AWD #007: You Only Die Twice
You Only Die Twice
Summary: A long day in the sims.
Date: 12 Jan 2013
Related Logs: None
Tiptoft Keller Holtz Bennett Zachary Jess 
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 #07

Sim time is precious these days, and the Wing's Viper pilots have been falling over each other to try and score as much of it as possible. Leave it to the End Times to light a fire under everybody's collective ass. So despite his desire to catch up on sleep, Thumper finds himself strapping into an open cockpit at 0545 hours, a thermos of coffee clenched between his legs while he goes through the usual pre-flight checklist. As for the scenario? A pixelated image of Colonial Fleet Air Base Radix stretches across the LCD screens, reproduced from the street-view image collections in Orion's databanks. One touch from Leo's gloved hand and the room's lights dim; another touch and his simulated engine kicks to life. And a whispered prayer to Hermes accompanies the whine of RCS points swiveling down toward deck, white-orange flames angling the fighter toward rising Virgan suns and green countryside beyond.

As the simulated footage flickers to life and the lights dim, a figure with a loosely affixed flight suit plods on through with measured, cautious footsteps, and a slight 'thump' as his booted foot clanks into one of the adjacent, unused sim pods. "Shit." Comes a murmur that might well be somewhat familiar to Thumper. "Well lookiee here." He notes as he approaches the unit in use, craning his head hard at an angle to get a glimpse of what's on the screen.

Thumper doesn't hear the guy, not at first, and if he notices the sliver of light that falls across his LCD screens from the open-and-now-closed hatch, he doesn't show it. A stumpy finger flicks open the plastic cover over the Mark VII's afterburner toggle while the big man clears the airspace over Radix. Then, diving to hug the rapidly approaching horizon line, he kicks his fighter into second gear. The man's slammed back into his seat as he smashes the sound barrier, screaming westward across Virgon's northern continent just two hundred feet above the ground. Images of grazing cows flash across the screen, frozen in time like the pastures and highways below. And a half-klick ahead can be seen a farmer who'll be running into the wind for the rest of eternity, chasing a Pyramid scarf hanging forever out of reach.

As the seat rumbles under simulated turbulence, Keller's ungloved hand very rudely and unsubtly presses against the canopy of the simulator, and the man leans with the rumbling of the pod with a bemused look on his face. Some moments pass and his other hand is cupped to his mouth and he lets out a very loud and ungainly "MOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO" sound to accompany the footage of grazing cattle.

Thumper's helmeted head swivels over to Keller, followed shortly thereafter by a one-finger salute from his free hand. Then he taps the side of his helmet and jerks his thumb toward the open Raptor sim nearby: a silent invitation, perhaps, as he returns his attention to, well, whatever he's doing. It certainly doesn't look like there are any Cylons in this scenario, at least at first glance. Maybe they're hiding in the roaring River Quick, whose winding path Thumper will follow past towns and villages until, in the distance, the belching smokestacks of Kingston loom out like shadows from the bluish light of dawn. Springtime stars zoom by overhead, veiled by a light dusting of clouds.

Not at all daunted by the reply "Heyyyyyyyyyyyyy baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaby," Keller notes in his 'cow voice' as he idly drums his fingers on the cockpit one last time before swivelling his head about, booted foot thumping against the floor as he hesitates and looks at some of the other cockpits. Viper? Nah. Raptor? He takes a step that way and suddenly narrows his eyes before sidestepping and making his way towards one of the Predator consoles.

Holtz enters the simulator with a pack of folders under his arms; he pauses at the room's threshold as he sees the room is already occupied. There's a glance over at Keller and then Tiptoft's simulator as he goes over to the bank of control computers. The folders are dumped onto one of the consoles, and then he steps towards the other Viper simulator with a sly look on his face.

Tiptoft notes his friend's choice with an approving nod, and with a flick of his finger, he switches on the inter-ship comms. Then, powering off his roaring afterburner, he throttles down to a mere hundred klicks an hour, hovering above the twelve-lane interstate leading into the city. The lanes are still congested this time of day, as they are at all times of day, and the big pilot chuckles as he sees two men — one wearing red, one wearing blue — locked in a fistfight on the outbound shoulder. And below him stretches a traffic jam to end all traffic jams, trucks and cars and limos and big-rigs all captured in high-definition detail.

"The /frak/ do I know about flying this thing? Heh. Heh heh. This is going to be painful." Keller notes as he steps into the simulated, modified old-school Predator airframe after some hesitation. In the /front/ seat, nontheless, boots clanking against the metal as he works his way into the frame after another long bout of staring over at Tiptoft's console. Holtz's entrance is also noted with a brief but pointed wave. "Hey, man."

Holtz offers a wave to Keller as he throws himself into the faux cockpit. "Hey, Sammich. Goin' for a ride?" With a sequence of commands, he brings the booth on line and links it into the simulation in progress.

There's an indescribable look on Tiptoft's face as he dips his Viper closer to the ground. "Warning," a fluted female voice sings into his ear. "Collision imminent. Pull up. Warning. Collision — " And so on and so on. "Gods damn," the pilot mutters, abruptly wrenched out of whatever mood he's in. He bends forward to override the computerized alarm, banking hard to port to avoid a blue-white freeway sign informing him that the exit to the Kingston Ring Road is coming up just six miles ahead. The cityscape flashes to his starboard-side LCD while his forward screen now shows yet another stretch of congested highway, straddled on both sides by factories and coal plants and a web of power lines.

"You didn't have to do that for my benefit, I'll be hearing plenty of that shit in the next couple minutes." Keller observes, lazily, as he finishes strapping himself in and he too links up his simulation before glancing over at Holtz. "Yeah. /Think/ I know what I'm doing here. Studied the flight manual enough." He fiddles slowly with the controls as the screen flickers on and his own simulated takeoff begins. He flicks on the switch that reads 'AUTOECO'' with a faint grimace. "I should be insulted."

Suddenly, the same urban vista Tiptoft and Keller are viewing pops up onto Holtz's screen, and he slams down on the throttle. The simulator bucks, pressing Holtz back into his seat as the fighter 'accelerates'. He cuts across the sky at full burn and clears his guns; a streak of tracers tears harmlessly across the skies at nothing in particular as he arcs in, barrel rolling his craft and passing over Tiptoft before he turns back and moves to join the other Viper pilot. Storm cranes his neck to get a better look around; even though he knows it's a computer generated image, he can't help but smile at the sight of blue skies.

[TAC1] "Storm" Holtz says, "HOW THE FRAK YOU BOYS DOIN'?"

Tiptoft's silver fighter cuts across the ring road, just under Holtz's tracer fire — gods, if he had a cubit for every time he wished he could lift off and blow half the frakking cars on it to smithereens. Storm's friendly greeting is returned with a blast of KEWs from his own guns. The bullets slam into the broad side of a factory and — vanish, swallowed up by the faded neon sign whose glowing letters spell out 'K-I-N-G-S-T-O-N C-O-A-L," minus a few relevant vowels. Then, engine burning with renewed power, the Mark VII disappears into the forest of skyscrapers reaching upwards toward the early morning sky, their top-most windows gleaming gold and silver as the first rays of light strike home.

[TAC1] "Thumper" Tiptoft says, "Shit, Storm. You too? Whose dick do I gotta suck to get some privacy round here?"

[TAC1] "Sandwich" Keller slowly laughs as he suddenly has an epiphany. "Hahaha. /Shitstorm/. That's it!"

[TAC1] "Storm" Holtz says, "Go ahead, laugh it up, Sandwich."

Meanwhile, the larger, ungainly silhouette of the Predator darts in from the upper atmosphere, casting a poorly-rendered shadow over the pixellated landscape. Punching the throttle, the thing suddenly lurches forward, in a dive. "SHIIIIIIIIIIIIT". The proximity indicator kicks in with the unfriendly howling warning of "WHOOP WHOOP. WHOOP WHOOP. PULL UP. PULL. UP."

[TAC1] "Thumper" Tiptoft says, "Gods damn." Tiptoft laughs out loud. "Hope that frakking sticks."

Storm's Viper can't help but laugh as he watches Keller fling his Predator into a barely controlled dive. For a moment, he's in formation with Tiptoft, but then the pair of Vipers arc back in towards the city proper, and Storm starts picking his own path through the urban jungle, the gleaming metal of the buildings flashing past him as he settles into a route over one of the city's main thoroughfares. He chuckles dryly at the comm chatter, shaking his head.

[TAC1] "Storm" Holtz says, "Ya, cause I've never heard that one before. Try harder, boys."

Somewhere on Thumper's DRADIS, the Predator marked 'PRED-01' blinks twice before disappearing on the screen. The man laughs under his breath, throttling backwards ever so slightly as he turns onto Victoria Boulevard, which cuts north-south across the city's glimmering financial district. And grinning like a teenage boy riding a motorcycle for the first time, he hammers the accelerator and flips his Viper along her long axis. Her inverted cockpit points directly downward at a street filled with livery cabs and a thronging mass of black-suited salarymen on their way to work. Storm; Sandwich: dare to follow?

[TAC1] "Thumper" Tiptoft's deep bass bursts into amused laughter. "Yo, you see this shit? Vic and Seventh. Cam caught some asshole cab driver pulling a piece on a squeegee man."

Fortunately, a combination of blind luck and some rudamentary piloting training save Keller from an untimely simulated demise, or simulated loss of billions of simulated cubits worth of simulated attack craft. Throttle is temporarily cut and he works the air currents /hard/ to pull the nose up and gets a nice up-close-and-personal view of the skyline. "Put /that/ much thrust in the back, huh? Gotta remember that." His mouth opens slightly at the view.

[TAC1] "Sandwich" Keller says indignantly, "I wear that as a badge of pride!" He pauses. "This thing's loaded for bear. By the way — I remember taking a trip here a few years ago. Wonder if that artisan soup place is still in business." Of course, it definitely isn't /now/. He just won't admit it. yet.

[TAC1] "Thumper" Tiptoft says, "Artisan soup place?" Thumper grunts in amusement. "You rich motherfrakker."

[TAC1] "Sandwich" Keller says, "Rich? Hardly. Not my fault you signed a contract that contained a clause reading '40% of seasonal pay will be made up in lapdances from Brett Keane's mom.'"

[TAC1] "Thumper" Tiptoft says, "Shit, you shoulda seen her do that little swivel thing with her hips."

Storm is more than willing to accept Tiptoft's silent dare. He grimaces as he throws his Viper into a hard turn, heeling the craft over around a building and emerging onto Victoria a few seconds behind the other Viper pilot. The ship goes into a barrel roll again, contrails twisting in a helix pattern behind him as the Viper screams across the sky.

[TAC1] "Storm" Holtz says, "Frak your fancy-assed soup place, Sandwich, I wanna know if that one strip club on Governor's Parkway is still there. Used to go there in tech school, there was this girl Candice… well, she's probably got saggy tits and a gut out to here by now."

Tiptoft bares his teeth in a taut little grin as he sees Storm's Viper emerge on his six. The two fighters scream down Victoria at a hundred fifty klicks an hour, dipping below orange sodium streetlamps and skipping above stoplights forever locked at red. In the blink of an eye, they've left the financial district behind — only for Thumper to cut across Westhampton Street and up Merton Lane before emerging into Governor's Circle. A gigantic obelisk from the Old City stands in the middle of it, covered by pigeons and the occasional swallow. Two cops rustle a bum from his bench, one already reaching for his cuffs.

[TAC1] "Thumper" Tiptoft says, "Gods damn, Storm. She anywhere close to your age, probably lost all her teeth too. If you're into that kinda thing."

[TAC1] "Sandwich" Keller snickers. "I wouldn't call anything his mom did 'little', Thump." Addressing Holtz's little point he adds "Oh, yeah - you mean Tauron Phil's? I heard that place got closed hard due to some kind of copyright infringement. Those days are over, my friend!"

Waggling his wings a little, the Predator's erstwhile pilot attempts a small climb as he crosses the remainder of the business district, simulated sunlight streaming on the LCD screen as he brings the plane into a cautious, gentle climb looking over at a high school, kids busy in the Pyramid court on one side of the grounds while a few hoodlums sit around the bleachers, one lighting up what looks like a joint.

[TAC1] "Thumper" Tiptoft says, "Shit, Phil's? Oh man, Storm, you hit it too?" Thumper laughs his thunderous laugh. "Heard that oily son of a bitch was all mobbed up. Knew his doorman, so I used to sneak in when we were juniors." He means in high school. "Didn't know I was getting your sloppy seconds."

[TAC1] "Storm" Holtz says, "Heh, check out that poor bastard…" Holtz chuckles down at the frozen image of the hapless bum. "Tauron Phil's! Yeah, that's it. Damn. Fat little bugger Phil never did know when to quit, though." Another laugh, this time at Thumper. "Yeah, you got mine and half the base's, too."

Catching sight of PRED-01 on DRADIS, Thumper dips his wing to Holtz and takes the northeast exit off Governor's Circle to join up with the attack craft. Skyscrapers give way to ramshackle flats in the Imperial style, all gargoyles and pointed arches and elegant wrought-iron gates. But they're falling apart, now: moldy and rusted and covered in graffiti. The cars have thinned out, replaced by beret-wearing pedestrians with skinny jeans and ugly dogs. Frakking hipsters.

[TAC1] "Thumper" Tiptoft says, "Whatever, man. He's probably living high right now with that blonde honey from Aquaria. Whooooo-wee." Leo clicks his com twice in approval. "Said she was a friend of his cousin Pete. Mighta been after your time. That was — shit, '92? '93?"

Holtz's Viper turns onto its side as he angles over to follow Thumper, skirting the obelisk as he exits the circle. He too catches the sight of Keller's Predator on his DRADIS display, and he breaks formation with Tiptoft as the pair of Vipers streak towards the attack craft. There's a rueful shake of the head from inside his cockpit.

ECO, schmeeco. Keller's frontseating the lone PRED-01 with a surprising amount of competence for one who, y'know, doesn't spend a lot of time in that role. By "surprising amount of confidence" he manages to maneuver the less nimble craft out of another dive, climbing clear of the somewhat-decaying architecture in the Sim's virtual footage. He clicks his tongue at something in the view and continues to move to form up with the gang.

[TAC1] "Storm" Holtz says, "Heh. Way after my time. Was at Radix for tech training as a gunner back in '84." Storm grimaces slightly as he dates himself. "Back when ol' Phil had more hair than most of his girls."

[TAC1] "Sandwich" Keller observes, bemusedly, "I heard 'Phil' wasn't even the real Phil and was a neurotic wreck hopped up on more godsdamn pills than Princess Anita. Good to see that some rumors aren't true."

Thumper's Viper cuts northward, ever northward, flying lead ship in their makeshift formation of three. The Colonial fighters skim past a street vendor hawking kebabs to students stumbling their way to their pre-dawn classes — and to students stumbling back from their pre-dawn hookups. On the corner of Giltspur and Pleydell, a brunette in a teensy black dress is in the middle of regurgitating her early morning meal. And the red-white flags of Astraia University flash by every two blocks, frozen mid-flutter in the cold spring air. And then — north, ever north — the roaring River Quick emerges in the distance, spanned by six great bridges separating the Old City from the urban sprawl of Kingston's north bank.

Bennett drifts into the flight sims, as sneakily as always. Rather than draw attention to herself, she takes up a spot against the bulkhead wall, folds her arms, and proceeds to observe the aircrew going through their paces with a half smile on her lips.

[TAC1] "Thumper" Tiptoft says, "Frakker was a neurotic wreck anyway. Always thought the coppers were gonna beat his ass down one of these days." Thumper tsks. "Copyright infringement's what ended him? Gods damn. I hate lawyers."

[TAC1] "Thumper" Tiptoft suddenly breathes in, memories of Tauron Phil pushed aside by the sight of the River. "Gods she's frakking gorgeous," the big man murmurs, voice hoarse.

[TAC1] "Storm" Holtz says, "I figured he'd end with his throat cut and his head shoved down the shitter, myself. Not like anyone didn't know he was in hip deep with the Tauron mob. But hey, reality has a way of lettin' you down, I guess."

Jess steps past Bennett to head toward the sims, but stops abruptly, and frowns. Not at the raptor pilot, whose presence she has not really noted yet, but at the occupied Vipers. She turns on a heel to find the sign-up board, flipping through until she finds the right page. She mumbles a curse under her breath and lets the clipboard drop against the wall again, combing fingers through her hair until they catch at the back of her neck and hold, turning back to eye the available simulators. Lips are pressed together, tugged left then right as jaw is pushed to one side and then the other.

Holtz clears his guns once more, scarlet-orange KEW tracers forming a firey line over the freeze-frame image of the campus. But it's gone quickly, replaced by the oncoming river and the series of bridges spanning its width. His Viper remains close behind Tiptoft's as they close on the river itself.

Meanwhile, Keller's valiant attempt to wrangle the ungainly beast of a simulated Predator continues as he tries to keep semi-formation with the Vipers; semi-formation is really the best one could hope for in this sort of situation anyway. The big attack plane rumbles as he passes over more of Virgon's simulated landscape. Past the campus there's a building he flies low over reading, in large letters, 'HIBERNIAN CULTURAL CENTER.' His snickering can be heard over the simulated tac channel.

Zachary steps into the simulator room for only a moment. Already, his page is going off letting him know his turn in the recon rotation is coming up. However, noticing Bennett leaning against the wall, he goes over to her for a moment and offers her a small box and a few words before he leaves, patting her on the shoulder as he heads out almost at a dead sprint.

[TAC1] "Sandwich" Keller chortles a bit, although there's a bit of delay. "Heh. See that place? They've probably got three donkeys and a production facility for cheap-ass fortified wine."

[TAC1] "Storm" Holtz says, "Guess the wine makes the donkeys prettier."

Thumper's Viper rights herself as her pilot blasts over the river, pirouetting three times through the three towers of the Century Bridge. Then he careens onto the north bank, drawing closer and closer to home: past the boarded-up delis of Charterhouse Street, past the Sagittaran restaurants of Cloth Lane, past a soup kitchen dedicated to Hestia whose entrance foyer is being mobbed by the poor and the destitute. A rickety playground rises out of the early morning fog, where two children laugh and scream on a splintered old merry-go-round assuredly unsafe for regular use.

[TAC1] "Thumper" Tiptoft says, "Always wondered how the Moonies got folks to suicide-bomb police stations and shit."

[TAC1] "Storm" Holtz says, "Some frakked-up religious thing, I thought."

[TAC1] "Thumper" Tiptoft says, "Shit, Mum's got the frakked-up religious thing going on and no way she'd strap on a vest."

Bennett looks up just in time to have a box pressed into her palm, and a few murmured words hurriedly offered into her ear. Her studious expression melts into a warm smile, and a quick nod is offered Zachary's way. "Apollo's speed, Major," she calls out toward his retreating back.

[TAC1] "Storm" Holtz says, "Well, that shit takes a special kind'a crazy. Dunno."

[TAC1] "Thumper" Tiptoft says, "Maybe they just all got hammered off of purple drink. Or something."

[TAC1] "Thumper" Tiptoft says, "Shit, my bad. 'Fortified wine.'"

Zachary leaves, heading toward the Air Wing Corridors [AW].

Jess turns as Bennett speaks, leaning around the door to catch a glimpse of Zachary's departing back. "Drive-by DCAG?" she says, glancing at the box in Bennett's hand. "Major," she adds politely, salute and everything.

[TAC1] "Sandwich" Keller simply snorts. "Isn't that the same thing as The Purple? Hibs are a little insecure. I grew up with a whole bunch of them. You'd understand — they haven't done that shit for a long time. All you need to do is get them to admit they love Tauron Sports and Caprican TV, just to be contrary."

Holtz's only response to Tiptoft's latest crack is a wicked laugh. Suddenly, he breaks from his impromptu formation with the other Viper and begins a slow pattern over the city, passing over what looks like a small Tauron expat district. Down at the edge of an alleyway, he catches sight of what looks like a heavily tattooed thug threatening a passerby with a knife, and he snorts.

All this reminiscing about his Hibernian side of the family has probably gotten Keller a little off-kilter in his less-than-expert flying as the Predator's airframe catches a particularly choppy simulated air current, and the thing goes in something of an aircraft upset. spinning sharply to the side and descending some more — upside down.

Bennett waves off the salute, and indicates the sim sign-up sheet with a tip of her chin. "Did the boys oust you, Nags?" The contents of the box are not commented upon. For now.

"No, I thought I'd signed up for now, but I actually put in for tomorrow," Jess replies to Bennett with a shake of her head, dropping both hands to slide into pockets, thumbs left out to tap absently against thighs. "Of course, I have CAP at that time tomorrow, and they're booked pretty solid otherwise. I might hop in a Predator, I guess, just to get something in. You?"

For his part, Thumper's Viper flips over on her port wing and screams over the playground, just in time to see Keller's Predator stall out. The big man laughs under his breath as he guns forward — and an observer might see three Colonial fighters fan out three different ways across the sleepy streets of Kingston's north bank. The one arrowing north has even popped smoke: a thin translucent red that hangs above simulated flats with broken windows and cast-iron gates. A silent salute, perhaps, as the Viper slows to a stop above a domed building at the center of the district. The word 'MUSTANGS' has been painted in blue blocky letters on its roof, opened to the sky to reveal a sea of bleachers.

[TAC1] "Thumper" Tiptoft says, "Kells, don't blow up my city. Ugly enough as is."

Bennett chews on a corner of her lip thoughtfully, momentarily distracted by the wake of carnage left behind as Thumper and Sandwich tear up the Sagittaran slumscape. "I actually needed a word with Sandwich. Though he seems otherwise occupied. Would you like a backseater, Lieutenant?" Blue eyes flick back to Jess, and she waggles her brows at the other woman.

Holtz is behind the controls of the Viper that angled off to the southeast, but now he pulls his ship up in a long, lazy turn, slowing to a near-stop as he surveys the urban landscape. He snorts as Keller's ship suddenly jerks out of control and plummets downward.

[TAC1] "Storm" Holtz says, "You pop the clutch over there, Sandwich?"

[TAC1] "Sandwich" Keller snarls a bit, "Gods /damn/ it. Oh well - that's for launching Peltner's career, you bastards!" And then his simulated com cuts out.

Flicking the 'auto-pilot' switch is a valiant, but rather late attempt, as the Predator spins trying to right itself. It fails spectacularly as it descends out of control in a spiral and in a move that simulated sports fans will remember forever, descends into one side of the Pyramid stadium and explodes in a fiery wreck before de-rezzing.

One might note that the plane just crashed into the bar.

"Uh. Actually. Umm." Keller realizes Bennett is there and just asked him a question. "Might be better if we switched seats, actually."

The Viper's RCS points blaze white-hot as Thumper drops his fighter into the stadium's hole as far as the simulation will allow. Though Colonial intel did its level best to capture everything in high-def, they probably didn't anticipate this sort of usage — and as Leo descends, the image on his LCDs becomes ever more pixelated until even sheer force of will can't maintain the obvious illusion any longer. Thumper's hand balls into a fist around his control stick in sudden frustration. And his fighter shudders in protest before slamming against the simulated street, exploding into a second great ball of fire. The pilot throws off his helmet with a pained look on his face as his LCDs go black, plunging his section of the sims into relative darkness.

Jess laughs briefly at the brow waggle, and spreads a hand toward the sim, saying, "I'd be honored, major. After you." She'll head towards the free Predator, eyeing the screens inside the cockpit of the other before climbing into her own. She turns to look at Keller as he speaks up, and glances back at Bennett, shrugging easily, "I know where I'm sitting, at least. Wherever the two of you'd prefer to be's fine by me." She settles into the pilot's seat and flips on coms.

Boom. Boom. Holtz looks from one explosion to another as Keller's simulated Predator and Tiptoft's simulated Viper each go up in quick succession. He mutters an amused crack under his breath as he slowly circles over both wrecks. "Remind me never to crawl into one of those with you, Keller," he says aloud as he watches the smoke curl up from the shattered strike plane.

Bennett sheds her fatigue jacket, and drapes it over the back of a chair enroute to the simulator pods. Her hair is caught up in her fingers and twisted into a messy bun as she moves. "Thumper, why don't you switch airframes, and sit up front with Sandwich. Nags and I'll take the other predator."

Taking a bit of a breath, Keller merely lurks at the console as he comes to, looking around - "Confused. 'Sall." He remains in the front seat of the Predator for now, smirking a little and glancing over at Tiptoft's console as he pops the canopy. "Sorry to wreck your flow, Leo." He says sheepishly. There's a pause as he lolls his head over towards Holtz where his lips curl into a mock-defensive smirk. "Really? I'd like to see /you/ try to do an ECO's job then. Shit-storm." This alteration of the callsign is uttered in the most petulant and childish way possible. He lets out a quick snippet of laughter.

Breathing hard, Tiptoft sinks back into the seat of his fake Viper, ignoring the performance stats flitting across his HUD in accusing orange font. (No kills; one crash. What a shock.) There he'll sit for the next minute or so, eyes closed and fists tight, until at length he pushes himself out of the cockpit and slams his boots onto the deck. Gloved hands fumble with the zipper on his flightsuit, which suddenly feels like the most constraining thing in the world. "Sure," is all he says to Bennett, his back turned while he rests his arms against the side of his cockpit. "I, um. Give me a moment.”

"Hey, you're not about to see me try and hop into the backseat of a Raptor anytime soon. Big difference." Holtz smirks at the other man's ribbing as he disengages himself from the simulation as well. The cockpit is opened, but Holtz stays in his seat, looking over at Bennett. "Got something specific in mind, Major?" he asks her, gesturing with his chin at the sim computer as she hands out Predator seats.

Bennett doesn't push when Tiptoft asks for a breather. Her gaze lingers on the readouts from his training results just long enough to get the jist of things, then shifts away as she hoists herself up into the predator pod. A roll of her shoulders to ease out any lingering tension, and then a few moments familiarising herself with the controls. "I should warn you," she murmurs to Jess, "I am a terrible backseat driver." Read: control freak. There's a reason she became a pilot and not an ECO. To Holtz: "I thought we might try a precision elimination exercise.. drop into atmo, bomb the target, get out. With complications, naturally."

"In atmo?" Keller's voice is a bit distant all of a sudden, as his hand taps briefly on the hatch before fully disengaging himself and lumbering over towards the back seat. There's something about this implication that distracts him for a moment, glancing on over towards Tiptoft, before beginning to strap himself into the more familiar ECO suite inside the faux-Predator.

Tiptoft retrieves his helmet from where it fell. Hardened plastic taps loudly against the straps of his flight suit as he stumps toward Keller's Predator, pausing as he sees the Kingston City grid displayed on the attack fighter's HUD. It's wiped from the sim's short-term memory banks with a button pressed altogether too forcefully. What a morning: when even the prospect of dropping big exploding bombs doesn't elicit an AWWYEAH.

Holtz nods to Bennett. Seeing that both Predators look full, he gives a slight shrug, remaining in the seat of the Viper sim he's occupying. "Looks like I'll be your fighter cover, then," he says, giving a narrow smile a moment later. "Or, if you like, I could always take on the role of 'complication'.

"Heh," says Jess, "I'll do my best to ignore you, sir." She shoots Bennett a smile and then starts flipping switches, setting settings, as Keller and Tiptoft recover themselves. "Sounds good, major," she says to the proposed exercise, "And everything is green up here, ready to go when you and the rest of this lot are."

"Wargames generally taught me that these things are big, somewhat-fast turkeys with bullseyes painted on their asses without fighter cover." Keller observes towards Holtz distantly as he gives the big guy entering the front seat a nod. "So uh — these things buck in atmo." He uses the phrase 'in atmo' again rather heavily, although he doesn't seem that concerned with simulated safety warnings.

"Been, like, years since I was in one of these," mutters Thumper, opening the vaguely familiar engine panels to reveal an even less familiar set of buttons. Thank gods he reviewed the (correct) manual last night (thanks Jess!). "Shit. Um. Bus A — on." Click. "Bus B — on." Click click. "Noun at trip-ohs — clear; verb at trip-ohs — clear. Avionics suite on; master alarm on, aaaaaand — off." And down the list he goes, topping off at "Helmet seal — clear." Congratulations, Thumper: you've managed to pre-flight your plane, whose super-powered engine roars in anticipation of forthcoming boom-boom-pows.

"Yes. In atmo." Buckling her harness, Bennett looks briefly to Keller before resuming her fiddling with the simulator settings. It isn't any of the colonies that's brought up on the map screen, but rather a small and unnamed world; Pallas, possibly. Troy. Styx or Phoebe. It is cloaked in a reddish haze that passes for an atmosphere, and sits in the shadow of a massive gas giant. "Let's stick with fighter cover, this time," she tells Holtz, with a nod Keller's way in agreement. "We're going to need it."

"Right," Holtz replies diffidently. "Cover it is." And then the big man settles back down into the cockpit, pulling the canopy closed once more as he buckles himself back into the seat's harness. Fingers play over the controls as he again takes the simulated fighter through its simulated startup sequence. "Ready when you are," he calls out.

"It's based on the old Viper models - the dorsal pressure control's on the opposite side of where the Mark VII is." Keller notes to Tiptoft, absently. "Old Sandwich read up on this stuff once or twice, y'know." What a wiseass. This done, he prepares his own pre-flight checklist. "Going through auxiliary weaps checks — and we're green." He smirks behind his helmet, taking a bit of breath now that he sees the planet on the map screen.

"Five by five up here." Tiptoft swallows a breath he hadn't realized he was holding when Bennett loads up her planet of choice — one he doesn't immediately recognize. Thank the gods. "Donno why I flipped to Virgon," he mutters to Keller over intra-ship, squeezing his eyes together and blinking away some sweat. "I was just gonna shoot at some brainless bugs this morning, and then I remembered the sat scans, and — shit. It looked just like I remembered, yeh? Like watching a godsdamned slideshow." Six million souls, preserved in time. Small wonder that his Predator doesn't fly straight and true, at least not at first.

[TAC1] "Thumper" Tiptoft says, "Butch, Thumper. Board is green."

Three more vipers blip onto the virtual DRADIS as the scenario is fleshed out: one is probably Holtz's wingman. The major's a little slow in getting her bearings at the back of her predator, but it's likely she has done some time in them, if only for the sake of qualifications. "Cozy in here, isn't it? Good thing I'm not claustrophobic." Smiling slightly, she adds, "Ordnance bays one and two are good. Missile guidance systems go, ECM suite is up and running. Shall we begin, ladies and gentlemen?" Oh, and it's probably entirely intentional that she picked an unnamed planet for this session. Given the rumours about the recon last night, she's probably had her fill of destroyed colonies.

Jess eyes the simulation brought up, suggests, "Styx, is it?" and tilts her head, eyes it again, "Actually, maybe not." She shrugs, and leaves it. Whatever. "Good to go," she replies, flipping one last switch, tapping a gauge and cracking her knuckles, settling hand on the stick. "I'm showing green across the board. You've got a target for me?"

"I'm five by five and ready to rumble over here," chimes in Holtz a moment later as the simulation reloads to show the unnamed planet Bennett chose for the simulation. "I'll take lead over the escort flight."

[TAC1] "Thumper" Tiptoft says, "Thumper's up and running, Butch."

Keller's response to his pilot is pensive. "Nah. I — trust me. I got it. I forgot we had this footage and to be honest, I wouldn't have looked at it if you hadn't set up the scenario first." This is all intra-ship of course. "Let's do this again sometime, yeah? Right now I've got an urge to shoot some bastards. Oh yeah - ECM is green too. We're looking good, aux power and DRADIS green too."

[TAC1] "Nags" Jess says, "Flight, this is Nags. We're green over here."

[TAC1] "Sandwich" Keller says, "This is Sandwich - everything looking good back here. Now that I'm not flying."

Keller finishes up with a snicker.

[TAC1] "Storm" Holtz says, "Flight, Storm. I've got the escort group behind me, ready to go."

"Yeah, well." Thumper grunts as he shifts uncomfortably in his seat. If it's small for Bennett, it's absolutely tiny for his two-hundred-pound frame. For once in his life, he's glad he's only five-seven. "You drew the recon detail. Donno what's worse. Oi, reset that targeting linkup for me, yeh? IFF's all wonky up here. And — oh shit, I almost forgot I brought this." The beginnings of a grin appear on his face. "Remember that thing we always talked about?" The big man retrieves a portable music player from his flight suit and chucks it to his backseater. "Test run, baby."

Space flickers into existence around them as the birds are launched; tiled in a few at a time in a manner reminiscent of a video game. The three other vipers fan out, with Holtz's erstwhile wingman slotting in beside him. And immediately, DRADIS begins to ping with contacts. "Sure do, Nags," she murmurs. Tap, tap, tap, and a little green box zooms in over the planet's surface, popping up a location in coordinates. Beside it, a somewhat pixelated image of the immediate area: a clearing in an otherwise heavily forested mountain valley. 'UNIDENTIFIED STRUCTURES — POSSIBLE BIVOUAC. ETA: 10 MIN 04 SEC' is listed as well, with a rundown of the various buildings and outbuildings nestled there. The timer begins to count down as they speed toward the planet.

As for the enemy contacts? Three of them, for now, on a standard patrol: two raiders and one heavy raider screaming in at eleven o'clock.

Jess locks in the target with a tap. "Got it, Butch." She eyes the building rundowns and says, "Let's get some additional readings on what all's down there, yeah? Always good to know if there's AA in play even if we shouldn't be getting that close." She glances at the timer, and then the DRADIS, manuevering to account for the raiders speeding their way. "I've got three contacts at eleven o'clock," she says, "We'll let the Vipers engage for now."

"I would've volunteered anyway." Keller quips flatly as he recalibrates the targeting Friend-or-Foe system in the back of the Predator with a bit of a sigh and a simple series of button presses. "If you insist, boss." He says, smirking as he suddenly raises a hand to catch the device. "There's no bass on this thing!" he exclaims, disapprovingly. Hitting 'play' something begins to chirp at a surprisingly reasonable volume. "A real plane has a better sound system — and — ho look. Showtime." He calls out, eyeing the DRADIS console. "Reading unknowns — contacts at five seven niner carom one five, one three, two three and — hooo."

[TAC1] "Sandwich" Keller suddenly warns in a cheery, helpful tone. "Nags, Sandwich - there's target leading on the dumbfire warheads with this system but it's a piece of shit. Don't trust it." There's a pause. And a little snippet of music can be heard in the background. It's smooth, allright.

"I know," mutters Tiptoft. Re: volunteering. And re: enemies? "Got it. Designate Bogey-One, Bogey-Two, Bogey-Big." That would be the Heavy. And speaking of heavy, Tiptoft's fighter eventually settles down, slipping into the middle of the covering Vipers to form up on Jess's three. "There you go, you fat piece of shit," he murmurs to his fighter, nursing her forward much like he would a large and very lazy dog. Weighed down by a six-pack of bombs and an ECO station to boot, the Predator handles much less smoothly than Thumper's precious Mark VII. "Ten minutes is all I need, baby." Then, to Keller: "You see any flak down there, holler. Gonna have to switch up my AOA."

[TAC1] "Nags" Jess says, "Sandwich, Nags. Copy that. I'm familiar, I promise. Is one of you singing?"

Storm looks up as the red dots of hostile contacts blink on his DRADIS display, and his comms crackle at the sudden bursts of chatter. "I see 'em, Sandwich," Holtz calls out as he leans on his throttle. "Escort flight, Storm — fangs out, move to intercept." Storm's Viper lurches forward, the others following in quick succession as he moves to put himself between the Predators and their attackers.

[TAC1] "Thumper" Tiptoft accidentally trips the com. "LAYDEEEEZ," the big pilot croons, surprisingly on key. "Lovely LAYDEEEEEEZ."

[TAC1] "Thumper" Tiptoft says, "Shit — shit." The smooth jam continues unaccompanied as Leo clears his throat. "Sorry. Vox button's in the wrong spot."

[TAC1] "Nags" Jess laughs. "Suuuure."

[TAC1] "Storm" Holtz says, "Never pegged you as the smooth jam type, Thumper."

[TAC1] "Thumper" Tiptoft lets out a barking laugh at Storm. Then: "Nags, this one's for you," he offers, deep bass dipping into slinky-R&B-singer territory. "When I saw you walkin' byyyy, girl you blew my miiiind."

Bennett is not accustomed to being the one in charge of providing the data — piloting's a whole different ballgame. When Jess asks for additional readings, she starts to look over her shoulder, then realises a beat later that she's it. In another few seconds, she has her answer: "Two AA guns; I'll try to reroute us accordingly. Sandwich, you're probably better at tweaking this pathfinding algorithm than I am.." Tap, tap, tap; she multitasks between the routing and the DRADIS console. The two raiders seek and gain a bead on one of the leading vipers, and pepper it with shots. Surely they're aware of the bigger, tastier targets, but they don't angle in just yet.

[TAC1] "Sandwich" Keller says, "Copy that Nags. Customary Pred warning that I had drilled into my head. Anyway — umm, Hey! That's a classic. Quit ruining the song!"

[TAC1] "Butch" Bennett chimes in along with Tiptoft, her voice actually not bad, though clearly untrained: "..but I need you by my siiiiide, girl, oh-oh.."

"I dunno about 'better', boss." Keller notes offhandedly to Bennett, suddenly all business again. "Marking flak source with IFF - looks like class-B range on those things unless they're packing SAMs too. That was an old trick during the first war. Hey Leo — " he starts now "Try to avoid line of sight with those things to be safe."

[TAC1] "Sandwich" Keller says, "Oh great - we've got two of them."

"No shit." Tiptoft's prevented from crooning any further by the flak warning on his screen. Bushy eyebrows rise as he punches in a new course for his ECO's benefit, one that'll take advantage of the mountain valley and the Predator's advanced terrain mapping system. Of course, flying this low will give him precious little time to gain sufficient altitude to release his bombs safely — but it also guarantees thirty seconds of Mark I Eyeball time on target. The man's all in.

[TAC1] "Nags" Jess says, "I vote we hit eject, Keller. On three?"

Storm uses his computer-generated wingman as bait, which the leading Raiders seem to swallow completely. Their attention is focused on the other Viper, which takes the enemy fire as Holtz rolls out and then jukes back in, his guns thrumming as he unleashes a torrent of fire against the Cylon ships.

[TAC1] "Thumper" Tiptoft says, "You're sugar! And spice! And everything nice! — Uh, yo, Butch. Last time I trusted the autopathing on this thing, I ate mountain pretty hard. I'm doing this on manual."

"Mark the— yeah, there," Jess says as Keller tags the AA below, "SAMs are bad news," she offers, "We should come in low, try to — stay out of sight, yeah. Better safe than sorry with this sort of shit." She adjusts course, flipping between views on a couple readouts. The Predator banks slowly around Holtz's firefight.

'07 MIN 28 SEC' proclaims the readout, in flashing green numerals.

As Tiptoft and Jess both go low, Bennett adjusts their approach vector once more to recalculate minimum deployment range. Unfortunately for them, the heavy raider is barreling right in on the two bombers, guns opening up even as its more agile cousins dance around the vipers. Well, agile until one of them gets shredded in half by Holtz's KEW and goes spinning in two directions before exploding. Hunks of metal and shrapnel hurtle toward Tiptoft's predator, sucked into the planet's gravity well.

[TAC1] "Butch" Bennett says, "Sandwich, Butch. Feeding you terrain data for NOE approach. Nags, watch and learn."

[TAC1] "Sandwich" Keller begins "Nags, Sandwich. You said it." He snickers somewhat and continues to whistle to himself in somewhat tune with the music. "Yeah, Boss. We use the Vipers for cover - sorry Storm — We'll be able to— SHIT. HUMPER, we need to punch a whole through that mess."

Feeding his flight computer coordinates, Keller finishes tagging ground targets as well as 'air', his fingers busy assigning groups. "Should see some linked target updates coming through — now."

"Escort Flight, Storm. Keep this last little frakker busy, I'm going after that big bastard." Holtz scowls as the heavy raider turns its guns on the Predators. "Hey, Sandwich, that's what we're here for." His tone is as dry as the deserts of his homeworld. The fighter is pushed back to full burn as he jets towards the larger of the two remaining Cylon ships, and Storm leans on the fire button as soon as he comes into range.

"WHOA!" Tiptoft glances up to see bits of fake Cylon crashing into his cockpit. The glow of burning air surrounds his fighter as he throttles up, making for the treeline. At the same time, he pulls the trigger on his front cannons — not like that you dirty fraks — to cut a path through the falling debris. His KEWs shear off half a Raider wing that's about to cut his plane in half, the explosion from which nearly sends his Predator into the canopy. "Gods damn. That was close."

[TAC1] "Thumper" Tiptoft says, "Feels kinda nice to be the dude getting guarded and not the dude doing the guarding. I feel just a bit less expendable than usual."

[TAC1] "Butch" Bennett says, "Flight, Butch. Initiating EM burst. Should give our big guns a chance to blow this big boy out of the sky."

Jess adjusts course as Bennett recalculates, dodging the debris field Holtz & Co. have just created and returning to the chosen attack angle, slightly different from Thumper's, if the same general idea. Hers is probably better. The last raider still incoming, she readies the guns to follow up the EM if needed.

It must be maddening to ride passenger when one is accustomed to the front seat. Bennett makes no mention of it however as her fingers race over the simulated controls. "Three minutes until we're in range, Nags." BLEEP BLEEP BLEE- "SAM battery's got a lock on us." No kidding. Three more raiders pour out of the facility they're targeting, and dozens more targets begin popping up on DRADIS as they approach.

Meanwhile, Keller's pretty much the mouthy back-seat driver one would expect him to be. "That thing's got some punch, yeah?" He howls over the oh-so-smooth jams being cranked in the virtual plane. He seems proud of the attack craft - like it's his own kid or something. He then hits the ECM burst signal, following Bennett's lead. "Here goes."

Not probably: assuredly. Thumper has drifted so closely to the ground that the backwash from his fighter's engine is setting the treetops on fire. Only when his aft heat sensor begins to scream in protest does he realize what he's doing, pulling up on the stick long enough to gain a — well, never mind. Thumper's fighter dives right back down to ground as his DRADIS lights up. Missile lock? Aw hells no. "They got flak AND SAMs?" he shouts to Keller. "That's gotta be, like, cheating. Or something."

[TAC1] "Sandwich" Keller says, "Butch, Sandwich. Following your lead. This /should/ work, right?"

Keller yells, sidelong, "Of course they cheat. THE COMPUTER ALWAYS CHEATS. Jamming."

The big ship takes a lot of fire, but Storm's aim is true, and eventually the thing is shattered into a million metallic pieces. There's no time to celebrate it, however, as three more Raiders emerge from the surface. "Frak me," he mutters, as he toggles the comm channel.

Missile lock? What missile lock? It's as if Thumper's not even there, he flies so smooth and low to the ground. Heck, Keller could practically lean out and touch the dirt.

[TAC1] "Storm" Holtz says, "Pred element, Storm. Three more bogies inbound at zero-four-three carom two seven. Escort Two, on me."

[TAC1] "Thumper" Tiptoft says, "Yo Storm. Wanna know something?"

[TAC1] "Storm" Holtz says, "Not really, Thumper, but you're about to tell me anyway."

[TAC1] "Thumper" Tiptoft says, "You can take a bad day and make it turn out right! You can take a blind soul and make him see the light! o/~"

"Copy that, Butch," Jess replies. "How's that jamming coming?" She flies appropriately to deal with the missile lock situation, as well as those raiders suddenly joining the party. "Hang on," she advises, "We're going to want to get out of here pretty quick, I'm thinking." After bombing shit, of course.

The three new contacts are all of the regular raider variety; they streak up on an intercept course over the treetops, and open up their guns on the heavy ordnance-bearing predators: two on Jess, one on Tiptoft. He may have fooled the automated ground defense systems, but that raider's got a visual on him.

Soon enough, the fight and flight takes to a narrow, winding valley that forms a bottleneck to the enemy encampment. Keller and Bennett's screens update with a visual of the complex, that little green target box finally showing up.

'01 MIN 52 SEC' reads the timer, blinking bright red now.

[TAC1] (from "Storm" Holtz) "Storm" Holtz says, "… Scratch my last, Escort Flight. Let the Raiders have 'em."

"Too bad they didn't design chaff pods in this loadout." Keller observes wryly, to no one in particular. "Cycling through a couple signal bands - /one/ of these should bloody work!"

DRADIS briefly pings as one, two missiles are launched from the ground. The first flies wide as Jess jukes the big bird in a feat of balletic flying. The second skims their wingtip, and a warning blares at both of them that they've taken minor damage. The good news? It careens into one of the raiders that was firing on them, blowing it to smithereens.

Thumper cranes his neck backwards to confirm what his DRADIS is telling him. Shit. "Got a bogey on our six," he informs Keller, perhaps unnecessarily. "Evasive's gonna be a bitch this low unless we wanna blow our load now and bug out." Tiptoft gives his ECO a sense of his answer by flicking on the afterburner. And then he's blasted back in his harness as the Predator opens up her engine, which veritably purrs as the fighter streaks forward into the valley. New plan: get to the target before the Raider lines up a shot.

[TAC1] "Butch" Bennett says, "Nags, Butch. Second try's the charm. I think I've shut down that second AA battery for now. Until it recalibrates, anyway. We're almost in. Thumper, ETA?"

[TAC1] "Thumper" Tiptoft pants loudly as he fiddles with the com unit. "Butch, uh — " The com crackles out as he hits the wrong button. Again.

Holtz's last statement is a jest… mostly. Despite his threat, he continues to keep pace with the Predators, breaking to engage the trio of new threats roll in from somewhere on the surface — which soon becomes a duo as a missle suddenly impales a luckless Raider. And then, the other Raider on Jess disappears in a sheet of flame as well, as combined fire from Storm and his wingman takes it out. Above them, the final Raider from the first group has succumbed to the other two simulated Vipers, and they rush down to join the other Colonial ships. As far away as their dogfight led them, however, it'll take a moment or three before they're able to join the furball closer to the planet's surface.

"Yo Kells," Thumper hollers, adrenaline pumping in his veins. "You gotta get them bombs ready — we got way less time than we — WHOOOO!" The Predator's engine howls as he finds the button for 'tylium injection.' The ETA timer cranks down. One minute thirty. One minute twenty-one. It hits fifty-nine seconds by the time Thumper finds his com.

[TAC1] "Storm" Holtz says, "Escort Flight, Storm. Keep on the raiders… I'm gonna see if I can give those ground batteries something else to shoot at."

[TAC1] "Thumper" Tiptoft says, "Butch, Thumper — " Pant, pant. "Just dipped from one-min-thirty to fifty-nine — fifty-eight — in, like, two seconds. Gods this thing's got hustle."

"I'm on it!" Keller shouts as he disengages weapons lock and a targeting overlay appears on his ordinance console. "That's what I like to see. Let these bastards eat static." Another push of a button and — this guy's all business. "Just get me there and I'll do the rest, man."

Jess checks the damage sensors, leans up to get a look at the wing, and executes a quick and not entirely necessary little acrobatic manuever to get a feel for any drag the hit might cause. "Looks like we're good, Butch," he says, "Shouldn't have any trouble from that wing. We've got incoming at four seven two carom nine one and nine four— scratch that, splash one at nine four instead. Let's see how fast this thing can go." She leans on the throttle, and speeds the Predator towards the target, engine settling into a less-dull roar as the timer ticks rapidly down.

As Tiptoft's predator closes in on the target, several more raiders lift off from the encampment — which they can now easily spot with the Mark I eyeball — up ahead and to their one o'clock. Exhaust fumes billow out from the clunky machines (NOT the raiders they have faced thus far on Orion), and up, to mist through the thick tangle of trees. A massive radar dish sits atop a squat building patrolled by old-style centurions. BLAM BLAM BLAM as two, three, four bogeys swoop in to fire on Thumper. Two more wheel back in on Jess, and the rest pour in to hassle the vipers. One goes down in a hail of KEW, clipping a broad swath of trees before exploding at the very edge of the simulated clearing.

[TAC1] "Butch" Bennett says, "Copy, Thumper. It's all yours. We'll clean up what's left."

[TAC1] "Sandwich" Keller rattles off "This is Sandwich. ETA forty seconds and counting. I see it - looks like a communications array. Locking on target." Smooth jams continue in the background though. Oh yes.

"Can you even eat static?" Thumper wonders aloud. There will be no evasion from him, not now, as his Predator strains toward the clearing. He's flying by instinct now: a touch of RCS here; a burst of cannon fire there when his fore RCS doesn't fire — and so he's a sitting duck when the old-school Raiders descend upon him. The fighter lurches sideways with a sickening roll as the Cylons strike home. Smoke pours from her port wing as tylium begins to stream out from the stricken fuel tank. Thank the gods it's the unmixed kind. "I guess we hit the big frakking dish thing? Kells, sing out when you drop the first one!"

[TAC1] "Butch" Bennett says, "Copy that, Jess. Nice flying, by the way. We're at oh one sixteen and counting— shit, looks like we've got company again."

Holtz's Viper leaps forward as he points it down towards the surface. The small craft, much more nimble than the Predators if not quite as fast, zig-zags across the landscape as he tries to draw fire from the ground… which puts him awfully close to the encampment from which even more Raiders are streaming. A surprised Storm jerks his fighter up and away just in time to avoid being shredded by a close range fusillade of KEW fire from the Raiders. His simulated wingman isn't so lucky, though, and disappears in a flash of firey light. The other two Vipers from the escort division finally enter range, however, and their arrival distracts the Raiders enough to keep them from finishing off Storm. For the moment, anyway. Despite the clingers on his tail, though, he's still hovering around the Predators, doing his best to engage the small pack of Raiders now following Thumper. Guns thrum once more as he squeezes the trigger.

[TAC1] "Storm" Holtz says, "These frakkers are all over me like a bad rash."

[TAC1] "Nags" Jess says, "Yeah, copy Butch. Looks like we've picked up two at ten o'clock. Least they're the old-timey ones, they can't fly for shit compared to the new ones."

"I just liked 'eat static' for dramatic effect." Keller admits, idly. "Yeah, the dish. Target is locked in and —- five. Four. Three, Two — ORDINANCE FREE." He seems to take a little too much pleasure in stating this as the munitions release engages and the explosives go hurtling towards the dish. Not into the dish directly, but close enough as the impact leaves a bright red flash as the blast takes out enough of the compound to render the dish history.

[TAC1] "Sandwich" Keller snickers, "Flight, Sandwich - Payload has been released — Target /neutralized./"

[TAC1] "Thumper" Tiptoft's elbow bumps into the com again. " — KIND OF STUPID FRAKKER DROPS BOMBS ON THE TWO-COUNT — " comes a ferocious growl before the com bumps off.

Holtz's guns rather effectively shred one, two raiders on Thumper's tail, right after one of them tears into the predator. More just keep on pouring in though, and it starts to become blatantly obvious that they've reached a point of no return here. Literally. Even the centurions begin opening up on the flight now, automatic weapons peppering the beleaguered craft as it comes within range to drop its ordnance.

Jess's ship shudders as a raider manages to punch a hole in their fuselage, taking out by fluke — one presumes — their missile guidance systems. Such as it is, vastly inferior to that on board the raptors.

[TAC1] "Sandwich" Keller says, "I love you too, man."

[TAC1] "Butch" Bennett says, "Copy that, Sandwich. Flight, let's book it back to the barn. Do you still have flight controls, Thumper? You're taking quite the pounding, from my angle."

Gritting his teeth, Thumper wrestles with his fighter's suddenly laggy controls, finding that gravity becomes much more of an issue when the tylium injection's shot to shit. But he holds course as round after round plows into his plane, counting off the click-thunk of bombs dropping from racks. When he hears six, he hauls back on the stick — and, groaning, the mock Predator strains upwards at a ninety-degree angle in an attempt to escape the exploding bombs. For a second, it looks like they might even make it — until a secondary explosion rips through the comm tower, sending a wave of force upwards into a fighter that's too low, still too low. Boom. Game over.

Keller's bomb whips toward the compound with a low-pitched whine that's quickly cut off by the crack-FWOOOOMP of it meeting concrete and splintering apart in a hailstorm of fire and shrapnel and twisted hunks of whatever poor centurions happened to be standing there at the time. The squat building housing the dish has most of its southern wall taken out, along with the dish itself, which twists and buckles and melts apart as domino-like explosions rock what appears to be an ammo storage facility.

[TAC1] "Nags" Jess says, "Thumper you're too— yeah, that." Jess says dryly as the other Predator gets caught in the explosion."

[TAC1] "Thumper" Tiptoft bangs a fist against his cockpit in frustration, his voice resolving out of static. Because he's supposed to be dead now, you see. "Oh we're all frakked up," he growls.

Hey, at least Thumper's not the only one SOL here. He's going to have company in a moment, as a veritable battalion of raiders swarm in on the rest of the flight, targeting the predator first with several rounds of KEW.

Storm's evasive maneuvering is adroit, but there's simply too many of the old school Raiders on his tail. His craft jerks, and then again a moment later, as KEW fire from two of the Raiders grazes his ship. But then the target is destroyed, and Holtz gives a relieved sigh as he pulls back on the stick and touches off his afterburners upon Bennett's command to disengage. The sudden maneuver surprises the Cylons enough to give Storm a respite as he streaks away from the surface. He's far enough from the explosions not to share Thumper's fate, but not so far as to escape the blast radius entirely. His craft careens into a spin, and Holtz curses as he tries to regain control.

[TAC1] "Butch" Bennett says, "Flight, Butch— doesn't look too good. Initiating another EM burst. Target neutralisation… confirmed. Good work, Sandwich."

Jess avoids much of the raider fire but not all, reporting, "Looks like missile guidance is out, Butch. Not that much of a loss, all things considered. Target looks good and neutralized to me, let's bug out of here." She pulls up sharply, breaking out of the bombing pattern to head for space again, taking evasive manuevers. It requires a lot more steering than it would in a Viper, quick little jukes pointless in the larger craft.

"Yo Kells," Thumper mumbles, stripping off his helmet for the second time in twenty minutes. Sweat pours down his face and into his flight suit. "You dead?"

"Mmmmm. Look at it this way. Better than /me/ driving. Consider this a Hibernian Handshake." Keller suddenly says, coughing a bit and avoiding cracking a completely sheepish smile that one can barely see beneath the surface of his helmet. "I meant — the old school, kind." Tasteless? Sure. But he delivers it with enough enthusiasm that it almost works.

There's a reason vipers are the front-line, go to air superiority platforms of the Fleet: they can pull off moves like Holtz just did, with a touch of rudder pedals and the right pilot. The raiders on his tail are dumped like bad girlfriends, and to Jess's credit, she does a remarkable job of holding off her however-many-pursuers as she streaks into atmo. The ECM blast from her backseater probably helps a little, too.

Though for a moment Holtz is easy meat for any Raider nearby, death never comes. He's able to recover, using his RCS thrusters and main engines to push the battered Viper out of its spin. Better yet, his stalkers are gone as he streaks away, sneering in triumph.

Tiptoft bursts into staccato chuckles as he pushes himself out of the cockpit, pausing to shove Keller — hard — in the helmet. "And we didn't even get purple drink before we went," he manages, still sucking in a lungful of air with each rapid breath. "Guess that makes me a Moonie shitbird now, yeh?" The man bends forward to touch his toes with his fingers, back going crack-crack-crack as he does. Stupid small seat.

And that, it seems, is that. Bennett reaches over to the main simulator control console and keys in the equivalent of 'quit'; the pods' screens simultaneously go dark as they power down, and then the loading menu comes up again. What no-one may have noticed initially, with the focus on pre-flight, is that she'd selected 'SCENARIO 223A: GROUND TARGET ELIMINATION. INCIDENCE OF FLIGHT SURVIVAL: 12'

"Kidge dhe vez - lapash na magare," comes Keller's chipper response as he gives the big guy a classic 'shit-eating grin', loosening and removing his helmet completely. This statement of course is in his mother's native language and is somewhat impolite as well as anatomically impossible - that part of a donkey just won't fit, after all.

Jess does her best to keep them from getting shot to hell, and more or less manages, streaking after Holtz fast enough to make the engines whine. "Sometimes it's like they're not even speaking Standard," she remarks of the Virgans. She eases to a stop, seeming to assume the sim is over now they're out. Bennett hits power down and confirms it, and she is climbing out to sit on the edge of the pod and eye the clock. "Right, good times, guys, but I've got to get going. See you all around. Thanks for running it, Major," she adds to Butch, giving a wave-salute hybrid before heading out.

As the simulation shuts off, Holtz rises out of his cockpit. "Same. I just came to drop off those files — " he waves towards a pile of folders sitting on one of the simulator consoles " — didn't think I'd be down here this long. Fun, though. Guys. Major." Nods go all around, and then Holtz is heading towards the hatch, not far behind Jess.

Tiptoft is blissfully unaware of the selected scenario, sinking to the deck to rest his back against the Predator sim. His flight suit's starting to smell just a bit ripe, and he winces at the sensation of his damp sweats grinding against his skin. But he's not too tired to punch Keller's ankle the moment the ECO attempts to step out of the cockpit. For honor.

Bennett unbuckles her harness and swings out as well, boots hitting the deck with a solid thump. "Thanks for keeping us alive, Nags," she pitches back toward the viper stick, reaching for her jacket and tugging it back on.

"Death before dishonor." Keller says, languidly shooting his pilot a petulant glance. "Hey man, we'll need to do this more often. Next time we'll live, hey?" Snickering a little, he gives the other departing pilots a cursory round of nods. "That was…instructive. Thanks for the schooling." WIth that, he proceeds to gather his things and depart.

"Oh, Lieutenant — " This, offered toward Keller as St. Clair heads for the hatch. " — speaking of the Predators, I'd like to sit down with you and go over some training ideas, some time soon. If you're up for a little project." She smiles sweetly at him, as if to smooth over the fact that she's giving him more work, and ducks out the hatch.

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