2237-09-05 - Little Wingman

Stirling is enjoying some downtime on the tarmac with her nephew(?!), but duty always calls.

Date: 2237-09-05

Location: Argyros Naval Air Station

Related Scenes: None

Plot: None

Scene Number: 481

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One of the reserve tarmacs on the airfield has been set aside for use by the Timber Wolves. A nearby hangar is buzzing with activity as the deck crew perform routine maintenance and refueling on some of the birds. The rest of the aircraft are parked on the tarmac. Stirling is sitting just outside of the hangar, wearing her flight suit and sunglasses. She also has a decidedly non-regulation addition along: an auburn-haired little boy, about five years old, sitting on a crate next to her. Well, he was sitting until a trio of Vipers start coming in for a landing on the tarmac. Then he's standing up, grinning and pointing excitedly.

Van isn't flying yet, but by his flight-suit and the helmet (and neck-ring) in his left hand, he's going to be soon. He looks up as the Vipers come in, shading his eyes with his right hand to watch them land. He nods his approval, then resumes his trek toward the hanger. He stops just short, however, at the sight of the kid on the flightline. For a long moment, the Picon pilot looks conflicted, and then he almost visibly forces himself to advance, speaking up as he approaches, "Your wingman looks a little young, sir."

A handful of carriers and a long stretch of FTL travel later, a shuttle spits out a uniformed figure and, moments afterward, a duffel bag to match, then zips back out through security and off on other business. Witness the underwhelming arrival of one very new Timber Wolves pilot. She spends a long moment standing there and squinting into the glare of hangar lights before finally collecting the duffel and making her way toward the tarmac.

When she received her transfer orders, the Dauntless wasn't here. Now it is. Where that leaves her with regard to responsibilities she hasn't the foggiest idea, but there appear to be two people within a stone's throw who might know better than she does. She heads that way.

Fresh off of Alert (which went blissfully quiet), Astraea's followed the breadcrumbs provided by various pilots to locate Stirling outside the hangar. The Raptor pilot is still in her flight suit, but sans helmet. She is, however, holding a sandwich in one hand and a folder in the other. There's a sense of purpose about her stride, but she slows upon spotting Van already on a trajectory to engage the CAG. Noticing this, the jig's own strides slow as she makes her own approach and she seems much less certain of her goal than she did just seconds prior.

"I'm five!" the little boy announces, a little indignantly, to Van's assessment. Stirling grins, though, and says, "You don't give them quite so much of a head start on Picon, Lieutenant?" The CAG's eyes drift over to the incoming pilots, still smiling a little when they light on Astraea. The other Raptor pilot is given a little nod in greeting. Ines gets a more curious look as she approaches with her duffel.
Meanwhile, the little boy surveys Van critically and asks, "Are you a Viper pilot?" His voice has that not-quite-baby-talk quality to it.

Each of the approaching pilots get nods when Van notices them, first Astraea and then Ines, but his attention returns quickly to the CAG and her cling-on, "No sir. They wouldn't let me fly until the Academy." Mostly because he never showed any interest in flying until then. "I don't think they make flight suits that small, do they?" And then he looks back to the boy at his question, studying the youth like a puzzle to be figured out, "Yes, I am. Do you know what that means?" If he were good with kids, he would wait to let the boy hazard a guess, and then complement it. Unfortunately, he just plows right along, "That means I protect the Raptors so they can get the job done." His eyes flicker between CAG and kid, studying for a family resemblance.

In order of priority in this rapidly accumulating little knot of soldiers, 'does anybody know where the hell I'm supposed to be right now, and also hi, nice to meet you' probably rates low on the list. Being noticed, though, Ines flashes every pair of eyes to turn her way a wide, warm, close-lipped smile. Her gaze ticks from one new face to another as she draws close enough to be part of the informal circle, but she holds her tongue.
Pilot talk, though? The next look Van is on the receiving end of is thoughtful: this makes him the first Viper pilot she'll meet. It's folly to assume he represents any kind of broad demographic, but she can't help it -- she looks at him as though she expects to learn something about the people she's about to fight with sheerly in the looking. No pressure, obviously.

There's a faint smile returned to Stirling around the sandwich, but Astraea tries to relax it into something broader for the boy. It works, somewhat. She finishes eating and brushes the crumbs from her fingers onto the thigh of her flight suit. Ines, once she nears, is offered a nod from the petite Scorpian. Nova doesn't quite speak up yet other than to offer a "Sir," once she's drawn in close enough for conversational distance. The folder has an official look about it; the sort you might hand off interdepartmentally. She's not doing any handoffs at the moment, however. She just leans back on her heels, watching the back-and-forth between Van and the boy.

There is indeed a resemblance between the CAG and the boy, and not just in the reddish hair. Fortunately the boy seems untroubled by Van plowing ahead while he's still trying to puzzle out the answer. Instead he beams. "I KNEW you were a Viper pilot," he declares triumphantly. Then he seems to mull over the rest of the pilot's response. "So... that means you protect Auntie Nyssa. She always tells me that Raptors are the best but I like Vipers the best, because they go the FASTEST. I want to fly Vipers when I grow up. Then I'll get my own flight suit. And it'll fit me. 'Cause, like, right now it would probably not fit because I'm too small, but when I'm bigger - I'll be bigger like you, and THEN it'll fit me."
On second thought, maybe they aren't related, because there couldn't be more of a stark contrast between the expressive little chatterbox and the quiet, reserved CAG. Stirling continues to smile, looking relaxed as she sits on a crate next to the standing boy. "Afternoon, Nova," she offers pleasantly to Astraea when she comes near. Then to Ines, she offers lightly, "You look lost, Lieutenant."

There we go, connection confirmed and Van doesn't have to look slow on the uptake in front of his CAG by assuming something wrong. Instead, he starts to nod... only to be washed away in a torrent of words. Blink. Blink. Time to catch up, Van. "Yes, sometimes I fly on your Aunt's wing. She leads the whole squadron, so we all look out for her." He chuckles quietly as he tries to catch up with the rest of it, "Yes... you'll have to wait a little while until you fit into a flight suit. But we all start in Raptors, and I actually have a soft spot for the busses. They can do a lot of things that Vipers can't." He glances to the other pilots, then flashes a faint smile to the kid, "But Raptors can't flip end-for-end in point-six seconds like a Viper can. And that's why I like flying Vipers."

The appearance of an actual flight suit in Ines' peripheral vision draws her gaze just the same way it centered on Van, curiosity immediately and easily piqued. There's something about the sight of it that nails down the reality of it all. The new post, the new squad, the new stakes and expectations. The flutter it causes in her stomach no doubt colors the way she answers Astraea's nod with one of her own, and the way her smile gains more than a few degrees of intensity along the way. She even tucks in a murmured, "Hi," slid in under the charming enthusiasm of the boy.
...Right before she's addressed. She tugs her gaze away, straightens, and salutes. "Sir. I'm..." Pause. "Uh, yes." Sheepish. Accented. "When I left Leonis on reassignment I was to report to the Dauntless. I understand she's here, but..." Muted green eyes flick away, off into the depths of the hangars. "My orders are a little out of date."

There's still those tight braids in Astraea's hair that speak of her preparation to have flown at any moment, even if her own flight suit is partially unzipped. The braids reveal the spot on the side of her head where the shrapnel had hit her. There's still a bit of a red mark there. No more actual wound; it's healed, but there's still a line where it was. She taps the folder lightly to her leg when Stirling addresses Ines, leaving whatever business she has for the moment. Apparently, it can wait; at least for a new arrival needing directions. So she just digs her toe at the ground lightly, looking Ines over and taking stock of the new pilot.

The boy nods to Van, latching onto his every word with rapt interest. "Yeah, 'cause she's the boss of the squadron." He has a goofy little pronunciation for the word. Then he peers a little. "Why does it take six seconds to flip a Viper?" But without actually waiting for an answer, he seems to remember a different question and says. "OH! Do you have a callsign?" The other pilots don't seem to register on the little boy's DRADIS, having found a real live Viper pilot to interrogate.
His aunt, on the other hand, nods to Ines. She rises, tugging her flight suit down a little, and says. "Dauntless is in orbit, but the squadron's down here for some training exercises. I'm Major Stirling, the CAG. This is Lieutenant Masters and Newton. Welcome." She then seems to notice Astraea's folder. "Did you need something, Lieutenant?"

"Point six seconds." Of course the kid doesn't understand decimals, and it takes Van closer to six seconds than point six seconds to realize it. "Oh, right. That's a little over half a second." And then... crap. And then the kid asks for his callsign, and Van bottles up a sigh, "I do. It's Milkman." His eyes dart to the other pilots, and he stifles another sigh. He's not going to exaggerate in front of the CAG, someone who might call him on his exaggeration, and an apparently new pilot. "You never get to pick your own callsign. You'll have to ask your aunt what your callsign should be." When he's introduced, Van glances over to the newcomer, nodding again, "New to the Timber Wolves, Lieutenant? As the CAG said, welcome aboard."

The Boss. Because of course, if Ines is going to be adrift and clueless, the person she's going to find to confess that to is going to be the person she'd most like to seem competent in front of. Fantastic! All she can do is let some that earlier sheepish quality osmote into her smile as she nods, first at the Major and the other two she introduces, and then the boy for the sake of being polite, though he seems to have locked targets.
"Ines Correa. Good to meet you." Van's question prompts her shoulders to rise in a minute shrug -- or at least the one that isn't weighed down by her duffel bag. "Brand new," she says, and makes it sound like a wry confession. What follows does, too: "I've been assured that the two years I spent with the Leonese Navy weren't enough to scuff the shine off."

"Should save th' welcome aboard 'til we're actually aboard, Milkman," Astraea says, finally revealing that rough Scorpian accent of hers. There's a flash of a grin, all the same, for Ines. She lifts the folder to extend it towards Stirling in offering. It's a stack of record requests. From the attack on Edson, months and months ago. Before the Dauntless. Before the Vanguard. "Razor an' I were talkin'. We're like to review any AARs an' guncam footage from th' attack on Edson, in case somethin' like it happens again, to formulate potential defensive tactics an' maneuvers. But since it happened back on th' Galactica, we don't have those records on hand. I wanted to know if you'd be willin' to sign off on expeditin' th' request." Otherwise, Lords know how long it could sit on some paper pusher's desk.

The idea of half a second being point six gets a puzzled frown from the little boy, but that's nothing compared to his reaction to the callsign. "Milkman? Like... you bring the milk?" Apparently he doesn't get that callsigns aren't literal. "I want a cool callsign. Like Uncle Eion - his callsign was Scorch. That's, like, way cooler than Milkman."
The comment causes Stirling to glance over, her lips thinning. "Don't be rude, Max." It's a soft rebuke, but it seems to take the wind out of the boy's sails a bit. He mumbles an apology. Stirling recovers a bit of her smile for the other pilots then. "Well, we'll get you settled in, shine or no shine." Astraea's request gets a nod. "I can do that. Never hurts to study the enemy. She looks like she might have had more to say on that subject, but a glance to the boy makes her think better of any commentary on tactics involving an attack against the city.

"Well," Van responds to Astraea with a faint smile, "I suppose I will have to welcome her aboard the Dauntless when we return there too." Looking back to Ines, he adds, "I would say that depends on what you were doing in the Navy." Astraea's idea draws his brows up, "They've done similar things several times now, Nova." His brows furrow a bit more, and he adds, "The end of Triton, for instance." Or perhaps that's just Van who felt far too many similarities for the good of his state of mind. Looking back to young Max, the pilot shrugs, "I actually agree with you, Max was it? But we don't pick our own callsigns. Our friends pick them for us. Scorch is a much better callsign." A hint of mischief actually flickers in the Picon pilot's eyes, and he adds, "You should ask your Uncle how he got that callsign some time."

Ines is content enough to lapse back into silence once shop-talk starts, however vague and brief. Her attention ticks back and forth between the Major and the woman in the flightsuit while they speak, soaking in details she has no context for -- yet.
Callsign talk just sends her eyes to the ground, lashes heavy over pale eyes. Not in a troubled way; there's a nostalgic bent to her half-smile. She chooses that moment to hoist the weight of her bag on her shoulder, though, and when she looks up she angles her question Van's way so as not to interrupt ongoing business. "I don't suppose you could tell me where I ought to go stow this?"

When Stirling agrees, Nova looks a fair bit relieved and digs in a pocket of her flight suit for her pen, offering it for the CAG. Saves the woman the trouble and means Astraea can handle the last leg of the filing. All she needs is the CAG's signature! "Much 'preciated, sir. Anythin' we come across, we'll pass along. Especially if it can be useful in trainin'." She looks over to Van and lets her shoulders rise and fall in a shrug. "Triton was diff'rent, yeh? Start of th' war, especially. We're pullin' some more recent examples. Especially since th' toasters are adaptin' their tactics. What they did two years ago ain't what they're doin' now." While she waits for things to be signed, there's a look to Ines at her request, then a glance to Van, "One of us could show ya to where we're all stayin', I'm sure."

"Too many times, indeed," Stirling agrees somberly with Van.
The topic has not escaped the notice of young Max, who starts to look pensive. It only worsens when Van suggests that he ask his uncle about his callsign. "I can't, though, 'cause he got killed." He says it matter-of-factly, though the word ends up sounding more like 'kilt'. "Auntie Nyssa, how did Uncle Eion get his callsign?"
Stirling offers a sad smile. "That, young man, is a story for when you're older." She looks between Ines and the other pilots. "If one of you could get Correa squared away, or find someone who can, I need to get Max here back to his grandparents. Lieutenant, welcome again." That was to Ines, then she says to Nova, "I'll put that request in for you." She helps Max hop down from the crate and they seem poised to leave. Stirling glances to Van though and mouths a silent 'thank you' for entertaining her exuberant nephew.

"I'm on alert in ten, Lieutenant" Van answers Ines as he glances over to Astraea, "Are you just coming off alert then?" He listens to her, then shrugs slightly, gesturing over to the Scorpian, "It sounds like Nova can point you in the right direction." There's a momentary pause, and then he adds, "It might be worthwhile to see what they've changed since then." Aaaand then it comes out that he just reminded a five-year-old of his dead uncle, and Van's features crumple slightly into a sharp wince. Just as Stirling is mouthing her thanks, Van starts to mouth an 'I'm sorry,' and ends up smiling a little wryly and nodding his head, then adding in his best attempt at helping, "Stick to your studies, young man, and listen to your... grandparents..." he can pick up on cues well enough most of the time, "...and you just might get a chance at flight school some day." And then he snaps to for a parade-ground salute to the young boy.

I can't though, 'cause he got killed.
The words would already be fit to pluck at heartstrings without the added tragedy of being framed by such a young voice. Ines blinks, drops her gaze on a slant toward the little redheaded boy, and her face is too expressive, too inclined to share how she feels with people for the pang of sympathy that knuckles into her chest not to show.
At least it's gone again quickly. The Major is departing, for which she offers another salute, and then she glances between Milkman and Nova -- more stories she doesn't know yet -- and furnishes a grateful smile for the latter. "Hey, thanks. As long as it won't put you out at all."

"Thank you, sir," Astraea says when Stirling offers to put in the request. "I'll let Razor know he'll have new cam footage to go over soon. I'm sure he'll be thrilled." It's not even an exaggeration, considering that's exactly what the Libran spends most of his free time doing. She nods to Van's query. "Just got let free. Their lounge has better coffee than ours." She glances to Ines, then tilts her head towards the hotel serving as their 'bunks.' "I can show ya th' way, iff'n y'want. I think I know which rooms still have a bed free. Or we can at least knock onna few doors an' bother folks."

Max looks back at Van, nodding solemnly. "Okay, Milkman." His aunt murmurs something in his ear and he smiles brightly then and says, "Thankyou!" Stirling pauses briefly to return Ines' salute, then nods a generic goodbye to the others. She clasps the little boy's hand and starts to lead him off.

Van nods sharply in response to Max's words -- and the ones that are forced from him a moment late, then looks back to Astraea and Ines. "Thank you, Nova. I'll keep the coffee info in mind." Van nods a farewell to each of the women in turn, Astraea and then Ines, and then turns to head toward the hanger they were just outside, aiming for 'his' Viper.

With a little wave for the other departing pilot, Ines turns and falls theoretically into step with Astraea, her attention split between the building the woman herself, and the building she'd indicated with her tilted head. "That'd be great. Nova, right?" Her lips quirk. It's a good one. "Kestrel," she supplies. Fair's fair.
There's more she wants to ask, of course, but...maybe it ought to wait until she's settled in.


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