PHD #236: Dancing the Spiral
PHD #236: Dancing the Spiral
Summary: A curious CAP of three ends up with mysterious behavior from the CAG.
Date: 20 Oct 2041 AE
Related Logs: References to rain and the reflections it prompted; moments of intense clarity and their aftermath.
Cidra Devlin Khloe 
Vipers in Aerilon's atmosphere.
Post-Holocaust Day: #236

The next patrol of Vipers has just launched from Ewe Aerilon and are skimming into a flight path that will take them over the planet's eastern continent. And the CAG is part of this patrol. This is strange, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, while she does take a turn in a Viper on CAPs more-or-less regularly to allow some relief for the pilots, she almost always flies with the Mighty Lions. Captain Matise as her section lead. And she's still in a Raptor the far majority of her CAP time. Secondly, she's in atmosphere. She did not fly a Viper in atmo on Sagittaron. She has not done so before on Aerilon. If one has a particularly long memory, they might note that she hasn't been in atmo in a Viper since her misadventure/crash on Leonis.

But, Cidra slotted herself into today's Aerilon patrol schedule with no real warning, or comment, and is flying it now. She's flying wing for Khloe. She never flies section lead in a Viper if she can help it. "Poppy, Toast. I am on your six. DRADIS clear apart from our own traffic thus far."

The SL of the Knights responds in her usual, clear command voice, the squelch of the radio tuning her voice a little lower than would be feminine, even for her. "Toast, Poppy, I copy you, five-by-five. Decoy, set up on our three. Repeat, our three. Triangle formation. Stay clear of our jet wash. Over." While atmospheric flight, high or low, is not Khloe's preferred medium to be flying through - she prefers the insane neck-breaking acrobatics of zero-G - she's not going to argue an assignment or complain.

Devlin doesn't seem to mind Cidra's surprise appearance, and might (just maybe, if one happened to glance over at the right moment) seem pleased that she is joining them. He keeps his demeanor polite and mostly stays quiet as they prep and launch, waiting until he's addressed over coms. "Poppy, Decoy," he replies then, "Setting up on your three." And so he does, avoiding that jet wash easily and moving his Viper into position in the formation.

Indeed, it's a strange sensation to fly in atmosphere when one is so long used to operating in space. Weatherand gravity - especially gravity - introduce entirely new variables and little quirks and sensations to deal with. It's not quite like going from running to swimming, but that comparison might immediately come to mind. There's the feeling of moving through something thicker, and being carried or pushed in places when one hits an updraft or hard wind.

Cidra keeps her Viper to one of the lower 'points' of the triangle. It's not per usual for Vipers to fly in threes, but she wasn't about to pull Devlin out of the CAP rotation for her little jaunt. And this gives him some opportunity to 'train' in atmo. Her own handling of her Viper can be described as text-book competent…and very little else. She keeps recommended distance from Poppy, on the farther side of what's standard for Vipers flying together, and pays strict attention to her instruments and her flight path. While competent, there's none of the easy, instinctive skill she shows when behind a Raptor. Her focus is intense, and it shows. "Poppy, Decoy, Toast. We shall be rounding the coastal mountains soon. Watch the drafts. How you faring back there, Decoy?"

Of the three, Devlin almost certainly has the least disparity in terms of time flying in atmo vs time flying in space. Though given that this comes about chiefly because he lacks experience in both does not necessarily set him more at ease in the air today. He seems to be handling himself fine thus far, easily keeping a steady distance from Khloe's wing, not quite as far off as Cidra is from the other. "Toast, Poppy, Decoy," he replies promptly into the radio, "I'm fine back here. Been doing some atmo training in between the rest, think I'm getting the hang of it."

Khloe is flying casual; it's an atmospheric patrol, and not a supersonic race. Still, she's all-business. "Toast, Poppy, I copy. ETA, thirteen minutes. Decoy, it's pretty simple: aerodynamics makes it impossible for any abrupt turns. But now you're a hyper-maneuverable flying missile, subject to atmospheric stresses and gravity," Khloe calls over the radio on the heels of Devlin's comm. Lecture, lecture. "Toast, Poppy. I'm pretty sure a three-stick CAP isn't too textbook. Mind if I ask what you're up to? Over."

"Poppy. Toast. It was time." That's quite the non-answer to Poppy's question Cidra gives over the comm. There's a pause as she course-corrects before she says anything more. "I had been neglecting my duties in the rotation down here, but I did not want to rob Decoy of the experience in flying under these conditions. It is…different, is it not? I always forget how much the little variables affect these damnable things." Vipers, she apparently means. "Raptors are heavier, designed for more transitions between in and out of atsmosphere. More…forgiving of the differences. Gravity makes your instincts wrong…" Muttered to herself. She may have forgotten she had the wireless line open. Ahem. "It was time."

"Poppy, Decoy," Devlin replies evenly, "I understand, sir. Like I said, I've been doing some training in atmosphere since we got here to Aerilon. Shiv and Matise went over the science." He falls silent then, listening to the question and Cidra's answer and after a beat or two of silence eventually agreeing, "Toast, Decoy. It is a lot different than flying a bigger ship. And thanks for letting me come along." He maintains his position on one side of the triangle as they head towards the mountains.

A short pause in their conversation, allowing for the roar of the Vipers' engines fill the space. "Toast, Poppy. Time for confrontation? Over." Her choice of words might be odd to Devlin, but she's hoping the CAG remembers from their last conversation.

"Poppy, Toast. Something like that, yes," Cidra affirms to Khloe. Though there's a distracted note in her tone now. "We are lucky there is no rain today. Was raining like the end of the worlds on Leonis." A soft chuckle at her 'joke.' "Remember that, Poppy? Or did you fly with the Vipers in atmo that day? Rain and Cylon gunfire so fast and thick you could barely tell the difference. It was raining toasters…" Another chuckle, like it's supposed to be funny. Her handling of the ship remains tightly controlled.

"Toast, Poppy. The Checkmates were there. I got a handful of kills, although I don't keep score." A short pause. "It's too bad they don't install windshield wipers on these things. Over." Humor, coming from Khloe? Either she lets her hair down around the CAG, or the atmospheric vibrations and pressurizations are making her giddy. Either way, there's no hint of lightness in her tone that suggests she's doing anything other than communicating with her wingman. "You weren't even a nugget yet, around Leonis, were you, Decoy? Over."

Devlin holds his position, remaining focused on his controls, checking and rechecking various systems and coordinates as he flies along. If he is listening to the conversation between the two elder pilots (and he must be, as it is in his ear) he does not offer a comment, not until Khloe questions him. "Poppy, Decoy," he replies, "No sir, I wasn't. I enlisted the day before Audumbla."

"Poppy, Toast. Copy. Instills the wrong priorities in a pilot to track kills to closely," Cidra says. While many pilots do keep a tally of their own, there's no formal 'kill count' kept in the Wing. "I do not think I scored any that day." A pause over the mic after Devlin's answer. "Decoy, Toast. Ah, yes. Audumbla. I did not think you would stay on." What with the ordered quadruple-suicide that occurred on that particular run and all.

"Counting kills is about ego. Flying stick is about dedication, and not ego," Khloe comments. Then, an annoyed sound, sounding halfway between a growl and sucking on her lower lip. "Toast, Decoy, Poppy. You were right, Major. I'm starting to feel my bird fighting an upcurrent," Khloe reports. "We're going to veer a bit further out from the mountains than previously plotted, just in case. Set, relative oh-oh-two carom three-five-nine. Confirm course correction. Over." That would angle their elliptical arc out and angled slightly down to counter the winds.

"Poppy, Toast. Copy. Correcting course, still on your five." There's a pause as Cidra's Viper makes that little switch. Veering with a bit less ease than Khloe, but she gets the job done. There's a beat of silence from her and then she asks, "Flight, Toast. Picking up anything on DRADIS? I could have sworn I did see something down aft of us." A check of her instruments and she reports, "Nothing on my electronics, however."

"Toast, Decoy," Devlin replies, "I know, sir. And I did appreciate the offer of an out, after that. I know it seemed like I signed up on a whim or something, but I didn't. Course correcting," he adds after Khloe's order, "Still on your three, Poppy, adjustment made. Toast, nothing on my DRADIS. Didn't spot anything myself."

Khloe's Viper responds to the course correction its pilot gives her, and the flight smooths out perceptibly. "Negative on DRADIS, Toast. Stay frosty, just in case; we're limited due to atmosphere and planetary curve. Over."

"Decoy, Toast. Everyone deserves an out after a moment of…intense clarity," crackles Cidra's voice over the comm. Another pause, and another veering correction to her Viper's course. But this time, she angles around to circle back. The turn is sharper than it should properly be, but that could be her lack of aerodynamic grace in the things as much as anything else. "Flight, Toast. I am going to attempt visual to the terrain. Do watch my six, please." And she starts to go lower. Gradual, circling descent in altitude, over the forested hills east of the mountains. Hard to see anything at all of the ground with the tree cover there, really.

Almost missed over the crackle of the radio is Khloe's soft, "Dammit, Cidra, what are you after?" Then, in her returned authoritative voice, as her Viper's engines roar as she veers off from the mountain-skirting course: "Decoy, Poppy. CAG's perogative. Move to my six, repeat, move to my six. We're covering Toast. Over."

Devlin swerves off their previous course a beat after Khloe and Cidra, catching up to move into position on Khloe's wing. "Poppy, Decoy, copy that," he replies, "I'm on your six. Toast, can you describe what you saw at all so we can help you look? I've got nothing but trees in my view just now."

Stlll no sign of anything on the ground that would attract the attention of a Viper pilot. But Cidra keeps circling down. Her descent growing faster, nose pointed down, down, down toward the ground at a sharper angle. The descent is still controled. In that, she's still clearly making small correction and is handling the stick attentively. But it keeps going…down. Nothing on the wireless from her in the moment after she begins her new trajectory.

While Cidra's spiral downward is tight, the two supporting Vipers take a lazy, broader arc encircling the area. "Toast, Poppy, talk to me. You're getting too close too fast to the deck. Over." The sound of her flipping on and off electronics to alter her DRADIS view can be heard while she's trying to get Cidra to elaborate.

Still nothing from Cidra on the wireless. She's getting very close, very fast, to the trees…

"Toast?" Devlin, into the wireless and he and Khloe descend slowly after the CAG. He does not sound pleased. "Toast, Decoy, do you copy?" he tries again, a little more formally, and then a little less, as she continues not to reply, "Cidra. Cidra, can you hear us?"

"Cidra! Wake the frak up!" Comes Khloe's raised voice over the radio. "Cidra! Gods damnit!"

Cidra's Viper continues it's descent a beat after Devlin and Khloe's increasingly insistent wireless transmissions. And then, just as abruptly as she changed course, she levels off and curves her nose back skyward. "Flight, Toast." Tone perfectly calm and collected. Like nothing at all just happened. "Nothing on the ground. Must have been a trick of the light. I shall never like flying these things in atmosphere." Casual as can be. "Poppy, Toast. Resuming position on your five, redirecting course for CAP flight path."

If Devlin could see Khloe in her cockpit, he would see her pounding the canopy frame with her left hand, yelling something unheard. She disabled her vox briefly. Then, she comes back over the radio. "Toast, Poppy. Copy resmume course." Her voice is carefully guarded, but seething underneath.

Devlin, for his part, just kind of stares, watching the CAG's Viper carefully as she rejoins them in formation. "Toast, Poppy, Decoy," he replies after a long beat or two of silence, "Resuming position on your three, Poppy, and returning to previous course."

"Poppy, Decoy, Toast. DRADIS remains clear. Let us get on with it, then." And on Cidra flies. Nothing amiss here…

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