Another round of pilot qualifications, this one ending in a bet and a challenge of a bake-off.
Related Scenes: None
Scene Number: 1562
It's that time again - a chance for pilots to challenge themselves in the qualification run to earn the coveted "Expert" badges in piloting, gunnery and (for ECOs) electronic warfare. With half the squadron scattered on shore leave or home leave and some still on duty, there's only a small group here tonight.
They've set out target buoys for the gunnery portion of the trials, and an obstacle course for the piloting part - culminating in a combat landing on the flight deck of Dauntless. After their turn is complete, each pilot will take off and rejoin the squadron.
"Any volunteers to start us off?" Stirling asks over comms.
Aubrey clicks over on the comm. "Whisper, Banshee. I'm the rustiest here, thanks to my unplanned hospital vacation, Major. I can go first." She moves to the starting location, checks her instruments, and gives Jigger a thumbs up from her cockpit.
Aubrey's Viper shoots out into the course and the Picon pilot sweeps around to target the buoys, triggering the KEW when they fall into her reticle. A barrel roll and arc bring her back around for the piloting course, and she slaloms her ship in and out of the obstacles. She does just fine for basic qualifications, but nothing further than that. She lands lightly on the deck of the Dauntless, which is kind of easy in a healthy Viper, compared to all the near crash landings she's made with shot up ones. She clearly wasn't even trying to show off tonight. She's been a much more reserved pilot since she came back.
"Not too rusty, by the looks of it," Stirling says lightly to Aubrey at her competent performance. "Nova - you can queue up next."
Eva, here for the moral support, seems happy enough to settle into position, quiet on the comms, but occasionally giving a wiggle of her wings as the ships pass by her. Hard enough to qualify, without an audience trying to distract you, right?
As always, Alain is here at qualifications -- as much to cheer on his fellows as to take another shot at them himself, which he always seems fond of doing. The music is turned up in his cockpit, fingers drumming at the console as his viper rises with the flight and settles in off to the side of the course where he can observe. It almost certainly has nothing do with the fact that he's a Captain -- he just likes to fly -- and risk-free challenges all the better. There's a familiar thumbs-up for Aubrey before she begins, leaning forward to watch her fly, holding his breath until the scores are read. "Good work, Banshee," he says, sincerely.
Settled in her Raptor with ECO in tow, Astraea waits quietly. She's still wanting to improve her own scores. Perhaps more now than ever. In hopes of proving to herself that she is good at all this. She's modulating her breathing as she waits, watching Aubrey's pass. Then her own name is called. The Scorpian shakes her shoulders out a bit. "Copy." She swaps out for the first round -- the buoys -- with her ECO. Once that's passed, she'll fly he course.
And unlike last time, Astraea actually does quite well on the marksmanship portion of the test. Her 'pilot' last time was Yohan, who did a good job of it. Her ECO this time is decent, but doesn't help nor hinder her in either way. No, she handles that rear-firing KEW quite well for someone who mostly handles missiles and Talons. When it comes time to switch, she doesn't net herself a new badge, but she does skate through the course rather deftly for being in, well, a Raptor. The combat landing is clean, too, but she's had plenty of hot zone inserts and extracts that she should be good at combat landings.
"Nice flying Nova," Stirling offers as Astraea goes through the course. "Jigger, you're up next."
"Nice job Nova!" Aubrey calls out over the comm.
"Great flying, Nova!" Jigger's calling, as the scores are read out. And then it's his turn, and he's grinning in his cockpit, flicking off his music and settling himself in preparation. "Good to go, Whisper," he replies, as he brings his viper out in line for the start of the course. He's done this many times before, but there's always that moment of nervous anticipation, as he waits for the green light.
"Doesn't even have to do it and he pulls off a perfect score just for fun. Nice flying, Captain," Stirling trots out Jigger's new rank for fun.
"Showoff!" Aubrey quips over the comm. "You're awesome, Jigs."
The deck is shortly cleared after the scores come out, to make room for the next. Astraea guides the Raptor out to the 'watching' line, settling in along with the rest. She breathes relief, hitting the comms: "Thanks." And then Jigger is up; to show off his Master in Piloting, of course. But he manages it in the marksmanship also. There's a low whistle from Nova over the comms. "Just had to show me up, eh, Jigger? Nice work."
"Got to show them how Captains do it," Jigger replies to Stirling, the grin practically audible in his voice. "Cherry, you want to challenge me again?" he asks. "Winner buys the other a cake." Not bakes one -- he knows better.
"Again? I thought you challenged me last time, Jigger?" Still, Eva moves out to the line, settling into position beside Alain's viper. "I'm game if you are. But you're not buying me anything. Winner bakes the cake." A beat, "Ready."
"You're gonna regret that, Cherry," Jigger warns, with a laugh.
"I'll even source a kitchen an' provide th' ingredients," Astraea calls into the comms as the parameters of the shoot-off / bake-off are laid out.
The smile is audible in Stirling's voice. "All right, it sounds like we have a wager. You're up, Cherry."
As soon as Eva hears the go ahead, she's off, flying as she always does, as she did last time, as though she was the only one on the course, and yet, still somehow managing to never be just where any of the other pilots might be, regardless of how mental her maneuvering might be. They've been flying in the same squadron for two long to really have any tricks up their sleeves, so no surprises for Alain there. For Eva, it's really just about trying to make it through the course and clear the board. Because really? Even bad cake is still cake.
"So Jigger wins on flying, Cherry wins on shooting - sounds like cake for everyone, what do you all think?" Stirling puts it up to the squad to weigh in, sounding amused. "Nice flying all around."
"I say," Astraea opines, "they have a bake-off. I'll judge th' bakin' an' th' squad judges th' result."
It's a good bet that Alain's leaning forward in his cockpit, glued to DRADIS as Eva makes her run through the course. "Nice run," he's conceding, "Close one. Is it punishment if we have to each other's cakes, or our own?" he muses with a chuckle.
Eva, pulling up back onto the line after making her landing on the Dauntless, settles in easily, "You want me to believe that you'd actually serve the squadron a bad cake, Jigger? Where's that can-win attitude? You going to let me show you up in the kitchen?" Amusement in her voice, "A battle royale, Nova. Great flying indeed."
Stirling chuckles. "All right, let's pack it in before someone loses another bet," she says, and starts angling her Raptor toward the Dauntless.
"Yeah, I... concede defeat when it comes to baking," Jigger's replying, amused, even as he's navigating back towards the Dauntless. "But a bet's a bet..." he makes it sound like a threat, which, well, it might be.
"I'll get us a kitchen b'fore we leave Scorpia," Astraea decides. Got to make it right, yes? Of course the wing's resident baker wants to see others baking. It's great fun! "Mebbe even a recipe for y'all, too. Make it fair, yeh?" More chatter as she follows the line back in to the hangar. "Chocolate."
"Be much appreciated. Might be nice to level the playing field. Or else, I'd just pull out a Cookie special." It's not box cake if someone actually hand mixes the ingredients before they send it, right? "Heading back, Whisper." And so Eva does, following the line of ships back to the landing deck.