2237-11-05 - Finding Balance

Astraea checks on Kell after his crash. They manage to actually have a normal, almost 'right' conversation for the first time since her capture.

Date: 2237-11-05

Location: Sickbay, Dauntless

Related Scenes: 2237-11-03 - Lending A Hand 2237-08-01 - To Be or Not To Be Friends?

Plot: None

Scene Number: 1542

Jump to End

Standard procedure, largely. The first place a crash victim is taken is sickbay, even if the physical damage isn’t overtly bad. There could be a concussion, internal damage, or whathaveyou. It’s a routine some of the pilots know well. Some more than others.

Astraea had monitored the comms during Kell’s retrieval, even while she was playing medevac for marines on the ground. This also gave her an added reason to drop by sickbay: dropping off paperwork. Normally, yes, it might be her ECO doing so, but the Scorpian pilot had her reasons. Or reason. Drop off paperwork, catch word of where to find a particular Viper pilot, and thus avoid having to skulk through sickbay on hope of locating him quickly.

She’s not even changed yet. Her flightsuit is tied off at the waist and her hair is breaking free of its braids in various wisps here and there; creating a hint of a halo around her features. She leans around the curtain to where the Libran is being kept and pauses after twitching it aside so she can step through (only just).

This was probably the first time or one of the rare times that Kell was shot down in an actual dogfight engagement, not because a SAM battery or two had tagged his Viper with a missile lock. One can only say he was rather unlucky in the head to head engagement instead of poor judgement or lapse of attentive flying. He had taken out his initial target on that pass but in turn his fighter took one in the chin.

When the SAR birds found him, he had already activated the self-destruct system on critical components of his downed bird. Taking the survival pack that was with his Viper and with his emergency beacon on, Kell was headed in the direction of Irene’s downed Raptor. The retrieval Raptor had no issues touching down and picking up the downed and wounded pilot, the medic onboard treating him initially before he was treated in sickbay.

Kell’s flight helmet definitely saved him from anything worse than a possible light concussion when two large pieces of his shattered canopy banged into his head, the scraps on the helmet itself very evident of the damage. The rest of his wounds were on his upper body and arms, first from the smaller pieces of the canopy and second when his controls were shot out from under him. There were no major injuries besides some cuts that had to be tended to and disinfected. He was bandaged up and told to stay overnight for observations, more on the possible concussion.

When Astraea arrived, the Libran is still awake and resting, his gaze shifting to the new visitor when she steps through the curtain. “Nova.” He says at first in greeting, pausing for a moment and perhaps surprised that she was there, “How did the rest of the squadron do? I saw Iris’s bird take a hit and go down but is everyone else okay?”

It was a strange bit of combat, indeed. For a rarity, Astraea didn’t take a single hit other than a graze across her wing- chipped paint more than anything else. This, in spite of how reckless she flew and her own bout of playing chicken with a Raider. Luck was in strange places for that particular sortie. But then, along with having ill luck taking out her targets, she hasn’t taken on too much damage over her last engagements. Some, but not like she used to. Perhaps the gods have been taking it easy on her. Perhaps she is just improving that much as a pilot.

She watches Kell for a moment without responding. She’d braced herself before stepping into his area, but needs a moment more. To reconcile, once more, this Kell from the one in the Cylon-induced nightmare. As awkward as things have been, he still rates highly on the list of people important to her. When she does respond, it’s first with a few forward steps and a grab of the chair in the room.

“Razor,” she says quietly in return greeting before dropping herself into the chair, next to him. “Everyone’s been picked up. No casualties for th’ wing. Marines are another story…” She looks him over; eyes on those various bandages. Nothing severe, but it’s still something she’s well familiar with. “How’re you holdin’ up?”

When Astraea lets him know that everyone was picked up and they lost no one in the Air Wing, Kell nods his head once and lets out a sigh of relief. He was worried about that since there were a large number of bandits in the skies, which means the dogfight could have gone either way and also end up snowballing hard when one side has the advantage. When he hears about the Marines, Razor winces and continues to keep his gaze on Nova, “Damn… Marines definitely have a tough job on the ground. Were they ours?” He didn’t know that they were also diverted to help provide air support for the Timberwolves Marines, having no comms after he was shot down.

As for his own state, Kell shakes his head, “I’m fine, just a few cuts and bruises. Nothing deep enough for stitches.” To him, the cuts were the worse wounds that he had suffered, for the doctors, it is the possible concussion, one he himself doesn’t feel. “They’re keeping me overnight since a couple of pieces of my canopy banged into my helmet. Stunned me a little bit after it happened but I’m good now.” That also explains the way he didn’t stay in the fight but broke away for a bit, just enough to be singled out as the wounded sheep and taken down by the pair of Cylons that chased him.

“How about you, Nova? Your bird okay? Are you okay?” Kell finally asks, knowing that Astraea was fighting her own demons, ones that aren’t on the surface and tangible like Cylon Raiders or Centurions.

“Yeah,” Astraea says quietly. “They were ours.” She takes a slow breath, frowning. “Shortly after you went down, Pitbull,” her usual ECO, “picked up comms chatter. Th’ marines had called in air support an’ th’ Virgans were supposedta be providin’ it, but they… just weren’t showin’ up. So we went in to help. They were under heavy artillery fire an’ waves of Centurions.” As a Raptor pilot, she’s had stints on the ground; it’s there in her voice, the understanding of what the marines were facing.

When Kell speaks of his own injuries, she reaches out with one of her own scarred arms to touch, lightly, near one of his bandages. As if making sure for herself that they’re as minor as he claims. And perhaps to give herself time to think over her answer to his questions. She frowns, somewhat, hand dropping to the bed beside him.

“Barely a scratch on mine,” she says finally, looking up to him again. There’s some hesitation before: “I’m sorry. I was on that one that took ya down an’ I couldn’t get it in time. We were on each other’s wing,” along with Eva, who had her own targets to deal with, “an’ I failed you.”

Falling silent when he is told that their Marines were the casualties, Kell’s brows furrow slightly when he looks down at his blanket that is keeping him warm. He isn’t capable to fully understand what the Marines went through since he has never been down there in a thick firefight and what happens in the air is much different, but he certainly still feels bad and a little anger at the whole situation. “Always politics involved… can’t be too surprised though, since they had to create something like the Colonial Forces to get the colonies to fight this threat together.”

When the subject switches to Astraea trying to take the blame on herself for what happened, Kell’s frown shifts from his blanket to the Raptor pilot. He obviously doesn’t look pleased to hear what she just said and it shows, “Nova, if you say that again, then I’m going to be very angry at you and stop talking to you. So don’t.”

There is a pause before his expression softens slightly but the furrowed brows are still there, “Just because you want to shoot down a Cylon that is after one of your squadron mates doesn’t mean it will happen automatically. Sometimes they are just more elusive that day than usual, or the wind carries your bird or your missiles and autocannon rounds just a bit differently, throwing the aim fault. But as long as you were not negligent of your duties, you didn’t fail anyone. So do /not/ say that you failed me or anyone again.”

“I think they shoulda known better than to send us to aid a Virgan base,” Astraea says quietly. “Timber Wolves have a lotta Tauran an’ Scorpians. There were bound to be issues.” And she involved in them, to some extent, even if the Camp Thorpe exchange came after things came to a head.

When Kell goes into lecturing her, Nova winces and looks down to the blanket. She picks at a loose thread on it while she listens and for a moment after… as she processes. The Raptor pilot is very still for a time before she gives a small shrug. “How many times have you not taken out a target on me? Not many. An’ if it’d been like Picon…” she shakes her head slightly, looking up at him. “I know I was doin’ my job, but I don’t wanna see you shot down again. Or risk losin’ you again. Or…”

There’s a slow breath from the woman. “I know what happens to pilots shot down on Sag, Razor.” All too well. “Say what you will, but I’d never forgive myself if that happened to you.”

“No one wants to be shot down, Nova, and none of us likes seeing our friends and squadron mates get shot down too.” Kell says, his tone is understanding to start with but the lecturing probably won’t stop with what he said before. “However, we all knew the risks when we signed up. Unlike the Marines, we usually don’t sustain multiple injuries, usually we bail out safely or get snuffed out in the air or if we happen to crash.” Leave it to Razor to lay things out without emotional attachment, as if he had compartmentalized emotions from training, duty.

There is a pause before Kell continues, shaking his head as he adds on to what he says, “And I’m a Viper pilot, you’re a Raptor pilot. Our roles aren’t the same, I am supposed to specialize in shooting down Raiders. Your role is more all-purpose, making sure your ECO is in good position to blanket the Cylons with ECM or utilizing the turret cannon. Or taking out the fortified targets like SAM batteries on the ground, bunkers, and Heavy Raiders that are in the mix.” Everything he recites is the training he received back in the Libran Naval Academy, but it is instructions that he had taken to heart.

“Actually, your auto-cannons are better at takin’ out th’ batteries,” Astraea points out with a small smile as she looks back up at him. “An’ sure, mine can too, but you do know it’s actually kinda a bitch to fly so as to let my backseater aim backwards, yeh?” It’s not a 360 turret, after all. “It’s good for if we’ve got somethin’ on our tail or if I can setup th’ shot, but it’s not as reliable as a Viper. Every time I gotta do it an’ it ain’t a Raider followin’ us, I’m terrified. It’s a lotta calculations on th’ fly an’ even then, there’s plenty of guesswork.”

But she’s going off-topic. Nova takes a long breath. “Our roles ain’t th’ same, but I still care ‘bout those on my wing. You ain’t just an added layer of armor I ignore, y’know. I care just as much about havin’ your tail as you do mine, Razor. An’ when there ain’t Heavy Raiders,” since those went down rather quickly, “or ground targets… I’m gonna focus just as much on th’ Raiders. I ain’t th’ one handlin’ ECM.” There’s a pause and she manages a small, amused smile. “Lucky for y’all. I’m rubbish at it.”

Kell won’t argue or debate the semantics in detail of what may suit which roles or targets better, but he does nod his head understandingly when Astraea shares her attitude about her squadron mates, “Give Pitbull a kick and lock him down in the sims if he needs to work on ECM, they are lifesavers for us out there.” Razor’s tone do relent and soften a bit, what he just said being half of a joke, “Soundbite usually has a solid ECO flying with her, great at keeping the Cylons scrambled or at least half scrambled. Gives us Vipers time to work on their numbers.”

Another pause before Kell adds, “Though from the sound of it, you have more of a Viper pilot mentality than a Raptor pilot.” He knows that she has been trying to work on more Viper training and it does have the Libran thinking for a moment, “Wonder if Whisper would allow us to swap slots. Probably not… but.” There is a slight shrug there. Razor is no stranger to flying Raptors.

“I wish they’d stop pairin’ us up together,” Astraea admits of her usual backseater. “After that one crash-” the one that took her out of comission for a couple weeks months prior, “he’s been a pain to work with. I don’t blame him, but… it ain’t conducive to th’ job.” She chews at her lower lip for a moment, looking down again as she thinks.

“I’ve told you I was supposedta be one, yeh? A Viper pilot? I’d started th’ pipeline when th’ war broke out an’ everything… But they decided to just send me out in a Raptor, then shipped me off to th’ Cee-Eff once it formed. So, yeh, I kinda do. It’s where I was supposedta be.” She shifts slightly, moving the chair nearer so she can lean an arm on the edge of his bed.

“Jigger an’ I have done some Viper simulations in th’ holobands, but I don’t see th’ brass allowin’ me to fly one official-like anytime soon. Somethin’ ‘bout needin’ good Raptor pilots an’ my havin’ been one of th’ top ones in th’ Fleet for so long.” She offers him a vague, but slightly sad smile. “Go figure. Shot myself in th’ foot, as it were. Mebbe if I’d done worse a job, I’d be where I wanna be.” The Scorpian shrugs. “There’s a benefit to it, though. I ain’t afraid to fly in hot zones an’ I’m good at it. It takes a willingness to fly a little wild ‘cause of all th’ shit comin’ your way. Makes me good for insert an’ extract missions.”

Once more, Kell can only nod understandingly to what Astraea speaks of, he remembers having to fly with an ECO and if it someone who you can’t mesh well with, both personality wise and procedurally, it can be a very difficult pairing until the brass decides to change the assignments. “Don’t say that, no one wants to anyone to do worse. And if you’ve shown you have been a good Raptor pilot, can follow directions and focus on responsibility and duty, then they may be more willing to advance you through the pipeline.” There is a shrug there before he ends with, “Should keep working on the Viper sims when you have the free time, don’t give up on what you want to do, Nova.”

“There ain’t a pipeline up here, Razor.” Astraea gives a small shake of her head. “Mebbe after th’ war, if I stay in. But I’ve been plannin’ to take my discharge an’ go to university, instead.” She doesn’t mention that the plan has always -- even before her interest in him -- been to do so on Libran. It just feels like it’d come across as an ulterior motive. “But th’ holobands are all we’ve got for trainin’ an’ not much free time to really… fully train. I think that was part of why it was turned down before.”

Back when Cherry was talking about training her into a Viper. But then, ‘replacing’ her wasn’t on the table at the time.

“I haven’t given up,” she adds, glancing up to Kell. She studies his face intently, as if trying to read something there. Her own features are a hint uncertain. “I don’t give up easily. But I also try to be realistic.”

Unfortunately for Nova, what she reads from Kell is that he is focused fully on the subject of duty and flying, oblivious to the fact that his words may induce a misunderstanding of possible double meaning. But that is who and how he is. He does appear to be contemplating in silence what Astraea said, his gaze shifting back to his blanket but his eyes appear to be looking beyond it, not focused to anything in particular here. Finally the Libran breaks from his train of thought and looks back to her, “Just keep working at the holobands for now then, Nova, and if you get the chance to use actual sims. Then jump on that opportunity. If somehow, you get a chance to fly in an actual Viper? Jump on that too.” Unintentionally reinforcing what he meant by not giving up.

She definitely has a type. Between Alain and Kell, there’s that draw to men of duty. Even if she, herself, toes the line of being irreverent at times and has been prone to going off book, as it were. Then again, Alain’s had his moments as well. But for the Raptor pilot, there’s an allure to it. One she hasn’t been able to shake. And Razor’ words, harmless as they may be? They aren’t helping.

Well, maybe they are.

They’re reminding her of the proper Kell. The Kell she’s worked with for months. The one that’s been her bunkmate. Not the one the Cylons put in her head. Astraea swallows, giving a small nod followed by an even smaller smile. “I will,” she says, finally. “Mebbe we can work on some holoband scenarios sometime? I’ve got a few that require a wingman.”

When it comes to training and flying, Kell is more than willing to help anyone that asks. That goes from reviewing mission footage to going over flight procedures and also sim work. “Of course, Nova, we can work on the scenario sometime.” There is a pause before he adds with a slight grin, apparently pleased with something else that he has to offer, “I’ve had a program created for a ‘mission’ in the holobands which you may find challenging. I usually fly it myself but it will definitely be more interesting with a wingman or two.” He then looks to the side where the clock is, “It’s getting late, you should probably get some rest. It was a difficult mission and you had to help with the Marine extraction too.”

There’s a flicker of surprise across Astraea’s features. Not that he agrees to go over a scenario with her, but that he’s offered to share one he specially designed. There’s a smile from the woman and a nod. “I’d be happy to. Prob’ly more fun than th’ official ones I’ve been using.” There’s some ease to her shoulders and overall carriage then. Just a hint of what she’s been holding onto since her capture being let go. Kell not avoiding her is a beneficial thing to her recovery.

“I do still need to hit th’ shower,” she agrees, mildly sheepish. It acknowledges that she made him her first priority after the job was done. She starts to stand, reaching out to place a hand on his arm with a light touch. “I’m glad you’re alright. If they keep ya here more than overnight, lemme know if I can bring you anythin’.”

There’s a pause, then, before she turns away. “Oh. I’ve… heard some whispers since gettin’ back that we may be leavin’ Sag after this. If… if it’s to give us leave, I- well, I wanted to know if you could mebbe do me a favor.”

When a favor is mentioned by Astraea before she turns to leave, Kell looks back up and arches a brow, “A favor? If it’s something I am capable, possibly. What do you need?” The Libran has no idea what she could be asking for but he suspects that it may have something to do with leave. How open he is to the request though is up in the air.

There’s a return of the awkwardness as Astraea returns the chair to its original spot. She turns back to the bed, stepping up alongside it. “Uhm. You remember how I was gonna… send a letter to my brother?” From last leave. She’d even considered having Kell send it on for her at one point. “I did an’... he’d like to see me.”

She picks at the edge of Kell’s blanket, for something to focus on. “I also need to… see th’ place, I guess, after- after what happened to me with th’ Cylons.” To reassert the right images in her mind. “But I’m… nervous ‘bout goin’ alone. I was wonderin’ if you’d go with me.” Partly because it’s Kell and partly because it’d be another cementing of real vs. fake.

“I do remember.” Kell says with a nod of his head again and listens to Astraea as she continues with the request. When it turns out that she would like him to visit her brother with her, the Libran appears to consider it fully and seriously, “If you feel that you need me there to help you meet with your brother, I am willing to help out if I am free.” The deeper reason on helping her recover was not considered since it wasn’t mentioned, and he wouldn’t probe for a deeper reasoning either. Nova was pretty nervous about doing the letter in the first place if he recalled correctly, “Just let me know when and for how long, if we end up getting leave, and I will let you know if I can.”

Relief shows throughout Astraea, her shoulders dropping from the squared point they’d been at as she forced herself to make the request. She reaches out to put a hand on his arm now, squeezing gently. “Thank you,” she says in a rush of breath. “It’s been... “ She pauses, doing the math. “Frak, over six years since I’ve been back.” Which may explain a lot of the nerves. Four years before the war, roughly. A long time to not see one’s home or family. But he also knows why she hasn’t been back.

Drawing her hand away, Nova stands a bit straighter. “It wouldn’t be more than a day trip,” she assures him. “Tybarre is on one of th’ neighboring islands. It’s just a quick flight.”

“Sounds good then, Nova.” Kell says with another small smile when she squeezes his arm, “Six years is a long time but I’m sure everything will be all right.” That is an assumption that he is making from his own family experiences, which is rather normal though skewed by a heavy military presence.

“It’s not really my family I’m worried ‘bout,” Astraea says quietly. “It’s th’ clan that… owns ours.” Speaking aloud of the intricacies of Scorpian clans to someone unfamiliar with the structure can be awkward at the best of times. “I dunno what they’ll do to me if- when they find out I’m alive. Might be nothin’, might be…” She runs her tongue over her lower lip, unwilling to complete the thought.

Instead, she just pats Kell’s arm again. “If we get leave, I’ll let ya know.” She starts to step away properly, then. “Get better. I expect to see ya back in th’ barracks tomorrow.”


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