Eva and Niemec have a chance to catch up. Niemec, as always provides the voice of reason.
Location: Patio Bar, Beachfront Hotel, Argentum Bay
Related Scenes: None
Scene Number: 331
It's early, in the evening, early for dinner, but just late enough, that the sun will spark a beautiful sunset across the water. Eva's settled at the open-air bar at the hotel by the beach. The last time she was sitting on this patio, she encountered one unexpected face. With no small amount of luck, this time she hopes to encounter another. Not necessarily unexpected, but long missed. She's selected a table with a perfect view of the water, not far from the gate that allows access to the beach from the patio proper. No uniform today, but a long, just a hair below ankle-length sundress, pale white, with summer flowers. It may be that that makes her seem so different in appearance. or, it might be the now shockingly cherry red colour of her hair. The usual copper red no longer in evidence.
When the transfer orders had come months ago, they were a shock. A blessing, in essence, because Antonie needed the change of scenery after loss, but a shock nonetheless. She'd not expected the promotion. Her, a CAG. On a smaller ship, but even so. It was an honor all the same. She was due to ship out tomorrow; a brief stopover for supplies and new orders, but just a bit of overlap with the Timber Wolves as they awaited their new boat. And a surprising bit of word from a fellow pilot. The woman, however, is not dressed in civilian attire. It showcases how brief -- unfortunately -- her own stay and how busy things are for her. She's in duty blues and already looks apologetic as she walks up.
"I like the look," she offers, by way of greeting. "And I manage to feel both under and over-dressed, regardless of what the recruitment posters say."
The CAG, not hers, but the CAG's arrival is marked as soon as the Tauron raptor pilot comes into view, Eva watching her approach, for a moment only, before she looks away, a hand rising to quickly wipe at the sudden shock of tears that burn her eyes, and blur her vision. The other woman is very nearly in speaking distance, before Eva manages to pull herself together, and as Niemec finally arrives, Eva has a warm smile in place, offering her hands to the other woman, moving in to offer a light kiss, a greeting and welcome, light, not romantic. "Thank you, Antonie. I wasn't sure you'd come. And you always look wonderful."
The kiss is returned; just as light. It's an embrace, however, that Antonie makes to draw Eva into and that is meant to last longer. A warm hug for the other woman. A need to have her in her arms. As a friend and as a former (and current, as member of the Fleet) compatriot-in-arms. "I've seen the news of Picon. I had to check the lists." Of course she did. To make sure Eva's name was still marked as 'active.' She shakes her head slightly, once they move away, angling for a chair at the table. "Only duty would keep me away, Eva. We ship out tomorrow, if everything's on schedule. Patrol by Sagittaron."
Eva comes easily into the embrace, and there's so tension there, no anxiety. How could there be, with this woman she's know so long and so well? "You know me, Antonie, I'm too stubborn for that." Because even considering that you won't come back, before you actually do, is a downward spiral for any pilot. So more unbreakable ego, less injection of reality. When the embrace finally ends, she moves to return to her seat, waiting for Antonie to join her, "So soon?" Of course, par for the course in the military, "How has it been? Your own command. It must be wonderful for you."
"We just came through for supplies and orders." Since there's no sending things over the wireless or even long-distance radio. Even Raptors, sometimes, can be a risk or the more sensitive things. So why not wait until the resupply? Antonie settles in, looking out to the ocean. There's a glance back o Eva and a slightly broader grin. "It was wonderful until I got into my office and saw the utter lack of organization the previous CAG had. I think I've spent more time over the past few months doing paperwork than I have in the cockpit, sadly. Maybe they promoted me because I was getting rusty." She leans back, breathing out a sigh. "How is-" a beat, "was the Vanguard?"
Eva settles in, a hand signaling for the waiter, now that the party she was waiting on has arrives. The grin is returned, "Always about efficiency, isn't it? Except when it comes to doing paperwork. I think Stirling...that's the new CAG, felt the same when she came in and saw the old CAG, Webb, not Kallas', mess. I think she's still finding clusters of papers to go through. So I don't envy you that at all, though we've tried to help her as much as we can.' Eva considers, as she hears the question, her expression darkening a bit, "Relentless, a lot of losses, pilots and marines. They put us all together, Marines and Wing, mixed berthings, and that's had some rough patches, but mostly it was just...to many changes so fast, and the cylons we've been encountering have been unlike anything we saw on the Galactica.
"How is Kallas, anyway? I've not checked in on him recently." It sounds more out of time constraints than anything else." Antonie smooths at her slacks as she speaks, offering a polite smile to the waiter before her attention returns to Eva. At the mention of mixed berthings, she cringes. "I... do not envy you in the least. I couldn't imagine." No, no, she is happy in air country. Quite happy. "I've largely been in support roles. It's been almost frustrating at times. I understand how important it is, to be able to be there as backup when and where needed, but just... waiting for that call is infurating."
"He's alive. I saw him a few months ago, the last time we were on leave here. I had been hoping to see him again, before we ship out. He's been mustered out of the Navy. He'll...he'll never sit a viper again. Too much damage to his body. They're trying to sell him on....you can still fly other things, eventually, and one of the new captains, Hawk, has some connections he's offered to pull in, but you can imagine...if you were told the only job you ever wanted was gone forever. But he's still Kallas, sad, but not bitter. And then, an understanding nod, "It must be awful. It was bad enough when we were just defending our colonies, but now...with a war on...to be on the sidelines." She reaches out, offering a hand, "I'm sorry, Antonie."
"But he's alive. That's the important thing. Whenever someone survives. He still has his tactical know-how. The Fleet needs that, too." Antonie listens to the rest and accepts Eva's hand. She wraps her fingers around the other woman's; tattooed and darker with the more pale. There's a small smile for her and a minute shake of her head. "Don't apologize. I know we serve a vital function. I've been there. When things are falling to pieces and what a relief it is to see a wing fly in with full tanks and full munitions. That's what we do. Someone has to. Honestly? The worst of it isn't always being on the sidelines, Cherry. The worst is worrying if we'll get there in time."
"Yes, of course, you're right. He might be able to find a place working in a logistical capacity. And that..." well it won't be enough, would never be, "might be something that keeps him in the war, keeps him contributing." She studies the hand in hers, turning it, noting the dark swatches of ink, "Some of these are new." Some thing...you remember about Antonie Niemec. "It might have been better if you and your wing had been there at Ilsaboro then, because we didn't get there in time, and we weren't effective enough to stop more than a wave or two of the bombing. It was a shit storm, Antonie. It wasn't even the basestar...it...we would never have been able to handle them, there were too many. Too many too fast. And then...two cylon-controlled raptors, spoofing Picon IFF, came in, went after our wing, shot down Finn. I waited for orders, after the first missile strike, I should have just attacked, but I didn't. And Finn went down. We were lucky to get a SAR on him."
"Some," Antonie agrees, looking to the sunburst and the slight expansions to it. Signs that the Ha'la'tha mafia has approved of her work. Her 'service' to the cause. She squeezes Eva's hand, but doesn't retract her own as she listens. "I wish we could have," she agrees. "But we were too far. They couldn't have gotten he call to us in time." She winces at the spoofing and Finn being shot down. "I'm glad he was rescued. I... understand the wait. There was that other friendly fire incident. Word of that went through the whole fleet, Eva. Or a fair chunk of it. I'm guessing no one wanted a repeat."
"I'm glad. I know how important that is to you." She may not be tauron, but she knew and loved this woman long enough to know how much Antonie's family ties have meant to her. "There's no guarantee that you would have been able to do much more than we did. It was like seeing a spawning. The sky was thick with them, and they're stronger and smarter than I've ever seen." She nods, "Yes, I'm sure that was the reason, but I don't intent to let that happen again. We can't even trust our own instrumentation anymore. I'm doing what we've always done best, which is to trust my gut. Because I knew, something inside of me, I knew. I even waves Finn off at the last minute. because I didn't want to disobey orders...again."
"You should have been with the Galactica, still." A ship that can go toe-to-toe with a basestar. Antonie looks concerned for a moment, but the battle is past, so she just squeezes Eva's hand firmly. The only other outward sign of her concern and what remains of her fear for the other woman. "They'll release new codes. Demand visual shows for confirmation when needed. We have our ways." She offers a small smile. One that likely is not entirely reassuring. "Disobeying orders is... not something I can even consider anymore. It's likely the worst part of this job, Eva. I have to constantly remember that everyone's eyes are on me. Every time I want to just do something, I have to remember that everyone's eyes are on me."
"Yes, we should have been, we tried to patch a hole with a band-aid. But at the same time, we don't have enough battlestars to go against all of their basestars. So we did everything we could with what we had to work with, and the Vanguard fought hard until the end. I got a chance to see her, when we were salvaging...she fought to the end." The squeeze of her hand is returned, "It's the downside to all of this. We can't be a strikeforce on a battlestar. That's not the battlestar's mission. But at the same time, being at the bleeding edge means we're going to come up against thing we can't handle, but have to try to do regardless." She smiles, an expression filled with rue, "It seems to me that that is the only benefit to staying a Captain until they muster me out for failure to promote." A beat, "It was a rescue, a picon destroyer that was being attacked, we were to rescue the remainder of their air wing. We had been recalled, when we got a contact. A disabled raptor. I held the wing in the air against orders to retrieve them. The Vanguard almost jumped without us."
"You're the stiletto. The Galactica is the battering ram. I am the cavalry. We serve our purposes. They're all vital for a cohesive military, but they all have their weaknesses as well as their strengths. I have too much time to think, but I can be called in and there when the front lines are run ragged to pick up the slack. You can insert as an early strike to hit hard, when they're blind, but sometimes you'll run against things you aren't prepared for." Antonie offers a small smile, but it falters a bit at Eva's story. She breathes out slowly. "You know, I still think that had it not been carrying a nuclear payload, I would have found myself before a panel for the time I tried to run a raider head-on. That's what the trick is, in our decisions. If it's successful, we get away with it. If not..." She can only give a small shrug before looking out to the water. "You won't be mustered out. They need every able body they can get and you're good. One of the best."
"You always had such a way to make things seem to much more beautiful and exciting than I, Antonie. But you've always been the cavalry, even when you were on the Galactica, and that wasn't just what you did in the air. And I seem to have the opposite problem. We are called to so many areas, we have no time to reassess, no time to look at new techniques, no tactics, no time to recover. We were losing ships so often, for a while there, we almost couldn't ship them in fast enough to keep full CAP and Alert five ships. And we put down here once before, a few weeks ago, because our Marines had so many casualties and injuries they couldn't put a full squad on the ground." Despite the seriousness of 'run a raider head-on', the mention brings a smile to Eva's lips, "You did what you had to do and it worked out. I think that's why Stirling never reprimanded me for what I did." But that last...that brings a frown, "It's terrible you know...being top ace. We dream of it...but..." It is obviously bothering the woman.
"The life of a Raptor pilot. Either you're sitting out in the middle of the black with only your ECO to keep you company for twelve hour stretches on recon or you're in the middle of the furball trying to watch twenty things at once. Sure, you don't get time to assess, but you only have to think about what you and your wingman are doing. Trust me, I got plenty jealous at times. Now? I have to think about the entire wing on a ship." Antonie's nose wrinkles slightly. "It makes me miss teaching, Eva. At least the students know they need your guidance. Once they become El-Tees, they think they know best." She lets out a sigh, but catches that last. There's a squeeze to the other woman's hand and she leans in, fingers slipping to her wrist. "But? Is it not all being carted around upon shoulders and beer?" There's a hint of teasing, but more to lighten the mood than anything.
"I always wondered why you all never stocked the thing with snacks and movies. But at least you have someone else in there to keep you company. All I have is snacks. Which is precisely how I ended up like this." A flash of a smile, at that, as if the joke could lighten the mood, "You would not believe how often I have been thinking that same thing, especially with some of the newer Wolves. Even the ensigns are giving lip and not wanting to follow orders. It's infuriating." A shake of her head, at that last question, as if she were trying to find the right answer. Finally, she looks over at Antonie, "Who do you see when you look at me, Antonie?"
"Oh, if we knew we were going on recon? We definitely stocked it with food, books, a vid player. But anything else, it's usually out of the question. The boss frowns at you and well-" Antonie flashes a grin, "Now I'm the one who has to uphold those standards. "Though I can't fault anyone some snacks. Nothing worse than hunger on a flight. I think that's your fault." When the question comes, it causes her to falter a bit. She wasn't expecting it, so it takes her time to consider. "I see... you. A woman I care a lot about. One of the best pilots I've ever known. And... some incredibly red hair. I rather hope that's dye and I didn't forget just how red it was."
"I wish you could have a talk with some of our pilots. You know one of them carries around a game player that he plays in the middle of briefings? It's infuriating." But that's really not the point or the real problem. "No, you didn't misremember. I just had it done this morning at the salon. I took them the colour I wanted and avoided getting dye all over the hotel room." But then, more seriously, "But when i just asked you, Antonie, the first thing you said was...a woman. you see, I think what you have always seen. Eva. Just be, just this person you knew. That person doesn't live in the world of the Wolves anymore. I've become two different but related caricatures. The mother figure who is supposed to be the support and rock of the rest of the wing, or the ace with 32 kills and more every day. Who fly hard and gets back up when she gets hit hard. Eva, as the woman you knew, nobody sees that, nobody wants that. I can count on one hand with fingers left over, people see me as something other than these two things."
"A game player?" Antonie makes a bit of a face. "It's like he never left Academy." She falls quiet then, frowning as she listens. Drawing her chair closer around the table, she turns to better face Eva and brings up her other hand to hold the other pilot's with both of hers. She brings up Cherry's knuckles to press her lips to them. "It's like you've been promoted without actually doing so." There's a flash of a smile before she lowers their hands to the table again. "Let me guess... You're still leading most of the missions? That may have something to do with it. It sets you apart, on a subconscious level. I felt it sometimes, even though we were both Captains. Ask to have someone else be wing leader more often, perhaps. Fight as one of them rather than... above them, as it were." She shrugs, grimacing. "It might not work, but it's a thought."
Eva frowns, hands tightening in Antonie, "That's it feels. I tried to explain to Finn, how tired I am of having to be strong for so many people. And I know he's right. I know that's the job. But I just wish that I could get a break." There's a sadness, in her smile, as Niemec kisses her knuckles, her free hand rising to briefly, lightly, cup Antonie's cheek, "You know Finn I almost never fly together anymore. We run so many missions, so many patrols, all of the senior pilots have been divided to fly mission lead. You'd better believe, every time I can, I try to turn it over to someone else, but there's usually no one else but me." A moment, a hard exhale, "I just want to be a pilot again."
"Have you spoken to your CAG about this?" Antonie tilts her head slightly, considering. "What about... handing it off to the El-Tees on lesser missions? Things that are more routine? With what you guys do-" She squeezes Eva's hand before settling back with another look to the ocean. The look of someone who knows she may not see land or sea again properly for a while. Those looks of committing things to memory. "You never know when one of them may have to take command in the field." She looks back to the other woman. "It might snap some of the brats back to reality, too. Routine mission, you get to relax. They have to feel the weight on their shoulders. They get the training in case the shit hits the fan... I've been considering it for my people."
"I haven't directly, though I think that's a fantastic idea. I do know that I asked her...about maybe shifting my schedule so Finn could actually see each other more than every fourth o fifth day, and she said she needed her senior pilots to handle the flights. But I will bring it up to her. I am worried about what is going to happen when we go down, and that's not a possibility that is...unlikely. Our rate of attrition is terrible. And we can't guarantee that there will be senior pilots anymore. And we have some very capable lieutenants, such as Milkman." She pauses, looking in the direction that Antonie is looking, "Shall we adjourn to the beach and walk a while?"
"You need more senior pilots, then. Or at least those capable to take up the mantle when the situation demands." Antonie's lips twist in a small smile. "Spend time with your pilots. It might not work, but it can't hurt, right?" When the offer is made to head to the beach, she tilts her head in a nod. "I'm dressed terribly for it, but I know I'd regret it if I didn't." She even leans over to start unlacing her boots. Presumably to carry along.
"I can only hope that we'll get some new senior, in rank and experience pilots. But if we don't." Eva shrugs, as she rises to her feet. She's wearing sandals herself, but she also slips them off, because they can still be uncomfortable in sand, "I'm sorry that the first time you saw me again, it was me crying on your shoulder, Antonie." Not a position Antonie would be unfamiliar with, but still. "When have we ever let terrible idea stop us, Antonie?" She moves to the gate, unlatching it, and holding it open for Niemec to slip out ahead of her.
"I would rather it be you crying on my shoulder than injured or..." Antonie leaves the rest unsaid. She shoves her socks inside one of the boots, ties the laces together, and drapes the whole of it over her shoulder. Stepping through the gate and out onto the sand, she turns marginally back towards Eva and offers out an elbow. A more masculine maneuver, but she is the one in duty blues. It seems fitting. "I got a chance to see you all the same. I'll take what I can get."
"I'll try to remain in the position to cry on your shoulder whenever possible then, Antonie." Because the alternatives are not acceptable. There's a warmth, to her smile, as Niemec comes to join her, and, closing the gate, Eva slips her hand though the other woman's arm, settling into the crook of her elbow. Her free hand holding the straps of her sandals, the two begin to make their way down to the beach. "So enough about me...tell me about your new squadron."