PHD #180: EVENT - Above the Treeline
Above the Treeline
Summary: An air patrol encounters some old Colonial weaponry that's been re-purposed by the natives.
Date: 25 Aug 2041 AE
Related Logs: Takes place concurrently with Things Fall Apart
Sitka Marko Tisiphone 
Somewhere in atmosphere over Sagittaron
High above the trees.
Post-Holocaust Day: #180

Nineteen-hundred hours and it's approaching sunset over this particular chunk of southern Sagittaron. The latest air patrol set out from base camp not long ago. Today's task: search for the Assaultstar Victory. Or more likely it's wreckage, not that the CAG put it quite so bluntly as that. Previous runs earlier in the day came up with nothing. No one has any real idea of where to look, so the planes are ranging into areas they've not covered in previous patrols. Now, it's the turn of another pair of Vipers and their Raptor to search for this needle in a haystack. Or hunks of ship in the trees. The tree cover is thick below, which does nothing to help with visibility from air to ground.

"Okay, starting sweep one, now." Marko calls over the intercom, uncaging the Raptor's sensor suite and poking about for…well, much of anything. "And…..okay, getting a few candidate sites." he calls as the system starts pointing out places within its range that contain things that might be consistent with hull plating or other ship-related material. They could also be veins a hundred meters below ground, this being an initial sweep. "I'll send you the list, it's pretty big." he adds, touching a key that relays the data to one of the pilot's display panels up front.

Re-acclimating oneself to atmospheric flight isn't quite like riding a bicycle, but over the last few days, Shiv's been growing more comfortable with his old haunt, as it were. His cozy, bumper-to-bumper style flying likely has not made him entirely popular amongst the Knights; tonight is no exception. His smaller, less streamlined Mark II strafes out ahead of and below Tisiphone's fighter, skimming almost dangerously close to the dense treeline beneath them. "Let's continue along this vector to one one niner, then switch to vector two, Flasher," crackles his voice over the radio, not long after Marko's. "You picking anything up over there? I've still got no joy on a wreckage."

<FS3> Marko rolls ECM: Success.

How hard could it be to spot an Assaultstar, even one in pieces, right? /Right?/ It's proving far more difficult a process than Ensign Apostolos thought it would be, given her occasional comments of, "No joy," and "Nothing new at all, Flasher?", and "Bloody hells, where IS it?" Her voice is still gravelly and prone to cutting out; whatever happened on Sunday thrashed her vocal cords but good. The Mark II zips across and down, and her Mark VII reflexively darts upward, her trajectory smoothing out a second later. "At least Mark Twos have pretty tailpipes, hey?" comes the half-grinning, half-defensive mutter over the comms.

<FS3> Tisiphone rolls Alertness: Success.
<FS3> Sitka rolls Alertness: Good Success.

A few more moments go by as the on-board computer begins chomping its way through the candidate sites. The results scroll down one side of Marko's screen as the ECO keeps one eye on the scans, the other on the DRADIS. Atmospheric flight's not fun, but atmospheric flight with Cylon SAMs coming at you's even less fun. Gun shy? Yep, and he's come by it honestly. «Flight, Flasher, no joy, repeat, no joy. None of the first batch worth investigating, unless you're interested in mining.» he chuckles. «Shiv, concur with your bearing.» he calls. «Maybe we'll have better luck on another part of the grid. And, patience, Money Shot, that kind of ground cover the godsdamn thing could be intact and we might miss it.»

You paged Tisiphone with 'There are some clearings in the trees down there. There /might/ be something in one of them coming up just ahead, but it's really hard to tell in the dimming light from so high up'

You paged Sitka with 'There's a clearing directly ahead of you and, as you get closer to being over it, you do in fact see something. It's very hard to tell what it is from this high up, particularly in the dimming light. But there's a reflective flash that's vaguely metallic. You'd have to get closer for a proper look. Which you could do. That's closer to the trees, of course, but whatever-it-is is in a spot where the cover's thinner.'

"Copy that, Flasher," is Shiv's succinct reply, some moments after the countermeasures officer gives his update. There's a touch of.. something in his voice. Not so sharp as agitation; moreso than simple weariness. Tisiphone's quip gets ignored, perhaps unsurprisingly. Instead, "If it's intact, its transponder'll probably be pinging on a broad— uh." Pause. "Uh, Flight, I think I spotted something in the clearing up ahead. Can either of you confirm?" His viper dips a wing and swoops in even lower with a flare of blue afterburners.

"I /am/ being patient," comes Tisiphone's predictable response to Flasher's reminder. It's testy, but it's a good-natured sort of testiness. Leave it to her to make such a thing possible. "I am the very frakking epitome of- hang on, got a- yeah, copy that, Shiv. I see it too. Coming in portside high." Her Viper tips in lazy pursuit of her wingleader.

«Flight, Flasher, I dunno what you two are spying with your little eyes, but whatever it is, it is not, repeat, not the Victory.» Marko calls, «Scanners are reading nothing in this lovely patch of nowhere but vegetation, dirt and the odd bit of wildlife. No heavy materials, repeat, no heavy materials.»

You paged Tisiphone and Sitka with 'You're going right toward it so you'd be able to spot this easily enough. It /is/ actually wreckage. It's pretty obviously not the wreckage you're looking for. First off, that's not a military ship or even a piece of it. It's what's left of some a civilian craft which cratered in the clearing. Standard intra-planetary transport vehicle. Equivalent of an air-bus. It looks like it's been there for awhile, too. Definitely more than the six months since the attacks. Stuff is starting to grow on it. Apparently nobody bothered to come clean it up when this planet was still 'functional''

You paged Tisiphone and Sitka with 'It /was/ shot down. And, since this was a military maintained no-fly zone, most likely by the Colonials themselves. Maybe it was a smuggling vehicle, since it /is/ here and the region was known for that. Maybe it wasn't and just got on an unlucky flight path. One of the civilian bitches with the unmanned drone used here by the military was they tended to rack up a lot of civilian casualties.'

The Raptor maintains formation overhead but it lets the Vipers get their noses down in the trees themselves. It does not swivel quite so easily as they do.

"Well, this is exciting." Marko sighs, shaking his head as he watches his screen. "Frakkin' idiots…put the ECO sitting sideways. Because, yeah, that makes for great visibility outside the ship." he grumbles before toggling the transmit key. «Flight, Flasher, you going to tell me what it is you're looking at, or am I meant to guess?» he calls with a heavy dose of Tisiphone's good-natured testiness.

There's a long silence over the comms from the Captain, wherein he tries to maneuver his viper in as close as is possible without clipping the trees— and invariably going down in a messy heap on the forest floor. Finally, the crackle of his voice meeting static is heard again, "You're right, Flasher, it's not the Victory. Looks like a Naz Eight." His voice is a touch quieter there, almost contemplative. Difficult to hear over the roar of his viper's engines. "It's a civilian ship," he clarifies after a few moments. "Doesn't carry a transponder, which is probably why you aren't seeing anything up there. Let's keep moving, I guess." Throttling forward, he drags his fighter into a steep climb up and away from the clearing and its silent relic.

Tisiphone maintains her portside high position — it keeps her further from the treeline, which suits her ju-u-ust fi-i-ine. She hasn't re-acclimatized to atmospheric flying as fast as the Captain has, and seems convinced the up- and down-drafts are just waiting to bodily wrestle her Viper around. "Been here a while already," she adds, a few seconds after climbing away from the wreckage. "Bet it never made the news."

<FS3> Marko rolls ECM: Failure.

You paged Marko with 'You don't /quite/ get nothing, as this isn't something you could really miss. Your DRADIS just picked up /something/ coming online. But precisely what, or where it is relative to your position…who knows?'

And on they go through tonight's designated flight plan, the wreck of that civilian ship left behind them. Miles upon miles of trees ahead. The cover is getting thicker again. And, again, being no friend to visibility.

«Flight…Flasher..» Marko calls, voice tense. «Getting a power surge from down in the canopy. Intermittent signal, can't track in on it.» he calls. «Recommend extreme caution, repeat, recommend extreme caution.» As the man once said, 'Just because you're paranoid, don't mean they're not after you.'

"I need you to try to get a lock on it," Shiv replies, easing off the throttle as he comes up to bracket their raptor again. Cozy as always. "Figure out if it's Colonial. Money Shot, fangs out until we know for certain." His own weapons are brought online with a flick of a switch above his head, eyes darting occasionally to DRADIS as if hoping for a hint of what might be out there.

"I've got nothing on DRADIS..?" Tisiphone's voice crackles over the comms, somewhere between cautious and dubious. Her attention roves the endless horizon of jungle beyond them, eyes narrowed against the steadily decreasing visibility. "Copy that, Shiv. Weapons hot." Her Viper edges a bit further from the Raptor, as if restless.

<FS3> Sitka rolls Alertness: Good Success.
<FS3> Tisiphone rolls Alertness: Success.

<COMBAT> Drone1 has joined the combat as a Soldier on team 2. (Cidra)
<COMBAT> Drone2 has joined the combat as a Soldier on team 2. (Cidra)
<COMBAT> Drone3 has joined the combat as a Soldier on team 2. (Cidra)

Everyone's DRADIS now picks up something, as they get further on toward whatever pricked the edges of Marko's electronic eye. Three signatures. They are, indeed, Colonial. They are also locking on to your positions. It's fortunate good eyesight is stressed when it comes to pilot qualifications, because the Vipers actually manage to spot the origin of those signatures before they start doing anything more than clicking online. Built among the trees, in the canopy, are camouflaged platforms. Three of them. Anti-aircraft drones, manufactured by the finest military engineers back on Picon, still position atop them. Despite the fact that their masters have likely long since been nuked. Now, when these things are working properly, they're programmed specifically not to target ships with Colonial transponder signatures.

Which all of you have. And yet, they're locking on.

"Aw, shit." That transmits with perhaps a little more clarity than Shiv might've liked, as he realises precisely what's going on. "Juke, juke, they've got a lock on us. I'm not sure how—" But the answer to that question is probably one best sought out later, when they aren't being hunted by anti-aircraft drones. The Captain drops his fighter in low, its shadow fragmenting through the foliage as he unloads his guns on the gun that seems to have taken a liking to their raptor.

"Frak." Marko calls as one of the Drones pegs his Raptor and starts barreling in for the kill. "I dunno how good you fly, but I think we're about to find out." he calls to the pilot as his fingers fly to get the ECM suite hot and chopping. «Looks like the Resistance left us a little present.>

"'Designed to remove human error from the equation,' my frakking /ass/-" Tisiphone snarls, recalling a choice soundbite from some news article or another. The words cut off as her Viper corkscrews away, buying a bit of breathing room as well as time to lock onto Shiv's target.

<COMBAT> Triggering new turn.
<COMBAT> Sitka attacks Drone1 with KEW - Serious wound to Neck.
<COMBAT> Tisiphone attacks Drone1 with KEW - Serious wound to Head.
<COMBAT> Drone2 attacks Sitka with LMG Tripod but MISSES!
<COMBAT> Drone1 attacks Raptor1 with LMG Tripod and MISSES!
<COMBAT> Raptor1 passes.
<COMBAT> Marko suppresses Drone1 with ECM. <successful>
<COMBAT> Marko suppresses Drone2 with ECM. <unsuccessful>
<COMBAT> Marko suppresses Drone3 with ECM. <successful>
<COMBAT> Drone3 attacks Tisiphone with LMG Tripod - Moderate wound to Weapon
<COMBAT> Cidra has started a new turn. Pose and choose your action.

The tree canopy makes for tough shooting, but the nearest drone platform does take quite a beating from Sitka and Tisiphone's guns. It's still online, though. Along with its two friends.

You paged Marko with 'You can do another ECM roll to try and figure out what's up with those things, as they're obviously not doing what they're supposed to do. It won't interefere with your jamming this round'

<FS3> Marko rolls ECM: Good Success.

You paged Marko with 'Made that one! Anyway. It's like they've had their 'brains' removed. Whatever brains drones have in the first place. Instead of weeding out Colonial signatures, they've just been crudely retooled to pretty much target anything that flies into their motion-detection grid'

Engines screaming as he drags his fighter up, up and away from the line of fire of drone number two, Shiv manages somehow to avoid getting pinged. Despite how many rounds he and Tisiphone put into the nearest platform, it remains — miraculously — still standing. "That wasn't built by the insurgents," he grunts into his radio, voice slightly strained on account of how many Gs he's probably pulling while he rockets around for another try. "Money Shot, you all right over there? Saw you take a hit."

«Flight, Flasher. Getting some data on those platforms.» Marko calls. «Looks like somebody's played with their brains somehow, they're not weeding out Colonial signals, they're firing at anything that enters into their detection grid. Even money as to who did it, considering.» he reports before going back to trying to throw enough sand into the the detection grids' faces to get them to stop shooting long enough for Money Shot and Shiv to blow them away. The fact his own ship's taking fire as well is of no consequence…honest.

"They're Colonial weapons for /nailing/ the frakking insurgents, Flasher," Tisiphone chimes in, her words overlapping Sitka's. "Not-" Whatever else she says is cut off by the stuttering roar of her autocannons — then the unhappy racket of those selfsame guns taking a beating from one of the drone platforms. "Shiv, Money Shot. I'm fine." Terse. Someone's pissed they didn't dodge as well as they wanted to.

<COMBAT> Triggering new turn.
<COMBAT> Tisiphone attacks Drone1 with KEW and MISSES!
<COMBAT> Sitka attacks Drone1 with KEW - Moderate wound to Abdomen.
<COMBAT> Drone1 attacks Raptor1 with LMG Tripod and MISSES!
<COMBAT> Raptor1 passes.
<COMBAT> Marko suppresses Drone1 with ECM. <successful>
<COMBAT> Marko suppresses Drone2 with ECM. <successful>
<COMBAT> Marko suppresses Drone3 with ECM. <successful>
<COMBAT> Drone2 attacks Sitka with LMG Tripod but MISSES!
<COMBAT> Drone3 attacks Tisiphone with LMG Tripod - ARMOR on Nose stops the attack!
<COMBAT> Cidra has started a new turn. Pose and choose your action.
<COMBAT> Drone1 has been KO'd!

Splash one. Such as it is when facing your 'own' robot guns rather than Cylons. Sitka's guns blow what remains of the nearest drone off its platform. Marko's Raptor has some breathing room now. The remaining two, however, stay on their Viper targets. Locks unwavering. Stupid as they are, whoever lobotomized them didn't mess with their aim.

The Mark II just ahead of Tisiphone's fighter drops in low and fast for another run at the platform targeting their raptor. Again, his guns find their mark, and it's just enough to smoke what's left of the tangled wreckage. The drone goes up with a satisfying CRACKsputtersputterFWOOMP; one of those sounds that's normally lost to the vacuum of space. "Copy that-" Shiv's voice cuts out briefly as he swings his fighter perpendicular to the ground in order to dodge more gunfire headed his way, as platform two continues to pivot and fire. "-sher. Let's take yours out next, Money Shot. Flasher, keep your scanners active, in case there's anything else out there?"

<FS3> Marko rolls ECM: Terrible Failure.

«Shiv, Flasher. Only thing I've got on my screen right now's the drones.» Marko replies. «Good shot, by the way.» he adds. «One down, two to go.»

"FrakDAMMIT, lay the frak OFF me already-!" At least Tisiphone doesn't open the comms up to share her savage frustration with the others, as more gunfire ricoshets off the nose of her Viper. Then: "Copy that, Shiv, locked on target." Her annoyance leaks into the words, prickled and terse. (re)

<COMBAT> Triggering new turn.
<COMBAT> Tisiphone attacks Drone3 with KEW - Serious wound to Chest.
<COMBAT> Sitka attacks Drone3 with KEW - Serious wound to Head.
<COMBAT> Raptor1 passes.
<COMBAT> Drone2 attacks Sitka with LMG Tripod - ARMOR on Nose stops the attack!
<COMBAT> Marko suppresses Drone2 with ECM. <successful>
<COMBAT> Marko suppresses Drone3 with ECM. <successful>
<COMBAT> Drone3 attacks Tisiphone with LMG Tripod and MISSES!
<COMBAT> Cidra has started a new turn. Pose and choose your action.
<COMBAT> Drone3 has been KO'd!

Another platform goes up in a flurry of KEW fire. Just one more to go. Though it's lock still hasn't wavered from Sitka's Mark II.

« Nice effort, team.» Marko comments. «Like to get a look at one of those drones, or what's left of one of them. Figure out how they lobotomized them without making them completely useless.» he comments, relaxing a little as he tasks the full weight of the Raptor's ECM suite against the remaining Drone. He can almost _smell_ the circuit's frying.

Shiv's been doing a fairly good job so far of shaking off the steady stream of fire aimed at his little red-and-white fighter. However, as he darts in a bit too close to take an aggressive shot on the platform targeting his wingman, a few rounds ping off his viper's nose. Just enough to scratch his paintjob. Pesky turret. "Second drone is down," he informs the other crew over the wireless. "I'm going to drop back and let it chase me, Money Shot. Give me a high side guns pass, would you?" His engines are firewalled as he climbs, tracers of exhaust drifting out in his wake. "Good job over there, Flasher. You're sure keeping them confused for us."

"Oh NO you don't-" Tisiphone growls, flipping her Viper wingtip over wingtip over a fanning arc of incoming gunfire. Her answering fire is unecessarily heavy, helping to put the platform down and then some. Never hurts to be sure, right? /Right./ "Godsda- copy that, Shiv. On it." Her engines flare as she brings her bird around.

<COMBAT> Triggering new turn.
<COMBAT> Tisiphone attacks Drone2 with KEW - Moderate wound to Abdomen.
<COMBAT> Sitka attacks Drone2 with KEW and MISSES!
<COMBAT> Raptor1 passes.
<COMBAT> Marko suppresses Drone2 with ECM. <successful>
<COMBAT> Drone2 attacks Sitka with LMG Tripod and MISSES!
<COMBAT> Cidra has started a new turn. Pose and choose your action.

Aiming is tricky through all those trees, though Money Shot does manage to scratch the platform. There's no sign its lock was deterred, however. Still, at least that /does/ seem to be the final one in this area. Marko's DRADIS isn't picking up any other state-of-the-art, repurposed Colonial weaponry in their area.

«Shiv, Flasher, thanks for that. Gonna try to keep it dazzled as long as I can.» Marko calls, adjusting the massive amounts of white noise the Raptor's pumping out to a slightly different frequency to keep its software guessing.

Shiv's bird swoops out in a lazy arc as the drone doggedly continues to fire on him, almost like a game of cat and mouse. Once he's got sufficient altitude, he flips wing over wing for a sharp dive that would be effortless in space— but incurs its own consequences here, where there's air resistance and gravity. His shadow begins to catch up with him again as he plummets closer to the treeline, twin thirty millimetre guns firing at the last possible moment before he's forced to pull up. It's probably safe to say he's pulling a few too many Gs to carry on a conversation over the radio, right now. There's nothing forthcoming from him.

For the love of each and every god, goddess, and godlet in the cosmos, she's not trying to threaten the drone platform's /paint job/. Tisiphone's frustration with her combat performance is starting to show in her flying, her trajectory adjustments too hard and too abrupt. "Coming around, I'll have it this time," she mutters. Her gloved hand twitches on the stick. She'd damned well /better/ have it this time.

<COMBAT> Triggering new turn.
<COMBAT> Marko suppresses Drone2 with ECM. <successful>
<COMBAT> Tisiphone attacks Drone2 with KEW - Light wound to Chest.
<COMBAT> Sitka attacks Drone2 with KEW - Critical wound to Head.
<COMBAT> Raptor1 passes.
<COMBAT> Drone2 attacks Sitka with LMG Tripod and MISSES!
<COMBAT> Cidra has started a new turn. Pose and choose your action.
<COMBAT> Drone2 has been KO'd!

And *BOOM* goes the final drone. The skies around them are quiet again now. Nothing but them and the trees. And whatever other wreckage, like that poor air bus they stumbled across back there, might still be growing moss on the forest floor. If Marko's diligent about his DRADIS work, he'd still see no sign of any signatures from whatever might be left of the Victory. It's getting on toward the time when they should be heading back to camp. If nothing else, they know the path of forest they've already flown through is free of more of those drones. Nothing /else/ shot a them, after all.

«Flight, Flasher. If the Victory's dirtside, she's not in this patch of nowhere.» Marko calls, sighing and settling back in his seat. «Fuel state's near enough to bingo to start thinking about heading home..> he reports. «I marked the co-ordinates of those drones, just in case.» he adds. «This there's three of 'em down there, odds are, there's more.»

Sitka skims his viper just over the tops of the trees, leaving behind the smoking, fragmented wreckage of the anti-aircraft platforms as he hunts for a sign of anything non-indigenous in the vicinity. Nothing, and more nothing. After a long, tense silence from the Captain, he keys his radio again. Static wends its way through a low voice that doesn't tend to carry well, to begin with. "Copy that, Flasher. I agree. Let's turn back." Somewhat reluctantly, he swings his viper into a wide pitchback in order to lead the charge back the way they came.

Another round of vicious, relentless paint-job damage by the Ensign. At least the drone platform is thoroughly unattractive before the Captain's hail of bullets mows it down and across the jungle floor in pieces. Talk about your cold comfort. "Copy that. On your portside wing, Shiv," says Tisiphone, falling back into position for the trip home.

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