PHD #269: Three Steps Ahead
Three Steps Ahead
Summary: Trask conducts his first SAR from the pilot's seat and wins a painfully pink space Ferrari. No, really.
Date: 22 Nov 2041 AE
Related Logs: Someone Else's Stick
Cidra Leyla Trask McCoy 
Harrier-303 - Tauron Space
Post Holocaust Day #269
The forward section contains the flight deck, with side-by-side seats for the pilot and ECO (who occupies the rear section of the vehicle during normal operations). This opens into the main body which contains bulkhead-mounted racks of electronics equipment and sensors. A large canopy provides good forward and side visibility for the crew if any, which is no doubt of considerable benefit during atmospheric flight.

No amount of time hitting the sims will compensate for actual experience. Sooner or later, all that training needs to be applied in actuality. Truth be told, it's been nearly two years since Trask piloted a Raptor. Most of his flight hours are in-atmo, no less. This could prove to be somewhat interesting despite an uneventful launch. "So. Where to?"

Cidra is in the co-pilot's seat. Watching Trask. In that mild, assessing way she often watches things. Only doubly so right now. This is Toast's zone, or was in better times: Raptor instruction. She actually looks more comfortable than she has in a couple of months. "Remain in high orbit. Take us about, four clicks starboard, toward the debris field. You did want SAR practice, yes? How would you like to see if you can lasso a small bit of wreckage and tow it home." There's an ever-so-faintly satisfied smile playing on her lips as she watches Trask work the controls, though it's muted behind her helmet. Without turning away she asks Leyla, "What would you say are his more problematic areas of piloting, Sweet Pea?"

Leyla is settled into one of the passenger seats in the back of the raptor, a clipboard open on her knee, mostly quiet through the pre-flight, and the launch, speaking up only once Trask has them settled in space and everything seems to be green across the board, the CAG's question bringing her head around and towards the front of the raptor, eyes finding first the back of Kal's head and then Cidra's, "He thinks too much like an ECO. He flies eyes down, instead of eyes up. He's used to not being able to see anything but the DRADIS, so he forgets to trust his eyes first and his instrumentation second. And when he realizes he's doing his old job, instead of his new one, he gets frustrated."

Four clicks it is. To his credit, Bootstrap's been making a concerted effort to rely more on visuals and has shown improvement. All the same, old habits die hard, as the saying goes. As for thinking too much like an ECO, he wryly remarks, "Might have something to do with the fact that, yanno, I /am/ an ECO." It's not defensive, merely a statement of fact and, in his roundabout way, admitting that he is guilty as charged. Were he not, he'd surely be countering what Leyla has said.

"He is not wrong. I feel awkward relying so much on the instruments when I fly backseat, for my part," Cidra says. Which she's able to do in a pinch, though it's even rarer to see Toast at an ECO board than it is in a Viper cockpit. The woman likes the front seat. "Still, you will better serve the Harriers when you are able to handle these birds in something beyond a last-resort. Had you stayed the full twenty-four months in flight training, would have come out a better pilot." It's stated with no real recrimination, just as an observation. But it has the sound of something she's wanted to observe for a long, long time.

To Leyla's observation, she just nods. Stowing it as information rather than anything critical. "Steady as she goes, Boots. I am here in case we run into anything interesting." Not stated with a lack of confidence. The words has a sort of camaraderie to them. "First thing is first. Find us a suitable target. Not too large. Small enough to approximate a Viper. Or smaller, but you shall find the larger gets easier to put a handle on in the beginning." And there's no shortage of debris in Tauron's atmosphere to pick from. Unlike Aerilon and Sagittaron, which were picked clean, the shattered remains of many ships - mostly civilian - still haunt high orbit.

"No, he's not wrong. It's not easy to make the switch from doing one job to doing the other. But being able to do it is the difference between being a great pilot and being an adequate one. I, for example, am nothing more than an adequate ECO, if that. Because I cannot focus solely on my instruments. I have not been able to make that bridge between piloting and sitting the ECO chair. But since Boots obviously wants to be something better than an adequate pilot, which he was before all of this, he needs to make the leap that I have not been able to as yet. When he gets in the front seat, he needs to be a pilot. And only a pilot. What he will be after, what he was before doesn't matter." But that's all Sweet Pea is going to say about that, as Cidra takes over the flight, and she too falls into student mode. After all, as much as Boots is learning to fly, Leyla is learning to teach to fly. And who better to learn from, than the most qualified raptor instructor on the ship?

"Of course, I'm not wrong. I'm never wrong," is asserted somewhere between mock indignation and 'we all know I scarcely have an idea as to what I am doing' self-deprecation. "Being a better pilot was never part of the plan. Then again, neither was surviving a worlds ending nuclear holocaust, or leading a squadron, but there ya go." Scanning the debris for a suitable target, Trask remarks, "Ordinarily, I'm a size queen, but let's opt for something ostentatious, instead, shall we?" Just what that is? It's the equivalent of an overpriced wanna-be racer. A space Ferrari, so to speak. "Frak, it's even pink. Think it's Kostasia's?" Cue the snicker.

"When you get it back to the ship, we can ask her," Cidra says. The 'I'm always right' bit earns a snort from her. "And I am a Caprican socialite." Was that sarcasm from Toast? Not that she banters much. Her eyes rove easily between the starfield and Trask's hands on the controls. Narrowing a little as she observes how he handles the thing. "Easiest to net a craft like that from the rear. Take us about it, nice and slow. We can work on speed later. Best to feel every step in the beginning. Over time it becomes instinct."

Scratch, scratch, scratch goes Leyla's pen, as she watches the pilot and the trainee in the front seats. Some attention is paid to Skeeter, who's sitting in the ECO chair, but not so much. Which might or might not be a good thing, but it is what it is, as Cidra instructs, and Boots, hopefully, follows orders. Whatever the man's faults, he does know how to do that, when he puts his mind to it. Enough runs in the sims have seen to that.

Without missing a beat, Kal quips in response to Cidra's sarcasm, "Just like Jugs." No one is safe, after all. Especially not his BFF. Briefly, his eyes dart to the DRADIS, and then he commences the rear approach. Slow, but not too slow. Quietly, he starts humming the seminal blues classic 'Back Door Man'.

<FS3> Trask rolls Raptors: Bad Failure.

Maybe not slow enough. The Raptor *BANGS* against a larger chunk of some other blasted, drifting piece of hull as they proceed toward the little space car. The wing clips it in *just* the wrong spot, the jolt not unlike a car tire hitting a curb on an off-turn. Their slow speed means the ship will escape any damage beyond some scratches the knuckledraggers will probably carp about. But it's not comfortable.

Cidra winces, jerking in her seat, but she's been Raptor-driving long enough to be used to such things. "Veer off, Boots. Veer off. Watch your periphery. It is what is lurking on your sides that will get you if you are not careful." Tone is corrective but with no real recrimination. She's probably seen Raptors dented worse in her career. "And keep your attention sharp. Cut the music, perhaps." A *hint* of recrimination there. "Unlike the backseat, this is not something your hands know how to do by instinct just yet. Do make sure the cameras got proper footage of that, Sweet Pea." That to Leyla, though still without taking her eyes off Trask. "No better way to learn than to track your mistakes."

Ouch, ouch, as Leyla's jerked around in her harness, but she at least knows enough to go with the flow and moves with the direction of force, rather than against it, at least once she keys in to knowing it's coming. "Of course, Toast." It isn't often that Leyla actually uses Cidra's callsign, preferring the more polite 'Sir', but this is the air, and the rules up here and different from the rules down there. "Skeeter, make sure we save everything from this flight. You got the hit, yeah?" Which, she has no doubt the ECO was going to do, but Cidra did say make sure. Skeeter gives a bob of her head. "I got it, no problem." Likely the blonde could and would say more, but Cidra's here.

Rattled physically (and perhaps a bit confidence wise), Trask veers off, decidedly peeved. That hurt… although it's mostly his pride that is bruised. The humming ceases, his mouth settling into a harsh line.

Cidra actually smiles a touch when her callsign is used. Though, not facing Leyla, that can't be seen. She tends to use callsigns with her pilots and ECOs rather than rank, for her part. And the few inclined to call her by her given name have all lived to talk about it. Not that she's dwelling on titles at the moment. "Just concentrate, Boots. Take your time. Look around, get a sense of the starfield. Piloting is about *feel* as much as what the instruments are telling you. Finding the right marriage of speed and precision to get you where you need to go…almost feels like you are one with the ship when you hit it right. No finer feeling in the worlds that I have found." And there is absolute rapture in her tone as she talks of flight. In the cockpit Toast is all understated competence rather than artistry, which can fool one into thinking she's just workmanlike about her flying. But that's a mistake. There's nowhere she's happier than in the front seat of a Raptor. "This is a better course, just keep us clear of debris on your approach. Nice…and…slow…"

With Skeeter on top of the blackmail—-ahem, flight footage, Leyla returns her attention to the pilots working up front, and the new course Boots is plotting, allowing Cidra to speak first, before she offers, still patiently, as she always is when she's been in the sims with Boots, "The speed will come. So will instinct. Just trust that you can do what you need to do, and eventually you will." It's so new age. The power of visualization.

Nice and slow isn't so easy for a bull who's been blindsided. It's more than a matter of pride — the man has deep-seated control issues. It's not the first time he's had to apply himself to learn a new skill, let alone become adept. Apart from a stormy expression, Trask takes his lumps in silence, exhaling deeply through the nostrils. Tilting his head this way and that, shoulders roll as though he were physically shrugging off what's bothering him. "Let's try this again," he nigh-mutters, "but without hitting anything."

"Try approaching from a little high as you go around. You have a cleaner path… see. Just a notch up and veer port, and you will weave it fine," Cidra says. If Trask is out of his element, she's right in hers next to him. Moreso, honestly, than she's been anytime Trask has seen her since she took command of Cerberus' Wing, even before Warday. "Clear eyes and steady hands."

"Remember when we talked about looking at every angle, thinking three, or four, or five steps ahead before you go in? This is one of those cases." Of course, it's faster once you get the hang of it, but it still bears mentioning. No more scratching of her pen though, as Leyla settles in to watch the approach.

Shifting trajectory, the ECO SL in the pilot seat does as instructed, this time pointedly checking his peripherals. Somewhere between going from side-to-side to front, he instinctively glances at the DRADIS. It's a difficult habit to break, although he's made great strides in doing so. "Remind me to remind Jugs that she's ruined my life," he idly quips. (As if he would need reminding for such a thing.) Fair enough, if he were not leading the Harriers, he wouldn't be behind the stick because he wouldn't have sought to earn his flight qualifications. It is what it is, though, and he's not the sort to ever slack on his duties. If he's going to lead a squadron, he's going to learn how to think and react like a pilot. That's all there is to it.

"That is the way, yes. Navigate the periphery. Like Sweet Pea said. Three steps ahead for now. We will get you to five. DRADIS is a wonderful thing but you get close like this and your eyes are better." Cidra leans forward in her seat as they approach the little cruiser, smiling with anticipation. "Try to hook it on its underside. Keep going, thirty seconds on this course and you will have a perfect angle. Just be ready to nab it…"

Leyla's mouth opens, and she has to physically bite her tongue, to keep herself from calling over to Skeeter to prep the grappling cable. The problem with being a pilot, is that you never stop being a pilot, even from the back seat. At least, Leyla hasn't. But then, she's no Cidra. At least she doesn't reach over like there was a console button to push. It's progress, slow and steady, for both herself and Boots.

Three steps ahead… three steps ahead… Whatever are those steps? Taking into account what he sees with his own eyes, factoring in angle and velocity, and then accounting for the debris and drift, Trask does his best to anticipate what to expect and the best way to circumvent trouble. "Right," he says, those thirty second dwindling closer to zero, "Release on my mark, Skeeter."

<FS3> Trask rolls Raptors: Bad Failure.

"Watch it Boots, you are coming in rather high," Cidra says, eyes narrowing at something in Trask's approach vector. Not that she stops him from getting the cable released. If it misses, the glacial-for-Raptor pace they're going, it'll be nothing worse than another jolt and starting back around again for another slow pass. Still, she braces herself in her seat.

Silent as houses in the back, is Sweet Pea, eyes glued to the front viewport, the fact that both of the pilots up there have their back to her doing a good job of masking the wrinkled up quality her features get, just as Boots goes in for his attempt to retrieve the little blasted space ferrari. The pad of paper is tucked up under her leg, before she settles into the attempt.

"Frak," is muttered, for Bootstrap is well aware that he missed his mark. The jolt that follows confirms his conclusion. Were he the egomaniac he's so often accused of being, he'd be embarrassed to be faring so poorly. Instead, he's just pissed off and more determined. Without a further word, he attempts a second pass, this time lower than the last. "Again, on my mark."

The second pass is even more off the mark than the first one. They almost collide with more debris, in fact. Still, everybody lives. "Do not forget to watch what is ahead of you as well as the periphery, Boots," Cidra says. All of patience, for her part. She could, and probably figured on, doing this all day. He finally hits just the right position on his third pass, however, and will indeed be able to grapple the space ferrari. Still has to tow it home, but it's doubtful Cidra cares much if the thing gets dented. At least it was grappled.

There's a slight wince, from the peanut gallery, visual, rather than audible, as the second attempt goes off the mark. It's really not that Sweet Pea is upset by the failure, so much as that she wants her student, which Boots is, to do well. Finally, third time is the charm, and Skeeter gives the all-clear for retrieval, once the former playgirl's toy is grappled. "Pull it in close enough that it doesn't go drifting off when you turn for home, not close enough, that if you have to stop, it won't." And end up hitting you in the backside.

<FS3> Trask rolls Raptors: Success.

At the very least, this entire qualification process will probably result in the ECO being less snarky with the pilots he flies with. Newfound appreciation and all that rot. "Look at that," Kal kids, "I've managed to overcome my disdain for the exorbitant indulgences of the oligarchy." Such a feat demands that he break out the big cubit words. Handling the grapple proves to not be the problem. "Now to get this frakkin' thing back to the bitch relatively intact." Insofar as it currently qualifies as intact.

"You got it done, Boots," Cidra says, her own tone satisfied. "Not so pretty, but pretty comes later. You are coming along passably. I would like you to get another six hours of flight time in vacuum this week before you start partaking in our atmospheric runs. Most find operating in atmosphere rather more rigorous though, given your record, I suspect it shall actually be simpler in some ways for you. I would like you to make some of the planetary runs as a pilot during our time on Tauron, though I will not slate you without a co-pilot, or a fully qualified stick in the backseat."

"I'll try to clear my schedule," Leyla offers. After all, she is the one who's 'flown' with Boots the most often. Might as well be the one to keep it going along, "While we're out, we could possibly be useful, looking for any ships which might be salvageable, that we could use with the civilian freighter, to cut down on the need for our raptors to pick up the slack there." She can't help it. She's always thinking ahead. It's a fatal flaw. "I know a couple of the pilots from the Elevens and the Providers who would pitch in, if we needed."

<FS3> Trask rolls Raptors: Good Success.

With a smirk and a snort, Trask points out to the pilot in back, "Your schedule is what I make it." To Cidra, he then says, "I'll see about clearing /my/ schedule for those six. The rest can be folded into standard operations." Which includes doing the useful stuff Sweet Pea suggested. During the course of the conversation, the man slips into a certain auto-pilot mode. Perhaps the edge and stress have been taken off with the acquisition of the Barbie space roadster. Whatever the reason, the SL is in the proverbial zone, even picking up some speed. "So, are we actually towing this home or what?" After all, there is plenty more practice to be had.

"I thank you for the ride, Boots," Cidra says. And she means it, too. Bumpy as it was in some places, she clearly enjoyed every minute of it. "Sweet Pea, make a note to have him work on purely visual navigation when he has a bit more confidence with the stick. Best do it planet-side, where the skies are clearer of refuse. And yes, Boots. Tow it home." And she settles in for the ride back.

"Alright then, Mr. Fancy Pants." Yes, there's definitely humour in Sweet Pea's voice, as she answers Boots' rightful assertion that he makes her schedule and not the other way around. The pad of paper she pulls back out, making a few more notes, "DRADIS free in atmosphere, got it." Oh, the pictures she'll be selling on the under—ahem. "I think perhaps the CAG likes the colour pink, Boots."

"Fancy Pants?" Bootstrap scoffs. "What happened to Bitty Britches?" He's capable of making a joke at his own expense. Although, today, he's anything but too big for said britches.

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