I Now Pronounce You Kai and Timon
I Now Pronounce You Kai and Timon
Summary: Episode I of the award-winning buddy film series.
Date: PHD124
Related Logs: Respect and Good Enough

0750 hours and Kharon's hangar bay is doing its best impression of controlled chaos, all of it revolving around a pair of Vipers and a single Raptor parked near the center of the room. The pilots for the former are already in place: one's going through her pre-flight checklist as her crew prepares her bird for departure; the other is ensconced inside his cockpit, having finished that messy but necessary process a few minutes quicker than his wingman. Three black fuel lines stretch from planes to pumps, their rubberized skin throbbing under pressure, and four uniformed crewmen lift heavy metal rounds from steel-grey magazines into their charges' waiting KEWs.

In the eye of the storm is one Timon Stathis, seated at Foxbat-4's ECO station with flight helmet in one hand and a set of diagrams in another. He's testing her auxiliary systems one by one, flicking switches on and off with remarkable precision for somebody whose usual job puts him at the other end of the craft. As far as he can tell, all her lights are green: this ship is good to go.

The raptor's erstwhile pilot, of course, is none other than one Captain Broody Face, grumpypants extraordinaire, otherwise known as the CAG. He heads down the stairs at a clip, and navigates through the very centre of the wasp's nest that is the deck on the cusp of a CAP going out. He's still on time, if cutting it close; the digital clock on the wall reads four minutes until skids up. Sparky's greeted with a curt nod as he passes by the pilot's cockpit, and Bangbang with a twitch of a smile for her broad grin in the midst of going over her checklist. "Lieutenant," suffices as a 'hello' for Timon, as he begins his walkaround of the raptor.

"Morning, Captain." Ivory doesn't bother turning around, his hands dancing over the keyboard as he speaks. Lines of green text scroll up the screen before him, cataloguing the modifications and corrections he's making to the Raptor's onboard maps. It takes a moment for him to get through the list — five items total, none of which are brief — but his efforts are soon recognized by a white text box that pops up to tell him that 'CALIBRATION IS COMPLETE'. By then, Timon’s already on to the next task: Foxbat-4's DRADIS system spins to life with a high, pulsing whir before settling back into idle.

Thump, thump, thump. The Captain vanishes around behind the craft, bootfalls quickly lost to the controlled mayhem of the busy hangar bay. A gloved hand is slid over the raptor's flank, like it were some docile beast rather than a piece of machinery; maybe to Kai, it is. He reappears again shortly, and clambers up onto the bird's wing before ducking in through the hatch. He's a graceless creature, really— and while not precisely awkward, there's a certain stiltedness underlying his movements. "We're going to have a bit of fun today," he explains blandly, while checking the pressure seals on his flight suit. Nobody else could make 'fun' sound like 'strung up by the toenails while being flayed'. "Commander wants us to roll a little weapons testing into our patrol today. We won't be using live fire, of course." There's a glance, finally, toward the man. "Just a simulation."

Ivory doesn't respond, not yet. "DRADIS is go," he says, going doing the primary systems listed on a sheet of laminated paper taped to the right of his keyboard. "TACOM, go; SATNAV, go; tanks, go; RCS, go — " As the name of system is called out, a plastic button blinks on, turning from red to yellow when the recently-minted ECO pushes down. "EW bus alpha is go, beta is go — " Only then does Kai get a look. "So I'll be jamming, sir?" Timon asks. And then it's back to the grind, his console lighting up just a bit more quickly than he can handle. It's like whack-a-mole, except the proper functioning of these moles is a matter of life and death.

"Nope," comes the CAG's curt reply. He eases into his seat with a crunch of the flight suit, then reaches over briefly to the hatch access panel, and flips the lever to 'closed'. There's a confirmation bleep, then a hiss of hydraulics as the thing grinds shut. Kai's already turned to his console, before the process is even finished. "Avionics, go; comms, go; engine one, engine two, engine three, engine four, all go." The ship thrums to life with a shudder that can be felt as much as heard. His hand moves over the controls like he's been flying raptors for the past thirteen years instead of fighter craft; but then, as CAG, he undoubtedly needs to know both. Just a brief hesitation and a furrow of his brow before he finds it— "Targeting sensors are.. go, payload guidance systems test initiating. All go." It's run through in the same monotone he gives his briefings, half-sullied by the coarse, almost throaty inflection that marks Standard as his second language after Kashmiri.

Oh. Well, that makes things a little simpler. "Should still be interesting," Ivory ventures, and there's not a hint of irony or sarcasm in his voice. Timon’s tenor is rather more tense than usual, though, in part because his mind really isn't focused on the conversation: one hand is double-checking his hard-seal while the other endeavors to bring the last of the Raptor's electronics online. "My board is green," he announces after another minute or so of work; then, it's up from his seat in the main compartment to his other seat in the cockpit. It's an awkward fit: for a moment, he fumbles with his harness until he realizes the clip is to his left and not his right. Duh. "Habit," explains the ersatz Bear, a faint smile on his face. "ECO recommends go for launch."

"Acknowledged," Kai murmurs, eyes flicking from the console in front of him, to the set of controls above his head. A couple of switches are flipped, and he tugs his helmet on before fastening the hardseal at its neck closure. His seat harness is next, it's fumbled for an entirely different reason: they simply don't make them like this, in vipers. Once he's given verbal confirmation over the tactical channel, the raptor's given a ride over to the flight elevator, and then it's go time. "Once we get up there, I'll be transferring main weapons control to your terminal," he explains. "We're going to do some simulated target practice with asteroids. You've used the rack-mounted AGMs in a raptor before, correct?"

At least ECOs are issued the same flight helmets as their comrades-in-arms. Timon snaps his on without further ado, clicking on its onboard mike with a flick of his thumb. His voice is reedy in the best of times; now, it sounds more processed than anything else, its natural harmonics filtered out by whatever encryption mechanism the Fleet uses. "Just in sims," is the man's answer, his body trembling slightly as the elevator grinds into motion. Ivory's left hand grabs onto the rail installed precisely for that purpose, its polyester casing crackling under the strain. "Brass never let me play with so much as a swallow out there."

"Well," answers the Captain's somewhat more gruff voice over the shipboard link, "we'll see how this goes. If command approves of the simulation, we may be incorporating raptors into future strafing operations on Scorpia — " He's rocked back into his seat slightly as the elevator comes to a jarring halt. " — and elsewhere." And then it's back to business. With the engines already online, it's just a matter of sliding the control yoke to full, and directing maximum power to the port thrusters. The raptor lifts off tail first, then nose at a lower attitude, and begins its swift ascent out into space.

"Thorn will be glad to hear that," says Timon, who has the grace not to comment on his CAG's flying. He's not cast from the backseat-driver mold. He does, however, lean forward, peering out the canopy until the Raptor's artificial gravity unit kicks in, throwing him back against his seat with some amount of force. "I'll do my best not to block his path to sticking it to the toasters, sir."

There's no comment on sticking it to the toasters, or Thorn's pleasure at getting to use the big guns. Maybe Kai's just absorbed in trying to fly the damned bucket; it's certainly not the nimble creature he's accustomed to, and it shows. Subtle, the little adjustments he makes and the way he has to rein himself in, but an experienced pilot like Timon would be able to detect it. "Tell me about your last tour of duty," he posits, once the craft's swooped up and away from Kharon to join up with the more fleet-footed vipers escorting them tonight.

If this is uncomfortable, just wait until Timon has to shoot things. Because: "Forty-eight months with VAW-One-Four-Three," he replies, eyes focused on the starfield zooming by. "Hawkeyes — excuse me. The World-Famous Hawkeyes, a SAR squadron stationed on Atlantia." That would be the battlestar, for those keeping score at home. "I spent most of my time fishing nuggets out of the drink. Space, too, but mostly oceans: something about pressure systems and atmospheric flight, I guess."

Mention of the Atlantia draws a brief glance over Kai's shoulder. Not enough to actually lock eyes with his ECO, but enough to signify that he's listening. Of course, it's probably not news to him; he's privy to Timon's service jacket, along with the rest of his pilots'. "Checkpoint one, Kharon, this is Foxbat-4; DRADIS is clear, we are proceeding to sector five seven niner." A few seconds pass before he speaks again over the shipboard comm link, "It's not too different down there, than up here." Elucidation comes after a few seconds more, "My father was a fisherman. I spent a lot of time out on boats. How did you like it, with the Hawkeyes? I met Commander Mattis once, believe it or not."

"That's one more time than me," confesses Timon, settling down into small talk without so much as a hint of unease. "She kept out of our way, from what I recall. As long as we kept on bringing people home safe and sound, she left the day-to-day stuff to the CAG. Commanded an AB or other before getting kicked up the ladder," the man adds with a smile. "If the rumors are true, she never got used to the whole 'being in space' bit." Though Ivory chuckles, his gaze never leaves the DRADIS console in front of him, tracking the position of their Viper escort with idle curiosity. "As far as the SAR stuff goes, let's just say I don't envy fishermen their task. Terrifying enough being stuck in a storm on board something as advanced as a Raptor. Can't imagine what it'd be like on a boat."

Kai settles into the role of listener, it seems, more easily than talker. Which is probably no surprise, given his sweaty-palmed performances during briefings and the like. Now that they're up and away from the Kharon, and well into their cruising speed, he seems more comfortable with the controls. His eyes drift to his own DRADIS display, then back to the windscreen and the vipers cavorting out ahead of them. "Probably more similar than you might think," he answers Timon. "A smart sailor doesn't take his rig out into weather he can't handle. And if he's caught unaware, he battens down the hatches, prays to his gods, and hopes for the best."

"And then there are those dumb sailors who volunteer to go out into that godsforsaken mess knowing exactly what they're facing," observes Timon, smiling wanly as Bangbang and Sparky swap positions in formation with a surfeit of figure-eights and end-over-ends. Yeah. Raptors can't do that. "Sometimes I wonder what would have happened to me if I hadn't signed up for AWT." That would be All-Weather Training, for those not fluent in Acronym. "I'd probably have been assigned to the shuttle that takes Aquaria's famous caviar to the bigwigs at Fleet HQ, or something like that."

"Sure," answers the Captain, voice touched with a hint of amusement that's audible even over the crackling comm, "they call them viper jocks." His helmeted head ducks and then raises again as he flips the outbound switch on the radio relay, any smile he might be wearing soundly hidden by virtue of his back being turned to Timon. "Kharon, this is Foxbat-4, checkpoint two is clear, we are proceeding to sector five eight zero for munitions test." The switch is flipped again; back to shipboard communications. "Fire up the command console, and switch to training settings for the sparrows." Meaning, they aren't actually packing a pair of missiles, but they're going to pretend like they are. Meanwhile, the promised asteroid field looms out ahead of them — a series of pings start to catch the DRADIS' attention as they come within range.

Ivory's low laughter fades when Kai announces that it’s go-time. "Weapons console online," he reports, fingers already moving across the dials and switches arrayed in front of him. "Training subroutine active; guidance is green, bolts are green, boosters and sustainers on both sparrows are — green. And fancy that: DRADIS tells me this is a target-rich environment, as you Vipers say."

"I'll bring us around for a flyby, so you can pick out a good target for me. Call your coordinates, and on the second pass we'll drop our payload." The explanation's given in a monotone, though Kai's anything but bored with this task; his keen eyes and relaxed tension tell an entirely different story. Gentle on the stick and precise on the thrusters, he dips away from their viper escort and takes them deeper into the soup of rocks. "Remember that we want to get in, get a lock, deploy and bug out as quickly as possible."

"Copy that; I'm looking." Most of the serious scanning equipment is in the main compartment behind him, but all Timon really needs to know for this test is the composition of a few of the bigger asteroids in the field. "Most of these have nickel-iron cores," he murmurs quietly, his internal monologue becoming audible for a few brief seconds. "Olivine mantle, that's no help, and — crusts are — basalt." Ivory doesn't sound particularly happy about that, but the reason for his reaction will remain hidden for now: "Right. Designating on your screen asteroid bearing one-three-fiver, carom oh-nine-seven as Sierra One; asteroid bearing one-four-four, carom one-one-fiver as Sierra Two."

"Acknowledged," answers the Captain after a brief pause to switch displays. "Coming about on Sierra One, bearing one three fiver, carom oh-nine-seven…" He feeds more power to the starboard thrusters, and drags the boxy craft around in a fairly high-G maneuver on one wing. It wouldn't be difficult to imagine a cubit having been placed at the very tip of it, and remaining throughout, with the precision inherent in his stickhandling. "…mark." The engines growl as he lights all four of them, and takes the plunge into the thick of pockmarked rocks. One wrong move, at the speed they're going, and there wouldn't be much of them left to tell the tale.

Thankfully, the sparrows' onboard guidance systems will do most of the thinking today; all Timon needs to concern himself with is keeping Foxbat-4's targeting laser trained on the asteroid in question until every packet of targeting information is uploaded into their mechanical brains. This is easier said than done, of course, given the high-speed maneuvers his pilot is currently executing; indeed, it's all Ivory can do to keep said laser stable while doing his best to avoid blacking out. Teeth gritted, thigh muscles clenched, he waits for his computer to confirm target acquisition. Three seconds pass, then three more, and four more after that, until — "I have tone! Fox-two, fox-two!" Foxbat-4 rocks upwards as her training drones' explosive bolts fire on command. And then, with ragged breaths, the lieutenant waits to see what happens, harness pressed tightly into the scarred skin of his neck.

You might say it's an exercise in trust. Kai, of course, has said nothing of the sort. The raptor shudders as it's put through its paces, and pushed to the limits of its capabilities; a glance up front would find the stick to full throttle under the CAG's hand, and his attention dancing a quick two-step between the field of rocky detritus in front of them, and the coordinates pinging off his display. They can't actually see the thing yet, of course. There's far, far too much interference. But he stays on course, teeth gritted and hand no doubt white-knuckled on the control yoke as they hurtle through with a deafening racket of dust and debris striking their craft, and fanning out behind them like a peacock's plume. When Timon makes the call, he shoves the stick back down and stamps on the port rudder pedal. The raptor's forced into a ninety-degree turn that threatens to wrench the contents of stomachs out of throats, and then peeled away as the drones detach from their housing and go on their merry way.

"Telemetry is good," the pilot-turned-ECO manages, his eyes never leaving his screen — though they do almost flicker closed, twice. "Boosters are shut down — sustainers online, sixteen seconds to terminal phase."

"Acknowledged," Spider comments from the front, his voice a hoarse, crackling intruder in the symphony of roaring engines and pelting rocks. Five seconds pass. Ten. The ear-splitting racket calms to only the occasional thunk or handful of grit washed across their canopy. "Bay doors closed. Inform me when the payload's been deployed."

"Three — two — one — mark," Timon reports, and there's no quaver in his tone: just quiet anticipation as he watches the pair of stylized missiles on his console streak toward their target, two tiny green arrows flickering from all the EM interference generated by the dust storm they're in. "I can confirm warheads are armed. Four seconds to impact." And then the countdown starts again.

It's almost serene, now that they're clear of the asteroid field. The raptor sails effortlessly through a canopy of velvet scattered with stars, and in the distance are the two vipers maneuvering in a slow patrol like a pair of fish swimming upstream. Now it's just the sound of their breathing magnified by their helmets, and the blip of the two bogeys on Timon's screen. After four seconds, "Status?"

"Tough to say," says Ivory, who shifts a little in his seat. "I'm getting a lot of fuzz — no wonder CIC didn't want us out here the other day. Cycling through all training frequencies to reacquire their signal — wait. There they are; squawking now." One last second passes, and then Timon leans back in his seat, expression impassive, to display the results: a glancing hit from drone one, a direct hit from drone two. And all of a sudden the tension is draining from his body like water from an un-stoppered bathtub. "Quite a barbecue, wouldn't you say, sir?"

Kai is silent while Timon relays the information across, not commenting upon the fuzz for the time being. Once the squawking's confirmed, he turns his head to briefly get a lock on his ECO's eyes, if he can. "I'm reading the same up here. Good work." Two words that convey so very, very much more; Marek is not an ostentatious man. After a few moments, he flips his comms back to the tactical channel. "Kharon, this is Foxbat-4. Weapons test is complete, recommend recovery of the drones by the next CAP. We are returning to checkpoint one." And then to Timon, "CIC didn't order you back. I did."

There would be a fair bit of condensation on the transparent plexiglass of Timon's helmet if not for the blessed anti-fog coating applied to it on a monthly basis; as a result, Kai has an unimpeded view of the relief flooding through the younger man's face. The wrinkles around his eyes and lips aren't nearly so prominent anymore, though his countenance isn't so much triumphant as it is grave. Spider's praise is left unacknowledged; instead: "You did, didn't you," Ivory says, voice quiet. "Sorry. Lots going on." To say the least.

"Yep," is the Captain's only, and characteristically terse reply in the wake of Timon's explanation. Kharon's bulk is visible now a few clicks off in the distance, a sliver of grey in the otherwise lightless dark of space; her aesthete is spartan, her profile unassuming. Hard to believe it's one of the few last bastions remaining against the cylons in this war. "A young Ensign asked me once, Timon, why it was that I don't enjoy playing chess." Three guesses on whom that young Ensign was.

"He did?" It seems as if Timon has an ensign in mind. But knowledge of the identity of the man asking the question does not automatically confer knowledge of the answer, and so he'll stay silent while he watches Kharon's familiar hangar get closer and closer to his window.

"He did." It's neither confirmation nor denial of the asker's identity. Kai eases up on the throttle as they pass through checkpoint one, their location reported back to CIC and permission requested to land. And then, "I told him I didn't find it a game of tactics, so much as numbers. Formulas. Strategic losses to win the greater war." A lengthy pause follows, and quite soon they're within range of Kharon's flight deck, scattered with winking landing lights. The vipers of course, are allowed to strafe in first while their raptor hangs back. "I won't play numbers games with my pilots, Timon." And it's left at that, for the younger man to draw his own conclusions. Port thrusters fire as he brings the bird in.

If that means anything to Timon, he doesn't show it, preferring to sit in contemplative silence as the Raptor's landing skids deploy. The screeching of massive metal gears accompanies the two of them as their bird is swallowed by one of Kharon's elevators, the same one from which they'd only recently emerged. It's not until the carrier's cogs stop turning that Ivory speaks, his voice tinny and raw on intraship: "I would have brought him back if I could, Captain."

There's no answer from Kai. Not immediately, anyway. He's busy deploying port and then aft thrusters, and trying to keep the raptor from plunging into the deck as he manhandles the bulky craft to skids down. Once they've been brought up to the hangar bay, he starts flipping switches and powering down the raptor's systems one by one. The data drive's access code is keyed in and the device slid out — presumably for the purposes of that review he was mentioning. "I know," he offers at length, before unbuckling his safety harness and reaching for the hatch's access panel.

Timon will let the CAG exit before following suit, his helmet already off, his metal hard-seal ring looped around his left hand; his eyes are bleary, downcast — a muddy brown, almost, streaked through with sweat. Can't rub them in space, after all. "I'll handle postflight," he says, back partially turned as he steps down off the wing. "Thanks for the ride, sir."

Kai has his helmet off by the time he steps out onto the wing, dark hair plastered to his skull in wavy whorls. He's not particularly sweaty, since the flying itself wasn't nearly so demanding as his regular job. But there were a few Gs being pulled during their escape vector from the asteroid, and those will undoubtedly be felt for a day or two. "No problem," is given in return. "And get some rest. We're up at oh eight hundred tomorrow for PT." Oh, joy. He claps the back of Timon's shoulder, and then turns to stride off across the bay while a pair of mechanics hustles in with a fuel hose amidst barked orders from the Deck Chief.

"If I weren't somewhat sympathetic to existentialism, those treadmills would have driven me crazy by now." A beat, then two, as Timon grabs a clipboard and pen from a passing orange-clad deckhand who whizzes by en route to unload ammo from Bangbang's fighter. "All that running, sir, just to stay in one place."

"Sometimes, Timon," remarks the CAG with a glance over his shoulder and a pause in his departure, "it's about where you are, not where you're going." A pause, and then a smile tugs at his lips, almost a facial twitch more than an expression of mirth. "That said, I'm not adverse to taking a jog about the ship instead, for a change of pace. Meet me outside berthings." That said, he turns once more to go.

"Oh-eight-hundred hours." Timon allows himself a faint chuckle before turning his attention back to the paperwork in his hands. Nose, meet grindstone: again.

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