2237-09-25 - Hard Target

The air wing runs into heavy resistance while trying to soften up defenses at a Sagittaron mine.

Date: 2237-09-25

Location: Over Sagittaron

Related Scenes: None

Plot: Operation: Watchtower

Scene Number: 1419

Jump to End

After several weeks away from the front lines, it feels good to be back on the offensive for many in the squadron. Today's mission is designed to soften up fortified ground defenses around a Tyllium mine on the Cylon side of the front. SAMs are expected, which is probably why Stirling is giving a last-minute reiteration of the mission plan as they approach the target area from above. "Remember Raptors, it's going to be critical that we suppress those SAM batteries while the Vipers take them out as quick as they can. Good hunting." Once the SAMs are gone, they can focus on the other ground targets - hopefully before Raiders show up. For now, though, DRADIS is clear. The area around the mine is mountainous, with some scrubby trees along a dry riverbed and some canyons nearby.

Inspirational image: https://bit.ly/2y3ImVr

Eva is coming in low and slow. No, not really, she's actually moving at speed with the raptors, Soundbite's to be exact, but she's flying with a sort of ease that isn't usually seen in the Hibernian pilot. One might almost call it cautious. Cautious...or perhaps inattentive, as though something else might well be on the woman's mind. Which is also not at all like Eva Thorne. Not distracted enough not to answer the call on the comms though, "Same to you, Whisper."

Calliope is loaded up, packed into a Raptor, and out witht the wolves over Sagittaron country. "Whisper, Soundbite. Copy that. Will direct attention toward suppression once we're in the hotzone." In her backseat, her ECO makes some last-minute checks to their electronic warfare systems.

Emrys is definitely one of those for whom who feels good to be back on the sharp end. He's crusing along, waggling his wings a little and making any last minute adjustments to how he's flying he decides he wants. "Whisper, Hawk copies."

Mountains are a familiar sight for Kell but he knows that they can be treacherous to fly in, not only is the terrain dangerous but it can also hide some nasty Cylon surprises. With the added briefing on SAM sites, the Libran pilot knows that this will not be a pleasant mission. So he is relying more on his visual senses than DRADIS for the time being, most likely relying on the ECOs on their mission flight to focus on the electronic sweeps.

"Iris copies." Irene answers simply enough, her raptor in the back of the formation and high so she can look down over the vipers. In the back is Wooly, taking over the ECO duties for this trip. She flicks a glance over her shoulder at him, but he's already anticipated the question she's going to ask and gruffs out a terse, "All clear." She turns back, satisfied and enjoys the view as the picturesque landscape rolls by below.

First real outing with the Wolves. Not war games on Caprica, not patrol by rote. Ines ought to be nervous, but there's a curiously sedative peace to being in a cockpit again, wearing the cramped confines like a fighter-shaped coat. She listens to the radio chatter in silence, attention flicked between various displays, the other vipers on her wing, and the landscape unfolding beneath them, so different from anything she's used to.

"Whisper, Nova- Copy." Astraea's just happy to be on a mission versus transport duty; something the Scorpian's been stuck with the past few days. Carting Raptor-loads of marines hither and yonder. It's good to be back in action with the wing. She looks over her instruments, making a bit of a face at the thought of all the SAM activity. There's a hint of nerves, but it doesn't come through in her flying; thus far, that's smooth as things go.

Micah is keeping a pace with the rest of the pack. He's settled comfortably off of Emrys' wing, his eyes half out the cockpit and half on the instrument panels as he makes adjustments for the brand new atmospherics. "Busker copies, Whisper." Short, concise, and absolutely to the point. For a man who was made famous for a voice on a stage, he doesn't have much to say to this particular microphone. He does squeeze a set of dog tags hanging from his flight stick. Good luck, you know?

Stirling doesn't have a trio she's a part of, but she finds herself instinctively keeping pace with the wing of junior pilots, including the newest arrival to the Wolves. As the planes descend - still thankfully without Raider contacts (must be busy elsewhere or something), their panels begin lighting up with tone. "Multiple missile contacts. Deploying countermeasures." Well, she's not, but Wasp is.

As the squadron approaches the objective location, Kell glances briefly at the Viper that he is flying beside for this mission, "Kestrel, Razor, I'm on your wing. Let's make sure our Raptors' tails are clear and each other's as well." He seems to have no issues flying with the new transfer, treating her just like any wingman he is assigned to. He does also keep an eye on the two Raptors that they are flying with as well, the CAG's and Nova's. When Stirling announces contacts, it's the same time that Razor's cockpit starts yelling at him, the familiar tone of missile locking on. With him being painted with a lock, he kicks his Viper into evasive maneuvers, keeping his fighter juking while he descends towards one of the AA batteries, his descent slower than some of the others.

Calliope forms up with Emys and Micah's Vipers. Assuming a standard covering pattern, while her ECO prepares to unleash electronic confusion. "Hawk, Busker, Soundbite. We're running interference in your vector. That is a lot of firepower down there." She tries not to sound daunted but, well. Some of it is pointed at her bus.

Eva, perhaps thankfully, does not find herself immediately targeted. Finn, however, is not so lucky. She might not be able to hear his inner or outer monologue, but she's flown with the man long enough to be able to read his responses in how he flies. A quick series of adjustments, and she triangulates the most likely site that would be targeting him, and moves into try to destroy it. Or, at the very least, to tempt it to take a new target. Only the briefest glance away as she catches sight of Soundbite veering off to cover...not her. Ah, betrayal. Also, business. Just business. Right? Iris is more than fair compensation for her loss. "Flight, Cherry, moving to engage targets."

There's no missile lock warnings for Irene, for a change, but she gains some altitude regardless. It'll give her some room to maneuver, incase the next volley targets her raptor. It'll also let her watch the scene unfold as the vipers begin their attack runs. Wooly calls out the contacts and she leaves the countermeasures up to his discretion. "And not a raider in sight." She murmurs, tapping her console twice afterwards as if to ward off a jinx.

"More than intel expected," Stirling comments when Calliope points out the firepower.

"Hawk, Soundbite." Emrys calls back to the raptor, sensing some of that hesitance in her voice. "It's alright. There's a lot of it up here, too. And ours can maneuver." He does his best to reassure the other pilot. Hopefully not a case of famous last words.

Cent5 attacks Micah with Missile and HITS! Impaired wound to Wing.

Cent2 attacks Kell with Missile and HITS! Incapacitated wound to Body.

Stirling tries to suppress Cent1 with Ecm but FAILS.

Stirling suppresses Cent2 with Ecm and succeeds.

Stirling tries to suppress Cent6 with Ecm but FAILS.

Astraea suppresses Cent1 with Ecm and succeeds.

Astraea tries to suppress Cent2 with Ecm but FAILS.

Astraea tries to suppress Cent3 with Ecm but FAILS.

Cent1 attacks Ines with Missile but Ines EVADES!

Ines attacks Cent1 with Kew but Cent1 EVADES!

Emrys attacks Cent4 with Kew and HITS! Incapacitated wound to Body.

Cent6 attacks Calliope with Missile and HITS! Impaired wound to Wing.

Cent3 attacks Finn with Missile and HITS! Incapacitated wound to Body.

Cent4 attacks Emrys with Missile but Emrys EVADES!

Irene tries to suppress Cent3 with Ecm but FAILS.

Irene suppresses Cent1 with Ecm and succeeds.

Irene suppresses Cent2 with Ecm and succeeds.

Eva attacks Cent3 with Kew but Cent3 EVADES EASILY!

Micah attacks Cent4 with Kew and HITS! Impaired wound to Controls. (Reduced by ARMOR)

Calliope tries to suppress Cent6 with Ecm but FAILS.

Calliope suppresses Cent4 with Ecm and succeeds.

Calliope tries to suppress Cent5 with Ecm but FAILS.

Kell takes careful aim at Cent1.

Cent4 has been *KO'd* ! (Damaged This Turn By: Emrys, Micah)

Kell has been *KO'd* ! (Damaged This Turn By: Cent2)

"Razor, Kestrel. Understood." In the air, over the radio, there's little evidence of the wry levity Ines seems to carry around with her the rest of the time. Just smooth, Leonese-accented Standard, mellow as can be -- only a little misleading. The lead-blanket calm that settles on her in combat situations is genuine, but her pulse still ticks along at a quick clip in the hollow behind her jaw, fuelled by a thin and steady drip of adrenaline.
When it all kicks off, she's ready. Razor banks in avoidance and she follows his lead with an angle-perfect bank that she would have maintained if she didn't hear the sound of a SAM of her very own locking on. She tilts again, angles off enough to gain some distance for maneuverability, but her target is still the same as his. Compound firepower for a quick neutralization, ideally.

"Is that one looking at me?" Micah comments, not bothering to press down the transmit button on his radio. Whatever external monologue the pilot was currently enjoying was for his amusement only. "Frak. It's looking at me." He ticks the transmit button. "Hawk, Soundbite? Busker here. I think I've attracted interest. I'm going to proceed as normal, but keep an eye out?" The button ticks off.

Kell spends a luck point and is back in the fight!

That's a lot of anti-air coverage. Astraea takes a slow breath, but doesn't change her trajectory or flight-pattern at all. She just keeps on with her same speed and angle. "Razor, Kestrel- Nova. Ya got targets on ya. We're seein' what we can do." She grits her teeth a bit, wishing (and not for the first time) that it were possible for her ship to better handle the batteries. All she can do is trust her backseater to get a jamming signal in there.

Clearly, whatever zen Eva seems to have acquired does not server her well, as her shits hit way off of the mark, and she banks back around with nothing to show for it but some puffs of dust around the far side of one of the batteries. "Frak me." Especially when she sees Finn take a heavy hit, as she comes back around for another pass. Now, she's getting mad. And that? Well, you'd like to think that would be bad for the bad guys, but today? Who knows.

The jamming net doesn't come down in time for Kell as the missile that is launched from one of the missile batteries streak up and flies straight towards the Colonial Viper. The squawking in Razor's Viper continues to blair away until his fighter is shaken heavily, as if it would break apart from the impact and explosion. He does lose control of his fighter for a few long seconds as black smoke plumes out of the heavy damage that had been dealt. This isn't the first time that Kell has suffered such a devastating hit in his Viper and fighting panic, he keeps control of his bird with one hand on the flight stick while the other begins flicking various switches in his cockpit, turning off some systems, as well as one of the engines that is in bad shape as the fuel line to it is destroyed. "Razor, Flight, took a bad hit. Will try to stay with the flight." With that said, he at least attempts to finish his strafing run.

Stirling sees the explosions out of the corner of her eye as some of the planes take hits. "Everyone all right?" There's no response from Finn but he's still flying, and in fact he swings the damaged bird around for a second strafing run.

"Ughfrak!" Calliope makes some very hasty movements to avoid a direct hit from the AAs. She manages to dodge enough to take one on the wing, but the techs are still not going to be pleased with her. That's going to leave a dent. "Flight, Soundbite. Totally OK! Not that I want to do that again."

Micah rocks as his Viper's wing is hit by a rather sneaky missile. He spends moment fighting with the controls of his Viper, adjusting the level of the various stabilization thrusters to keep the aircraft level. He isn't moving as fast as usual. The pilot also certainly seems to have more of a challenging time than usual maneuvering. It was, Knoor thought, as if his Viper had consumed a little too much of the good jet fuel. "Whisper? Busker here. Took a good hit to the wing, but I have enough control to stay in the fight. Hawk? I'm going to limp this one a bit."

"Razor, Nova!" Astraea saw that hit and she keeps focused, but she does hit the comms when she spots the smoke coming off of his bird. "Are ya clear? Do ya need ta clear out?" She looks back to her ECO briefly, frowning. There's no chastising; you can only do so much with jamming. "Got a read on 'im?" This, off the comms. Already tracking the other jig's Viper, just in case he goes down and they need to SAR.

Emrys rolls out of the way of enemy fire, before returning with a volley of brrrrrrrt. Since, between him and his wingman, the battery goes up in flames, he banks his bird hard to go for the one firing at Micah. "Busker, Hawk. I'm going to try and take care of your friend down there."

"Nova, Kestrel. Let me know if -- " Ines doesn't get to finish her sentence before her peripheral vision erupts in a blossom of shrapnel and black smoke, the pilot on whose trajectory she's basing her own hit in rather spectacular fashion. The radio transmission clips abruptly off, and doesn't resume until it's clear he's still going to be able to stay in the air.
"If I can make your job easier." Positioning, speed, whatever.
In the meantime, she stays close to the more experienced Viper pilot near her, and loops around for another strafing run.

"Whisper copies all. If your bird is toast, pull out. I don't want anyone being forced down back here," Stirling warns, knowing they're behind enemy lines in an area with a lot of anti-air defenses.

"Whisper, Iris is good." Irene calls back, "Farm Boy was hit, but still operative." At least her knocking has warded off the raiders for the time being. Her eyes keep glancing up to the horizon anyway, knowing her ECO is a bit distracted with the AA batteries.

Eva attacks Cent3 with Kew and HITS! Impaired wound to Controls.

Cent5 attacks Micah with Missile but Micah EVADES!

Cent5's weapon clicks empty.

Cent6 attacks Calliope with Missile but Calliope EVADES!

Cent6's weapon clicks empty.

Astraea suppresses Cent1 with Ecm and succeeds.

Astraea suppresses Cent2 with Ecm and succeeds.

Astraea suppresses Cent3 with Ecm and succeeds.

Cent2 attacks Emrys with Missile and HITS! Incapacitated wound to Body.

Cent2's weapon clicks empty.

Calliope tries to suppress Cent6 with Ecm but FAILS.

Calliope tries to suppress Cent5 with Ecm but FAILS.

Calliope tries to suppress Cent2 with Ecm but FAILS.

Stirling tries to suppress Cent1 with Ecm but FAILS.

Stirling suppresses Cent2 with Ecm and succeeds.

Stirling tries to suppress Cent6 with Ecm but FAILS.

Emrys attacks Cent5 with Kew and HITS! Flesh Wound wound to Controls. (Reduced by ARMOR)

Micah attacks Cent5 with Kew and HITS! Flesh Wound wound to Body. (Reduced by ARMOR)

Irene suppresses Cent3 with Ecm and succeeds.

Irene tries to suppress Cent1 with Ecm but FAILS.

Irene tries to suppress Cent2 with Ecm but FAILS.

Cent1 attacks Ines with Missile and HITS! Incapacitated wound to Weapon.

Cent1's weapon clicks empty.

Ines attacks Cent1 with Kew but MISSES!

Kell attacks Cent1 with Kew but MISSES!

Cent3 attacks Finn with Missile and HITS! Incapacitated wound to Body.

Cent3's weapon clicks empty.

Finn attacks Cent3 with Kew but MISSES!

Finn has been *KO'd* ! (Damaged This Turn By: Cent3)

It's not clear if Finn's radio ever relayed Stirling's urging to pull out. He banks and dives, heading for one of the AA batteries. It's a perfect shot, and he pulls the trigger enough to start tracking a burst up to the missile emplacement when it fires. That close, there was no time to react. The missile hits head-on and the Viper explodes in a shower of flame and debris.
The twin autocannons roar to life as his weapon systems are still green, all of Kell's rounds miss, chewing up dry, desert dirt as he quickly pulls up, much earlier than usual and with good reason. His Viper is definitely moving very sluggishly, and it takes a little bit more time to finish turning his descent into ascent. When he gains more altitude, he is slowly banking his fighter around for yet another pass on the SAM sites.

Calliope manages to dodge incoming doom from below that time. Huffing back against her chair with a breath of relief when her Raptor does not blow up. With that, it takes her a moment to notice the debris the missile makes of Finn's Viper. She squints at the mess of it, trying to see through the smoke. As if her eyes can make anything out that her instruments can't. "Farmboy?"

They say that you're never really prepared for the end of the world. And when you have a front seat? Coming in as she is, angled so that she might end up nose to nose with Finn's viper? Close enough, on the approach that she's got no room to maneuver, and so is unable to avoid blowing through the cloud of debris that is all that remains of Farmboy's viper? So Eva? No, not prepared at all, and her viper goes, momentarily dead stick, the throttle sending her off away from the rest of the flight. She's nearly out of operational range, by the time she manages to bring the viper back under her control and head back towards the rest of the flight. Her voice, as she keys up her mic, is flat, "Flight, Cherry. I've lost Farm Boy." Not we. I.

The first missile Ines evaded with such ease that when the second connects -- and it does, with what sounds from inside of the cockpit like a hammer coming down on the tin roof of the world -- it's almost twice the surprise. The viper wobbles at speed and then steadies, pieces of shattered KEW cannon torn off by air pressure. There's no time to check readouts before closing on the target, so she fires in the instant before she and Kell strafe past and begin to bank. Misses, too. Gloved fingers are quick on the instrument panels, checking systems --
The sound of an exploding aircraft behind her sends icy little electrical pops and crackles walking down her spine. Cherry's report gives them teeth. No.

Emrys pours fire into the battery that's focusing on his wingman. And, in return, one of the other batteries lobs a missile his way. Turning away to come around for another pass, it's only then that the pilot becomes aware of the incoming fire. Evasive maneuvers are attempted, but too little too late and it slams into the side of his bird. There's flames and smoke and somehow, miraculously, Emrys emerges out of the mess still flying. He doesn't call out to the flight, prefering to leave comms clear given they just lost one. He does waggle his wings, however, a signal that he's still in control.

There's not much Astraea can do. In fact, what she can do amounts to: nothing. She can fly. That's it. She can fly, adjusts for what her backseater needs, and listen to comms. If the Vipers she's flying alongside need added coverage from the ECO, she can relay as much, but that's the sum total.

And there goes Farm Boy in a ball of fire and debris. Irene watches from her vantage point for any sign of a last minute escape, face slowly draining of color. It doesn't look good, and hearing Eva, she also keys in flatly, "Whisper, Iris confirms Farm Boy is down."

Stirling continues to maneuver her Raptor in a holding pattern, while Wasp diligently tries to jam the AA tracking systems. She sees the explosion that claims Farmboy, eyes widening slightly. There's a hard swallow that no one can see before her voice comes over the radio, a somber edge to the usual soft-spoken words. "Copy, Cherry. No chute, no survivors."

There's a brief lull while the batteries change out their missile racks, chrome Centurions moving methodically. Stirling takes stock of their status - one bird down, a couple limping along, several more damaged, and five SAM sites still operational. "Flight, Whisper. Abort mission. RTB."

By the time Kell gets his Viper around and begins his descent again, he sees one of the Viper that is already making its strafing run suddenly eat a missile head on, "Oh frak!" He says without the comms on, the reality of just how deadly the AA batteries are a very dark reminder. Then another explosion and it is closer to him, Ines's Viper also taking a nasty hit, "Kestrel, Razor, status? We need to pull back, let's gain some altitude and try to regroup with any others that are withdrawing so we don't get jumped by opportunistic Raiders." He had thought he was good enough for another go at the SAMs but with his wingman taking a missile hit and the squadron losing one, he is ready to pull out. Then there is Whisper's command to abort, which finalizes his decision.

<FS3> Calliope rolls Composure: Success (8 8 5 3 3 2 1)

Micah manages to dodge the next missile from his dance partner, dodgy wing and all. The Viper isn't it's nimble self under the man's control. But? At the end of the day? He's still flying. The missile slamming into Hawk earns a critical look, though the man's wing waggle earns a sigh of relief. A sigh. And a returning tip of the wings, signaling complete understanding. He fires, managing to barely graze his target before the comms chatter causes his eyebrow to raise. "Frak." Another private moment. One only for him. "Busker copies, Whisper. RTB."

There's a strangled sound from Calliope's mic, before she cuts her comms. To sob a little in private. For better or worse, though, it doesn't take her too long to collect herself. Finn wasn't the first long-time flightmate she's lost, and he won't be the last. Still, she has to hastily blink tears away from blurrying her vision behind her helmet. She wordlessly complies with her CAG's orders, turning to RTB with the flight.

"Raz-" The radio clips off, then cuts back on again. Deliberate, because Ines didn't like the way her voice sounded when she began to speak. It's better when she begins again. "Razor, Kestrel. KEWs are damaged but functional."
And then the call to wrap up comes in, and her gloves creak on the control stick. Pale eyes sharp behind faceplate and canopy, she turns her head, looks at the greasy smudge that was, until a handful of heartbeats ago, a pilot. She sets her jaw.
A full five seconds later: "Kestrel copies."

Having to withdraw always leaves a bad taste in Astraea's mouth, but losing pilots is worse and she can tell both Vipers that she's flying with are in rough shape. The Scorpian takes a deep breath and looks to the controls for her Talons. If only... She takes a deep breath and sighs. "Nova copies." She looks to DRADIS, keeping a close eye for any incoming Raiders. None. Yet. Thank Kobol for small favors. "Kestel, Razor- fly on ahead. I'll keep an eye on yer tails." Since she's kept her figurative nose clean this whole time.

"Aye sir. Iris, returning to base." Irene acknowledges, but is slow off the mark to make sure all the remaining vipers are climbing out of the canyon to rejoin formation. Her tone is even and somber. "Keep them covered Wooly. We'll be out of here as soon as they're all up."

Calliope, perhaps better than any of the others flying today, having known the woman from nearly day one, would be able to track the internal struggle going on inside Eva's viper. The hard banking, the sharp turns that are getting her back into strike range of the batteries. And so, it's little wonder that it's Soundbite's raptor that adjusts flight, moving out of formation to put itself in Eva's path. A second, two, a third, as the two colonial vessels stand off, that seem to draw out for an eternity, before the raptor wins its game of chicken, and Eva's viper pulls up hard to course correct, moving back to join the rest of the flight. And perhaps it's only for her benefit that Eva keys up her mic again, "I know, Bullseye."

Astraea tries to suppress Cent1 with Ecm but FAILS.

Astraea tries to suppress Cent2 with Ecm but FAILS.

Astraea tries to suppress Cent3 with Ecm but FAILS.

Calliope tries to suppress Cent6 with Ecm but FAILS.

Calliope tries to suppress Cent5 with Ecm but FAILS.

Calliope tries to suppress Cent2 with Ecm but FAILS.

Stirling suppresses Cent1 with Ecm and succeeds.

Stirling suppresses Cent2 with Ecm and succeeds.

Stirling suppresses Cent6 with Ecm and succeeds.

Cent2 reloads.

Cent6 reloads.

Irene tries to suppress Cent3 with Ecm but FAILS.

Irene suppresses Cent1 with Ecm and succeeds.

Irene suppresses Cent2 with Ecm and succeeds.

Cent3 reloads.

Kell passes.

Ines passes.

Eva passes.

Cent5 reloads.

Cent1 reloads.

Emrys passes.

Micah passes.

Emrys, for all that his bird just almost exploded, does not immediately burn out of the canyon at the order to RTB. There's also no copy over the radio. Maybe it's broken. He seems to be trailing behind Micah, covering his wingman who had earlier said he would have to 'limp it'.

Astraea suppresses Cent1 with Ecm and succeeds.

Astraea suppresses Cent2 with Ecm and succeeds.

Astraea suppresses Cent3 with Ecm and succeeds.

Irene suppresses Cent3 with Ecm and succeeds.

Irene tries to suppress Cent1 with Ecm but FAILS.

Irene suppresses Cent2 with Ecm and succeeds.

Cent5 attacks Calliope with Missile but Calliope EVADES!

Cent2 attacks Emrys with Missile and HITS! Incapacitated wound to Body.

Eva passes.

Micah passes.

Stirling suppresses Cent1 with Ecm and succeeds.

Stirling suppresses Cent2 with Ecm and succeeds.

Stirling suppresses Cent6 with Ecm and succeeds.

Kell passes.

Cent3 attacks Eva with Missile but Eva EVADES EASILY!

Ines passes.

Calliope tries to suppress Cent6 with Ecm but FAILS.

Calliope tries to suppress Cent5 with Ecm but FAILS.

Calliope tries to suppress Cent2 with Ecm but FAILS.

Cent1 attacks Astraea with Missile but MISSES!

Cent6 attacks Stirling with Missile and HITS! Impaired wound to Tail.

Emrys passes.

Emrys has been *KO'd* ! (Damaged This Turn By: Cent2)

Calliope tracks with Eva's Raptor, clouded eyes watching its path for signs of...well, anything right now. It's a rough time. And there's still a tremor in her voice when she replies to Eva over the comm, "I've got you covered, Cherry. I..." She searches briefly for something eloquent or comforting or...something to say. But nothing comes. So she just flies.

Micah does, in fact, have to limp it. But after a few moments, he manages to get the aircraft straight enough to goose his thrusters up a bit, allowing him to slowly pick up the pace. He keeps an eyeball backward, though, watching Emrys off his port wing. And, of course, Eva somewhere beyond.

What is there to say? What can you say in the face of such a loss? Not only of a man, but of one of the old guard, one of the pillars of the Wolves? To hear Eva tell it? or not? Nothing. Every bit of her focus is on trying to follow orders, to try to watch for incoming fire, to try to evade the attack which she has no doubt is still coming. because the next attack is always coming.

The missile comes streaking up from behind. It's possible that Emrys' electronics are fried and don't warn him. Maybe he's shaken from the earlier impact and reacting slower. What's certain is it just slams right into the retreating viper from behind, the force of the explosion flipping the bird and sending it tumbling down into the canyon. Bits are flying off, but there is a last minute attempt to pull up what's left of the viper before impact. It's just possible Hawk could have survived that, but deep in enemy territory it'll be hard to find out.

Lagging behind as she is, Astraea isn't surprised when she hears the alarms going off in her cockpit. She looks up, only briefly, lifting a hand to flick them off. She's a target. It was the whole point of the exercise; Ines and Kell are heavily damaged. She's a Raptor. Her bird is meant to take heavier hits from time to time. "Keep those countermeasures goin'," she calls back over her shoulder, even as she tries for evasive maneuvers. Thankfully, they aren't necessary in the end as the missile goes wide. She's about to call to check on her wingmates when she notices another viper hit, leaning against her canopy. "Frak- Hawk! Check in!" She's swearing, even as she calls to her backseater to mark where the Virgan went down. "Whisper, Nova. Permission to SAR." She's already starting to angle away.

Razor's Viper is moving sluggishly as he regroups with the others that are also in the retreat, his bird being able to stay in the air for now. He does glance back towards the engagement zone, watching those who are still there and fighting. Then the missiles claim another one, this time Hawk's bird as it falls from the skies. Kell can't help but wince but one of the Raptors they are flying with begins to descend towards the crash area, the Libran curses again in his cockpit, quite a bit of profanity for someone who rarely uses it. "Nova, Razor, check the distance with the SAMs, can't cover if you are in range of the AA batteries!"

Stirling had a watchful eye on Eva, which is probably why her bird was hanging back a little - making sure that everyone actually heeded the call to retreat. She sees that little standoff between Viper and Raptor, but says nothing about it. Once all the birds have started to climb, hers does as well. The SAM batteries get one last volley off toward the retreating fighters, one of them rocking Stirling's ship. A curse is mumbled off-channel. Then she sees Hawk go down as well.

And the hits just keep on coming, because everyone can see DRADIS contacts in the distance. Eight of them, closing fast. "Negative, Nova. We're outnumbered and shot to hell. Flight, continue RTB. Hawk, if you can hear us, we'll be back for you."

Again.
There's no shock in the most junior pilot on the flight, no breathless lamentation internal or otherwise. What there is, for Ines, is the bitter, hypothermic chill of an endless wrath, sitting in her stomach like a stone with the density of a small star. When she hears Razor pop onto the radio again relief floods in -- they're going to go do something about that; they're going to handle that somehow, fix it, loop around and back up Nova --
But no. Not today. Stirling's order comes, and Ines follows it, gritting her teeth all the way.

"Hawk? Status? STATUS?!" There's a bit of a crashing sound that comes over Micah's microphone, as if the pilot has torn something away in no small amount of frustration. Though the radio isn't on, the former rock star slows his Viper enough to angle it down, attempting to survey the scene. That's when he sees Nova's descent. And hears Stirling's order. Gritted teeth and slowing engines are the two themes for the Caprican, though he only seems intent on hanging back far enough to link up with Stirling's raptor. "Whisper? Busker. How fast can we get mission approval to change out Vipers and reapproach?"

Irene said she was leaving, but one wingmate is down and Eva is doing something else. Or was. So. She keeps on station, her ECO jamming what he can as the missiles keep streaking up at them all. She watches Soundbite leave formation, brows up, but says nothing about the game of chicken that commences. There's a look back to Wooly and he shrugs, and looks sour, but he always does. Then Hawk takes a hit that downs him, and she's done spectating. "Pick up your feet." She says before burning hard and away from the canyon, forming up on Micah with a wing wiggle. "Iris, RTB."

Calliope's Raptor tries to keep pouring interference down at the AAs. For all the good it does. She swallows that lump in her throat, casting another look toward Eva's Viper, then taking a deep breath. "Copy, Whisper. R-T-B."

And the hits just keep on coming. Perhaps it's some small amount of providence that allows Eva to be far enough away that she does not see Emrys' viper take a hit. And to not have a hot mic for whatever words might come out of her mouth. No, she has to hear about it on comms. And that brings her ship back around, already moving to find the other lone wingman in all of this; Micah. Again, that low voice, deadpan, "Busker, Cherry, not you too." She'll stay with him, two amigos without their third.

"Busker, Whisper - that's up to the Colonel. Soon as we land, that's where I'm headed," Stirling assures Micah as she turns her battered bird's nose back up toward the ship.

The request is denied and Astraea lingers for a moment; as if she might ignore the orders. She doesn't draw her ship around immediately; not even with Kell's request in her ear as well. SAM aside, she seems on the verge of descending even as everyone else is angling to return to the barn. Her ship is (for a rarity) wholly clear of any damage. Not even a nick from shrapnel. "Whisper, Nova- I'm ready to ship out soon as we get back for th' rescue mission." It's with this that she does finally come around, returning to her overwatch of Ines and Kell on the return flight.


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