AWD #361: The Old Man and the Sim
AWD #361: The Old Man and the Sim
Summary: AWD #361: The Old Man and the Sim
Date: 17/06/2016 (OOC Date)
Related Logs: None
Jameson Niko 
Flight Simulators
The Air Wing has access to flight simulators to train pilots off the ground in combat maneuvers and situations that are hard to replicate with regular dogfight practicing and this is their home. A rectangular room, the hatch opens up beside the bank of computers that control the simulations and what is seen by the individuals when training sessions are in progress. The sims are actual cockpits cut out of old frames and installed here to function exactly as the real thing, right down to oxygen plugs for suits. In front of each cockpit, complete with armored glass, are LCD screens that cover most of the front view to the front and above. There are two Vipers, two Predators, and one full-cabin Raptor available.
AWD #361

It's later in the evening, nearing rack time for most of the daytime crews. Everyone still operates on Cap City Local so out here it's a different sort of life - especially with the longer Piraean days. But that means certain people get to steal away and do what tickles them… if they are of sufficient rank. Parked at the sim control panel is a guy with a heavy dusting of grey to his dark hair. He's wearing a flight suit completely zipped up with a cup of coffee beside him. There's also a flight helmet on the desktop area beside him, the whole thing painted in camouflage. The patches on his arms read Raptor and with a squadron that Niko has probably never heard of. Below that there is a patch nobody has seen before dedicated to Predators, much like a Viper Spec patch, with a banner patch over it, '4000 Hours'. He's sitting there with a cup of coffee, scrolling through something indeterminable on an approach.

There couldn't be much more of a contrast when Niko enters the Sims. He's fresh faced and full of youthful energy, and though he's in the same sort of flight suit, and carries the same sort of helmet as Jameson, the kid has only ensign pins on his collar and not a patch or insignia to be seen. Just his name stenciled on the chest plate where a callsign would normally be: JANIK. There's a mixture of impatience and determination about the young pilot, and he makes straight for the control panel where Jameson has planted his flag. Niko doesn't know any of the patches on the old guy's flight suit, but he must be a pilot or ECO, which means he's got to have senority over the Frakkin' New Guy. Plus he's old. So the FNG waits, helmet under his arm, for his turn at the console.

The guy continues his work, looking through items. Niko can probably see he is looking at log files and performance reports. He only glances over at Niko's entrance and looks back at what is on the screen. No, the old guy is taking his sweet time and reading. "Janik, huh? You look like you're about twelve. You sure you're in the right uniform, son?" he asks casually, laughing a touch into the cup before he sips his mug. "Sorry, not looking to cause a fight. You looking for something in particular, Ensign? Any particular thing like killing Raiders? You look like you're probably a Viper stick." He continues scrolling and pulls up Niko's sim records.

Tap-tap-tap go Niko's fingers on the helmet under his arm. Yes, he probably is impatient, but some of it is also just nervous energy to burn. "I'm eighteen. Sir." Yes, he is a little defensive about it. Pilots and ECOs are all officers, and while Niko doesn't recognize the rank pins on this guy (if there are any) he has got to assume he's made JG at least. I mean, look how old he is. "Yeah, Vipers. At least, when they let me fly again." Which he hastily clarifies. "I mean, I'm up from Crandall. I was flying combat there but I guess the standards here are different." Not that he's complaining. "So I'm playing catchup." His sim record is extensive for a new guy — he can't have clocked many real cockpit hours with all those sims — everything from launch and landing to combat landing, intercepts, and dogfights is in there. All that, and one solitary Predator ground attack sim.

The older guy doesn't wear a rank pin on either lapel. The fact that he doesn't get recognized just seems to make him grin a little inwardly. Admirals get to have fun, too. "No sweat, Ensign. I started flying combat when I was eighteen, too. I know the feeling." He's looking over the records. "You're in, you've got a lot to prove, you wanna kick ass like a dog lookin for his bitch. Been there." He continues scrolling. The last has him lean back as he gets to the bottom, turning. He leans back in the chair as he takes the Ensigns in. "Yes you are. Catchup sucks. I see you've got one mission in Predators. You focused on getting Raider kills? Think it will help you prove you're up to it if you bag five or ten?"

"What, they had space ships back then?" Niko tosses back at the old guy, and there's a friendly grin to go with the banter. "I don't like sitting around cooling my heels, you know? So I'm doing what I can." But he's less upbeat when the mission selection comes up. "Never did get to tangle with any Raiders flying out of Crandall. And my first Battlestar landing was brining a Viper aboard." It doesn't sound like it was an auspicious start. The kid simply shrugs it off. "The Predator mission was kind of … for old times sake, you know? I mean, I actually got a chance to move some mud on Picon, so I wanted to remember what it was like to know what the frak I was doing."

"Hell no! Back in my day they strapped rocket engines to biplanes. We had to orbit and deorbit uphill, both ways." The guys chuckles with it, even a little hoot to his voice. But the guy seems to at least relate a little bit. "When I came aboard my first Battlestar, I was looking to whoop as like a fox in a henhouse. The problem is that it just doesn't work like that," the guy chuckles. "You want to impress your squadmates? Do your job. How many nuggets do you think we're going to see come through here who have the same experience you do? How many of them are gonna do their best to buck all the shit like a bronco so they can prove their mettle?" He shakes his head. "You wanna be the outlier? Follow orders and keep motivated. The latter doesn't seem a problem. Just make sure you don't forget the former." The guy slowly rises from the chair and looks back to the console. "Bah, Picon's like herding sheep. Want to fly a real combat op in the sims? I admit, I've been itchin."

The old timer's joke does get the kid laughing, at least until talk turns to following orders and doing his job. "Yeah," he says, sounding resigned. "I mean, I've been trying to be patient. Learn all the protocol and shit. And I log all the sim hours I can get. But sitting around and not flying … feels like a frakkin' waste." Then the rookie blinks at the other pilot, though he's quickly past his surprise and grinning. "Sure thing … I mean, Yes sir."

The guy draws off the comment about a waste with a drift of his hand to the side. "It's not a waste. You might want your chance, but you won't get your chance if you get out there and end up a name on a wall. Your squad leader knows his job. Trust him. Really." The guy punches up a sim and sets it for auto, turning back after. "Hey, you don't have to 'sir' me. You see me in rank pins? Might as well be a Petty Officer right now. So here's the op." The camo-painted helmet is grabbed up and Niko can see the name 'Hairball' stenciled on the back. "Aerilon. Best intel we have. We're gonna run a single-ship strike and bomb a Cylon munitions depot outside Tregal. Mountains, ravines, SAMs and flak. You want a no-pansy-bullshit mission, let's fly it. I'll sit backseat. I've got your 20mm loaded up front and we've got bombs and two missiles. Think your ego is up to taking this if we get dead?" he asks with a challenge to the smile.

There may still be a certain amount of 'yeah, yeah' about him, but Niko knows enough to dial it back and nod to the old guy. "I hear you, sir." Then there's a grin and a nod for the waving of military protocol, and this time all the says is, "Okay." As for simulated the mission, the kid doesn't even bat an eye. "Sure, let's do it." Then he leans in to see what he can see of the target area. "You wanna to handle the targeting? I mean, sounds like I'm gonna need to keep my eyes on the road, if we're not gonna end up in a mountain, you know?"

The guy puts the helmet back and zips up the rest of the suit before taking back his camo treatment. "Yeah, this is your first time working with a real ECO?" The guys laughs and gestures to the sims. "C'mon, flyboy, let's see what you got." It isn't said loudly, more worded as an opportunity. Once Nike moves, he's following behind. "I'll handle the targeting. You hit it like a virgin in a prom dress." He laughs at his own joke. "I said something like that to my wife once and she hit my with a slack of saddle leather," he says with a grin, moving to the sims.

"I guess?" Niko says. "We had back seaters on Picon but most of them weren't any older than me." And then he closes the collar clasp on his suit and slips his helmet on, making sure everything checks out before he heads for the Predator sim pod. He laughs along with the ECO's joke, but there's an edge to the laughter that isn't all humor. And then there's a snort for Jameson's story. "Sounds like a tough lady." In the meantime, Niko climbs into the pilot set of the simulated Predator cockpit and starts going through the pilot's pre-flight checks. It's not a particularly fast process as he is often double checking himself, and he doesn't seem to be in a rush.

"Well that's alright. Your prior backseaters have also probably never actually seen a war fought." The guy climbs into the backseat of the sim and pulls on his helmet. It's a practiced movement and he hooks himself up to the comms and O2 system. "Check check, radio check," he mutters as he goes about his own activities in the back. There is furious button pressing back there while he customizes his multi-function displays. The comment to his wife does get a laugh, though. "Met her when I was already old. She kicked my ass. I grew up around horses, she taught me a whole new meaning to ranching. I was buying Bengay by the tub. Hell, Janik, I love her for it. Maybe one day I'll get a chance to recon my own ranch. See if she's still kickin. Money is on her." He gets the rest done while he talks and lowers the canopy. "Alright, Ensign. Here we go. Let me know when you're ready. Both hands on. This is gonna be a low-level approach. Hope you know how to fly in the weeds."

"We've all seen a war fought," Niko replies after a brief pause. It's a more serious comment than the banter before, but he doesn't dwell on it. He's a pilot with a job to do, even if it is just a sim. With his focus on his checkup and setup, it is a few seconds before the kid responds to the story about the old guy's wife. "Yeah? Hope you find her, sir." He's slipped up on the 'sir' bit, but maybe that's because he was being serious again. He's lost people — they all have. But that doesn't mean you can't hope for someone else to get lucky. He's still working as the canopy comes down, but Niko does manage to get his hands on the stick and throttle just as the sim starts to boot up. Does he know how to fly in the weeds? "Guess we'll know in a few seconds, you know?"

"Yeah? Have you?" The guy in the backseat gets settled. "Seen my time on the ground. Spent most in the air and space." He continues last checks and settles in. Unlike most, he actually straps himself in and adjusts his straps. Once he's settled, he relaxes back in the disarmed ejection seat and eyes everything. "Yeah, we're gonna find out real fast. Starting us off at five hundred AGL." Above Ground Level. "Three. Two. One. We're in." He presses a button in the backseat and the screens flicker alive.

Niko is staring at a ravine right ahead of them. The walls on either side are more than 1000' high. They're flying straight down a tube with unforgivable walls. "Contact, two flak batteries on the top of the wall, two miles. Let's see that Pilot Shit." He punches a few buttons. "ECM active."

<FS3> Niko rolls Piloting: Good Success.

"I fought with the resistance on Picon," Niko simply confirms, "before I got into flight training." And then he's focusing on the simulation startup, trying his best to be ready to get a feel for a complex flying situation in the first few seconds. Reflexes and training pay off, with perhaps a little bit of luck or a forgiving sim, as Niko manuevers the Predator into the pipe and down the canyon without backing off the throttle. Busy flying, he doesn't respond to the information about the flak right away. "Can we stay below their line of fire?" he eventually asks, not even taking his eyes off the road to check the threat panel himself.

Ahead of them it is a simple river system off an old glacier that carved the whole thing. The trees are 100 feet from the bottom and Niko manages to drop into the sim and get them through the initial drop. In front of him, the trees whisk by and the cliff walls rise well above them. There's no room for error.

In the backseat, the old guy sounds calm as could be. "We should be defilade their fire as lone as we stay low." A pause. "Janik, you're coming up to a turn, take the right side. The canyon will dead end. I need a pull-up and we're going to come over the top. When you make the turn I need full throttle. Burn some worms, my friend." He's still in the back, plugging it all in.

<FS3> Niko rolls Piloting: Amazing Success.

"Roger," he says for the old ECO's instructions, his tone clipped with concentration. And then there's nothing but mountain ahead, and the two ways they can go around without becoming a crater. "I see it," the young pilot confirms as he hits the throttle and starts the big Predator into a right hand turn. The G-force start to pile up as they accelerate and turn harder, and Niko starts grunting. Then he rolls the stick left and back, leveling off and going into a sharp climb just as they start to run out of road. 'Pull up, Pull up," warns Bitching Betty, but their nose is already pointed skyward and the Pred has more then enough airspeed to make it over the top. At the crest Niko makes a split second decision, and instead of climbing higher he threads the ship straight through a notch in the rocky ridge. Somehow they roar out on the far side without even scratching the paint, and then they're nosing back down toward the lower ground beyond. "Whooo!" the young pilot shouts as the adrenaline hits.

<FS3> Jameson rolls ECM: Success.

In the back seat the old guy just rolls with it, giving a token grunt with the G's. It does sound involuntary, though, as if he were too used to this. He's busy punching buttons, though. As they rocket out of the canyon, he glances up and hoots. "Helluva way to fly, Janik!" It nearly comes out as a laugh. "Shit! You can fly a bird, friend!" But the guy keeps playing with the seat in back. The flak around them hits close for a few seconds before dropping off. …A few more seconds, "Target! Depot! Twelve o'clock! Hold this bearing. Twenty seconds to target!" he sounds like he's having too much fun. Then, "SAM Launch! Break right! Break right!" Niko can hear the guy behind him move and slam his helmet into the canopy as he tries to spot it, other hand pumping out chaff. Niko can watch the ticker. It was at 30. 25. 20. 15.

<FS3> Niko rolls Piloting: Good Success.

<FS3> Jameson rolls ECM: Good Success.

So far so good. The elation of shooting through that gap in the ridge soon cools as the flak starts to burst around them. "Tripple-A!" Niko glances ahead towards the depot when the back seater calls the time to target. "Roger, I see it!" And then there is no hesitation when the ECO calls for a break, the young pilot rolling the craft right and pulling back hard on the stick, eyes on the horizon and the ground ahead. He sees the SAM, having lost its lock on their low flying bird, rocket high up into the sky. So Niko rolls the big, loaded Pred back to the left and tries to get on target again. Yep, there's a building coming up fast. "That the target?!" he tries to confirm. Not that there's much he can do about it in the next five seconds.

The SAM shoots right overhead and explodes on the other side. In the backseat, the guy watches it move and the jink works. He hoots out a laugh, "That's right mother frakkers!" He's way too into this. "Yeah! Frak you, too!" He rolls back into his backset and settles for a moment. "SAM! Two o'clock, twelve miles! Fox Three!" To the side a missile rockets off the right rail and streaks off into the sky before beginning a slow arc down. "That's it! Hitting final." The guy becomes far too calm suddenly. "Two. One. Pickle." Drop the bombs.

<FS3> Jameson rolls Gunnery: Good Success.

<FS3> Niko rolls Gunnery: Success.

Twelves miles? Niko's worried about the target a mile ahead. That SAM is an eternity away. There's no reaction to their missile launch, as the pilot stays focused on the bomb targeting indicator and his heading, keeping the creeping line that's coming up the HUD lined up as best he can as the Predator bounces and roars along at high speed and low altitude. All that's left for him to do is hit the thumb button and drop the bombs when the ECO calls it. "Bombs away!" He stays on course for all of a second as the ordnance ripples off the Predator's wings and belly, and then he pulls away a little early. Most of the bombs scatter across the target, but the last few are flug off to Gods know where. And Niko is craning his neck to try and sneak a peek back at the explosions that start to blossom behind them.

Off to the right there's a flash with a SAM launch right before a much larger one. The smoke trail from the Pred streaks in and blows apart the site before the missile lifts off the rail. Behind them, the bombs fall across the target, close enough to do the job. They aren't perfect, but considering the run, they strike well. Both Jameson's helmets and Niko's look back to see the destruction. The first pair of bombs hit nothing. The second pair have minor secondaries. The third? They hit the corner of the hardened warehouse. The explosion is almost blinding, even in the dark sims. The bombs hit and half a fraction of a second later it seems to cook off the rest. The whole place explodes in a blinding light and when it fades there is a tower of smoke and debris rising more than 500' above them into the air. "GodsDAMN! nice run, Ensign! HOO!" the guy in the back hoots with a laugh. "Take heading two-one-five and get back in the weeds! We are out of here!" Behind Janik, he can hear the ECO punching out flares and chaff, creating a mess for the flak that still tries to burst around them and fails.

Niko is grinning at the destruction, and mostly oblivious to the incoming flak. "Yeah, that'll leave a mark!" He's finally back on the job when he hears that old guy in back calling a course. "Two one five, roger." The pilot brings the lightened Pred around to a south-southwesterly heading and noses down, headed back down to hug the ground. "Where's that SAM?"

The old guy in the back gets back into his seat proper and relaxes. "SAM is toast, my friend," he slides out easily. As the two depart the area the terrain grows easier on the ride out, growing more flat. "That was more interesting than my typical night. Nicely flown, Ensign." And behind him he can hear something tapped with a glove and the sim shuts down, the canopy suddenly lifting above them.

"Oh," Niko says. He must have missed that. "Nevermind." And then Niko chuckles as they ride out. "Hey, I'm just the driver. Just go where I'm told." And then there's that sudden letdown as the simulated world vanishes, and they don't get to pretend they're in a real Predator anymore. "Holy Frak," Niko breathes. "Everything just felt right, you know?" Then the Ensign reminds himself to go through the sim shut down sequence for his station before getting ready to climb out.

The sim sequence shuts down and the whole thing begins it's slow settling onto the hydraulics. It felt real enough. To an extent. But the guy in the backseat slowly peels off his helmet and works the disconnects before climbing out. One at a time, boots hit the scaffolding and he has a grin on his face. "Oh, son, I know what you're talking about. You get into a run, you drive in and have your ass on the line while things get shot at you? Yeah. I know it well. That was a damned good strike run, Ensign." He puts out his hand to shake.

Once his boots are back on the deck, Niko tucks the helmet under his arm and turns towards the sim console. He's grinning too. And though the kid is surprised by the offered handshake, he's enthusiastic about it once he figures it out. "Thanks! Never had someone to talk me through stuff like that, you know?" And then he starts towards the displays, to check what the simulation software had to say about their performance. "So what, did they dig you out of mothballs to ECO up again?"

Shaking the hand, the guy just smiles. "You'll get more ECO's like that when you prove you can follow orders and steering. It's all about trust, Ensign. C'mon." He leads them back down off the catwalk and back towards the console. Man still needs his damned coffee. "Nah, I'll probably never ECO again. Especially if the CAG and Petra have anything to say about it." He puts his helmet onto the console's flat area, taking up the mug. "So how do you feel about it? I'm not talkin about the good shit. Do you think you frakked up at all?"

The name of the TACCO doesn't seem to ring any bells with the rookie pilot, but at least he knows what CAG is. "Why would the CAG not want you flying," Niko wonders. "I mean, seems like you know what you're doing." The question of where he may have screwed up causes the kid to think hard for a moment. "Uhhh … I can't really think of anything, you know? I mean, we didn't hit a mountain and we got bombs on the targets. I guess maybe I was leaning on you pretty hard, to keep track of all the shit going on while I was flying?"

Yeah. The words make sense. The guy recalls the whole sim onto the screens for a pute data read-out. "Yeah, no strikes on the mountain. No trees." He gets to the part about the climb out. "That, right there, that's impressive. Son, you've got better things to do than try to prove yourself. Hell, it's pathetic you think that you need to get out there. This, right here, that's the real deal. Sim pilots play the safe route. Pretty easy to tell that isn't you modus operandi." The coffee is sipped before he drops back into the chair. "Think you did damned good. Especially for some ornrey eighteen year old."

Niko laughs for the comments the old guy has for his flying. "I didn't really think about it," he explains. Not that there's much time for careful consideration at two hundred plus knots. "I was just trying to stay low, you know?" Then there's another grin for the old man's compliment. "Thanks. And hey, if you've got any pull, do me a favor and tell that to Captain Salazar, you know? Maybe he'll let me fly."

The guy sips the mug again while he listens. "Interesting. I'm pretty sure everyone is going to tell you that not thinking is the wrong thing. Take it from the old guy: Sometimes you don't think, you just act." He looks back to the screen for the evaluation on the sim. "You're nuts if you think I hold that kind of sway. Go get some rack. I have a few more things to do. G'night, Ensign."

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