PHD #140: EVENT - Bye Bye Birdie - Air Wing
Bye Bye Birdie — Air Wing
Summary: BSG-132 is caught between a rock and a hard place. The view from space.
Date: 16 Jul 2041 AE
Related Logs: Concurrent with Bye Bye Birdie - CIC
Cidra Trask Sitka Alessandra Psyche McQueen Tisiphone Malone Pewter Tillman NPC Polaris 
Brr. Cold.
Post-Holocaust Day: #140

[Polly's Hoopty: Polaris] Navigating a ship the size of the Corsair through the winding tunnels that make up the upper atmosphere of the gas giant Auðumbla is problematic when she's alone — but when she has to coordinate her movements with twenty Vipers and eight Raptors kitted out with all the missiles they can carry, an already cumbersome task becomes less like dancing at the Caprica City Ballet and more like threading the eye of a needle with a frayed piece of hempen rope. Small wonder, then, that the soldiers of Battlestar Cerberus have been on pins and needles for the last forty-five minutes, during which time they've been listening to periodic broadcasts from the weakest link in the proverbial chain:

"Bow down six degrees, port thrusters to seventy-six percent on my mark — "

"Biiiig spike there, Guardian One, tell your boys to watch it — "

"Ten seconds until we exit this muck — nine — eight — seven — "

And even before the count reaches five, the battlestar seems to withdraw within herself as her own FTL engines jump to life, bringing her and Praetorian abaft of the single Cylon basestar lurking ten klicks away from the outermost edge of the clouds of gas.

[TAC3] "Gravel" Pewter says, "Toast, Cerberus Actual. Y'all are go for launch, say again, y'all are go for launch!"

[TAC3] "Toast" Cidra says, "Cerberus Actual, Toast. Copy. Boots, we green? I shall be out directly on your mark. All Vipers, you have clearance to launch. Good hunting."

[TAC3] (from "Bootstrap" Trask) Checking and then checking, again, the ECO eventually announces over the comms, "Greener than jealousy, Toast."

[TAC3] Cora says, "Praetorian, this is Lt. Nikephoros. Begin bombardment of the basestar, repeat, begin bombardment."

[TAC3] Polaris says, "Cerberus, Praetorian Actual, wilco. Missiles away."

[Harrier-303: Cidra] And on that note from her ECO, Cidra's Raptor ascends into space from Cerberus proper. With as much grace and speed as the cow-like ships can manage. She has Trask riding in her backseat for this. Which, apart from their greatly differing ideas of in-Raptor banter, is probably a great comfort to her today. The CAG was not precisely happy not to go along with the missile-armed Corsair escort, but she was not really in a position to. And she isn't one to pout about such things. Besides, they've got plenty of other work to do.

[Petrel-647: Sitka] Once the word's given to launch, there's but a second's hesitation from Shiv before he gives his operator the thumbs-up. Flattened against his seat back, his Mark II is slingshot out of the tube, engines lighting up once he breaches the battlestar's gravity field.

[BlackKnight-855: Malone] Launching as soon as the order's heard, Malone does that customary roll of his once he's clear of the tubes. Looking around for a few moments now, grimacing a little bit as he looks around, both at the DRADIS and out into space.

[BlackKnight-308: McQueen] As the protective sheathes draw upward on yet another of Cerberus' launch tubes, a Viper Mark VII containing Lt. McQueen sits primed. Strapped in and waiting for clearance, an 'all clear' signal is given, the launch system primed, and the ignition is hit as Queenie's Viper lurches into motion and goes barrelling out of the side of the Battlestar, in the chaotic, soupy fog of the storm. The plane is buffetted but he manages to maintain control as he scowls at his surging DRADIS readout.

[Harrier-303: Trask] The CAG's not the only one who is less than thrilled to not be doing more of the heavy lifting, but one of the many banes of being a Squadron Leader is that Trask's not in a position to partake in said heavy lifting as much as he used to. Unlike Cidra, it was with some dry snark that he accepted his fate. "So, how long post-jump before it turns into a clusterfrak?" is idly quipped.

[BlackKnight-309: Tisiphone] Viper after Viper shoot out of the Cerberus's launch tubes — amongst them is Junior Lieutenant Apostolos, her sleek grey Mark VII soaring out into the proto-fray. Her breathing rasps overloud in her own ears as she double-checks the green lights on her breathing mix and tries to ignore the surge and flicker of her readouts.

[TAC3] "XO" Tillman says, "Toast, XO. Be advised of potential for reinforcements on our flanks."

[TAC3] "Toast" Cidra says, "Cerberus, Toast. I hear you. We shall keep our eyes to the DRADIS."

[TAC3] "Shiv" Sitka says, "Val, Duke, Tess, Tally, watch your lateral separation. I think we're going to have to fly this one nice and cozy."

[Harrier-303: Trask] No sooner than Tillman's advisement is relayed, Trask asks rather sardonically, "Okay, seriously… what the frak happened to Tillman while I was gone? Sure, stating the obvious isn't as bad as making a public arrest of Abbot, but still…"

[Polly's Hoopty: Polaris] It's almost as if Colonel Tillman is a mind-reader — for when the Vipers and Raptors of CVW-14 emerge from their cocoons, the usual hordes of chrome-plated Raiders are not there to greet them. As Battlestar Cerberus' anti-aircraft guns begin to pepper the space around her with shards of exploding flak, the swarms of Cylon fighters buzzing about the lone basestar seem torn between a rock and two hard places: the ancient frigate now emerging with her escort from the depths of Auðumbla's exosphere, her bulky frame a tempting target indeed for machines eager to spill human blood; the constant stream of missiles pouring forth from the racks of CF-505, each of them powerful enough to be felt even through a basestar's thick armor; and last but certainly not least, the sixty-odd Vipers and ten-odd Raptors now accelerating toward the fray behind the protective ring of flak.

And so it is that the basestar seems to spin in place, her fighters scattering as they attempt to avoid the sudden burst of missiles flying forth from her cannons. A wing screams toward Corsair before the frigate's own guns cause it to think twice about its plan; two wings tear toward Cerberus before the threat of the missiles causes one to disengage. And so it is that only forty Raiders are left to deal with the brave men and women of CVW-14 — who, for the first time in this entire war, find themselves outnumbering their foe.

"Contact!" sings Captain Matise, the Mighty Lions slashing forward into the Cylon formation; "Contact!" screams Captain Valance, the Checkmates cutting across the enemy wing's starboard flank. And then like oil scattering in water the dogfight becomes an all-out brawl while the seconds on everybody's synchronized clocks count down and down and down

[TAC3] "Gravel" Pewter says, "All ships, Cerberus Actual. Jump clock at T minus ninety seconds."

[TAC3] "Queenie" McQueen crackles, the whirr-hum of distortion coloring his Wireless, "This is Queenie — Dampeners are holding. And uh, /whoooah/ I see one-two-three-four, oh, bandits, five-three-niner carom two six. Just stay in tight on these dogs, yeh?"

[Harrier-303: Cidra] Cidra replies to Trask with a mild, "We shall see what we are delivered" non-answer. Outwardly composed, all about the work, eyes on her pilots as they stream across the starfield around her. As she is wont to be. And here it comes. They haven't committed this great a number of their air forces to a single engagement since the day of the Cylon attacks. "Boots, sharp on those jammers. Blind them as you can. I shall do my utmost to keep them from interrupting your noble work back there."

[TAC3] (from "Shiv" Sitka) Shiv's voice breaks through the interference briefly, "Shit- I guess they like me. Val, on my six. Queenie, you've got a couple of fans, too."

[Petrel-647: Sitka] After being out of the cockpit for a good two weeks, one might think Shiv's stickhandling a little on the rusty side. But muscle memory is evidently all he needs to power his little red-and-white fighter into a snappy unloaded extension as bullets streak past his wings and fritter into empty space. Maneuvering hard on the RCS thrusters, he pivots at the end of his run and strafes back in for a fast snapshot on one of the raiders chasing him.

[TAC3] "Queenie" McQueen rattles off sharply, "Shiv, Queenie. Yah, I see'em. What can I say? They know I'm bloody fabulous." There's the sound of frantic KEW fire and system humming and he adds, "Whoah - oh! Good shot, Money."

[BlackKnight-662: Psyche] Psyche smiles a grim rictus of a smile, darting a quick glance at her visual field, confirming the position of her wingman. Adrenaline surging, she peppers one of the bandits with bullets as she charges it head-on, banking clear at the last moment and coming back around hard. "Nice flying, Splash! Stay with me — just keep the pressure on this motherfrakker and don't get hit."

[Harrier-303: Trask] "Lemme just get my can of pepper spray," is the ECO's reply. As Cid upholds her end of the deal, he does likewise.

[TAC3] "Gravel" Pewter says, "Sixty seconds. Y'all stay frosty out there."

[BlackKnight-309: Tisiphone] As her wingleader twists and dodges the Raider on his tail, Tisiphone scythes in with a burst from her cannons. Her ship does a neat — if rough on the pilot — pirouette at the end of her arc, engines flaring to life as she pursues.

[BlackKnight-308: McQueen] Taking the lead position in the section, McQueen's Viper darts to and fro within an acceptable approach vector as he bounces around in his target's firing solution. The shots aimed at him go wide as a result, but unfortunately, so do his. Still, it looks like he might have set the target up for Tisiphone.

[BlackKnight-855: Malone] Going for the same Raider as his wingman, Malone's shots misses the target for now, and he frowns a bit as he turns the Viper around to head for the enemy again. Giving a bit of a half wave over in Psyche's direction, he otherwise remains quiet.

[Harrier-303: Cidra] Harrier-303 does not do evasive maneuvers quite so pretty as a Viper, but Cidra gets the thing weaving as sharp as she can amidst the growing battle. Outnumber they might. But she shows no sign of overwhelming confidence. Or dread. She just keeps flying. And even indulges in the faintest hint of banter. "You are a handy thing for a girl to have along in a back alley, Trask."

[TAC3] "Money Shot" Tisiphone says, "Queenie, this is Money Shot. Thank you, Sir." The tense voice make her clipped manners even more out of place. "Remaining on your target."

[TAC3] (from "Shiv" Sitka) Into his radio, Shiv mutters, "Frak. Still on me. Cover me again, Val. Petrels, I say again, watch your lateral separation."

[Harrier-303: Trask] Without missing a beat, Boots banters right back. "I'm handy in ma— Shit. Frakker managed to shrug off the hit." Ticked-off Taurian is ticked-off. Never mind he was right on target and scored another 4 suppression hits.

[TAC3] "Queenie" McQueen sounds a bit shaky for a moment as he continues to exchange fire. "Again, that's another one. WHOahhh!"

[Petrel-647: Sitka] One of his pursuers explodes under Shiv's briefly-sustained fire, but he doesn't stick around long enough to turn his guns on the second. The instant his kew hits home, the Captain spirals away and guns all three engines, dragging his pursuers on another game of chase.

[BlackKnight-308: McQueen] There's a sharp slam of the stick as McQueen's Viper is brought around in a violent, almost vomit-inducing arc to attempt to shake his pursuer and take a shot. After this turn hard right, he forms back up at the head of the section as Money's fire supplements his. Again — with better results.

[Polly's Hoopty: Polaris] Thirty seconds left until Corsair jumps — and only now do the Cylons seem to develop a coherent strategy, though it's one the geniuses in CIC have anticipated already. The Raiders dispatched to harass the ancient frigate suddenly wink out simultaneously before appearing within the battlestar's flak ring to engage the Vipers behind their protective shell. Yet the numerical advantage the Cylons now enjoy does not mean much in the grand scheme of things: as the newer Colonial ships' re-stocked weaponry begins to take their toll on the basestar still plugging gamely away at whatever it thinks it can hit, the Raiders appear to falter, ceding tempo to the Colonial pilots doing their best to seize this rarest of opportunities they've been given.

Shredded metal — mostly Cylon — pings against speeding canopies and burning engines; blue-white tracers merge with their yellow-red counterparts against the backdrop of Auðumbla's roiling clouds. Shrapnel from exploding flak cuts into those Cylons foolish enough to slip up, creating even larger clouds of silver and bloody red in the very crowded sky.

[TAC3] "Shiv" Sitka says, "Good hits, Splash. Guess you're earning your call. Bubbles, sing out for me?"

[BlackKnight-662: Psyche] Psyche's cry of triumph cracks sharply with alarm and dismay as her controls explode in a shower of blue sparks and flame. She throws up an arm to shield her face entirely out of reflex, barely avoiding the wreckage of the Raider she and Splash took out. Her plane jerks gracelessly, going into a sickening spin for a few heart-stopping moments before she can wrest it back into control.

[TAC3] "Gravel" Pewter says, "Ten seconds. All ships, get ready to RTB, say again, get ready to RTB."

[TAC3] "Toast" Cidra says, "Divine symmetry, Queenie. Fight and fly." Some sort of encouragement. Well, it seems to mean something to her. "Broadside, Blowback! Eat at their flanks. Let us keep the upper-hand while we've got it. Cerberus Actual, Toast. Copy. All Flight, listen sharp to that. Be ready on the mark."

[TAC3] "Bubbles" Psyche says, "FRAK! Frakfrakfrakme I'm here, I'm okay! Frakdamn thing fried my controls. Splash, baby, I need you to cover my ass big time. I'm not going anywhere if I can't… do… something. Here. Uhm… the red wires are the nav system, right?"

[TAC3] "Gravel" Pewter says, "Five seconds. Burn 'em comin' back, all flights!"

[TAC3] "Shiv" Sitka says, "Copy, Toast."

[Harrier-303: Cidra] "Not much longer, Boots. Not much longer…" It is more for Cidra's benefit than the Taurian's, most likely. No profanity from her. Just tight-as-a-drum concentration.

[TAC3] "Bootstrap" Trask says, "Negative, Bubbles. Navs are yellow. I say again, Navs are yellow."

[Harrier-303: Cidra] Cidra also gets her Raptor headed home battlestar-wards, of course.

[BlackKnight-309: Tisiphone] Line them up, shoot them down. Queenie sloughs off one way, and Tisiphone lags behind a split-second before diving in another, catching the Raider coming and going in a barrage of thirty-millimetre cannonfire. She's lining up another shot when the RTB call comes — she peels off instead, falling in off Queenie's portside wing for the escape.

[TAC3] "Splash" Malone says, "Working on it, Bubbles. You just stay alive there, will you?"

[TAC3] (from "Queenie" McQueen) Queenie's casual flippancy is buried in concentration. "Toast, Queenie. Now you're speakin' my language, sir. And — whoahh- keep a handle on it, Bubbs! All right, Money, turn around. I'm coverin' your tail."

[BlackKnight-855: Malone] Firing off his shots, Malone starts to head in the direction of home, making sure to keep his wingman covered for the moment. Muttering something under his breath too.

[TAC3] "Bubbles" Psyche sounds on the verge of cold panic. "Right. Yellow. Copy." Her breathing is quick and a little unsteady.

[Harrier-303: Trask] "Not much longer until it all goes to Hades in a handbasket, no doubt," Kal drily mutters. Cynical much?

[BlackKnight-308: McQueen] And to that, McQueen flies true to his word, his scorch-marked but well-maintained Mark VII leaving a dull grey streak through the stars, cutting the throttle for the duration of the turn as he lays in a course homewards.

[Petrel-647: Sitka] Shiv veers off sharply from his strafing run as the call is made to RTB, angling his fighter toward the lights of Cerberus' flight deck.

[TAC3] "Bootstrap" Trask keeps his tone steady and undaunted when he says, "S'alright, Bubbles. I'm here to walk you through it." He /was/ a knuckledragger for six years, after all.

[TAC3] "Toast" Cidra says, "Cerberus Actual, Toast. Birds are home."

[Polly's Hoopty: Polaris] The Vipers escorting Corsair have long since broken formation, cutting across the Cylon basestar in a daring flight that showcases the power of their afterburners. The flak ring surrounding Cerberus drops for what few seconds it takes for the twenty fighters to punch through the fray and land on the hangar; then, the creaking frigate is finally lurching backwards, then forwards, then backwards again — before winking out with her eight intact Raptors.

Mission Accomplished — for even the surviving Colonial pilots have made it back without a hitch —

[TAC3] (from "Gravel" Pewter) "Roger, Toast. Jumping in three — two — " And then, suddenly, the com falls dead silent, without even a burst of static to accompany it.

[TAC3] "Shiv" Sitka says, "Toast, Shiv. I think my right thruster is fried. Permission to get a tech in here to look at this?"

[TAC3] "Toast" Cidra says, "Granted, Shiv. Cerberus Actual. Toast. Toast to CIC. Do you copy?"

[TAC3] (from "Gravel" Pewter) Dead silence. And needless to say, Battlestar Cerberus still has not jumped.

[Harrier-303: Trask] That sudden silence likely is the alluded to handbasket. Whatever may have been causing it, Trask doesn't pick it up on his sensors because he's been somewhat preoccupied walking Psyche through the juryrigging that enabled her to RTB.

[TAC3] "Bubbles" Psyche says, "Got it!" The little blonde pilot is jubilant, her earlier panic replaced with overwhelming relief. "Bootsie, I could — Wait. Wait… guys?" Sick dread crowds her tone. "The basestar… what the frak is it doing?!"

[Harrier-303: Cidra] Cidra makes yet another futile attempt to get a rise out of CIC. It isn't so much the suddenly lack of communication as the lack /jumping/ anywhere that makes her sit up sharp. Like she felt a cold chill down her spine. "Boots, see if you are picking up anything strange on your instruments. I have a bad feeling about…" She never actually gets to complete that sentence. Her aircraft hasn't been properly lowered yet. But you'd have to be blind not to see that. Three basestars. Jumped into the system. Pouring out Raiders on all and sundry.

[TAC3] "Toast" Cidra says, "Flight, Toast. All craft who are able to get in the air again, make ready. Cerberus Actual, I hope you can hear me. You have got three basestars up jumped in an ready to unload upon us all."

[TAC3] (from "Bootstrap" Trask) "No frakking clue, Bubs. We didn't really cover basestars in any of my aerospace engineering classes." Granted, that's when he sees what Cidra sees. "Well, that surely is a thoroughly stuffed basket."

[BlackKnight-855: Malone] "Oh f…" Malone offers to himself as he sees something out there, grimacing a little bit as he glances around for now. "I have a very, very bad feeling about all of this…" As he hears the words from Cidra, he starts getting ready for getting out there again.

[TAC3] "Bubbles" Psyche says, "Gods — it's — SHIT… That frakking first basestar — LOOK at it. It's turning. Like it's moving to intercept."

[TAC3] "Queenie" McQueen says, "Three big'ones. That's excessive. And — HOOOO. We're not going /anywhere/ with them on our arse."

[TAC3] "Splash" Malone says, "Folks, if… someone doesn't make it back from this, I want you all to know that it's truly been one wild ride…"

[TAC3] "Bubbles" Psyche says, "Splash, shut the frak up. Nobody dies today. Toast, I'm requisitioning another bird."

[Polly's Hoopty: Polaris] And indeed it is — for three basestars now leap into view where Corsair once was, their hangars already disgorging a steady stream of silver fighters that accelerate toward the Colonial forces. One of them begins duking it out with Praetorian; the other two concentrate their fire on Cerberus, a veritable convoy of missiles arrowing toward the battlestar whose flak ring surely won't be enough to repel them all —

And as for that last one, damaged as it is? Psyche's right: engines flaring, the basestar is beginning to turn toward a Cerberus still very, very stationary…

[TAC3] "Money Shot" Tisiphone says, "It's not intercepting, it's going to ram us."

[TAC3] "Bootstrap" Trask says, "Don't we have frakking nukes somewhere on the Deck?"

[TAC3] "Toast" Cidra says, "Make it quick, Bubbles. All Flight launch when you can. Boots, I am taking us back out. Any notion of what has killed our link to CIC?"

[TAC3] (from "Bootstrap" Trask) Flippant as ever, Trask answers, "Something really bad for us." Beat. "Cerb's DRADIS is down. Active /and/ passive. Odds are that has something to do with why the FTL is seemingly hosed."

[BlackKnight-662: Psyche] In the hangar, Psyche's popped the canopy of her crippled Viper and scrambling out almost before the landing gear's properly touched the deck. She stumbles forward, almost falling, her legs scrambling to compensate for her forward momentum. It's a thoroughly graceless race for the next available plane, but it is fast. No one can fault her sense of urgency.

[Harrier-303: Cidra] Cidra's Raptor flits back spaceward. As well as a Raptor flits anywhere. Back into the fray, which has suddenly gotten much hotter. It's one of those defeat-from-the-jaws-of-victory days.

[TAC3] "Queenie" McQueen says, "Understood. Toast, Queenie. I'm ready to get back out there."

[TAC3] "Splash" Malone says, "Ready to get back out as well…"

[TAC3] "Toast" Cidra says, "Flight. Toast. You heard Boots. Cerberus' DRADIS and likely FTL are down. We must keep the toasters off of her until she can effect repairs." Presuming that's at all possible, of course. Rather big presumption. "Defend this ship. Clear eyes and steady hands. Fly.""

[TAC3] "Bubbles" Psyche says, "That basestar might be the bigger problem…" her tone is distracted as she hurries through her pre-flight in the new plane. "Raiders are just going to be pinpricks compared to what that motherfrakker'll do to Cerberus if it impacts, and Cerberus isn't hitting shit, last I saw."

[BlackKnight-308: McQueen] It was a short break, but McQueen's back in the saddle, true to his word, and his and scrambling towards the oncoming traffic of Cylon attack craft.

[TAC3] "Queenie" McQueen says, "Kind of bloody miraculous timing, don't you think?"

[TAC3] "Bootstrap" Trask says, "And people wonder why I'm a misotheist."

[BlackKnight-309: Tisiphone] Back into the black flies Tisiphone, her Viper curving in to take up her tried and true wingman's spot — portside low — as they soar into the oncoming missile-trails and a silver storm of Raiders.

[BlackKnight-855: Malone] Flying out there again as well, Malone looks around for a few moments as he gets ready to meet incoming trouble. Moving for one of the Raiders in particular now…

[Harrier-303: Trask] "Toast, best bet is to take out that basestar's engines," suggests Bootstrap. "What's flying through Cerb's flak ring and busting past some Raiders for our boys an' girls?" They have arguably survived crazier shit. "I'll see what I can do to jilt their would-be dance partners."

[Harrier-303: Cidra] "We have to get to them first, Bootstrap," is Cidra's reply as she works her instruments. "But we shall do our level best."

[BlackKnight-650: Psyche] Psyche isn't able to get off a shot as she comes screaming out of the tubes, much later than the other re-deployed Vipers. The GOOD news is that she has, in fact, requisitioned a new plane and is ready to rumble. She banks and rolls, settling lightly into formation with her wingman.

[Harrier-303: Trask] One. Two. Three. Four. Each of Trask's jamming potshots connect… and yet his targets manage to get off hits of their own. "So, remember that memo you had about Raiders learning and evolving their tactics?" He starts configuring his next attack. "They're adapting. Instead of knocking them off-course, ECM appears to merely be delaying their response time."

[BlackKnight-855: Malone] Firing off a shot at the same Raider that shoots at him, Malone and the Raider seems to be getting the same results from their fire at the moment. Keeping silent again now.

[BlackKnight-309: Tisiphone] All the spiralling and dodging only goes so far, sometimes, as Queenie and Tisiphone plunge into the heart of a Raider furball. Bullets spray everywhere, but the only ones that strike home are the Raiders', tearing holes across both their Vipers. Tisiphone swings the back of her ship out wildly, pointed perpendicular to the direction she's carried in, trying to get a visual on her wingleader.

[Polly's Hoopty: Polaris] And "fly" the Vipers do, heeding Cidra's orders — plunging forward through the ring of flak, pursued by swarms of Raiders whose guns cut through yielding Vipers like an acetylene torch through butter. There, a Viper recovered from Leonis explodes into three exploding pieces; there, a Raider sacrifices itself on a burst of flak so a pair of missiles flying behind it can get through. Boom, boom they go against the battlestar's scarred hull, sending tremors through the massive ship's recently-repaired plating.

Meanwhile, the original Cylon baseship is drawing ever closer to Cerberus, her guns falling silent as more power is poured into her glowing white engines — engines that with each passing second brings the Cylon ship closer and closer to her target — unless, that is, those doughty Vipers manage to take them out.

[TAC3] "Bubbles" Psyche says, "Back in business, cats and kittens! I — FRAK!" There's a yelp of distress as Queenie's viper is hit, and hit hard. "Frak — Queenie? Queenie, are you okay?!"

[TAC3] "Toast" Cidra says, "Flight, Toast. Target the engines of that basestar as soon as you are within range."

[TAC3] "Queenie" McQueen snaps, though the background chatter of gunfire and surging ship systems, "FRAK. Wait. They're still on me. I'm still here, she's holdin'."

[Harrier-303: Cidra] "So I see, Boots," Cidra calls back. She has to raise her voice a little as an Raider hit impacts her nose. Fortunately, she's turning light enough so that the heavy armor takes the brunt of it. "Do what you can." That's pretty much all that's left for anyone to do right now.

[BlackKnight-308: McQueen] Leading his section again, as Money Shot and Queenie manage to dance with no less than three Raiders, the lead pilot's fingers dance on the controls. His maneuvering yields less-than-desired results as he takes rounds to both flanks of his plane.

[TAC3] "Splash" Malone says, "Aiming for engines… Let's take it out, shall we?"

[BlackKnight-650: Psyche] Darting and weaving through the Raiders like a crazed dragonfly, Psyche breathes out in a rush of relief at McQueen's report, but leaves the man's fate to his wingman, his own skill, and the mercy of the Lords. She throttles forward to take a shot at one of the basestar's hellishly glowing engines, eyes narrowing as she opens fire.

[TAC3] "Money Shot" Tisiphone says, "Queenie, this is Money Shot. Two on me, Sir. I'm-" The sound of the flak ring is deafening for a moment. "-to bring them through the flak ring with me.""

[Harrier-303: Trask] "One thing's for sure," Trask notes, "Marko's gonna be programming a scenario like this one." Close enough now, he locks onto 5 targets, trying to squeeze a bit more breathing room for the Viper jocks.

[TAC3] "Queenie" McQueen says, "Money, Queenie. /Hold on./ We're going to punch a hole. Get evasive and I'm on your tail."

[BlackKnight-309: Tisiphone] It's like playing Hot Potato in a detonating fireworks factory with your heart pumping Viper fuel and the song you knew you'd die to blaring all around. Tisiphone hurls her bird on a screaming trip through the flak ring, alternately dodging and being buffeted by the blinding ship's defenses. It was all going so well — until a cluster of explosions smash her and a Raider together, sending both of them tumbling off away from eachother, sparking like dying comets.

[BlackKnight-308: McQueen] Sometimes — it's not just not your day. This run of luck has been rippling through the Cerberus' air-wing and McQueen, although he finally is able to land a few superficial shots as he spins his Viper around after hitting the brakes hard and fast, taking aim at one of his wingman's attackers. It's not /quite/ enough, and he kicks up the throttle, only registering the lumbering Basestar a moment later.

[TAC3] "Toast" Cidra says, "Splash? Splash! Flight, basestar appears to be accelerating. ETA less than two minutes."

[TAC3] "Queenie" McQueen says, "This is Queenie. Stay with me, yeh? That thing's not bloody well stopping. COME ON."

[BlackKnight-650: Psyche] "This is BAD!" Psyche grits out, wrestling the stick as enemy fire explodes against the cockpit, casting everything around her into harsh-lit relief. There's a sickening, brittle noise as cracks race to elongate themselves along the canopy. She looks at the virtually unscathed engine banks, still propelling the basestar inexorably toward Cerberus, stricken. "Oh, Athena love us, this is really frakking bad…"

[Harrier-303: Cidra] Cidra's Raptor takes one not on the nose, but to her engines. She don't fly so pretty now. With a certain amount of lurching she maintains control of her craft, and is even able to weave it off toward Malone's transponder signal. SAR was what Toast was trained and groomed for, and she does it with grace as she goes to retrieve poor Splash. Not much grace left for the rest of her or her flight, however.

[TAC3] (from "Money Shot" Tisiphone) There's a burst of static before Tisiphone's voice comes through. "-it. I got it. Here, Sir. Continuing evasive maneuvers."

[Polly's Hoopty: Polaris] Tisiphone's Viper sheds Raiders like a snake sheds skins as she spins through the mess of flak — and all around her, her fellow pilots are doing the same, smashing through a parade of explosions that in another context might well have been celebratory. As for those Vipers that have already punched through what Cerberus had once intended as a protective shell, their gunfire slips wide of the engine — or, having entered it, is simply melted in the intense heat generated by whatever reactor technology the Cylons deploy. No, bullets won't be enough — not these few bullets, not in time, not when Cerberus is flailing about like a blinded beast and Praetorian is staggering under the combined weight of the Cylon bombardment, which at last has managed to score telling hits…

[Harrier-303: Trask] "Frak." Succinct yet decisive. A damaged engine isn't the kind of thing Trask can really tend to from inside a cockpit. Any semblance of work-around he might be able to conceive is currently on-hold while he focuses on doing what he can to prevent further damage to the Raptor.

[Harrier-303: Cidra] In general, the main complaint ECOs have about flying for Toast is that it's a dull experience. Not so much tonight. Engine at just a little over half its best, through a flak ring of gunfire, intermittent explosions of Viper and Raider and all and sundry around her - she flies it true. And nets poor Malone's wounded craft. Whether it will do him, or herself, any good in the end - given everything else they're facing - is an open question. Cerberus is not going to make it out in time unless that basestar is delayed. The Vipers are fighting through a thick of Raiders to get even a nudge at the basestar. At this point, the only chance they have, really, is for four ships to launch themselves bodily at the engines of that basestar.

[TAC3] "Gravel" Pewter says, "All ships, Gravel, coms are back up. Status on that basestar, over!"

[TAC3] "Bootstrap" Trask says, "Gravel, Bootstrap. Based on DRADIS projections, ETA for impact is approximately 30 seconds. 45 at the absolutely outmost." Beat. "Maybe.""

[TAC3] "Gravel" Pewter says, "Toast, Gravel, DRADIS is — " Pewter's voice is labored, almost as if he's running out of breath. "DRADIS is restarting. Y'all give me more than thirty frakkin' seconds!"

[TAC3] "Queenie" McQueen howls. /Howls./ One kill, it was something, at least. "Splash /one./" In the background there is more gunfire. "Copy that - 30 seconds." There's some incoherent mumbling as he switches off the comms, and the comms go dead.

[TAC3] "Toast" Cidra says, "Val. Duke. Tess. Tally." The names of the four Petrel pilots are enuciated clearly once Cidra's taken a second - as much of a second as she can - to read the starfield. They're in position to do it through the Raiders. And the Cerberus is not going to have time unless the basestar is slowed. "Fly straight for the engines of the basestar. You have your orders. All honors to your service.""

[BlackKnight-308: McQueen] And some days, you get the small victories. No matter how small, they're there. As one Raider gets smoked, McQueen checks his targets and immediately closes for the small brace of Raiders harassing — Psyche. Yeah. The triggers are pulled and the guns go blazing.

[Polly's Hoopty: Polaris] The acknowledgments come back without delay — a chorus of voices crowding themselves out on the coms — four men and women in those four small ships, pouring forward on Cidra's orders past the Vipers dancing around the edge of the steadily-advancing basestar. Straight and steady they go as behind them the battle rages, white-red fighters cruising forward as far as their engines will take them, heedless of the missiles flashing by, heedless of the Raiders that now — understanding at last their danger — jump out from their pursuit of the doggedly-fighting Colonials to intercept the real threat —

[Harrier-303: Trask] When Cidra effectively condemns those four pilots, Trask seeks refuge in sardonicism. "When I suggested we take out those engines, this was not at all even remotely what I had in mind."

[TAC3] (from "Gravel" Pewter) The com clicks on; clicks off; clicks back on. "All honors," Pewter growls, his voice hoarse, breath coming sharply over the com.

[TAC3] "Queenie" McQueen hesitates over the comms again. "Sir, they're /going to/.." This is delivered with a faltering voice as Cidra gives the order. "C'mon, Money. You good? Let's cover our people."

[TAC3] (from Polaris) "Roger, sir." Duke's voice trembles as he approaches. "It's been an — " And then all that's audible is a haze of static.

[TAC3] "Money Shot" Tisiphone says, "Oh, mother of the gods." Voice thready. "Copy. Uh. Queenie, this is Money Shot. Copy that. Target your target."

[Harrier-303: Cidra] Cidra replies not to Trask. She is dead silent after giving that particular order. Save for the sound of deep breaths being taken beneath her helmet. Hands tight on the controls. They don't shake if you keep them occupied.

[BlackKnight-650: Psyche] Psyche kills her com, so no one hears the scream of horror, grief and rage that fills her helmet. Choking on a sob, she abandons her bead on the basestar and pulls up, hard, reversing course and descending on the first Raider unlucky enough to find itself in her sights.

[TAC3] (from "Queenie" McQueen) Someone's been leaving his thumb on the transmitter again. "You see? You see what these people do? You see what we /frakking/ do and you keep coming." *bbzzztstaticinterference "-owards! COME ON!" And the transmission dies again as McQueen retransmits, more composed. "All ships, this is Queenie. Primary power's still at 80 percent. Money, Toast, Bubbs. Get to the barn, I'm right behind you. Preparing for combat landing."

[Harrier-303: Trask] Cidra's silence is met by Trask's own. The intensely furrowed brow and emotional eyes are all that betray his own sense of guilt. If only he had stopped Morgenfield, their position might not have been compromised. If only that, then 4 pilots would not have sacrificed themselves for his failing.

[Polly's Hoopty: Polaris] Val's Viper evaporates under the combined fire of five Raiders, but even that doesn't stop the progress — for inertia is a powerful thing indeed, and despite the fact that his bird is now devoid of a tailfin and a nose cone, onwards he plunges until the man is enveloped in a sheath of blinding blue light so bright it hurts for the others to look in his direction — him and the other three, one of whom — Tally, it seems — waggles those wings one last cheeky time, just like the old days —

Time seems to stand still. Flak is frozen in place, locked in mid-spin, mid-explosion; Vipers slow to a crawl, sputtering engines caught right at the moment of flaring; Malone's bird swings precipitously to starboard — where it hangs for an eternity —

And then everything seems to be covered in a brilliant white glow that looks almost holy before time speeds up and flak detonates and Vipers soar and Cidra's Raptor is tugged backwards by the force of Malone's plane jerking to port before she's back on track with the hangar growing larger and larger in so many horrified eyes —

[TAC3] "Money Shot" Tisiphone says, "Queenie, this is Money Shot. Copy. Uh. Copy that, RTB."

[TAC3] "Toast" Cidra says, "Flight. Toast. Yes. All ships. RTB. Cerberus. Status?"

[TAC3] (from "Gravel" Pewter) "DRADIS online!" Pewter rasps. "Toast, are all ships — " There's a long pause. Maybe he's taking a breath; maybe he's thinking about what he's just said. "Toast, are y'alls ships aboard?" The all is dropped.

[BlackKnight-308: McQueen] Answering with actions before actual words, McQueen's answer is to kick the throttle up violently as the G-forces enforced by the approach. Combat landing indeed, his Viper goes skidding across the hangar deck, leaving a brilliant wake of sparks and acrid smoke.

[BlackKnight-650: Psyche] Psyche's parting shot at the Raiders goes wide, ineffectual and impotent. With another choked sound she gives up the horribly failed hunt, heeding the RTB order. Her wounded bird lists to port, wobbling, resisting her efforts — but she more-or-less cleanly avoids any pursuit. It's inelegant, but it'll do. On a day like this, just living will do.

[Harrier-303: Cidra] And Cidra takes her Raptor back to the barn, in the wake of the rest of her ships. Or what of them remain to return to base.

[Polly's Hoopty: Polaris] It's like it always is when Cerberus jumps away: what once was occupied space is occupied no longer, and Cylon shells will find nothing but vacuum where there once had been ship. But before she does, the pilots on the hangar deck might see a slowly-expanding wave of debris from the lone basestar's engines, spreading out like a halo as in the great black beyond the blue-green clouds of the gas giant Auðumbla whirl evermore.

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