Junk Squad
Junk Squad
Arc: Missile Troubles
Summary: Paz leads Phillip, James, and Walsh on a mission to retrieve a fighter from the recent engagement zone, but does the mission go off without a hitch?
Date: 2659.099
Related Logs: Bad Missile Discussion
Participants: Paz, Phillip, James, Walsh

Not for the first time since Meat Grinder took over the 27th Wing, Paz blesses God Almighty for a WinCo with actual, factual /instincts/. As much as she came to respect Pip, and still does, his somewhat staid style often chafed. Meat Grinder's a totally different animal. It took her precisely five minutes of explaining her theory for the man to be on the growler phone with the deck, ordering a flight to be assembled. Cole's enthusiastic backing didn't hurt either, even if it was only in the form of a post-it note, reading something along the lines of 'Colonel, she's crazy, but she's been right before', and a red sheet for the loan of One (1) Sabre. Alas, he cannot spare personnel, for reasons that the WinCo understands more than Paz. Hell, if he hadn't been in the middle of planning something, odds are, Meat Grinder would be riding shotgun with her. As it is, the Sabre is Paz's for the duration. As for the others, how they got here's up to them to explain!

James had been talking to his new CO trying to convince them to run with Paz's request for escort fighters when the Wing Commander's order to assemble a flight came down. Within a few moments of that James was hurrying for the flight deck and climbing into the cockpit of his fighter.

Phillip having arrived minutes before the rest is already in the cockpit of his Rapier with preflight complete. His bird is not now being taxied to the launchers.

Walsh has just arrived -back- from a patrol, when he happens to stumble across the flight preparations of the others. After a few quick words, he arranges to have his bird refueled, and join in. After all, what could go wrong on such an ad-hoc mission, right?

«Okay, those of you now joining our program.» Paz calls over the radio as she dons her flight suit, helmet and activates her radio before giving her Sabre a thorough pre-flight. «This hop's code-name Highlight.» she announces. «Our mission is to fly back to the debris field from the previous big damn furball we were all just in and retrieve some broken Fuzzy Wuzzy birds. The theory is that the Fuzzy Wuzzies might have some kind of new jamming gear we don't know about. I'll be using this big-ass bitch to reel a chunk or two of it in. Ice, Cuts, Ozone, your job's simple, if we run into trouble, cover my ass. I got no gunner in this bird.» she explains, completing her pre-flight and clambering into the cockpit. «Not expecting any trouble, mind, but we've all been there before.» she says simply. «Any questions?»

James opens the commline and says, «No but how far from our nearest patrol will this take us?» before beginning to move his craft towards the launch tubes cautiously.

Iceblade listens to the comm as his fighter to set into one of the launcher slots. «Iceblade here, I've got a question. Did Mr. Grinder give you any torpedoes?» Phillip radios.

Walsh is running behind the schedule of the rest of the flight, having to refuel his Stiletto, and get it up to the launch tubes. As the briefing, such as it is, filters through his headset, he gets to pondering. «This jamming stuff, we talking full spectrum noise, or something more subtle? Me and the Rapier flight I rescued the other day were jammed all to shit.»

«Cuts, this one's a solo hop, quick in, quick out. Intel reports no Kilrathi activity in the system since the engagement outside of the usual SAR stuff.» Paz replies, acquainting herself with the Sabre's controls with many small puffs of maneuvering thrusters and manipulations of etherics. «Negative on the tops, also, Ice. They're saving those for something, I'll give you two guesses as to what, but you'll probably only need the one.» she notes. «We don't know, Ozone. All we know's we've had warheads that lost tracking for no apparent reason. It could be nothing, it could be something.» she says with the vocal equivalent of a shrug. «Whatever it is or isn't, I say it's worth a look and the WinCo agrees..» she says simply. «Okay, boys, this one's for the record, Highlight Flight, sound off by the numbers, Highlight Lead, standing by to taxi, board is green.» she intones.

James nods and gives his ship's status readouts a final quick scan before replying, «Highlight Two is ready to go, all systems green.»

«Tizona, Ice, understood. Should be easy enough to avoid the big cats with Stils here.» Iceblade responds to Tizona. «Control, Highlight Three prepped in Launch tube three. All green and ready for launch.» Iceblade radios.

«Highlight Four… uh, stuck in traffic. Bit of a queue for the midships lift. Status green otherwise.» Walsh taps his fingers on his controls, waiting.

«Copy that, Flight.» Paz reports, settling into her couch as she waits her turn.

«Highlight Lead, Highlight Four, you are cleared for midships lift» Flight Control reports a few moments later.

«Highlight Lead, copy clear to taxi to midships lift, And, /rolling/.» she says, goosing the power on the bomber to ease it over to the aforementioned lift. «Control, Highlight Lead is clear for lowering, repeat, Highlight lead, lower away.» she grins into her microphone. "Shit, but I've missed this." she sighs happily. Another crazy-ass mission to the middle of nowhere….Iffy Intelligence on enemy disposition….Weird goal…..It's right up Paz's alley!

James follows Paz's Sabre onto the lifts and closes his eyes taking that few moments to relax before the craft reach launch positions.

The Majestic control radios over the comm giving Iceblade the all clear to launch. «Confirmed control, launching now. Highlight flight, see you soon, Iceblade out.» Phillip radios.

«Copy control. Rolling» Walsh taxis into position on the lift, and as it descends, stretches his back and shoulder muscles to ward off stiffness.

To make a long story short, the ad-hoc collection of Sabre, Rapier, and a pair of Stilettos are cleared for launch, formed up neatly and making the long flight towards the debris field. «Flight, Tizona, keep your eyes open, guys.» Paz radios as she turns her craft towards the next waypoint. «Just because they say there's no activity doesn't mean there /is/ no activity.» she notes, then frowns to herself. "Yeah, like they need you to tell them that shit." she grumps to herself off-mic. "Cause we've /never/ been here before." she says, shaking her head a little as she adjusts her course.

James has had his eyes glued to his scanner since launch though he shakes his head slightly at what Paz says, "Squadron command must be getting to her or something." he mutters under his breath as he matches the Sabre's course change.

«Lead, three, understood. Suggest we go to passive sensors.» Iceblade radios as he flies a little slower than usual on Paz's wing.

Clear space? Out here? Unlikely. «'No activity' is code for 'We're too busy drinking to look for activity, right now' I think.» Walsh says sarcastically. Following the passives comment, Walsh says, «Agree. We don't need to draw attention to ourselves.» He watches his sensors carefully, having had quite enough of being outnumbered and outgunned recently.

Paz lets a chuckle go over the comms before silencing them. «Flight, Lead, copy that.» Paz replies, clearly trying to suppress a giggle even as she keeps her eyes peeled for trouble. «Going dark.» And with that, she kills all of her ship's active sensor systems, trusting her fate to the Sabre's passive gear and the good old Mark One Eyeball.

James replies, «This is Cutlass switching to passives now» even as he hits the required switch followed by a wince as the sensor readouts become much less certain due to the lack of active scanning.

Iceblade double mic clicks and shuts down his Rapier's active sensors and other heavy emission systems. He also switches to short wave radio. That oh so archaic, audio only kind that is really hard to pick up unless you are really close by.

Walsh configures his craft for low-emissions flight: Actives disabled, and short-range comms only. He can't help speaking over the comms anyway though, slightly defeating the purpose. «So, when did we become a branch of special ops anyway?» he says, humor in his voice evident.

«Ozone, Tizona, where the hell have you been the last year and a half?» Paz snerks, then blinks a little as her passives catch a whiff of something. «Flight, Lead, Stilettos, see if you can pin down two marks at one four three mark two one one. They're fuzzy on my screen, but you've got better passive gear.» she says, instinctively giving her craft a little bit more power as she peers at the curious marks. «Be advised, Flight, we are five, repeat, zero five minutes from our destination.»

James smiles at what Paz says then opens the commline «Hang on lead I'm focusing the sensors now.» as he narrows the area the sensors are focusing on trying to get a better read on the blips Paz had reported.

Iceblade shrugs his shoulders a bit to loosen them up. No need to remain tense for the whole five minutes. Even then, there probably won't be anything there. «Lead, Three. Confirmed on ETA» Iceblade radios a quick, audio only reply. Iceblade shifts a little in his seat. Yep, ready for anything and hopefully that anything is absolutely nothing. "Oh god let that radar contact be nothing," Phillip mumbles to himself after hearing it.

Walsh spots the offending blips on his own sensors, and works on increasing passive resolution for that area of space. «Lead, I read two, maybe three contacts in that area. Standby for high-resolution scan.»

«Ozone, Tizona, do not, repeat, do /not/ radiate.» Paz calls, sitting bolt upright in her couch as she begins to realize these aren't phantoms at all. «If you can get a hi-rez passive-like, awesome, if not, don't worry about it. What I really need is range and speed data.» she advises. Like Iceblade, she's keeping to the audio channels only.

James grimaces and begins running the sensor data through his fighter's computer trying to get range, speed, and heading data for the contacts. «It looks like 3 lights at the very edge of range. I'm trying to get the rest of the data now.»

"Oh-kay, well, probably more kitties. Best arm the imrecs." Iceblade mumbles to himself as he readies his missiles for action being sure not to active the targeting computer.

«I agree. Looks like 3x lights. Lots of jitter, so it's hard to get an exact fix, but TMA indicates velocity in the region of 3-400kps.» Walsh taps at his MFD, trying to coax it to spit out more information.

As Highlight Flight continues to bore in towards the debris field of the past weekend's action, the Stiletto pilots, with their advanced passive sensor suites, get a clearer and clearer look at the three dots of light in the distance. As the gap slowly closes, slowly but surely, the become the small, but very distinctive outline of Sartha fighters conducting some kind of sweep. Navigation computers on all Confed craft indicate they're on a parallel course with you, only going spinward, where Highlight is heading more Trailingward.

«Copy your analysis, Ozone. If we can spot them, let's assume they can spot us. Bringing Imrecs on line, but not activating the targeting computer.» Paz reports, «Flight, lead, keep a close eye on those bastards.» she says firmly. «The last thing I wanna get is bushwhacked.»

"Oh, shit, I don't have imrecs…Stupid Sabre." Paz grumbles when she realizes her mistake.

James brings his guns online seeing little point in arming missiles with targeting systems offline, «Copy lead, so far they are still on a mostly parallel course but we'll let you know if that changes.»

Finally Iceblade's radar picks up the targets. Upon hearing Tiz's order, he responds «Tizona, Ice, Understood.» Iceblade keeps one eye to sensors and the specs that are the enemy fighters.

Walsh has his attention largely directed at the scope, but he takes the time to fence in, or as much as possible under emissions control. «Copy lead. Got my nose to the grindstone on my displays here.»

For a few more moments, the three Sarthas continue along their base course, docile as ever. Then something…interesting happens. The flight lead suddenly _stops_, or as close to stopping as he can in space relative to the other two. The other two fighters begin to veer and viff their way into a mock dogfight.

«Flight, lead, what the hell are they doing?»Paz asks, shielding her eyes with her hand as she tries to cover the few thousand miles that separate the two groups. Space that can be eaten up all too quickly if those Sarthas decide to pounce.

James watches the scanner readouts and shakes his head as if he can't quite believe what he's seeing «I think we just stumbled onto a kitty training exercise lead. It looked like their leader must be an instructor and the other two are students.»

Iceblade looks on with silence. The little dots on his screen swirl about each other. Without the targeting computer, Phillip has no means to check if the enemy craft are damaging each other. Iceblade, internally, hopes that what James' says turns out to be true.

Walsh looks up from his instruments to see what's going on. He cranes his neck towards the bandits, and, confused, switches quickly between Mk1-eyeball and sensors, trying to make some sense of the situation. «Hmm. Either that or someone called the other's mother a fleabag or something..»

And around and around they go, where they stop, nobody knows! The two Sartha are really getting into it now, becoming increasingly daring and aggressive as they practice some serious high-angle deflection shooting, no sign of actual weapons being used, though. No smoke trails from missiles, no glitter of kinetic energy weapons, no laser bursts. Just two Sarthas in the mother of all furballs. No pun intended.

"Oh……shit…." Paz says, blood suddenly going cold in her veins as she puts two fingers with two fingers and comes up with four fingers. «Flight, lead, let's get this job done and get it done /fast/.» she calls. «As busy as they are, they probably won't spot us, especially once we're in the debris field. But once we're done, we are going to have to haul ass to get out of here.» she instructs, easing her throttles forward a little further. «Flight, lead, Estimate one minute to debris field entry.» she reports.

James opens a short range comm «Acknowledged lead» as he fights down the urge to swing around and engage the enemy training flight. He keeps a very close eye on them as the small Confederation force nears the debris field though.

Iceblade would have agree with that thought. The cats are probably too occupied in their rough-housing to notice them. «Lead, Three, understood, but staying frosty» Phillip radios as he keeps his senses raised.

«Copy that. In an out.» Nice of the kitties to provide their own distraction, but Walsh would be a lot happier if the sneaking around didn't have to be right under their noses. Training flight maybe, but they sure as hell have comms back to the mother kitty. And that probably wouldn't end well.

Paz isn't exactly dancing about the idea, either, not with all of her training screaming at her to turn around and tear those three flea bags into chum with her guns. But a training flight out here's sending up some major red flags in her head, sufficient that she's perfectly willing to accomplish the mission without any gunplay if possible. «Flight, Lead, heads up, entering the debris field.» she reports, using her thrusters and a bit of etheric to start maneuvering around the bits and pieces of broken ships.

James positions his fighter at the very edge of the debris field watching the blips on his scanner like a hawk, «Copy lead we'll let you know if the swing this way.» After the channel is cut he mutters something under his breath.

Iceblade's Rapier, ever present by Tizona's Sabre, flies into the debris field with slight flares of his shield as small particles of junk fly into it. A twist her and there plus a few nudges allows Phillip to avoid the larger chunks.

Walsh continues along past Cutlass' fighter a small distance and nestles in amongst some debris, dropping his speed to a level that's just enough to avoid any unfortunate collisions. Hopefully if the deflection of his oscillation is right, he'll be in a concealed flanking position. «Flight, Ozone. I have overwatch.»

«Cuts, Ice, Tizona, copy that. Keep your eyes peeled, guys. Okay, Ice, let's go find some kitty litter.» she chuckles over the radio as she cans the debris field for targets. «There….two marks at two one four mark one zero one.» she calls out. «Range about four thousand, slight elliptical pattern to the orbit. Vectoring now.» she reports, slipping her bulky bomber carefully in that general direction, having to veer around larger pieces of debris as she's in an unfamiliar ship.

James continues watching the scanners while muttering curses as the craft continue to stay away from the debris field while the two trainees fly around trying to outmaneuver each other.

«Lead, three copies,» Phillip radios as he adjusts the course of his Rapier to keep with Tizona, but he adds a little bit of distance between his Rapier and her Sabre to allow for greater maneuverability of both ships. Also if either of them have to make a rapid adjustment, they wouldn't end up crashing into each other.

It quickly becomes apparent that sitting -inside- the debris field and watching sensors is not a trivial task, when chunks of metal of various sizes insist on not staying put. Still, Walsh perseveres, while trying to keep his craft as near-stationary as possible.

«Flight, lead, sitrep.» Paz calls, wincing a bit as she veers a bit closer to a rather large chunk of debris than she'd like to in this big ass bomber. «What are our friends doing?» she calls.

No sooner than she does, two more Sartha appear from the same direction as the others.

James replies grimly, «I'm not sure but we have two more coming in. I can't tell if they are joining the first group or not just yet, unfortunately, so stay alert lead.»

Iceblade's head drops a bit. "Oh boy more friends. Now if we have a fight, we will outnumbered. Though outmatched, NAH," Phillip says aloud to no-one as he keeps with Tizona while checking his weak sensor readings.

Walsh misses spotting the newcomers initially, due to some rudder-jockey action dodging some dislodged wreckage. The Stiletto really isn't designed to be flown at a crawl. As the call comes in, with a temporary reprieve from being bludgeoned to death, he switches his attention back to watching the scope.

«Copy that, Flight. Keep your eyes open. This shit's just getting more interesting by the second. Ice, Tizona, I've got about another two hundred to go before I can get a grapple on my target. Once I'm done, we turn around and haul ass out of here. Even money they could be trainees or observers, but let's not take any chances. Even training ships can have guns.» she notes.

Meanwhile, the two Sarthas that were dogfighting have started taking turns being beaten up by the third Sartha. Whoever's driving that thing, he's good. The two newcomers just continue to bore on in, making more or less for a position about a kilometer away from the trainees and their trainer.

«Agreed, ready to bug out when you are.» Iceblade radios rather tensely. Very unusual to be sitting so quietly with cats so close by, but then again this is starting to become a dangerous trend of late. Phillip's mind goes back to what happened earlier this week with the TCS Cook. Anger starts to boil inside Phillip, but he catches himself and breathes in and out a few times. "Oh-kay steady there Ice, keep cool, just stay cool." Iceblade is a little less pissed now and much more in control, ready for anything. Unfortunately that anything could be 5 light fighters … or more.

James says «It looks like the instructor is having fun beating up on the trainees now. The other two look like they're heading about a klick from the training fight, I'm not sure if they are planning to stop there or not yet though.»

Sitting stationary for the moment, with nothing flying in his direction, Walsh has some time to watch the neighbors, and bask in the wonderful spine-tingling sensation caused by trying to hide balls deep in enemy space -again-. «Yeah. Not sure what this other pair are up to, but we have eyes on.»

As the Sarthas keep on keeping on, Paz finds herself positioning herself to make a grapple pass at a primo chunk of debris, a mostly intact Sartha cockpit, «Iceblade, Tizona, deploying grapple.» she calls, frowning with concentration as she tries to stick it on the first pass.

James continues observing the oncoming Kilrathi fighters looking for any sign that the Confederation flight has been detected.

Iceblade pulls his fighter away from the Sabre and loops carefully around back toward Paz. A few twitches and twists later, Phillip slows to halt at a position between the Sabre and Sarthas way off in the distance with his Rapier vectored toward the Sarthas. «Copy that. Holding position as a shield.» He finally radios.

"Aw, fuck off, not now…" Walsh mutters to himself. Among the hazards of sitting in the 'comfy chair' for too long, is the dreaded numb-ass, and it's starting to take hold. Walsh wriggles around, trying to restore some semblance of feeling into his lower extremities, struggling to resist the urge to tell Tizona to hurry the fuck up.

"Come on, come on…." Paz says to herself, discovering just how much fun it really is to try and snag one moving piece of junk in the middle of a few dozen other moving pieces of junk, some of which could do her ship some real damage. The first try misses, ditto the second, cursing steadily to herself, Paz taps the thruster pedals a few times and lines up for try number three.

Meanwhile, in the void beyond, the two new arrivals reach the spot projected by their course and begin to take up a racetrack formation around the two trainees and their trainer. The kittens have brought attack cats to guard them, it would appear.

James opens the commline and says, «The good news is the new fighters are taking up guard positions around the old ones. The bad news is that means they will probably be around for a while.»

Iceblade notes the signals from the two new Sarthas do not increase in strength any further. "Hmm… Must have stopped." Phillip takes a quick glance back to see the Sabre fail to grapple. "Come on Tiz," Phillip says before looking back around and forward. Luckily there isn't too much debris around his ship, but enough to act as a radar clock it seems.

Warning: urge to be smartass reaching critical levels… «The worse news is my buttocks are going to sleep. What's taking so long over there?» Walsh goes all out trying to force some circulation, trying his hardest not to bump anything critical in the cockpit while he's at it.

Predictably, just as she was threading her grapple through the very, very fine needle of weird gravity fluctuations and crazy orbital mechanics, her radio would just have to squelch and distract her, sending her grapple a few meters off target. «Goddammit, Ozone!» Paz growls. «If you think you can do better, feel free to put your seals on and float over and do it yourself.» she growls. «Otherwise, clench your butt cheeks one by one like the rest of us and maintain your fucking station.» she adds. «Jeez, all this time in the Force and you never learned to avoid Couch Ass?» she asks acidly.

As Paz lines up for her fourth attempt, the 'instructor' in the Sartha starts to get a little of his own back as his students begin absorbing the lessons he's taught them. The sentinels keep circling, maintaining their guard.

James checks to make sure that his ship is recording the Kilrathi war games but continues observing silently for the moment.

Phillip gives a sigh and shakes his head. "Godlee Ozone. Keep quiet," Phillip whispers to himself. «Cutlass, Iceblade here. Anything new to report.» Phillip decides to radio.

Rowr! Walsh makes double, -triple- sure he's not transmitting, before bursting into laughter. Oh, the perils of sudden-onset boredom, but Paz really is in her element when she's pissed off. To anyone else, there's no denying he's being a total jackass in this situation, though. Once he's gotten over himself, and cleared his head, he goes back to what he's -supposed- to be doing: watching the fuzzies.

The Fuzzy Wuzzies seem content to play touch me, touch you with their Sarthas as their shepherds stand guard, starting to alter their pattern a little here and there to loop in a spherical shape around their charges, and if they happen to give a trainee a scare, all the better.

"Okay, last try." Paz promises herself, tapping on both etherics and thrusters to line up a last gasp attempt at snagging the bit of debris she's after. «Ice, Tizona, deploying grapple.» she reports tersely, watching the reticule and slowly squeezing the deploy trigger. 500 meters' worth of high-test nanoweave carbon filament attached to a trio of dull, magnetic knuckles. It trails out slowly at first, as Paz adjusts her ship's position, whispering prayers to the Almighty as she tries to do a bit of mental math. And then, /Beep!/ »MAGNETIC GRAPPLE« appears on her screen. She wastes no time spooling in the line. «Ice, Tizona, grapple complete, let's get the fuck out of here!» she calls, and, once her load is stabilized, vectors for the exit. «Flight, Lead, mission accomplished, time to go home. If we can get out quiet, awesome, if not, try not to let 'em shoot me up too bad. I got about a ton of dead weight on my tail, so combat maneuvers are going to be tricky, at best."

James replies to Iceblade's question, «Well the students are starting t score some hits on the instructor and the other two are still watching the fun. Why a training flight rates an escort flight is beyond me though, much less what cat trainees are doing in system.»

«Thanks for intel, Two.» Phillip responds to James. Upon hearing Paz finally get a hook and line but hopefully no sink her; he radios to Paz, «Lead, Three, Roger. I'm on your tail like a tongue to a frozen pole.» Now where the hell did that come from. Not even Phillip knows, but he keeps his fighter at a position to one side of the Sabre at a short distance away being sure to remain in between the Sabre and Sarthas' approximate position.

Oh god. Walsh's depraved mind doesn't need so many suggestive words in one sentence right now. The professional part of his brain prevails, however, and he swats the ideas away before does anything else stupid. «Copy that. Let's get out of here without rousing the playmates.»

Whatever it is they're doing, it's starting to look more like a game of team chase than a training mission. «Iceblade, Tizona.» Paz calls. «Your metaphors kind of suck.» she sighs. One can almost hear her eyes rolling. «Okay, Flight, Lead, got the package, let's amble on back to base and try not to attract too much attention as we go.» she says, voice unusually cautious. «I'll explain when we get home.» she notes. "/If/ we get home." she sighs to herself, viffing and vectoring her way out of the debris field.

It's now or never. Highlight Flight could either A) slip away undetected or B) Get spotted by some Fuzzy Wuzzy pulling a funny maneuver and having the presence of mind to ask 'Hey, Boss, what's /that/?' Such a slender thread….

James sets his stiletto a little forward of the flight's lone Rapier, forward meaning slightly closer to the cat formation as he mutters after making sure the comm is off, "Ok now what the hell are they doing playing team tag in starfighters? What did some cat admiral's kids come to visit so he set this up to get them out of his fur for a while?"

Iceblade still can't believe he said that. What weird imagery. Oh-kay time to stay focused. Phillip actually says a quick prayer they can get out of here without drawing the cats' attention.

Riight. Head back in the game. Hopefully the critters will keep on doing what they're doing for a few more minutes, and pay no attention to the little moving dots in the distance. Walsh is once again flying with his nose buried in his sensor displays, alert for any variance in feline activities.

For one, heart-stopping moment, one of the Sarthas presents itself, bow-on to the retreating Highlight Flight. Four bright, shiny points of light only a few thousand kilometers away, moving purposefully? If they're going to be spotted, it's now or never. But just before the Kilrathi trainee in the cockpit starts to do his sums, the threat receivers in his cockpit start screaming that he's got a missile lock, and he's forced to viff and vector like mad, swearing fluently as he struggles to break the lock. "I will /NOT/ be shot down /AGAIN/!" he growls in his hideous, alien tongue. "I already owe the deck chief a case of whiskey…" he snarls, teeth flashing as he breaks the look smoothly, forgetting about those little, shiny dots in the distance as he vectors for a head-on pass.

For her part, Paz just keeps burning for the waypoint, grumbling about how heavy her ship feels with its cargo. "Stay stupid, kittens, stay stupid." she repeats over and over, mantra like.

James is watching the cats as well muttering, "Come on you have to see us now be good and put two, and two together so we can fry you and your friends now and not have to worry about you another day," with his hand hovering just over the button to switch his sensors to active mode as he fights the urge to press it.

Iceblade sees the strength of the contact increase, and increase quickly. Phillip's heart begins to pound at ever increasing rates while he looks intently at his radar. Then the strength quickly decreases and Iceblade lets out a sigh. "Please stay where you are kitties. Just stay."

Walsh sits in uncomfortable silence as the flight passes the point of certain doom. He feels the self-conscious prickle of all the eyes in the galaxy peering in his direction to expose his position. But the unthinkable happens. The Kilrathi fighters show no outward signs of recognition, or even concern. Just keep doin' what you're doin, guys.

One minute passes, the Kilrathi still more intent on beating each other up than the Confed force sneaking away beneath their noses. Then two, then ten, then twenty….It isn't until thirty have passed and they've reached the first home-bound waypoint that Paz allows herself to take the deep, deep breath that's been stirring in her chest. «Flight, Lead.» she reports shakily. «We're /clear/,» she reports, then gives a sigh of relief so deep, it rattles in her chest. «Somebody check my shorts!» she giggles.

James watches the cats recede in the distance and begins uttering a long string of curses which starts looping after a couple of minutes and continues for most of the way back to the waypoint.

Iceblade, still tense to this point, lets out a big sigh of relief. Not that taking on Sarthas would be a big deal, but no telling what else is nearby and it would be pain to keep them off the Sabre what with it towing that debris. «Lead, Three here, might check them later, but after this, I think I need a drink first.» Phillip radios jokingly but with some relief in voice.

"Gladly." Walsh thinks to himself. Paz's shorts. Yeah. This is followed shortly by his own realization that, holy shit, they made it! «Whew! It's not a job, right? It's an -adventure-.» he laughs, alluding to the age-old recruitment propaganda slogan. «Hell, make that a few drinks.»

Sometime later, Highlight Flight finds itself in the traffic pattern, receiving landing instructions. The rest is easy. Until they're pulled onto the Recovery Deck to find Meat Grinder, leaning against the cross-deck catwalk , glaring down on them. "So?" he asks, not precisely shouting, it's more like his tone is sharp enough to reach out towards the pilots through the deck noise. "What's the story, people?" he asks simply.

James climbs out of the cockpit of his fighter and glances towards the Wingco but waits for Paz to reply.

Phillip signs off for his bird at the base of the ladder, gets a thumbs up from the tech, and is first to walk over to the Colonel. He immediately comes to attention and says, "No scratches or dents and we came back with all our missiles. We got what we came for and the cats were none the wiser." Phillip quickly adds a "Sir" to the end.

Walsh dismounts from his Stiletto and runs through the post-flight ground crew red tape, following the rest of the flight in the general direction of 'anywhere but here'. The WingCo's authoritative voice stops him in his tracks, but he'd rather avoid speaking, lest he put his foot in his mouth again. Baiting Paz might be questionable judgment, but pissing off the head cheese just screams -Bad Idea-.

"Major, we got big time problems, and they're nipping at our heels!" Paz calls out as soon as she can strip her helmet off and makes her way out of the Sabre. "Got reason to believe there's a Kilrathi Carrier near to the position of our last fight, sir!" she reports, snapping off a bit of a salute. "Meantime, sir, we got what we came for, here's hoping we can find what we're looking for." she grins.

"The sure to be fascinating debriefing of Highlight Flight will begin in exactly twenty minutes." Meat Grinder replies evenly. "You've all got that long to shit, shower and shave, as well as connive whatever bullshit story you're going to feed me." he adds, smirking just enough for it to be seen as a joke. "/MOVE/!"

Phillip gives a quick and ridge salute and spouting off a quick "Yes, sir" before racing off for the lift to get showered and changed into more traditional dress.