Stirling corners Astraea in the lounge and checks in on the younger Raptor pilot.
Location: Crew Lounge
Related Scenes: None
Scene Number: 450
Like many of the pilots, the CAG is looking a bit worn-out after the weekend offensive. She's even in her greens today - decidedly unusual for a woman who prefers to look sharp in her blues. Some marines are watching some Leonese period drama on the TV, and Stirling seems to be absently splitting her attention between that and a "Caprican Life" magazine.
One more day -- supposedly -- until she's cleared again for duty. It means Astraea is still in her off-duties and still looking somewhat restless. At least everyone's back on board and life is back to normal. At least as normal as things get during war. The woman is eating a sandwich as she walks in, eyes going to the vid screen. She makes a bit of a face at the choice of what folks are watching and angles towards the racks of books and magazines instead to start picking them over. Likely to see if anyone's dropped off something recent that they've received in the mail, read, and left for others to peruse.
Stirling looks up when she sees motion by the hatch. She'll offer a polite smile if Astraea looks her way, but either way watches the other pilot sifting through the magazines. "This one's the latest issue if you haven't read it," she offers mildly. "I was finished if you wanted it."
There's a look up to the CAG and Astraea looks briefly uncomfortable. More awkward, really, as if she's expecting the woman to be talking to someone else entirely. She even casts a brief glance over her shoulder. The Scorpian finally looks to the cover of the magazine before giving a small, muted shake of her head. "Dun' really read that one," she admits. "Can't say their, uh, lifestyle is one I really keep up wit'. Too flashy for me." Then there's a beat before she looks rather sheepish. "No 'ffense, sir."
Stirling doesn't look offended, but she does study the cover consideringly. "Well, contrary to what the title may imply, the magazine doesn't strike me as overly flashy. There was an interesting article on search and rescue dogs, and a reviewer fawning over the upcoming season of Game of Dragons. I'm sure it's not for everyone, at any rate." The CAG shrugs it off and offers a faint smile. "How are you feeling?"
There is a slight pique of interest at the mention of the dogs and Astraea takes a slight step forward. "I might... mebbe read th' search an' rescue article, iff'n yer truly done with it, sir. But if not, I don't mind waitin'." She finishes off her sandwich, brushing crumbs from her fingertips against the thigh of her BDUs. When the latter question comes, she blinks a few times. Mistaking it for a query regarding her fight readiness, she tilts her chin a bit. "Medical says I ought ta be cleared tomorrow."
Stirling hands the magazine over. One of the features is about rescue efforts following a bad bombing. "All yours." The answer gets another little smile. "That's good. We'll all be glad to have you back. I meant it more in a broader sense, though. How are you doing? It's been a rough few weeks - being shot down, then wounded again, then losing a few squadmates." She motions to an empty chair at her table. "You're welcome to join me, but don't let me keep you if you had other plans."
There's a bit of a grimace from Astraea when she sees that feature, but she flips past it quickly as she searches for the piece on the dogs. The young woman moves towards the chair to take a seat. "It's, uh- all in a day's work, yeah? Jes'... hopin' Walsh doesn't kill me in my sleep at this point." She manages a small smile before she settles in, looking up and towards those watching the Leonese vid. "S'hard, seein' th' bunks someone ain't gonna return to. Knowin' we'll hafta pack 'em up eventually. Is it wrong it gets easier each time? Like... I don't wanna get used to it, but it doesn't... I just keep repeatin' ta myself that it's war."
The dog article was related to the bombing rescue article - more of a human (or pet) interest thing compared to the main news article. Stirling smiles a little at the mention of Walsh, "Well, at least it gives her the chance to work her magic." A sympathetic nod is offered to the rest. "I don't think it's bad that it gets easier." She shifts in her chair, letting out a soft sigh. "I look at it this way... if a doctor broke down sobbing every time they lost a patient, they'd have a pretty rough career ahead of them. They have to develop some armor, for their own sake. It doesn't mean they don't care."
Though she doesn't begin to delve into the article, Astraea wraps the magazine around on itself so she's got the piece up and ready to do so. She nods along with Stirling's words, slowly. "Makes sense," she decides finally. "Sorta like how we... can't break ranks every time onna us gets shot down or in trouble, even if it pains us ta see." Like how she missed Razor breaking out of his zone to come take out the Raider on her because she was unconscious, though it was thankfully towards the end of the fray. "Iff'n we did it all th' time, it'd be a mess." She furrows her brow. "Still feel bad 'bout it sometimes."
Stirling nods thoughtfully. "Yes, much like that. We're allowed to care - actually, I'd say we're expected to care - but it's how we act on that care that defines us. Much as we all want to be rescued and live, I don't think any of us would want that at the expense of causing the squadron worse losses, or jeopardizing a mission that could save who-knows how many lives."
"Ain't always easy," Astraea admits, managing a small smile. The expression is cast towards the magazine, but it's obviously not meant for the written word. "We ain't got assigned wingmates or partners out there, but we've got... friends, family, all that. People we cleave to more'n others. Wolves're a family, but even the closest-knit family has its..." Her brow furrows as she considers, "pockets. Think th'marines struggle that much when their own get shot?"
"No, it isn't," Stirling agrees readily to the first point about it not being easy. The question about the marines gets a brief press of her lips in consideration. "I'm sure they do. They must get as close as we do, living together, fighting together. They have the same creed to leave no one behind."
"Sometimes we hafta, like that time on Picon wit' Razor." Even though he made it back, Astraea's still a bit sour over that and it comes through in her voice. Also in how her hands tighten on the magazine, crinkling the pages. "Never heard of a time a marine squad's had ta do that. Hell, can't think of any situation they'd hafta leave someone behind. They're all on th' ground, in close quarters." She takes a breath, closing her eyes briefly as she swallows. "Sorry, sir. That... was uncalled for."
Called for or not, though, Stirling offers a thin-lipped smile in response. "I think if you look at some of the operations that the marines here have been a part of, you'll find any number of examples. To say nothing of the experience across the colonies. As for Razor, well... I suppose that depends on how literally you read the words. If the feeling is that you should throw twelve lives away to search for one in the face of overwhelming odds... well... everyone's entitled to their opinion. I view it more in the sense of doing everything reasonably possible."
"If I'm bein' honest, sir-" Astraea takes a slow breath, speaking quietly. Her hands tighten on the magazine again and she stares down at it; through it. "I'm... a bit upset I wasn't called ta help on that rescue. Even if y'all didn't find him on th' sweep. Or th' later one, for Pi. I'm a good pilot an' I've done my share of SAR. I'm good for more than just pickups durin' dogfights."
Stirling squints a bit at the younger pilot in confusion. "Why would you be upset over the luck of the duty roster draw? Is there some particular reason you felt you should have been picked for the mission over..." There's a thoughtful beat. "Whomever else was chosen? I confess... I don't really recall in particular who was on the missions you're referring to."
"Is it duty roster? 'Cause sometimes it seems..." Astraea's jaw tightens a bit and she shakes her head slightly. "It ain't really my place, I s'ppose. There's gonna be, in any wing, a... central group of folks who know all, do all, an'... are th'... I dunno what ya call 'em. Th' blood of th' family I guess ya might say. Rest of us are jes' filler. But if it's all luck of th' draw as ya say, well, guess I'm jes'-" she lifts a hand to gesture, absently, where she got hit with shrapnel most recently. "Damn unlucky."
Stirling shakes her head, looking concerned. "Nova, I'm really not sure what's given you that impression. No one in the wing is more or less important than anyone else. I sure as hell wouldn't say anyone is 'filler'. Least of all someone who was just recently decorated for both search and rescue and becoming one of the first CF Raptor pilots to make double ace." Eyebrows arched, she gives the young pilot a kind but emphatic look. "However, to answer your question - yes, it almost always is as simple as the roster. We have a rotation so nobody ends up flying so much they can't see straight. If I start hand-picking people for flights, it throws the whole system out of whack."
"It ain't... importance, sir." Astraea looks not quite frustrated, but more consternated. Like she's walked herself into a snake pit and she's lost the way out. She's got to deal with it now. Carefully. "I mean, obviously we're all important. Th' Fleet put us here for a reason. An' obviously we're good. But... there's th'... figurative cool kids table an' then there's everyone else. An' as th' teacher in this analogy, you gotta pretend you don't see that table, but you know who they are." She looks at the magazine again, shifting up to her feet carefully. She lifts it, in indication. "Thanks, been... needin' somethin' new. I should order out for some books soon, prob'ly."
Stirling considers the other pilot's words. "Socially speaking? You may be right - we've been so busy I haven't had the time to get to know everyone as well as I'd like. It's only been two months, but still... perhaps I should work on that. As far as missions go? I assure you, Nova, there is no 'cool kids' table; no hidden agenda behind the flight assignments." Seeing Astraea get up, she nods. "I hope you enjoy it. And I hope you know you can come to me if you have concerns."
"Uh. Yeh. I'll get right on that." Said in the way of someone who would have to be in dire circumstances to bring up a concern. Probably that Scorpian upbringing. Or maybe Nova's the type to be afraid that approaching the boss with 'thoughts' is a one-way ticket to never seeing a promotion. Either way? She'll say the words, but it's unlikely to happen. She lifts the magazine in a sort of sloppy salute to Stirling. Hey, she's off-duty and they're shipboard. Nothing calls for anything official either way. There's one last glance to the vid screen (as if it'd magically turned to Pyramid) before she starts her way towards the hatch.