Last Ride Of A Sabre Pilot
Last Ride of a Sabre Pilot
Arc: Cole's Gone
Summary: Cole leads an impromptu strike against a well guarded convoy. Will they succeed? Will the pilots survive the encounter?
Date: 2659.114
Related Logs: None
Participants: Cole, Paz, Phillip, Walsh, James

It's big!
It's dark!
It's empty!
It's… outer space!

Ok, maybe not quite so empty tonight, as six Confederation fighters make their way through the void, arranged in two three-ship formations, a Stiletto and a pair of Rapiers ahead, and a trio of Sabres behind. The craft skirt the edge of one of the system's numerous asteroid belts, closing in on the location where a long-range patrol reported sighting multiple large Kilrathi vessels.

« Voodoo to flight, we're coming up on the nav point now » Cole comments from inside his Sabre, watching as the navigation screen counts down the distance. « Stay sharp, who knows what we're going to run into out here… from the report we got, it could be anything from a supply convoy to a carrier group », which might just explain the rather conservative strike package that's been sent. Big enough to lay on some hurt, small enough to be expendable.

«Voodoo, Tizona, copy that.» Paz replies settling into her seat a little and double-checking her settings and readouts for any potential trouble signs. «Ozone, Iceblade, say your status, over?»

«Voodoo, Iceblade rogers.» Phillip radios as he pans his head back and forth looking for anything to come appearing from space or the asteroid field. Having already checked his Rapier several times before flight and during, he quickly radios to Tizona, «Iceblade here, my ship is fully pressed and ready for a date.» "Let's just hope that the formatting and reinstall of the firmware and OS the other day cleaned out that weird access point into my fighter," Phillip mumbles to himself.

Monotony is broken by the comms coming to life. Status check requested Walsh checks over his readouts again, just to be sure. Yep. Nothing's on fire. No holes anywhere. «Ozone green.»

And sure enough, the patrol's rather less-than-specific report proves to be accurate, as a pair of Kilrathi destroyers keeping company with a pair of Kilrathi transports soon make themselves apparent on radar. Certainly more firepower than a patrol of a couple Stilettos would have wanted to contend with.

« And there are our targets » Cole comments with a little grin. « Skates, Echo I want you two to clean up the near destroyer. I'll make a run for the far one,» Cole orders his wingmen. « Tizona, if your merry band of miscreants would be so kind as to burn the fighter escort and start on the transports.»

«Copy Lead, Okay, gentlemen, let's go to work.» Paz grins, throttling up and pointing her nose at the nearer of the two escorts. «Iceblade, Ozone, watch yourselves out there.» she cautions, then starts vectoring to put the pipper on her target. "Heeere kitty, kitty, kitty." she purrs, squeezing the double triggers when the 'SHOOT' sign appears in her HUD.

Iceblade quickly spots the lumbering capitals and grins. "Time to give them another bloody nose," Iceblade says to himself. For certainly, the results of every action in this system thus far have been extremely successful. Phillip starts eyeing the two lonesome fighters… wait… "Drakhri! Well better be careful then," Phillip says as he lights the burners for one of the two Drakhri. «Iceblade copies,» he chimes off real quick as he lines up the enemy fighter into his gunsights and lets loose with several volleys of lasers and neutrons while still keeping his eyes out of flak rounds.

Hmm. Transports. Much preferable to the aforementioned carrier group possibility. Reinforces the fact that the kitties have supplies coming in-system though, unlike the stranded Majestic group. Seems reasonably well guarded though, which suggests they're at least a little worried about having them picked off. «Copy that. Let the fur fly.» He throws the throttle forward, vectoring to intercept one of the fighter escorts.

And in a blink of an eye, things take a turn towards disaster. Kilrathi fire erupts around the three Sabres, blotting one from the sky and landing damage on the other two, with no real damage scored in return. The battle between the fighters doesn't fare much better, with flak from the transports combining with surprisingly accurate fire from the escorts leaving the Confederation craft looking far, far worse for the exchange.

« Christ on a pony » Cole mutters under his breath. « Looks like Skates is out. Echo, I'm coming around on your target, let's see if we can't at least scrap one of these cans before we have to get out of here. Everyone, take care the kitties don't get between you and home, we're going to be leaving sooner rather than later.»

Just as she pulls the triggers, Paz's world becomes a firestorm of laser light as the Ralatha's flak ring comes to ferocious life. "Oh FUCK!" she shouts as her ship is buffeted about like a toy, taking two serious hits before the Lumbari's ring tags her cockpit. Fortunately, it doesn't break her seals, though, as a precaution, she dons her O2 Mask and flight suit seals, viffing what's left of her craft to the side to peer, worriedly at the many, many screens of damage reports. «Flight, Tizona, that damned Ralatha lit me up like a frigging Christmas tree! Try and keep 'em off of me for a second so I can figure out what I can do about it.»

Phillip's rounds manage to connect with the second Drakhri, but Phillip has to put his Rapier through a few twists to avoid all of the flaks. Phillip takes his fighter around and spots Paz's banged up bird, so he cycles to make sure nothing goes after her or the bombers before turning to refocus on the second Drakhri, shooting out several more volleys at it.

Walsh's Stiletto also received the star treatment, though the smaller , quicker fighter is lucky to avoid serious flak hits. He's jostled around in the cockpit and, unsurprisingly, missed his target by a wide margin. He's trying to recover, checking his damage display when the other Drakhri swings around and puts shots across his nose. Going evasive, he directs his fighter to get some distance on the capital ships. Then Paz's voice comes through like a punch to the chest. «Tizona! You alright?» He tries to temper his transmission to convey measured concern, but there's a catch in his voice.

James had been leading of the patrol which had discovered the enemy force, and thus had been listening to the comm chatter carefully. When it was clear that things were not going well he had ordered his wingman home then set course for the battlezone with afterburners blazing.

It's safe to say that, to this point, things are still going rather horribly for the Confederation. An explosion finally blooms along the hull of one of the Kilrathi destroyers, marking a hit… but the rest of the news is rather uniformly bad. More flak tears into the Confederation fighters, though this time there are no more losses… just a few shredded hulls.

« Echo, I'm giving it one more pass » Cole grumbles, even as more of his damage display lights an angry red. « If you think your bird will hold together, head in. If you're too badly beat up, get the hell out of here. » Predictably, the shredded Sabre clings doggedly to Cole's wing, despite its rather clearly desperate state.

Paz does everything she can with what thrusters are still functioning to buy herself time to jerry rig a few ad-hoc repairs, tearing open the parts of the console she can get at in flight to reroute electrical power. At length, and after another brutal full auto from the three capship's flack rings, she's almost flying straight and level again. «Lead, Tizona, I dunno what it's worth, but I'm back in action.» she calls. «Ozone, Tizona, don't worry about me, just keep those damned fighters busy before the bombers get whacked.» she adds. «Iceblade, Tizona, sound off!»

Phillip's rounds fly off into the empty space where the Drakhri had been, however the not-so-empty space where Phillip's Rapier is finds itself really busy with flak, flak and more flak as the transports rip into body and even cockpit of the fighter. "Aack," Phillip yells as the scrapnelle from the flak slams through the window and into Phillip's chest. Phillip goes evasive almost missing laser fire from the Drakhri resulting in a minor glancing blow to the Rapier's body. Phillip cues up a FF and sends it off while weaving and jinking to avoid more flak-based scrapnelle pain. Paz's radio message goes unresponded to for now as Phillip's attention too divided to immediately respond.

James watches what's happening and mutters, "I really need to send a memo out. Note a ratio of one bomber to one Kilrathi capital ship equals one very bad idea." he then cuts in the comm «Hi everyone this is Cutlass I'll try to peel the fighters off your backs but beyond that, no promises.» He dives towards one of the fighters tailing Walsh switching to missiles as he goes. Next he settles his sights over the enemy fighter's engine squeezing the trigger the instant he hears the lockon tone «Cutlass Fox2!»

Walsh dances through the anti-fighter fire, nearly successfully. One burst impacts with his fighter's tail, but he's not too concerned. Glancing about, he seems to be faring much better than the others, even if he's too suppressed to be effective. As to Paz - he damn well /will/ worry about her, whether either of them likes it or not. Weaving like crazy, he takes the opportunity to fire at one of the Drakhri. More of a warning shot than anything, but he's doing something, honest.

And the hits just keep on coming… more flak explodes in the midst of the bomber formation, exploding a second Sabre and leaving Cole's craft looking more than a little worse for the wear. Which is to say, the nose is practically torn off. Walsh's fighter doesn't looks much better, after being tapdanced on by both Kilrathi escorts.

When Cole's comms click back on this time, the Australian's face is obscured by the lowered visor on his flight helmet, the image wreathed in smoke. « Voodoo to flight. Get the hell out of here, we're not doing a damn thing out here except getting killed. » Despite his own order, his Sabre turns doggedly back in towards the Kilrathi destroyers with one last torpedo left hanging from its wings.

«Voodoo, Tizona, we'll leave when you leave.» Paz says sharply, spotting Phillip's badly-damaged craft, she cringes inside.«Iceblade, Tizona, sound the fuck off!» she orders. «Ozone, watch out, you've got a fighter right on your ass, I'll see if I can convince him to break off, but no promises and stay clear of that damned flak ring!»

The Friend or Foe fails to contact. With flak focused elsewhere for a few moments, Phillip manages to get off a quick response to Tizona, «Tiz, Ice, Pain, shakky ship, RTBing.» Phillip takes his ship away from the field of battle being all together useless. All the way out, Phillip tries to avoid the kitties fire and flak.

Walsh notices a decline in the amount of flak in the vicinity of his craft. He doesn't have to ponder this long before the reason becomes apparent — Kilrathi fighters chewing his tail like a fresh steak. Shots biting into the delicate mechanisms lead to a sharp drop in velocity and a rather urgently bitching onboard computer. «Tizona, I've noticed. Trying to shake him!» he says with a mixture of annoyance and concentration.

James grimaces as flak burst explodes nearby sending shrapnal into his craft. He nonetheless manages to stay on his target «Ozone go evasive! It looks like both destroyers are concentrating on you.» A few moments later he establishes lockon «Cutlass Fox 2!»

Gunfire from the Kilrathi ships chases the two retreating Confederation fighters, even as they limp their way safely out of range. In close, the fight continues, with one Kilrathi fighter torn apart by continued confederation resistance… and the last torpedo fired blossoming harmlessly against a destroyer's shields.

Cole's bomber turns away from the heavier ships then, swinging past the transports as he toggles the selector switch for his dumbfire missiles. « Goddamnit you two, what part of 'leave' did you not understand? » Cole snaps at the remaining pair of fighters.

«What part of 'Not until you do' don't /you/ understand?» Paz replies firmly, angling her fighter in best she can to make a pass at the escort closing on Cole's six. «Watch your ass, Voodoo, you got one on your six, low, I'll try and scrape him off. Ozone, you okay out there?»

While weaving and running are not exactly mutually exclusive, doing both does make it more difficult for Phillip. So difficult in fact that during the burst of afterburner thrusts, Phillip finds a few extra hits making contact, a scratch of a nearby flak round from a transport and a very nasty hit from Mr. Drakhri Lead. The Rapier starts going very very shakky now and probably would have fallen to shreds except for one part pilot skill and many parts sheer luck. The Drakhri, however, disappears from Phillip's scanners, but that could also be a glitch in the system due to repeated damage. Just in case though, Phillip keeps weaving and twisting to throw off the aim of the actually dead Kilrathi.

With both destroyers and a fighter gunning for him, Walsh takes the hint and heads for the hills as fast as his intermittently-firing engines will take him. With a slightly panicked edge to his voice, he responds to Paz. «Tizona, Ozone. Been better. Engines are Fu…» Static, followed by a few seconds of eerie silence. Blindsided by flak, his craft's electrical system briefly gives out. He's reaching for the ejection handle when power restores itself, but holds off, unwilling to ditch the craft unless he absolutely have to. Meanwhile, it will take some precious time for the onboard systems to reboot.

James is preparing to break off when he notes the last bomber making another run. «Tizona this is Cutlass. I'm a little behind you. Hopefully between us we can fry the fighter at least. And remind me to write a long note about how to properly calculate the size of a strike force to our higher ups once we're home.» While he speaks he achieves lock on and sends his last missile towards the enemy.

The result of Voodoo's attack on the Kilrathi transport, of pushing the attack just one attempt too far, were certainly predictable. Likely as much so for the victim as for the observers. The dumbfire missile streaks clear of his bomber, even as flak turrets from three Kilrathi capital ships swivel to line up the craft simultaneously. Cole's parthian shot flies wide, even as spheres of energy burst around the ruined Sabre. One moment, the craft hangs in space, illuminated by the torrent of fire directed its way, the flashes of energy reflecting oddly off the bare silver hull.

The next moment, the craft is simply gone.

«Voodoo! Voodoo! Sound off!» Paz shouts into the radio, frantically scanning the space around where Cole's ship used to be for any sign of an ejection pod. «Cutlass, Ozone, Voodoo is tango uniform, do either of you see an eject pod? Repeat, do you see an eject pod?»

James kicks his scanners to full power searching for an ejection pod while running his craft through the craziest array of evasive maneuvers he can manage since he has ended up at the top of the kilrathi force's target list. «I'll do what I can Tizona but I'm a little busy to put it mildly.»

After what felt like several minutes, but was really about half-a-minute, Phillip levels out and makes way for home. He checks his sensors and the radio and hears the calls for Voodoo's ejection pod…. and none being detected. "Oh God….aggrr… not Voodoo. Come on, please have ejected!" Phillip says inside his cockpit through gritted teeth and sharp and increasing pain with the reduction in adrenaline.

There's no response to the calls over the comms, no smartass remark delivered in an Australian accent this time. Just dead silence. The last two Confederation fighters pull away, even as the Kilrathi ships likewise begin to withdraw from the area, before a follow-up strike can be summoned by the fleeing craft. The battlefield, such as it is, is left to the scattered remains of three broken Confederation bombers.

Paz tries to keep scanning, but any idea of that is lost the instant her threat receivers tell her she's about to get lit up again, and then it's juke, viff, vector, hope and pray until the lightshow's over! "Jesu Christo! Fucking Ralathas!" she growls, scanning again visually as she keeps up her evasive pattern. «Cutlass, Tizona, you are one lucky bastard, my friend.» she calls. «Ozone, Tizona, if you can hear me get the hell out of here and check on Iceblade while you're at it.» she orders. «Cutlass, looks like the Fuzzy Wuzzies are bugging out. I've got…..four zero hundred kilos of fuel remaining, gonna make a couple more passes and see if I can pick up anything.» she says, switching on her transponder to scan for Confed signals. "Come on, Voodoo….where the hell are you?" she says, feeling a mounting coldness building in her chest.

Phillip slows his Rapier down partially to allow his scanners to remain in range and also to avoid putting further unnecessary stress on the space frame. However, they are picking up nothing at all from the area. Heck even the other Confed ships are not exactly constant signatures on his scanners. Feeling somewhat crest-fallen, Phillip finally radios, «Tizona, Iceblade here. Ship is really beat up. Scanners are wonky, and I got something shiny and sharp in my chest that hurts like hell.» As soon as the transmission is cut, Phillip shouts out in pain.

Walsh is entirely focused on not pounding his VDUs into a fine powder as he waits though the full power-up cycle. He is oblivious to anything that might have happened since his comms cut out. In fact, his next immediate worry is that the sudden loss of power may have destroyed his onboard navigation data. Of course, with his engines damaged as they are, that might not be the biggest problem.

Paz burns as much fuel as she thinks is prudent in search of Cole, that cold feeling growing to encompass her whole body as both visual and sensor sweeps come up empty. «Flight, Tizona,» she starts to say, then has to turn off the mic to let out a heaving, shuddering sob. It takes her a few seconds to regain her composure. «RTB.» she commands flatly. «Iceblade, you've got a medkit in your cockpit, if it's not tango-uniform, slap a trauma patch on, we'll let 'em know to have medics standing by when you trap.» she calls, trying to maneuver her increasingly bitchy Rapier over to inspect Walsh's silent craft.

Phillip pulls the medkit out and does some patchwork on the injury to keep it from getting any worse. Afterwards, he checks his nav computer and autopilot systems to make sure they are functional, which seems to be the case. Phillip finally radios back with pain-muted anger, «Tizona, we'll get them back for this. For all of the pilots we have lost here in this God-forshaken system. *WINCE* You can count on it.»

James mutters a curse then cuts in the comm «Ozone contact the Majestic and have them get an S&R flight out here. Tizona Stilletos just weren't meant for this kind of work and I probably took a few hits that cooked something in the sensor package so don't worry. I'm sure Voodoo transmitter just got fired or something,» he offers trying to encourage the rest of the group as best he can.

With Walsh's computer system finally back in shape, and, just as feared, lacking nav data, he checks in. «Ozone to flight. Ozone to flight. Can you hear me?» He's completely out of touch with the current drama, having missed the comms chatter.

«Ozone, Tizona, reading you five by five.» Paz calls, blowing out a sigh of relief she didn't know she'd been holding. «Are you good to trap?» she asks. «Iceblade, relay Cutlass' SAR mission if you can.» she instructs, bringing her wounded bird in as close as she dares for an inspection pass on Walsh's ship. «Cutlass, watch our tails, the Fuzzies may have bugged out for now, but there's a good chance they'll be back.»

James replies, «Acknowledged, Tizona dropping back now.» Then cuts his throttle a little so if worse comes to worse he can give the flight a little more warning. Once in place he matches throttle with the flight and begins running the repair systems for his fighter.

Phillip sighs regarding the nasty situation they are in, «Iceblade copies.» Phillip switches to get in contact with the Majestic, but the other pilots can hear the transmission as well, «TCS Majestic, this is Bravo Flight. Request Sierra-Alpha-Romeo at Delta-Tango strike location. Three Bravo Charlies down, no pods detected. No bingo on Deltas or Tangos.»

A few seconds pass before Bravo flight receives a response. On the screen, is the Amber-haired visage of Lt. Murphy. Her face is clearly showing some sadness and concern. «Bravo Flight, this is the Majestic. Several Sabres and Rapiers are inbound on your location. ETA 30 seconds. Hopefully they will have better luck in the search. Return to base Bravo and Omnicron flights. Majestic out.» The comm officer radios to Paz’s Bravo and James’ Omnicron flights.

Walsh lets out a sigh of relief at finally being back on net. «Tizona, Ozone. Should be good to trap, I think, if my engine holds out.» Then, Phillip sends out his call for SAR, and the information filters through his brain. «Wait… we lost the Sabres??» With a quiet, shaky voice he adds, «No pods?»

«Iceblade, Tizona, status report.» Paz calls out, voice sharper than she means it to be. «I need a go no-go assessment for the trap.» she says. «Talk to me, little buddy.» she adds, encouragingly. «Flight, Lead, Cutlass, good job on rear-guard. Ozone, throttle up a little and let's get home. This bird's turning bitchy.» she says, and finds herself more involved with thruster and power settings than she's comfortable with as her ad-hoc repairs start to come back to haunt her. «Focus, Ozone!» she calls, viffing away from Walsh's craft 'lest her unstable bird have a mid-air with his, because they've got troubles enough. «Majestic, Tizona, be advised, strike package on return flight.» she calls. «I've got some very wonky birds out here, request barriers for the trap and medics on deck for Iceblade, repeat, medics on deck. Iceblade's leakin', folks, help him out. ETA, one zero minutes.»

Like Phillip could easily forget the sharp pain in his chest. «Tizona, Iceblade. The fighter is rather structurally damaged. I can probably land her if I take it nice and slow and don't get bumped too much on my way down.» Course one good bump could turn his sharp chest ache into a super sharp, unbearable pain that knocks him unconscious.

Walsh tries to keep his focus, but with the latest shock added to the weight he's already carrying on his shoulders, it's a tough task. He inches his throttle forward, looking for a sweet spot on the upper limit between mind-numbingly slow and ridiculously unstable. "Focus", he repeats to himself aloud, like a mantra, but it's Paz's call that echoes back in his mind. Kind of counter-productive, really.

James cuts back on his engines to save fuel and watches the area where the rest of what remains of the flight goes in for a landing «Good luck everyone.» he wishes over the comm before whispering a short prayer.

«Copy that, Iceblade, just take 'er down easy. Barriers are up, so don't sweat it much. Ozone, Cutlass, how are you two doing?» she inquires, pushing her stuttering, bitchy bird back towards the barn. «One fiver minutes until we hit the pattern, how's that for a pick me up?» she calls, trying to sound optimistic.

«Iceblade *cough* Ouch, copy that.» Phillip radios back to Tizona as the fighters slowly close to the Majestic's position.

Under better circumstances, Walsh might have been tempted to twist 'pick me up', but his heart just isn't in it. «I'm getting there.» he says sounding distant. Five minutes. And then what? He's got to tell her. At this point, who cares what the rest of the universe thinks.
James continues watching the distance to the carrier shrink and as they closes starts running detailed scans of the other fighters in the flight trying to find some advice he could give to make the landings easier.

«Bravo Flight, Majestic, we have you inbound at one fiver four mark one one zero.» The Majestic's LSO calls out. «Come to heading One one niner mark zero one four. Pattern is clear, trap whenever you’re ready. Be advised, the Barrier is up and Medics are standing by for any wounded.»

«Majestic, Lead, copy that, coming to one one niner mark zero one four…Iceblade, you're up first.» she calls over the comm. «Ozone, Cutlass, who's beat up worst between you?» she asks, ignoring the fact that her ship doesn't really seem to want to obey her commands, bucking wildly with misfiring thrusters. She's got a squad to land. The rest can wait.

«Roger that Tizona.» Phillip lines his fighter up nice and ridiculously slowly. A little twitch, and tweak. «On the ball *cough* Majestic.» That cough resulted in the fighter tilting down a bit. A few readjusts here and there and the fighter is lined up and nice and tight on the lines. Uh oh another cough..*cough*…This time, though, Phillip was prepared for the cough, so the fighter didn't get off the lines too significantly. And touch-down, bump bump. "OUCH!" Throttle off. Eject off. Shut down. Phillip out… as in unconscious.

James looks over his status displays and says «I'm fine. I managed to get patches or reroutes on the worst of the damage so I can wait until everyone else has landed before going in Tizona.»

«Copy that, Cutlass. Walsh. you're up.» Paz calls, «Just another day at the office, Ozone.» she says encouragingly. Meanwhile, Paz's own ship continues to misbehave, leaving her busier than a one-armed man at an ass kicking contest to keep it under control.

The violent red on Walsh's displays, the performance of his propulsion, and the fact that his electrical system could give out again at any moment suggest that he's probably next in line. «Copy that. I guess I'm next then.» As he lines up for approach, he tests his throttle again to find the best compromise to compensate for wildly fluctuating engine power. Luckily the rest of the craft is responding reasonably well. All in all, a sudden burst of thrust at the last moment makes for a heavy landing, but not disastrous. He brings the craft to a halt, and slumps in his seat, relief mingling with a cocktail of other emotions.

It takes medics and crews a full-minute get Iceblade out of the cockpit and onto a gurney. The Rapier meanwhile is hooked up to the tow and when Phillip is finally away from the fighter, the Rapier is towed away to allow for others to land or more specially crash land. Just as the area is clear, Walsh's fighter makes its successful landing. Weiss is definitely not happy today as he watches the landings from flight control.

«Okay, two down, one to go. Cutlass, Tizona, your shot.» Paz calls smoothly over the radio. «Majestic, Tizona, please advise on Iceblade's status.» she calls. Then her ship gives a funny little ~bump~ and the damage relays start spooling again. "Aw shit, not now…not now." she growls, stabbing at her thruster pedals and leaning hard on the etheric rudder.

The LSO officer radios to Paz, «Iceblade's fighter landed without incident, but he must have lost consciousness afterward. He is presently on his way to medbay.» In the background of that transmission can be heard the angry grumblings in what sounds like German. A few seconds later, the LSO radios James, «Two-two-one-foxtrot-sierra-fiver. Maintain your current approach. You have the ball Cutlass.»

James responds, «Understood beginning landing now though I think you should have gone first Tizona.» He guides his craft in carefully doing his best to compensate for the damage he had taken «Rodger that, beginning landing sequence.» After a few minutes and one near disaster when a hydraulic system blew during approach James's Stiletto slides into it’s designated landing zone and it's pilot sighs in relief.

After James lands, the LSO operator radios Paz, «One-Zero-Eight-Seven-Foxtrot-Sierra-Oner, you are cleared for approach. And there is a little German here who says if you crash, you will have to pick up the pieces.» The female LSO gives a wry smirk with that last part.

«Copy that, Cutlass, but it's my job to get you back home.» Paz replies, literally having to kick her bird into the assigned vector. «Roger, that, Majestic, tell him I'll buy the aquavit if I fuck up. This is One Zero Eight Seven-Fox Sierra seven….on approach….I have the ball.» she calls, throttling up for a standard landing. What happens next isn't quite so pretty as before, but it keeps her out of the barricade. «Tizona down, and…clear…Throttle down to safe, Eject…off…engines off , fuel off, mags off. Weapons to safe.» she calls out.

Gathering the willpower to leave the cockpit, Walsh pops his canopy and trudges down the ladder. He fixes any of the techs or ground crew that tries to approach him with a willful glare and pushes straight past. Not in the mood, even for standard procedure. That being established, the crowd falls back a little. He raises his head and begins scanning. There's a Tizona in here somewhere, and he's got something he needs to do.

James climbs out of his battered fighter and pats it carefully before beginning to make his way toward Paz and Walsh's damaged craft to see how his fellow pilots are doing.
"Well, that was….." Paz sighs wearily, hauling herself out of the remains of her ship. Her crew chief is on his way for the traditional post-fiasco confrontation, but she silences him with a freezing glare. "Not now, not later, matter of fact, Chief, not /ever/." she says firmly, shouldering her way past the man.

There! Walsh spots Paz and notices she looks about as pleased to see her chief as he was. Well. Get over there and get this off your chest. He breathes deeply and heads toward her, doing his best to dodge the incessant clipboard-wielders as he goes.

James looks at the crew chief and says "I know I know. I'll be down to help with the repairs later. Just not today," in a drained tone before resuming his journey towards the rest of the pilots who had returned from the battle.

Paz dodges the clipboards as well, looking around for the deck officer. "We lost all three Sabres." she reports simply. "Two KIA, I forget their call signs, and Voodoo is MIA or dead." she says, voice devoid of emotion. "Who laid this half-assed op?" she asks. "Who was the dipshit that thought a strike package this tiny could handle three capships?"

Taylor enters the recovery deck and looks around for the 4 surviving pilots.

With nervousness building rapidly, Walsh approaches Paz. Arriving behind her mid-rant, he stands in an agonizing wait for an opening. Finally sensing that it's as good a time as any, he taps her gently on the shoulder. Quietly, with heart racing, he manages, "Tizona … Paz…" He looks to the deck. Perhaps his boots caught fire? "I need to talk to you…" He tries his hardest to fight the losing battle against the rosy red pigment flushing his cheeks.

James is making his way towards the other pilots at a brisk pace. The angle he's coming in at lets him see Walsh's red cheeks and he utters "What the hell?" softly before his brow furrows as he debates internally. It's just as he's about to ask a question that he notices the Wing Commander closing and his veins fill with icewater.

Taylor peers through the mess of tech and fighters moving about. There are so many about the deck that it takes the Colonel over a minute to spot them. At which point he strides over to their location. He can't quite hear them yet with all of the noise.

Paz doesn't spot the WinCo, and, to be perfectly honest, barely spots Walsh as she continues to try and interrogate the deck officer. From the tone of her voice, the bamboo shoots and pliers may be coming out any second now. Angry Paz is angry, and, being a Captain, she finally has the joy of being able to take her anger out on the first poor schmuck butter bar that comes along. Then Walsh blushes and she fumbles, mid-sentence. "Wh…what do you want to talk about, Ozone?" she asks, arcing an eyebrow and taking an involuntary half-step back.

Oh dear god. Somehow Walsh had envisioned this going better. And less public. Glancing side to side, he swallows hard. "I… er…" He closes his eyes for a moment, and seems to steel himself. "My sense of timing is brilliant as usual." Spoken more like his usual sarcastic manner, but rather sheepishly. He takes another deep breath. "This isn't how I planned it, but I think I just got a large dose of perspective." He forces himself to look her in the eye, fighting the urge to turn and run, probably off the end of the deck. "Thing is…" Well. This is it. Hardest three words in the English language. "I love you, Paz." Time seems to have taken on a whole new dimension, and space has expanded to put light years between them and everyone else.

The Feeling of ice water is soon joined by a flood of dizziness, and horror as James realizes what is happening. Whispering a quich prayer for Murphy to intervene whether comm officer or law creator, he braces for the worst.

Just as the words were coming out of Walsh's mouth, Col. Taylor gets within range to hear them. "Love! Yeah, that is all we need right now. More love. Did you share some of that love with the cats today. Is that why we are now three Sabres shorter. The bomber pilots decide to land on the cat ships for a little get together." Taylor responds sarcastically and derisively. "Captain what in all the levels of hell happened out there! And where is Icemelt."

Paz blinkblinks….feeling time start to slow down in that certain, split-second-before-the-accident kind of way.. "You…wha?" she asks, not precisely blushing, as blushing would require more comprehension than she's capable of at this juncture. Then Taylor starts in, further distorting reality for a moment, which is a good thing, as it scrapes the confusion away. Making a quick 'not now', kind of gesture, she wheels on the man and fixes him with a glare. "Lieutenant Bradford is in medical, sir." she says, voice practically dripping with liquid nitrogen. She doesn't shout, in fact, one might have to strain to hear her. "He sustained a serious chest wound during the attack, /sir/," she adds, spitting out the last bit like an epithet. "I would very much like to know what Hijo estpido - de - a - perra signed off on this boneheaded strike package," she adds, narrowing her eyes in that certain way. "We lost three good men out there, today, /sir/," she all but spits. "For no Goddamned reason that I can possibly conjure. One of them was Voodoo, a man who's been a personal friend for more moons than you have been aboard this portador de mierda del asno de la rata. So, with all due respect, /sir/. Back /off/. /Right now/. I've never struck a superior officer before. I'd sure as hell hate to break that streak tonight. I got a squad mate laid out and a brother to figure out what the hell happened to. You can bitch at me /later/. It sure as hell isn't like I'm going anywhere." And with that, Paz pivots on her heel and stalks back to her ship. "Pull all of the sensor boxes on my ship and Cutlass' ship." she shouts to the techs. "I need sensor data and I need it /now/!"

James had been busily conjuring images of all the disasters which might result from Walsh's declaration. However Paz's words draw him from a particularly vivid image of the Barracks being overrun by a horde of pitchfork wielding bonsais. He turns her way and says, "It's confirmed Voodoo is dead?" in a quiet, and sad tone.

That short fuse Walsh is known for? Yeah. Even that might have been short-fused. Sudden alarm at the recognition of Taylor's voice changes to rage in an instant. Only a deep instinct for self preservation and the calming effect of Paz's presence prevents him from assaulting the man with murderous intent. If glares could kill, his would be antimatter. It's fortunate that Paz got the jump on handling the situation — No good could possibly come from the outburst brewing in Walsh's head. With her much more level-headed response saying everything he would have said, but in a way less likely to lead to a firing squad, he is left to growl incoherently.

Taylor maintains a stern look on his face keeping his eyes on the Captain and her limbs. All the while, he is thinking and formulating his words carefully. He responds in a much more even-keeled tone as Paz stalks away, but his voice is slightly raised in volume to be heard over the den and distance to Paz. "Captain. We had to hit those ships with whatever we had available. If you guys had held been able to hold on a little longer, a second strike package would have been there to take the heat off. Look, I know you guys have known Major Cole for quite some time and I'm sorry he did not make it back to the carrier…" Taylor pauses wondering if he should tell them something that may yet turn out to be false.

"Nothing's confirmed yet, Cutlass." Paz replies firmly. "There's no body, so there's nobody fucking dead," she says with a real edge on her voice. "Second strike package, yes, sir." she says, turning to meet Taylor's eyes, her own flashing. "Stop standing there, Ozone," she says to Walsh. "Confession's not until 0800," she notes, arcing an eyebrow up just enough to let him know she heard him before. "Sir, with your permission, we need to get this sensor data out and start going over it. I didn't personally /see/ Major Cole eject, but there was kind of a lot going on at that time. We've got a SAR mission out, if there's anything to find, they need to know about it."

James nods to Paz and reaches out to pat her shoulder, "I'm sure Voodoo will be fine Tizona." he says in as certain a tone as he can manage before turning back to the Wing Commander, "What were those things carrying that was so vital that sending three bombers into the teeth of a pair of destroyers was considered an even remotely good idea when a few minutes would have allowed a combined strike sir?”

As reality starts to snap back around him, Walsh, yet again, feels like he's looking upon the aftermath of a cataclysm, which is not far from the truth. As his anger deflates, he literally facepalms and shakes his head, not quite willing to believe this is actually happening. The rollercoaster ride has left him exhausted.

Taylor sighs and peers back at Paz for a brief second with eyes lensing an analyzing mind. "Captain, Lieutenants. There is nothing further the SAR team needs. They've already sent back some images of the debris and picked up the remains of all of the bodies they could find. Presently, Intel is going over the images and…" he trails off not sure he wants to give these pilots any false hope. James' question goes unanswered for now.

"Wait…." Paz says, cocking her head a little and trying to ignore the sinking feeling in her gut. She's heard this sort of thing before, with another close friend, not nearly so long ago as it feels. "Lifepod ejected, but not found, sir?" she asks simply. Best to get on the table now.

James begins muttering a long string of curses, some in languages that only existed in books as he puts together just what Paz is thinking might have happened.

Taylor looks at Paz, "Maybe. Initial analysis of the debris images found the remains of one of the Sabre cockpits with the possible markings of an ejection; however, they can't identify which Sabre that cockpit belonged to. We won't know who ejected if anybody until the SAR flight returns with the cockpit and the human remains."

Walsh is about done. With a strangely neutral, almost bored-sounding tone, he says "Look, mate. Couldn't you have just said that, and saved the twenty questions? We were all nearly corpses too. You think we might have the right to know what happened to our friend?" In his state, he really couldn't care less about rank or protocol. This is communication on a purely human level.