the Raptor that he rode in on. For now, he just waits though his eyes do go to the newly assembled Vipers, watching as some of the ground crew prepping them for flight. Removing the protective coverings, the cannon blocks, admiring the new designs knowing that soon enough, after a few missions, they will have older, replacement parts in them.
Eva's expression is filled with no small amount of concern, as she sees Astraea's response, hears the stilted tone of her words, but she shakes her head, "I want you to look at these new vipers with me." She waits, as though, even if it's gently done, she expects the other woman to join her. "I have to pick one to take back." She doesn't block the ramp, just waiting.
"It'll be you chugging it this time, if those are the stakes," Alain tells Aubrey, wryly. "And even if I lose, I have at least practice at chugging them, thanks to Socks." He eyes his wingmate sidelong. "Not going soft on me, are you Banshee?" He glances over his shoulder, noting Eva's disappearance into the Raptor with curiosity.
Aubery eyes Alain and smirks. "What constitutes 'dinging it up'? I mean, are we talking scratching the paint? Or losing an engine?" she asks.
"Me?" Astraea looks baffled, but it is a request from a Captain. She hands the clipboard off to her ECO as she unbuckles herself. Most of the checklist is to be handled by them anyway. "Can't say I know much. Was supposedta move on t'Vipers, but th'war hit an-" She realizes she's starting to ramble and cuts herself off, starting her way out of the Raptor and down. Especially when the tech speaks up, removing her helmet as she does so. The panic builds; feeling very on the spot. She clutches at the piece of equipment, clearing her throat a bit. "...well, let's, uh, see 'em then."
Mason gives one more glance towards Irene's Raptor. Dammit, that's gonna niggle at him all night. But she was right about one thing, those Vipers are a damn pretty sight. "What do you think, Hawk?" he asks casually. "Think Cherry will let us test their airworthiness with some manuveurs on the way back?"
Emrys considers the question for a long moment. "Oh, I think we might be able to talk her into it, Jar. I'm sure they're perfectly airworthy though." The techs are right here, after all. A little more of that vibrating in place. "New vipers. I can't think of too many things in the world that feels better than a new bird."
"Anything that gets a scolding from the deck crew." Which, given they're brand new, would probably be everything including a paint-scratch, a fact that Alain seems to realize with a grimace. "Or at least requiring some time from the crew getting the dings out." He watches Eva's return with Astraea as they wait.
Once the raptor is powered down and given a quiet, if stern talking to, Irene walks out onto the stubby wing and stretches her arms over her head and wiggles her fingers at the sky. Not exactly a recruitment poster worthy pose that, but a girl's gotta stretch. Her gaze follows the three viper pilots, Eva to the other raptor, then back Emrys and Mason. She doesn't intrude on their moment, which is almost sacred and all. Instead, she gives their backs a smile and hops down to walk around her bus to kick the tires, more or less. Maybe see if there's something out there responsible for the mystery whistle.
Aubrey hrms. "I don't know if I like those parameters. I could get a dent that needs buffing out from a birdstrike, Jigs," she points out.
Eva gives the technician a nod, as she mentions the lack of upgrades, "Probably for the best. We tend to scuff the paint first day." She does, however, offer a smile, as Astraea comes down to join her, "Yes, I know you were." She waits until Astraea's ready, and the two move off towards the waiting birds. "So, what do you think?" She gives the Scorpian woman a chance to look between them, "I rather like the third one from the left? Something about it just seems to have a bit of character."
"Well..." Astraea tugs at her gloves a bit, looking to the Viper that Eva points out with a bit of uncertainty. "Iff'n you like it? If it were me-" She takes a breath and looks up to the sky and the sun there. Not directly, mind, but squinting up into it. There's a moment where she may just be savoring being in the sunlight. It's not something they get much of on the Vanguard. Just a quiet moment in that proper sunlight before she looks back down and points to the one next to the third- the fourth from the left. "That's th'one I'd pick. Er, if I had th'choice of 'em."
"You saying you can't dodge a slow-ass bird?" Alain replies to Aubrey, grinning. "I have more faith in you than that, Banshee." His eyes go skyward, "But, I mean, if you think you can't handle that, well..." a shrug of shoulders, as he watches Astraea and Eva point out the various vipers. "What do you propose?"
Eva waits, until Astraea's had a chance to look them over, and has made her selection, "In you get then." She waves the raptor pilot off towards the viper she's selected, turning back to the rest of the assembled pilots, "If you all keep waiting," and that's said with no small amount of humour, given that she knows she's responsible for the holdup, "They'll have taken off all the gift wrapping without you."
Aubrey takes the bait of course. "Fine, if I go next official mission without my bird needing repairs, I win. If not, you win. What's the prizes this time?"
And with Eva gives her permission, and sends Astraea on her way, the other Viper jocks are released to make their picks of the unmarked birds.
Irene circles back around from the dark side of the raptor, and apparently having found nothing seriously wrong, leaves it in the care of her ECO. She keeps stretching her legs, giving each step an exaggerated bounce as she takes a line towards the wrapped vipers and the pilots meant to claim them. Naturally enough, she ends up a few paces behind Emrys and Mason, and tip toes to peer over their shoulders at the new birds.
When the hangars open up, Kell's attention moves from the new Vipers as the first fighter is being selected, his attention now shifted to different models of Vipers of the past. When the rest of them are allowed to pick the birds with Eva having made her selection, Razor is one that hangs behind a bit. Perhaps respecting seniority of rank, waiting for the other more senior pilots make their picks before he takes the one that is left over.
"Some real coffee," because Alain is cheap, and airport coffee just doesn't cut it. "And pick of two items that can be delivered to the spaceport. Nothing too expensive, just you know... quality of life stuff." Because without their usual set up, even a clean, properly fitting pair of underpants is a Gods-send. Eva's given a puzzled look, as much for her words as the fact that she's sending Astraea towards a viper. "After you," he says to Aubrey, gesturing. He doesn't seem to have a preference -- this new, they all feel the same to him.
Aubrey brow arches at the exchange with Eva and Astrea and huhs quietly. Then she shoulder nudges Alaiin. "All right, I agree to your terms. Race you!" Off she goes, full tilt towards the shiny new pretty birds with a whoop of delight.
Emrys doesn't need telling twice, and when Eva takes the leash off the Virgon is quick to move to the side of the bird he's had his eye on. The display of viper history distracted him for a moment, but he completely misses the fact they're putting Astraea in a viper. He's far too focused on the new viper he's selected. He even kisses it, all the age having melted away for the moment as he exults in the new bird like an excited schoolboy.
"Right." Astraea's just sort of 'out there' at the moment until Eva's words sink in and she blinks out of the daze of sunlight and everything they're going through in their 'refugee' status. "Wait-" She shakes herself a few times, looking more firmly at the other woman. Her eyes go from Cherry to the Viper frame, then back. "Are ya serious?" She wavers, leaning a bit towards the bird, but not quite sure to go. Like it's a dream that's as fragile as a bubble. One she's not quite ready to risk popping.
Mason chuckles as he moves towards one. "Ain't never had a new one. Always been a hand me down, or hosed out." he says with a shrug of his large shoulders as he settles on the Viper he decided on and glances towards Irene. "Guess we'll have her play taxi for the ride back." he offers.
Kell didn't realize that Eva was having Astraea fly the Viper that was intended for her back to Biscayne Spaceport, not the type to eavesdrop on other people's conversation. However, when he goes to the remaining newly assembled fighter and begins climbing up the ladder to hop into the cockpit, at the height of his climb, Razor sees that Astraea is actually getting ready to climb into a Viper herself. His eyes widen slightly insurprise, standing at the second to the top rung of the ladder, waiting to see what's happening.
Grinning towards the Raptor-come-Viper pilot, Alain gives Astraea a thumbs up, if she happens to look his way. It's hard to resist that competitive spirit of his wingmate, really, when she throws out that challenge. Alain starts off at a measured pace, but by the time Aubrey's running, he's picked up into a jog, at least, slower than her to pick his bird out -- the one next to hers -- circling around it in admiration as he nods to the flight crew prepping it.
Eva's smile widens, humour touching her eyes, "Am I going to have to make that an order, Lieutenant?" She tips her head towards the viper, a hand waving Astraea on, towards the bird she picked out. And if she notices the odd looks she's receiving from the other pilots, she gives no response. She simply moves onward to the viper that has been designated, at least for this flight, as hers. Well, as Astraea's.
Aubrey runs a hand down the side of the Viper of her choice, whispering to it soothingly. Granted, once they're back on Vanguard, no one gets to lay claim to a bird as they're used in rotation. But for the moment, it's hers, and it's brand new.
Staying back, Irene claps her hands together and holds them chest high, smiling. "Aaw." She coos, not quite teasingly, but she's obviously enjoying the scene and the pilots adopting their new viper babies. So cute. "Look at you guys!" Like Mason, she's probably never had a new bus either, just whatever was on rotation, wasn't a smoking wreck and/or was freshly hosed out. "Wait, I should take your picture." She offers the assembled, already turning back for her bus, presumably to get a camera.
Emrys is all about having a picture taken in this moment. He'll make the classic pose, leaning on the bird, helmet under one arm, and wait for Irene to get her camera. He's positively beaming.
She only ever barely began Viper training before the Cylons turned the Colonies upside down. So Astraea's never had one of her own, nor even a shared one. She just starts, slightly, when Eva threatens to make it an order, shaking her head. "Yes, sir." She still sounds rather stunned. Perhaps by what Eva has done or maybe by all the things, but she starts moving closer to the Viper itself, circling it slowly. A mix of shock and the holy shit brand new Viper. Not many pilots get even that opportunity.
"Actually, that's a pretty darn good idea." Mason admits, but he waits for Irene to return with the camera before asking one of the techs. "Ya mind grabbing the shot so that Iris can be in on it as well?" he asks, and when the tech agrees, he gestures for the bus driver to join them at the Vipers, between him and Emrys.
It's a quick trip to the raptor and back, so Irene doesn't take too long and despite the tech's insistence, she snaps off a photo without her in it first, before handing it over. A quick double time puts her between Emrys and Mason where she happily composes herself in a most winsome manner. Almost like, well, she's been in a lot of photos. "Biscuits!" She exclaims before the flash and after hooking her arms through the men's. "Is it a keeper?"
Once Astraea is on the way to her viper, Eva follows after. because, yes, is she pushing the other pilot, sure. Is she willing to be there if Astraea decides to take the pass. Also yes. Pushing is one thing, demanding something of someone who's not ready, is another. She'll walk the bird with the scorpion woman, stepping up onto the ladder only once Astraea has seated herself. Makes it easier to talk to her, quietly enough that they won't be broadcasting their conversation back to the rest of the group.
"...and gravy!" Mason offers up to Irene's biscuits. Because come on, what's biscuits without gravy? BLAND. Once the pictures are taken and the technician gives a thumbs up, there's a glance towards the factory. "Let me know when we're flyin' out, I want to go get a look at that factory, take a tour, see if they give us a free Viper at the end of it." There's a little wink over his shoulder at the group as he heads off.
There's a fond pat to the hull of the bird Alain's chosen, but otherwise he seems largely happy to chat with the flight crew, walking with the younger man as they gesture towards the bird and the latter refers to his checklist, ticking off each item.
"Don't worry Jar, we won't leave with you." Emrys assures the other man. Pictures over, it's back to communing with the new bird. The rest of the world might as well not be there, right then. It would be sweet, if it wasn't for the fact that one of them is a person and the other is a machine.
When Astraea begins her climb into the cockpit of the Viper she will be flying, Kell manages a smile and if she glances in his direction, he would give her an encouraging thumbs up. After that, he would then call out to Eva, "Captain Thorne, can you fly this Viper back? I'll take the Nova's Raptor if you don't mind." He doesn't climb into the Viper, staying on the ladder though so he has line of sight of the Viper Captain.
Irene waves after Mason and as the other Virgon pilot goes back to admiring his new bird, she jogs back over to the tech to collect her camera. She snaps a candid of Emrys in love, and moves down the line, being a little stealthy at first. A few photos are taken on the sly of the other pilots, but if anyone catches her she'll just as happily encourage them to pose and smile for a proper shot.
Aubrey climbs the ladder and gets into the shiny new Viper, running her fingers over the controls, feeling the not-yet-broken-in solidity of the seat, breathing in that new Viper smell with a happy sigh.
It takes a moment to get settled into the Viper cockpit for a few reasons. A large one being the same as the others. It's new. It's shiny. It doesn't even have all of its markings in place yet. The other being that Astraea hasn't been in one in nearly two years. Or about two years. She doesn't remember. She'd just begun the process. Just been tapped for it. Then war. She settles in, helmet in lap for now as Eva begins speaking to her. There is a glance over to Kell as he offers to fly her Raptor back, brow furrowing to him in an expression of 'Are you sure?'
Alain, for his part, seems unaware of Irene's stealthy photo-approach. He's caught mid-gesture towards the plane, deep in conversation with the flight tech. It's only once the checklist is completed and the flight tech waves him off that the Gemenese pilot finally climbs up the ladder and settles into the cockpit of the brand-new viper, breathing deeply as he runs his hands over the brand-new instrument panels. With a grin, he gives his customary thumbs-up towards Aubrey. This is the life.
Aubrey returns Alain's thumbs up, then sticks her tongue out at her wingman before laughing brightly, and putting her helmet on. "Comms check, 1 2 3. You read me Jigger?"
Eva looks over, as she hears the question from Razor, "If you feel confident that you can get the raptor back, and not choke Pitbull, then you're welcome to fly it back, Razor." And then, as she hands off the duty, at least for now, she turns to Astraea, talking the woman through things and that, doing a quick and dirty refresher course, "if you're ready to do this, she's all yours. If not, I'll bring her back, and we'll get started with your training when you get back. We'll do whatever you decide, Nova."
Catching sight of Astraea's questioning glance, Kell gives her a nod of his head before looking back at Eva and nodding to her as well, "No choking, Captain, I promise." Before climbing down, Razor catches sight of Irene being a bit sneaky with the camera just in time but instead of waving the Raptor pilot off, he sets up a more proper pose for her to snap a picture. Then after flashing a grin, he begins the climb down, probably oblivious to the techs who are most likely rolling their eyes at the antics of the pilots. Heading towards the Raptor, Kell climbs in and greets Pitbull with a thin smile, "I'll be flying this bird back, I promise no barrel rolls unless absolutely necessary."
Emrys is happily settled into the cockpit of the new viper, running his fingers along all the brand new surfaces. Making sure everything is just where it should be. And possibly making noises under his breath. Nobody will ever know for sure on that last one, but it's likely.
Tugging on his own helmet, Alain toggles the comms channel open. "Banshee, Jigger. Reading you loud and clear. In fact, is it my imagination or are these mikes even better?" Jigger marvels. "This could be bad." With a grin, he adds, "Nova, you reading us?"
Irene gets a few shots of Alain and Aubrey giving each other thumbs up, then has the more willing subject in Kell to have fun with. "Oh nice, very heroic! I'll make you a star, Razor." She promises with a laugh that kinda throws it into some doubt. As he splits for the other raptor, she wanders off, eyes down, double checking her last photo. She doesn't look up again until she's at the nose of Astraea's new ride. Seeing Eva and her have a tete a tete, she merely offers a little wave and takes a shot of them without interupting beyond that.
There's a deep breath from Astraea as she's given that refresher from Eva. She settles her hands on the controls, starting the process of getting things going. "I'm good," she says, quietly at first. Then a bit more firmly. "I'm good." Assuring herself as much the Hibernian. The comms come up in time for her to hear Jigger, faintly, through her helmet. She picks that up, getting it in place. "Jigger, Nova. Hear ya loud and clear." She takes a breath, leaning back and looking past the hangar to the sky. She doesn't even notice Irene passing; likely for the best. Makes it a real candid shot, rather than the stiff, awkward thing she'd get otherwise.
Aubrey flicks on her various systems, "Banshee's bird is checking out green across the board, Cherry," she announces, looking over the readouts and getting a feel for where everything is. "Make sure we don't fly near anything on the way home, mom, I have another bet to win with my wingman."
Eva, once she hears Astraea's affirmation, gives a nod, turns, and steps down from the ladder, moving to pull it away, signaling to the rest of the pilots, "Everyone in your birds, so we can get back to the spaceport before our window of opportunity closes." Because none of them know how long the skies will remain clear. "Someone grab Jar." She reaches up, patting the side of Astraea's viper, "See you back at the Bay, Nova." And then she's gone, heading towards her own viper. Not the four that Astraea's in, nor the three she picked. But she's alright with that. She taps the comms, "Alright, let's spin up these engines and get in the air."
"You remember the ignition sequence, Nova?" Alain asks Astraea, the teasing grin obvious in his voice and clearly audible, thanks to the brand spanking new mikes. Tagging onto Aubrey's words to Cherry, he adds, "Just watch out for the high-flying birds, eh Banshee?" he seems pretty confident. Or maybe he just isn't that bothered by losing this particular bet -- one that encourages his wingmate to return unscathed. He grins, and at Eva's order, is more than happy to spin up his bird and go through his usual pre-launch sequence, no nerves -- just delight.
Somewhat reluctantly, Hawk dismounts when it becomes clear they're leaving. He did tell Mason they wouldn't leave him behind, after all. Once he's fetched the other man, it's back into his bird and going through the sequence of spinning her up. What a thrill.
Irene turns the camera on herself for a selfie, pulling a suitably silly face, then apparently thinks better of it and does another all serious like, looking off into the middle distance, chin up. "I'll get him!" She offers, since she's not in a bird already anyway. She paces off in an almost jog, pausing only once to frame the display of antique vipers up for a quick snap. Hawk's beat her to fetching Mason by that point, so she takes another photo and then makes a beeline for her raptor. The ECO already has it warming up.
"See you there, Cherry," Nova calls down to Cherry, trying to shake off the last of her nerves. It's not a training flight. This is the real deal. Sure, it's not combat, but still. Astraea's hands shake, but just barely. She grabs the canopy and drags it closed firmly before starting the sequence to get the engines of the Viper going. She looks down the line to Alain, managing a grin in return for the Gemenese. "Y'know there's fewer buttons in here. Might be able to figure it out." She's trying to joke back, even if it's coming out a little more flat and dry. The Scorpian allows the others to taxi ahead of her to the tarmac; only going so far as to exit the hangar. She lifts a gloved hand to he canopy itself, looking up to the sky again for a long moment.
When ordered, Aubrey launches. "Banshee is away," she says over the comm, feeling the power of the newly tuned Viper and the smooth response from the stick. "This baby handles so smooth."
"Copy that, Banshee. Razor, launch and handle overwatch. I'll join you there." And so she does, the raptor , now manned by Kell, and new viper rising to provide air cover for the rest of the pilots as they take off and move into formation. "Flight, Cherry. We have a long flight back ahead of us. We are not to engage. Our mission is to bring these birds back to the spaceport. Not to end up needing to turn back around and pick another one up. Evasive action only, is authorized."
"Good flying, Nova," Alain calls to Astraea in return, laughing. There's a certain impatience to get in the air, but Jigger waits his turn with a familiar drumming against the brand new console -- audible across the comms, since he hasn't toggled off his channel yet. When it's his turn to launch, he lets out a whoop of delight that usually only accompanies the splash of a toaster. "Not even a single creak or groan. I think I'm in love." After Eva issues her orders, he responds, "Roger that, Cherry. Hey, what do you think the chances are Whisper'd let us claim these as personal planes?" Less than none, probably, but he has to ask!
"Cherry, Hawk copies." Emrys acknowledges the orders, as the brand new viper takes off and slides into formation. So smooth, so easy. So /new/. Evasive action only. That still leaves them with a lot of room to maneuver, pun intended.
Irene stows the camera, closes the hatch and gets herself strapped into the pilot seat. Once in, she goes over the checklist again to her ECO's patient amusement and when everything is green she says over comms, "Iris is go." Then as an aside to her co-pilot, she says, "We'll just pretend this one is new. Oh, it smells so fresh. Not like stale sweat, farts and blood at all. Mmm. Console isn't even dented, works without needing to slap it every so often and it doesn't whistle like the wind is streaming right through the windows either." There's a wistful sigh there, then she gets to business, lifting off to join the formation.
One might think that at some point along the way, Astraea would realize that her mere appointment to the Timber Wolves would think she has skill and talent to show worthiness, but sometimes little can break through a cloud of sheer self-doubt. And the Scorpian? Has a lot of that. No amount of how well she was doing at Academy before she was fast-tracked into 'just get out there and fight' matters in her mind. Nor how well she performed before she was posted to the Wolves. But for a brief, shining second as she takes off down the tarmac and the Viper performs without a hitch... Nova actually believes in herself. There's no banter or cheering over the comms, no. From her corner of the skies, there's silence and a steady hand, but Masters is getting that sense of I can do this. Not just saying it, not just putting on the face for others, but actually believing it. She settles in with the others and only then, across the radio, can be heard to let out a small, shaking laugh.
And them, more soberly, "Evasive maneuvers only, if we encounter enemy contacts. But we can't afford to take chances. So you're all weapons hot on the way back."
"A man can dream, Banshee," comes Alain's amused reply, accompanied by a wiggle of wings in return. "Well, since we only have these guaranteed for the flight back... permission to have some fun, Cherry?" he asks, hopefully. He seems to take Cherry's words about blowing the engines out as a yes, because, after a grin over at his wingmate, he punches it, his viper screaming forward.
"Cherry, Banshee. Copy that. Weapons hot and seeing how fast this bird can fly." Aubrey returns Alain's grin then goes full throttle, the Picon pilot thankfully turning off the mic when she howls for joy, spinning and barrel rolling through the skies over the Bay, cutting through the air like a hot knife through butter.
"Copy that, Flight Leader." Iris replies before giving the center console a decisive thump with the heel of her palm. Her ECO shrugs. She shrugs back. "Keep an eye on that, Wooly. If you see anything, friendly or not, I want to know. Also, hold onto your socks." There's a grin flashed before she pushes the GO VERY FAST button, lighting up the raptor's engines for a heavy burn to keep her ahead of, or at least pacing the stunting vipers at the point of the 'V'.
"Cherry, Hawk. Copy that. Weapons hot, throttle hotter." And then he punches it, zooming forward and up. He'll fly safely, of course, but he's not above throwing in the odd little trick here and there, looping high up to fly over those who are flying over them and then back down.
Eva remains in overwatch, keeping a weather eye on all of the vipers, not only the newest one. Figuratively and literally. She matches the pace, but only in speed, as she does not special manevuering save what would be necessary to warn the flight of any incoming threats. But for now, as they pass out of the range of the friendly SAM, and are seem off by the Picon vipers, the skies are clear, and with any good luck, will remains go back to the spaceport.
"Cherry, Nova, copy." KEW. Astraea hasn't dealt with a cannon in a long time. She sort of stares at it, but shakes her head slightly and flips the switch nonetheless. "Weapons hot," she affirms, watching the others race on ahead. There's a bit of a delay before she does so, with a final look to the skies still above them. After a deep breath, she hits the pedals to adjust the wings and goes into a turn. Up becomes down and the ground is soon flying by 'overhead.' Then, she hits the throttle. It's something she's always wanted to do and why not? Why not try to play with the others just a bit as she kicks the afterburners in to try to catch up. They can go fast. She'll go fast and upside down.
Alain is not nearly as reckless as his wingmate in the pilot's seat, but he's definitely letting loose in the new bird and getting a feel for what it can do, echoing Aubrey's barrel roll as they scream forward, occasionally whooping with delight.
Eva and Razor continue on, watching the pilots letting their hair down, knowing, better than most, how rare it is to fly something brand new and just off the assembly line. "It's a hell of a thing, isn't it? That feeling of knowing no one's ever put their hands on those controls before?" She lifts up, pulling up higher, as they pass over one of the almost desert-like areas, in the runup to the Bay. It's only a small patch, but enough that it's an oddity worth investigating. "Alright, let's head in for the final approach. We're about halfway back, if I'm not mistaken, Iris?"
Aubrey spirals through the air, diving and climbing alternately to test out the Viper's functions. "Cherry, Banshee. This baby moves like nobody's business. Those techies deserve a raise."
Emrys flies sideways for a little bit, putting the viper through every test he can think of. He's mostly silent on the comms, but if the maneuvers he's pulling are any indication he's probably not silent in the cockpit right now.
"Just remember, Banshee, these being brand-spanking-new, the techs are going to get extra upset when you inevitably ding them," Alain calls, as he pulls a sharp-turn maneouver, a common movement for him in combat when trying to shake a tail or get a good angle on a new target.
There's not a lot of fancy maneuvers from Astraea, but she tries a few. Mostly fast. But fast is what they were told and she's keeping up with the others. She comes out of that upside-down and pulls into a climb, briefly. Some things are similar to Raptors, just with a bit more zip. She does, briefly, forget to cut the comms and a quiet string of Scorpian comes across. Not singing this time; just something spoken lowly to herself at the peak of that 'climb' before she evens out and settles back into formation with the others. No barrel rolls or combat turns. Perhaps not trusting herself to those just yet.
Irene flicks the console screen with a gloved fingertip, but barely looks at it, just giving it abuse out of habit now. Over comms she replies, "Copy that. We're almost exactly half way back and all clear, Flight Leader." Since she hasn't been doing tricks, she's kept on the correct heading and doesn't deviate, providing a guiding star of sorts.
"Jigger, you really have no room to talk in the 'getting your bird shot up' department," Aubrey quips back at her wingman with a laugh.
"Cherry, Razor, if you want to stretch your Viper's legs a bit, Pitbull and I are pretty well set up here on overwatch. He has DRADIS on maximum range, no weather disturbances, we should have plenty of advance warning if something comes this deep into our lines." Kell says from the pilot seat of a Raptor, a place he has not been in for a good amount of time. But flying, to him, is like riding a bike. Once you've learned it, you know it for life. His eyes are still on the open skies, scanning each sector visually as he works with his ECO on making sure the skies are clear.
"Hey, that last missile was totally not my fault. Picon IFF my ass," Alain grumbles in response to Banshee's tease, albeit it doesn't last for long -- not given he's able to punch the viper forward as if said not-friendly-at-all raptor was right there. "Gotta figure out some better way to be able to signal friendly, now that they can spoof IFF."
"I appreciate the offer, Razor. Think I'll take you up on it." And with that, Cherry hits the trottle, moving to spear down towards the rest of the flight, catching up, well, after a while, swooping between the planes, giving them a visual check, making not a single remark if she sees soundless screaming going on. "How're you all holding up? Birds handling alright?"
They're almost back to the Bay, and then, sadface, time to hand them over to Walsh and her team.
Aubrey sighs as the bay comes into view. "Oh baby, I don't want to let you go," she murmurs lovingly. To the Viper. At least one hopes that is what she's cooing to.
"Cherry, Hawk. This one's handling like a dream. Holding up just fine over here." Emrys checks in at the request for data, and there's a wistful and slightly sad tone in his voice. The bay is, after all, in view now and the inevitable surrender of their new toys that much closer.
There's no silent screaming from Astraea's viper. A look somewhere between focus and bliss? Yes. She's got her head tipped up towards the sky at times, but is mostly making sure she keeps things in line and a least mostly arranged with the rest of the wing. She doesn't keep too close to the others; no need to risk an accident in the air. Oh no. Nope, not at all. There's a deep breath as the spaceport comes into view. "Jigger, Nova... Say a prayer that I put this thing down solid?" She sounds just a bit nervous.
"I hate to say this, Cherry, but I'm actually almost disappointed we didn't run into hostiles. I can't wait to see what these babies can do," Alain says, as he reluctantly slows his speed as the bay comes into view. "Nova, Jigger. Don't need it; you've got this. But I'll toss one in for good luck," he replies to Astraea, as he circles back around, waiting for Astraea to land before he follows in close behind.
Irene somehow manages to refrain from playing chicken with commercial liners, instead following control's instructions like a totally boring and responsible pilot. The only fun she allows herself is a purposefully hard, gut churning drop, if only to turn her poor ECO a shade of green for a minute. Otherwise she finds her allotted spot and puts the bus down gentle as anything. "Sorry, Wooly." She smiles, already unstrapping and going for her camera.
Eva, having made it back with a bit of a moment to enjoy the newness of the ride, settles back into overwatch, as best she can with the planes overhead, waiting for all of the other cipers to set down before she will.
Back at pickup, it was just the others in this small crew watching. Plus the techs, of course. Here? It's the entire starport. The commercial pilots. The Picon navy. The Timber Wolves and the rest of the Vanguard crew taking up occupancy at the terminal. If Astraea doesn't get this right, everyone will know and it won't just be on her, but on Cherry, too. The jig takes a deep breath once flight control gives her the all clear, angling in after Aubrey to land the bird. It's not a picture-perfect landing, no, but it's one done well-enough and clean enough that the frame is delivered as clean and clear as one can expect. Fresh and new for Walsh to get to her team to be given the appropriate markings.
"Said one hoping that you don't ding it even before we even took off, Banshee," Jigger quips back quickly, not sounding particularly upset she's landed the plane in one piece. They're too nice birds to wish ill on them. He only sets his viper down once he sees Astraea's bird has landed safely. "See, Nova? You make it look easy," he says, as he taxis over to where flight crew are indicating to park the bird.
"Oh, I think you'll have a chance to see what they can do soon enough, Jigger. I wouldn't worry about that." And that will be Eva's final transmission over the comms, before she pops the canopy, waiting for one of the deck crew to roll over a ladder for her, to give her a chance to step down. A moment, to look over the new birds, before she moves to speak briefly with the NCO on duty to turn over the vipers to them, officially.
Just as soon as the hatch is open, Irene is out on the wing with her camera, taking pictures of the new vipers landing. She's like a little tourist down there, merrily clicking away until all the birds are on the ground. Then it's back to business and getting out of the ground crew's way.
Aubrey opens her canopy and climbs down, removing her helmet and jogging over to Alain's bird with a grin and a bouncing step. "That. Was. Awesome!"
"No, y'all made it look easy," Astraea answers before starting the post-flight procedures. Those take her a bit longer and there's soon a tech knocking on the canopy. She looks a bit sheepish as she opens it. Helmet in lap, she goes over the checklist with them before climbing down the ladder herself. There's a look up at the Viper once she's back on the ground. The Scorpian glances up at Alain's Viper, but halts her progress as she sees Aubrey running that way; instead, she angles towards the Raptor she had been assigned, waiting for Kell to exit.
Alain is out of the cockpit not long after the flight crew brings over a ladder, though he looks a tad reluctant to leave. Aubrey's enthusiasm is infectious, though, and he reaches out a closed fist for a bump as she approaches. "I know, right? Drew the good straw to get that assignment. Just hope we get to see them again soon, before they get too banged up. Be a damn shame if they never make it back to the Vanguard." Or wherever they end up next.
Alas, the way to Kell is not clear, as Eva moves to intercept the raptor pilot, tipping her head in Astraea's direction. "That was solid flying, Nova." And then, before she lets the woman wander off back to her raptor, since, whether she piloted it back or not, she's still responsible for the post-flight, "Think you'd be interested in doing it again?"
Aubrey fist bumps Alain and reaches a hand to ruffle his hair playfully. "Every time someone flies her that isn't me I'm going to get jealous!" She looks back at the shiny ship with a sigh. "Thanks for today though. Really. I don't think I'd have gotten through earlier, without you."
Emrys isn't immediately drawn into the post-flight discussions. Rather, he hovers near the new bird he just got out of. Normally he just lets the techs do their thing, but this time around he's eyeing them closely as they go to work.
It gives Kell time to deal with Pitbull, at least. Astraea doesn't really envy anyone that job, even if she's gotten used to the Aerilon ECO's ways. She blinks at Eva, helmet bumping against her leg. She looks back at the Viper, then to the taller pilot again. "If... If I'm bein' honest? Yeah, I would."
"Anytime," Alain replies with a grin to Aubrey, and then he makes a face, doing his best to smooth his hair back into place. "Guess you can leave a list of what you want on my cot." Assuming she can find it -- there's not exactly nameplates or anything. "Nothing that's not in an airline catalogue or in the gift shops -- doubt I can convince Whisper to let me off base for anything special." He spots Eva talking with Astraea, and grins, nudging Aubrey and nodding in their direction. "Think she's going to make the jump over to vipers? Be hard pressed to resist after flying one of these babies," he says, with a jerk of thumb towards 'his' plane.
Aubrey glances over towards Astraea and her smile lessens just a touch. "I think she's gunning for my slot as your wingman, Jigs. I'm gonna go get showered and into something clean." She clasps him on the shoulder once, before she heads off the tarmac into their converted hangar.
Eva nods, as if she hadn't really expected anything else from Astraea, "Good. I'll start working up a training schedule. We might not be able to secure holobands or sim time right away, but we can get you back up to speed and ready for that. I'll speak with Whisper and get it cleared." With that, she steps back, leaving Astraea to finish up the last of her duties, while she heads off to ensure that she's signed off on each of the new ships.
"Right. Uhm." Astraea shakes herself a bit before smiling, just a bit broader. "Of course. I mean- if she doesn't, I understand, but thank you, Cherry." She gives a salute because, well, it seems the right thing to do in the moment before moving past the woman and towards the Raptor to check in on Kell and Pitbull. Make sure they haven't killed one another and that the post-flight check has gone well. Also, to: "Thanks for flyin' her back, Razor. She treat ya right?"
Alain starts to respond to Aubrey, though clamps down whatever he was going to say when she clasps him on the shoulder, settling for a nod instead. Glancing at the other pilots still on the tarmac for a moment, he turns and heads in himself.
It seems like Kell's quiet and cordial demeanor results in no conflicts between the pilot and the ECO, there is not much chatter at all actually. Either Pitbull tried to bait the Ensign with some words and received no response, thus becoming bored or he just didn't try. Razor is going through the shutdown procedures though, perhaps a little rusty so he isn't as fast but they are getting it down, the hum of the engine quieting down as it is being shutdown.