PHD #129: EVENT - As Flies to Wanton Boys
As Flies to Wanton Boys
Summary: Lessa Morgenfield escapes, after a fashion.
Date: 6 Jul 2041 AE
Related Logs: The Long Patrol; eventually followed by Cidra debriefing Trask
Sitka Alessandra Trask Tisiphone Psyche Cidra McCoy Morgenfield NPC Polaris 
Brr. Freezing out here.
Post-Holocaust Day: #129

[Harrier-303: Morgenfield] Spend three hours in the magnificent bowl of radiation soup that is the upper atmosphere of the planet Auðumbla and even the static will become routine: static from the coms, static from the HUDs, static from the DRADIS, static from the earbuds, static anywhere, static everywhere. Now, the faint crackling of frying electronics seems almost soothing against glowing blue-green clouds — and that's a good thing, too, for this augmented CAP has been spending those past three hours flirting with Auðumbla's thermopause, that theoretical boundary between the gas giant's exosphere and thermosphere in which the Anchorage has been built.

And so it is that four Vipers dance about the rifts and valleys opening and closing amidst those clouds, accompanied by a hulking Raptor that glides forward with stately grace. Think dolphins riding the wake of a freighter; think seagulls cawing above a galleon's topgallant mast — and add potentially lethal consequences to even the smallest of mistakes.

Yeah. That sounds about right.

[Petrel-648: Sitka] Shiv's red and white fighter, dwarfed by the stockier and newer Mark VIIs accompanying him, strafes along somewhere at the edge of the pack— playing guard dog to their raptor. Due to the conditions, a looser combat spread has been called for; his running lights wink in and out of the thick, soupy 'clouds'.

[BlackKnight-650: Alessandra] There's nothing comforting about this scenerio at all. There's no real way to engage in playful banter to lighten one's mood due to the frakking static and no ego flaunting and bets made to make this seen kind of fun. No, it's just one big old potential clusterfrak and a whole lot of anxiety, leaving Lucky a jangle of jittery nerves and no way to purge them. Thankfully she has to focus on her flying more than usual otherwise she'd really be frakked to Hades and back.

[TAC3] "Shiv" Sitka says, "Flight, this is Shiv. Metrics from first, second and uh, third batteries- *static* -loaded, let's- *static* -fourth battery on my mark. Bootstrap, how're we- *static* -ing out there?"

[BlackKnight-309: Tisiphone] Three-zero-nine, one of the unmodified Mark VIIs, is under the loving (if staticky) care of Junior Lieutenant Apostolos. She pilots the sleek grey fighter in a gently meandering course, aft and portside from the Raptor.

[TAC3] (from "Bootstrap" Trask) My, my, my. The electromagnetic spectrum is sure being a chatty Cathy. "Well, Shiv, if a frakton of static and no unidentified DRADIS blips suits you, that how we're whatever that verb that washed-out in the whitenoise we are."

[Harrier-303: Morgenfield] "Fourth battery. Now that's what I've been waiting to hear." LTJG Mike "Wank" Orr certainly looks excited to be doing something more demanding than the past three hours have allowed, to the point at which the rarest of grins creases his homely face as he kicks his Raptor into gear. Blessed with an unfortunate last name altogether too conducive to callsign creation, this former pilot for the Providers — VRC-30, the Wing's resident support squadron — has seen too much combat for his liking over the past few months, and he's only looked more sullen with each passing day. But this? This is flying, pure and simple, and this is what he loves. "You all right back there?" he calls, banking gently past a wisp of beautiful, deadly cloud.

"I frakking hate flying, sir," snaps PO1 Lessa Morgenfield, her pale face having turned ever paler since the exercise began. As the Raptor turns, she holds her stomach in mock agony, her small frame hunched over the notebook on her lap — taking notes, it seems, from over Trask's shoulder. "Hurry the frak up with your business so I can get out of this godsdamned flight suit and throw up proper."

"You betcha," is Orr's genial reply. "Strap in tight and — really, don't vomit in your helmet," he advises. "I did that once. It was unpleasant. The doctor said I might have choked to death if I hadn't gotten it off."

"What a pity your hard seal wasn't harder," is Morgenfield's acid reply.

[TAC3] Polaris says, "Shiv, Wank here." Don't laugh; this isn't the first time Lieutenant Orr's said that on com — though this time it comes through the static loud and clear. "I — " Fzzzszt. " — again, engines are green. Ready for — " More humming and buzzing. " — suit, say again, ready for pur — " The rest of the word is lost to oblivion."

[TAC3] "Shiv" Sitka says, "*static* that, Bootstrap. All right, we're going to try a full unloaded extension, so let's *static static* half a click of lateral separation. Lucky and Money Shot, break left. Bubbles and I will *static* right. Sing out.. *there's an abrupt pause* ..sing out if you see or feel.. feel anything strange. *static* Mark."

[TAC3] Polaris says, "Turn and burn, sir."

[BlackKnight-650: Alessandra] Lucky's trying but her flying just is not as smooth as it normally would be, either a sign that something's not 'quite right' with the Viper she's flying or that something else entirely is taking place. She follows Shiv's orders albeit sloppily, formation broken for a bit; the woman finally reins herself in some but it's going to be rough going, it seems.

[TAC3] (from "Bootstrap" Trask) That wisp of beautiful, deadly cloud that the Raptor passed? It kills a fair amount of Kal's commentary. "Dunno 'bout *static* but it's *static*ing hot in h*static* and I *static* the *static* between Wank an' Mor*static*field."

[TAC3] (from "Lucky" Alessandra) Flight….*zzzt*….cky. I-I'm f*sssshhhht*ing off. Not s…*shhhhhhh*…ong with me.

[BlackKnight-309: Tisiphone] Tisiphone's Viper has been soaring gently along in smooth, lazy arcs. Now and again there's a barrel roll just for the sake of doing one. Bored Pilot Tricks No. 342. The staticky semi-communication crackling over the comms is slowly wearing her nerves away, though, by the looks of it — her lazy arcs are turning to sharper ones, her drift corrections more agitated. There's a pause after Sitka's 'Mark' before she peels off after Lucky, maneuvering jets firing to correct her overhasty curve.

[Petrel-648: Sitka] Shiv's engines light up as they're firewalled, and the Mark II corkscrews away from the slower-moving raptor with a growl of tylium that's unfortunately lost to the vacuum of space. Wisps of irradiated cloud waft from his wings as he builds speed, nose angled toward a false point on a horizon that doesn't exist.

[TAC3] "Shiv" Sitka says, "Lucky- Lucky, this is Shiv. Repeat your last."

[TAC3] (from "Money Shot" Tisiphone) In between the crackle-pops of interference, there's audible tension and unease in Tisiphone's voice. "-cky, seven o'clock-" *crackle* "-side. How much-" *crackle* "-got out here?"

[Harrier-303: Morgenfield] Caught in the engine backwash of so many charging Vipers, it's a wonder Orr's Raptor manages to stay in one piece. "Oops," is Wank's sole contribution to the irritated yelp coming from Morgenfield's direction — and then it takes all of his skill to avoid spiraling into a beautiful purple plume, the very end of which tickles the Raptor's engines and causes a blast of static to smash through everybody's earbuds. The ship rocks backwards and forwards and backwards again before he levels off — and then it's off to the races. "Looks like I broke something," he says altogether too serenely. "Sublights at seventy-five."

[TAC3] Polaris says, "Sorry about that." Wank's voice is apologetic. "I, uh. I think I might have — " The word 'fried' is replaced by a prolonged burst of static. " — cent. Seventy-five percent engines.""

[TAC3] (from "Lucky" Alessandra) There's a low rumble which can only be a growl from Lucky. Annoyed, she speaks fast, trying to get more out and understandable between hisses and snaps. "I said I don't feel…*zzzshhht*…od. Frak*hiss*…off. Hot…*hiss*..nd shaki…*bzt*…oney, couldn't under*shhhbzz*…ou. Repeat…"

[TAC3] (from "Shiv" Sitka) There's a hiss from Shiv's radio that doesn't quite transmit, after that blast of static, and then an audible, "Shit." Two seconds. Three. "Flight, this is Shiv. Abort maneuver. I say again, abort. This isn't.. there's something wrong. Cerberus, Shiv, do you read?"

[TAC3] Polaris says, "Also, uh, I kind of — " Crkkkkkhg! " — ost like I ate Grandmarm's three-day-old casserole.""

[BlackKnight-309: Tisiphone] Three-zero-nine's afterburner cuts out prematurely, swapping acceleration for a long, coasting line. Its nose jerks upward in an unneeded correction, followed by a wing-wobble.

[Petrel-648: Sitka] Dragging back on the stick, Shiv veers up and out of the full throttle burn he'd been easing into, and breaks less-than-smoothly to starboard— skimming dangerously close to his wingman's nose as he aborts the maneuver.

[TAC3] "Money Shot" Tisiphone says, "-sure what's up." *crackle* "-thing's wrong, I feel-" The comms crackle absently for a few seconds before they fall silent again."

[TAC3] "Shiv" Sitka says, "Cerberus, Shiv, *static* clearance to RTB immediately."

[TAC3] Polaris says, "Shiv, Cerberus, please advise your situation, over."

[Harrier-303: Trask] The rocking and the jerking and the nearly spiraling into a beautiful purple plume of doom does not rest well with Trask, whose sardonicism seeps through an increasingly agitated mood. "Damn it, Wank. You do /not/ have permission to make Morgenfield puke until /after/ her services are no longer needed on this excursion. And, frak, I think there's something up with my suit's coolant."

[BlackKnight-650: Alessandra] The Viper Allie flies is slow to respond, still but now it has to be pretty clear that it is not just the cloud crap being the cause of this. She's trying to pull her fighter around but now she's got a nagging feeling in the back of her brain, a vague recollection like she should remember something but she just can not figure it out.

[TAC3] "Shiv" Sitka says, "Bootstrap, are you picking *static* on sensors? Anything.. anything at all? I don't see *static* environmental readouts. Cerberus, Shiv, we've commenced advanced maneuvering, and a few of us *static* feeling like we knocked back one too many stouts last night."

[TAC3] (from "Lucky" Alessandra) Faint muttering comes from Lucky, something like 'I should know…' over and over again in differening variations as the static interferes with her mantra-like speaking.

[Harrier-303: Morgenfield] There's a faint rustling in the back seat as Morgenfield wobbles to her feet, having unclipped herself from her harness after her Raptor levels off. "Frak," she mutters, collapsing to her knees, crawling forward on her elbows — stretching out her frame to its full height, apparently, while making an attempt to clear her head. It's not the safest of positions, but given the slight greenish tinge to her features, maybe it's for the best that she lies there in a miserable and nauseous pile.

That is, until — having slid past Trask, whose attention is entirely focused on the DRADIS readouts scrolling before his intensely focused eyes — she suddenly whips to her feet in a single fluid motion, her gloved hand reaching for the sidearm at Orr's side. A single loud crack and the man falls forward, his mouth half-open, looking for all the world like a slightly confused child in death as in life. And as the Raptor lurches out of control, spinning dangerously close to those clouds of purple, she trains the gun on the ECO. "Jump us out of this system now," she snaps, finger tightening on the trigger. "Jump us out and live."

[TAC3] (from Polaris) BLAM. The sound of a gunshot is obvious even through the haze of static.

[TAC3] "Shiv" Sitka says, "Keep.. Lucky, keep talk- *static* Shit. Shit. Bootstrap, Wank, sing.. *laboured breathing* sing out. Frak's sake, Cerberus, we need.. RTB. Someone's.. someone's shot.."

[TAC3] Polaris says, "Shot?! Shiv, Cerberus, con — !" The static seems to get worse, slashing into the pilots' eardrums like so many jagged pieces of glass. "Shot? RTB, all ships, RTB!"

[TAC3] (from "Lucky" Alessandra) A sob is choked off and then Lucky screams out. "Gods…*stssshhht*…O2!"

[TAC3] (from "Money Shot" Tisiphone) ..frak's going- on?" Her voice is ponderous and labouring, rather than tense and quick. "RTB?

[BlackKnight-650: Alessandra] The frantic screaming and panted, labored breathing becomes louder and anything actually verbal becomes more and more difficult to understand, something about air…poison? What the hell is she going on about. As she screams and cries she is hit with the sudden realization that she needs to get the hell out of that fighter and she starts the mad scramble for the handle to the ejection release.

[BlackKnight-309: Tisiphone] Tisiphone's Viper doubles back drunkenly after Lucky's, swooping too wide, then lurching back too sharply, only to curve off in the — vaguely — right direction.

[TAC3] (from "Bootstrap" Trask) Neither Bootstrap nor Wank sound off despite Shiv's order.

[TAC3] "Shiv" Sitka says, "You heard the man. RTB. NOW."

[TAC3] Polaris says, "Shit!" swears the voice on the other end — from CIC. "Launch Alert Vipers and SAR birds, now, NOW, NOW!"

[Petrel-648: Sitka] In a moment of sudden clarity, and perhaps simply pure willpower, Shiv manages to fight off the haze of drugged stupor that's threatening to drag him into unconsciousness, and grips the stick more determinedly. Rather than turn back for home, however, he throttles forward on a course for the drifting raptor. One that'll hopefully bring him right up alongside the larger bird. His helmet's hardseal is fumbled for, caught, and finally unlatched; the helmet itself is shucked off, and shoved between his knees so he can suck in a precious breath of un-poisoned air. Not that he has much of it in there, but.

[BlackKnight-650: Alessandra] Unfortunately for Shiv, it's just as he's chucking off his helmet that Lucky sees him but…it isn't the Viper she sees but instead a Raider. Good news is that she is not about to eject herself into a void of gasious clouds and possible life altering problems (like DEATH!). Bad news is that her hands are no longer flailing for the ejection's release and is back on the stick. Finger curling around the fire control trigger, she goes stone silent, the only thing to be heard from 650 being the spooling up and eventual fireing of its KEWs.

[TAC3] (from "Shiv" Sitka) Shiv's voice comes in over the radio again, considerably more healthy-sounding this time, "Cerberus, there's no response from either Bootstrap *static* -ank. We heard a shot fired. I'm going to need a SAR for them, and make sure *static* suits' oxygen supply. I repeat, check all pilots' oxygen before sending them up."

[Harrier-303: Trask] It's true, Trask was preoccupied with the DRADIS console. Sure, he heard Morgenfield slump to the ground, because he remarked, "You better not pass out in a pool of your own vomit, Pee-Oh." By the time he glances to check on her, she's half a heartbeat away from pulling the trigger. No sooner than the realization that technician just killed the pilot in cold blood hits the ECO, all the symptoms he'd been staving off rush in at once. The flushing heat to his skin further flares; his pulse starts racing, further cranked by the understandable adrenaline that comes from having a gun leveled against one's person along with a threat of its use. Even before the murderous deckhand can finish issuing her command slash threat, the muscle twitching kickstarts, continuing even with the onset of lethargy. Even if he wanted to, Bootstrap is completely incapable of complying. As he slumps over, it could be mere coincidence or a trick of the eyes, but he has a sardonic 'do it yourself, bitch' smile.

[TAC3] "Toast" Cidra says, "Cerberus, Toast. SAR Raptor launched, commencing to Flight's position."

[Harrier-303: Morgenfield] Bathed in green-blue fire, Orr's Raptor spins slowly to the right, the man's dead body still attached to the stick, driving his ship ever forward — heedless of the danger. Morgenfield is visibly struggling to keep her focus, now, as beads of sweat pour down her pallid brow, but she's somehow managing to keep herself together despite the pain lighting every nerve of her body. "There's an O2 canister taped beneath your seat. This one's — " The tiny woman gasps. "This one's good. Strap it — strap it in, take deep breaths, and plot the frakking jump before we both godsdamned die!"

[TAC3] Polaris says, "Done and done, Shiv. Get — " Crackle-pop-beep. " — DICKS out of your asses and back to base, now!"

[Harrier-651: Cidra] Harier-650 expels itself from Cerberus at the call for an SAR bird, Cidra and one of their ever-intrepid ECOs helming it. Toast is all business once she's out, not even able to indulge the pleasure of being back on the flight line. This wasn't precisely what she was hoping for on one of her first jaunts back. "Skeeter, get a transponder fix on their positions," she says without taking her eyes off the flight path in front of her. Flying with all deliberate speed.

[TAC3] "Shiv" Sitka says, "Copy, Cerberus. Uploading *static* -ordinates of the raptor to you now. I might *static* -nother bird for Lucky, we're having trouble navigating out here."

[TAC3] "Money Shot" Tisiphone says, "KSHRberus, Money Shot." Her voice is clearer — and more tense — than before. "We. Re-" *crackle* "-mission to land."

[Harrier-651: Niobe] Focused in on her tasks, Skeeter takes to her DRADIS with a Zen-like intensity. While her Leonis accent is still strong, it holds none of the jauntiness that it normally would. Many people find her voice grating and high-pitched, but that's just the way the God's made her and she's got no reason to change that now. "Got nothing here, Toasty. Atmosphere is messin' with the DRADIS somethin' fierce. Got some coordinates from Shiv's bird, though, we can aim ourselves for that."

[BlackKnight-309: Tisiphone] Three-zero-nine's path levels off after several uneasy corrections, a gentle kick of the afterburners pointing it toward Cerberus.

[TAC3] Polaris says, "Money Shot, Cerberus, land, swap out your trimix, and get back out there."

[BlackKnight-650: Alessandra] Lucky is screaming in something that is not anything remotely like Colonial Standard - it is something more akin to a warcry - as she lines herself up with Shiv. Still hallucinating that he's one of the Raiders that they were worried about running into out here, she begins to spray KEW fire towards his fighter. She's going to be a lousy shot but it just might be enough to insure at least one pilot comes back to the Cerb with wet-and-soiled knickers. Assuming they get back, of course.

[Harrier-303: Trask] A good can is under his seat? Trask doesn't need to be told twice. Call it resilience or Taurian stubbornness, but he manages to sluggishly, but successfully, fumble for the canister. "Mmmaaaahhn thh cntrlsss. Buy time," is slurred to Morgenfield.

[Harrier-651: Cidra] "I cannot see a gods-damned thing out there…" Cidra hisses tersely as she navigates the Raptor through the beauteous FUBAR that is space around the anchorage. A nod as she finally gets a bearing, courtesy of Shiv. "Got it, Skeeter. Course laid in. I am putting more speed on it. Watch the engines."

[TAC3] "Toast" Cidra says, "Shiv, Toast. That you out there? Cannot see much of anything. Coordinates received, however. Pulling in to try and get visual. DRADIS is being near useless."

[Petrel-648: Sitka] Shiv's bird is still strafing in toward the raptor, all engines at half throttle as he tries to maneuver in close enough to get a glimpse of the goings-on. He has no idea, whatsoever, that Allie's got her sights on him— until his fighter's being sprayed with live rounds. Or, at least, the space where his fighter was. He jukes sharply to port to evade the scattershot, streaks past the raptor's cockpit window, and begins to double back.

[Harrier-303: Morgenfield] "Hurry!" Morgenfield's voice is tense, informed as it is by an undercurrent of impatience, anger, and — fear? "God almighty, you think I know how to fly this piece of shit? Get us out of system unless you want to see what the inside of a gas giant looks like!" Her pistol trembles as the Raptor lurches forward, and it's all she can do to keep her balance. One hand flails out behind her to clutch at the netting by the side of the ship while behind her the corpse of Wank tumbles into the harness. The ship plunges deeper into Auðumbla's noxious atmosphere while Shiv's bird streaks past, her engines flaring green through a haze of blue.

[TAC3] "Shiv" Sitka says, "Toast, Shiv. I'm here, but I don't have much air left. I'm headed back to the barn. Bootstrap.. I think *static* -ap's alive, but Wank's been shot. The raptor's out of control. Lucky, if you can hear me, take your helmet off and get your ass back *static* base. We need another rescue bird out here.."

[BlackKnight-309: Tisiphone] Tisiphone's Viper makes another twitchy little adjustment as it curves in toward the flight deck to land. Swapping out breathing mix with a chalk-faced deckie in an EVA suit was /not/ on the flight plan for tonight's CAP.

[Harrier-651: Niobe] Watching the DRADIS is almost impossible with all the interference, but Skeeter does her best. Maybe it's her dog-eared optimism, but she keeps her voice as chipper as possible as she replies, "Aye-aye," as if this were the actual navy. "It's a mine-field out there, keep your eyes peeled, best ya can. Engine's're not gonna like us."

[BlackKnight-650: Alessandra] Shiv somehow reaches to Allie and she fumbles for the helmet, fingers weakly scraped against the latches before she gets the strength and mental accuity about herself and she makes those trembling digits work. With a hiss as the hard seal's broken, the helmet's yanked off and she gasps, that first breath of air followed by the others breaking the horrific visions she was inflicted with but she's still panicky…no, frak that. She's scared abso-frakking-lutely shitless.

[TAC3] "Toast" Cidra says, "Just like Villon…" The pause only lasts seconds but, given the contracted nature of wireless chatter, it's notable. "Copy, Shiv. Get yourself home. Catch that Cerberus? We shall need another SAR Raptor. Lucky. Lieutenant Alessandra Sophronia. Toast. Gods hope you can hear me. Please respond."

[TAC3] (from "Lucky" Alessandra) Shiv…wh…what *shhhh*…end?

[TAC3] (from "Lucky" Alessandra) Lucky adds quickly, "Toast, this is *shhhh*ucky. I ca…can hea*zzzz* y…you*"

[Harrier-303: Trask] If it weren't for that looming inferno of gaseous death threatening to swallow them whole, Trask might not be so compliant. As it stands, he plots the course but doesn't give any warning. It's a strictly mental countdown of 3… 2… 1… JUMP!

[TAC3] Polaris says, "Toast, Cerberus — " Kzzt. It sounds like somebody's rubbing sandpaper against the intercom. "Provider — " The Raptor's number is lost to the aether. "On her way, over. Bring our pilots back."

[Harrier-651: Cidra] "I shall apologize to the engine later," Cidra says tersely, skirting the interference toward the position of Bootstrap's Raptor…or its last-known by the numbers she's got, at any rate.

[Petrel-648: Sitka] And, dumbstruck, Shiv rockets away from the disappearing raptor, irradiated gas melting away from his fighter's wings as he marks a hasty course for the ship. He barely even has time to process what's going on.

[TAC3] "Shiv" Sitka says, "Toast, Shiv. I think.. I think the *static* -tor just jumped.."

[Harrier-651: Niobe] Catching Cidra's mood, Skeeter keeps her high pitched commentary to a minimum and her sights on her screen. As they get closer and closer to the target, she keeps pinging the system in attempts to fight the static. Finally, in a break-through moment, she catches clear positions and quickly alerts Cidra in a triumphant and too loud voice, "Toasty! Got 'em! Can't see the Raptor, but I got the Vipers! There!" Deftly, she plugs in the coordinates.

[Harrier-651: Cidra] It's an admirable symmetry of flying and navigation in the gaseous minefield that is this corner of space, as Cidra and Skeeter move swift their Raptor in toward Trask and Co…and find nothing. Just empty space. Something is hissed from beneath Toast's helmet. It's not Colonial Standard. The woman is rather known to avoid profanity, but it has the general inflection of it.

[TAC3] "Toast" Cidra says, "Shiv, Toast. So I do see. Must have been Bootstrap at the controls, though gods know where he has gone. Lucky. Toast. Do you require assistance returning to ship? I can manage a tow."

[BlackKnight-650: Alessandra] There's a decided lack of help and it's not helping Lucky at all who is hammering angrily and fitfully on the glass of her canopy to her left. Feral screams might be heard over the coms but with her helmet off it might go missed.

[BlackKnight-309: Tisiphone] Slap. Click. Hiss. Wheeze, wheeze, wheeze. Clack. Thumbs-up? LTJG Apostolos, thumbs-up? A tense pantomime passes between the deckie and the pilot before a final, curt gesture from the deckie, as he clears out from near the Viper — to the elevator with you and your bird, pilot.

[TAC3] "Shiv" Sitka says, "Toast, Shiv. I'm RTB. I don't know *static* with Lucky, but she needs a tow before she passes out in there."

[TAC3] "Toast" Cidra says, "Taking that as a yes, Lucky. Lieutenant, keep your hands clear of your guns. I am not a bandit. I shall get her, Shiv."

[Petrel-648: Sitka] Shiv, having no other alternative, maneuvers in for a landing as soon as he has the ship's flight deck in his sights. He's coming in a little hot, but it certainly wouldn't be the first time.

[Harrier-651: Cidra] The course of Cidra's Raptor alters to fall in close to Alessandra's erratic Viper. It's a job but, morbidly, one the CAG has had some practice at of late. She manages to get it linked for a tow in with little problem. How cooperative Alessandra will be is an open question, but she's easily hooked. Course back to Cerberus.

[TAC3] "Toast" Cidra says, "Provider, Toast. Bootstrap and whatever malice took hold of his Raptor has fled. While you are out here, best get this started. Initiate standard grid search, jumps plotted from this position. Cerberus, shall two more Raptors launched to fan out in varying directions. We have no proper clue where they have gone to."

[Harrier-303: Morgenfield] The DRADIS doesn't lie. Bootstrap's Raptor is gone — gone in a blinding flash hidden from view by Auðumbla's encroaching clouds, until a half-second later she reappears above the maelstrom, her FTL sizzling, her sublights winking out, her charred fuselage shedding streams of highly-charged particles that dance a joyous blue in the emptiness of space.

"Nice," whispers Morgenfield, her breaths coming slowly, painfully from where she's fallen. "I can hear — I hear them. Well done." A cruel smile lights her pale white features as she raises her gun — and fails, muscles freezing, loosening, relaxing, until the tip of the pistol rests at the base of her neck. "I'll be seeing you, Kal." And then her head's exploding into a gruesome mockery of bone and brains as she pumps two rounds right through her chin, bullets crunching against the top of her helmet.

Finally, Bootstrap is alone.

And it's alone that Cerberus will find him — alone in this burnt-out ship drifting aimlessly through space — alone with a pair of broken bodies still sprawled where they fell — as flies to wanton boys —

They kill us for sport.

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