Aboard the UGR Karakoram, Rally Thomas sat aboard her Talwar fighter, Green flight of Wendigo squadron on the flightline readying to sortie. This would be the first mission they'd done in a while, as the low threat level combined with two extra squadrons aboard the ship had made their rotations a lot longer than normal. Sure, the flight deck was crowded and the lines at the mess were beyond reasonable, but, the extra people at least made things livelier. Her powder blue hair was mostly hidden by her flight helmet, though a few wayward strands of her bangs poked out beneath the visor, giving the impression that she didn't really care too much. She tapped out an amateur drum solo on her controls, the Talwar fighter creeping forward as Blue flight made its way toward the launch pad, leading the way for the under-manned Green flight, which currently only had two members; Rally herself, and her wingmate August Kerning.
Kiddy corner to Rally's Talwar was the aforementioned wingmate. August was preoccupied with talking into his radio as he went over the flight plan one last time with Control. To an outside observer, his body language looked dull and rather uncomfortable. After a short time, it looked as though the conversation had ended as August rolled his head around and stretched. With Blue flight taking off, Green flight was up to bat and ready to go. Running a hand through his auburn hair, he gave a sigh and put on his flight helmet and sealed his suit.
"Alright Rally, ready to get this show on the road? Haven't died of boredom yet, have you?" he said into his comm, checking in with his partner.
2nd Lieutenant Rally Thomas piqued an eyebrow in the direction of her wingman, though he couldn't see the gesture through two canopies and two helmet visors. Making sure she had synced with the other Talwar fighter and that her own was one hundred present ready to go. Sure, she'd made her pre-flight checks already, and so had all the ground crew, as well as the control center, but one could never be too careful when preparing to take a volatile little pillar of death on a thousand mile an hour plus joyride around the vast hostile environment known simply as outer space.
"Aye, I'm ready to go. Got all me checks done and whatnot. The ol' bird's rarin and ready to go, if'n yers is too." Just ahead of them, the three Talwars of Blue flight disappeared off the flight deck and through the launch bay doors, turning swiftly into tiny glowing dots that soon disappeared, blending in with the vastness of the surrounding space.
"Same on my end," August responded as he finished the last of his own double checks. With a quick chime he notified Control that Green flight was prepped and ready for the green light, and a few moments of silence preceded Control's confirmation. "Alright, Green flight is on deck and ready to launch. Launching on my mark in, three, two, one. Launch."
On his mark August throttled forward, taking his Talwar up and out of the hangar, taking a degree of comfort from once again being out in vacuum. Most of the time, the young pilot felt pressure put on him to perform, and flying around gave him a sense of self control. This time however, the pressure he felt before had managed to leech its way in to flying as well. He had been perfectly happy as a basic wingman, but now he was expected to be a Flight leader; and he was doing what he could to mask some of the salt in his voice and actions.
"Continuing on this heading for another one hundred klicks before adjusting to designated flight plan. See you in a couple hours Control." He switched over to flight comms again. "Alright, lets get this sightseeing tour started, aye?"
Rally's ship followed August's out the relatively tiny rectangular opening in the side of the ship, suddenly bursting out into a wide open nothingness that was the immediate area of space. She followed behind the young man's craft, making sure to keep her heading in line with his, at least while they were within close range of the ship. Once they had made their way to the next waypoint and changed headings, she would back her craft off a bit, giving a little bit of space between herself and the young Kerning, so that she could get a wider view of his blind spots.
"Aye Aye mister First Lieutenant" she responded to the man as he commented to her "Jes' be sure ta describe them sights real good ta me. Yer the skipper on this flyabout, since the Captain got reassigned an' they never bothered ta replace 'em."
Grumbling to himself, August took the comments in stride. "Pretty sure I don't need to paint you a picture, and if I did I imagine you would hound my ass for patronizing you." Looking between his control panel and his HUD, it looked as though there would be a little while until they reached their next waypoint. Off of the comm, he debated with himself "Make awkward small talk, or sit in sit in awkward silence; make awkward small talk, or sit in sit in awkward silence; make awkward small talk, or sit in sit in awkward silence."
"Uhm, so," August started, deciding on making awkward small talk, "how much did you pick up that old Sabre for? You mentioned that it was effectively a billboard for a scrapyard, but it probably wasn't cheap."
Setting her autopilot and taking her hands off the controls, Rally put a finger to the chin of her helmet, and tilted her head back, looking upward in a thoughtful pose. "Hmmm... I kinda forgot..." she responded at first, sounding a little disappointed. she continued thinking, her head turning back toward the monitors and scanning visual out the transparent armored cockpit window to confirm what the scanners were telling her.
"I think it was something like thirty thou in credits, though tha guy who worked there said it was probably worth more than that in scrap. When I saw it, he tol' me he'd give me a good deal on it, since he could never bring hisself ta destroy it, and figured someone who could bring the ol' girl back to life was prolly more deserving of it than he was."
"Considering some of the parts inside of it, doesn't surprise me," he responded with an appreciative whistle. "It's good to know that it has the chance to fly again. Though, what do you plan to do with her anyway? Kind of an expensive joy ride, don't ya think? Or are you gonna cruise around and pick up guys?"
Rally scoffed a bit. Was August really trying to make a joke? The blue-haired pilot admitted it was a terrible one, but to hear such a thing from her wingman was rare indeed.
"Pfft" she responded, stifling a bit of a laugh. "Yannow, I reckon it'd be hard ta pick up more'n one guy innit, but ah guess ah could try." and try she did, wrapping her head on how she could fit multiple people in the cockpit of a Saber and still be able to fly it. She knew that all Terran fighters had cockpits designed to accommodate at least two People, so that they ere capable of rescuing pilots of downed or disabled craft.
Back in August's fighter, his head was resting on his right shoulder. He had not particularly thought about this conversation or how to respond, so he was thinking of how to add on without it sounding odd. "Well, at the very least, refurbishing a Sabre is a great way to impress any history buffs or fans of the classics," he responded, feeling confident that it seemed fairly natural. "You'll have to let me know when you have it finished. Would love to see it, myself. Or if you want help with any part of it, let me know."
"Guess Ah better" Rally responded, referring to his request to tell him when she finished or if she needed any help. "Y'all very good with tha mechanical stuff, or ya better at tha electronic bits? Ah might need a bit o' help with re-wiring that sunnova gun. Iss' prolly got enough cables an' wires ta wrap 'round the Karakoram a couple times."
"I'm no electrician, but I am still pretty good with electronics," he said, mentioning nothing of being on the robotics team for his boarding school. "So, give me a call and I'd be happy to give it a go."
Glancing at his HUD again, he made note of how long it was until the next waypoint. Stretching as much as he could within the confines of the cockpit he managed a modicum of comfort, and was happy that he managed to casually work call me into a conversation. Though, he was acutely aware of the fact that he couldn't think up another topic off hand. At least he started off well, so he could afford some silence until he thought of something else, or Rally started a topic.
Rally chuckled a bit, glad to know her wingman would have her back, even outside of battle. However, her chance at a witty retort was cut short by the fighters reaching the checkpoint, making it necessary for the two fighters to check in with control, updating their status and heading as they made their way to their patrol vectors- Up ahead in their flight path was something between a debris field and an asteroid ring, not big enough to go completely around the orbit, but not small and localized enough to have been a fragged planet, at least not a recently fragged one, to be sure.
Their reports completed, Rally went on to comment on their patrol area. "Well, it looks like we'll have a fun one here, iss nice'n jumbled up, gonna make a hell of the sensors. But, I guess that's why they sent us little'uns here instead'a tryin ta get a warship in close 'nuff without get it all banged up."
"Wont hear me complaining," August gave his two cents. "Good mental exercise. Its our turn to make Command sit around while we are the ones flying around." Looking out of his canopy, the young man admired the debris for a few brief moments as the flight approached.
"So, off our port wing here, we can get a wonderful view of a majestic debris field," he started into a joking tour guide presentation. "Just imagine what wonders could lie in wait."
"Hopefully not bandits or nuffin" Rally responded cheekily to August, as she turned her sensors on to pulse mode so that they would filter out more of the 'noise' caused by the large amount of objects moving in all sorts of directions at different relative rates of motion. While this did have the disadvantage of slowing down the update rate of her sensors, it did give her a much clearer picture when it did refresh. However, she would have to rely on her visual sensors as well as her own situational awareness and reflexes while the ship took in the important data that they were looking for.
"Ya ready fer tha obstacle course? Cause it looks like a doozy."
"Roger. Not terribly worried, the odds of actually hitting a rock are pretty slim, we'll be fine," he said, while noting that the debris did seem awfully close together in this field. Managing his own electronics, the flight leader pulled ahead and took point into the cluster. Dropping his speed, he was content to maintain a manageable pace.
"Besides, this isn't a commonly used space lane, can't imagine bandits just lounging around in the middle of nowhere without there being some hint at a larger base."
Lieutenant Thomas pouted a bit at her flight-mate being a sourpuss, taking her own craft on a bit of a different heading, pulling in much closer to the asteroids and other space rocks that there were in this area. As she went through, she could see the solar system's sun glimmering off in the distance, flashing to life and disappearing again each time an asteroid passed between them.
"Yeah but;" She began, thinking a bit deeper into it all; "Wha' makes ya think they sent the Karakoram out to this system way out here in the sticks, with no livable planets, unless they though' there was sumfin good hangin 'round?" It became apparent to August that she had been thinking about it since the operation was explained to them during their briefing earlier that day cycle, since they were unlikely to simply do training at such a remote location.
"An if'n we know somfin good's around, is' prolly not a stretch ta bet someone else does, too."
Chewing on the thought a little, he had to admit it was a valid line of thinking. "That's fair. I'd guess scouting and recon myself, but that could be accomplished by a smaller vessel. So by bringing Karakoram to bear, it would either be something important, or some risky; following that logic. Considering the scouting being done by individual flights, could be a safe bet on important, rather than risky."
"Either way, stay frosty."
Rally wagged the wings of her craft a bit to indicate her understanding of the interim wing leader's suggestion to stay frosty, scanning about not only with the sensors and her eyes, but trying to see if she could get herself into the mindset that had helped her through so many battles. If this was something important, she needed to make sure she was doing her all to ensure that the mission was successful.
"Yannow, mah family never accused me ah bein' tha smartest, but mah paw always said I had some good intuition," she quipped, hugging her Talwar close to a particularly large chunk of debris that she was currently flying near.
"That's not always a bad thing. A good gut feeling can save your bacon just as well as thinking can, without the risk of thinking to much," August replied as he banked around a close grouping of meter sized rubble. For all of his scanning around, he wasn't seeing to much beyond floating ore.
"My family has accused me of the opposite; both the thinking, and over-thinking. So you tell me if your gut starts talking, and I'll let you know if I come up with something. Deal? Like maybe if either of us figure out why if something was so important it wasn't included in the briefing."
A brow furrowed itself atop a pair of orange eyes belonging to Rally Thomas as she put her mind to the problem, somehow finding that giving herself the pressure of thinking about the situation was helping ease her into a better mental state for flying. "If I were ta guess," she started, pausing for a moment to confer with herself that it was indeed the correct guess, "I would reckon it'd be somethin' they wanted ta find but didn't want the normal folk like us to know about. Likely it's somethin' tha' won't stand out too much ta our untrained noggins, but them spooks back in intel would be able ta pinpoint. then, they'd send out summa them spooks ta go pick tha thing up."
She nodded to herself, feeling confident of the guess, but let out a quick " Whoah there!" as a sedan-sized chunk of debris floated out from behind the Asteroid she was hugging, causing her to make a sudden erratic maneuver, taking her on a bit of a different heading and drawing her a bit farther away from August's heading.
"Heh, I would hope it stands out, otherwise all they are really doing is gambling on a lucky throw at a massive dartboard," he retorted. "At least we aren't the ones paying for gas." Given that the waypoint was taking them through the debris field as opposed to around it, it was as safe a bet as any. Shrugging, he checked his HUD and noted Rally's new direction.
"Stay in radio contact if you are gonna break off that far. I don't have a visual on ya," he said before adjusting his own heading, fanning out slightly to increase the search area.
Rally's eyes scanned her new surroundings, as they seemed a little different than the previous path she'd been taking through the debris field had looked like it was going to turn out. It seemed a bit wider, and almost calmer, as if most of the debris in the area had stabilized, making a more pronounced lane for her to fly down.
"I'll do mah best ta keep ya updated. It looks like I found tha easy way through the field, almos' like there's a tunnel over here." She made some comparisons to her earlier scans and figured that she was about dead center of the debris field, or at least just a little ways off from it, anyhow. "Looks like we're bout' halfway through, August," she commented.
"Sure sure, saddle me with the tricky areas," August joked. "If you see a light, a floating monolith, or some weird cosmic baby in the tunnel... keep it to yourself. Those are more trouble than they are worth. Although, those WOULD be pretty easily identifiable as being important or noteworthy."
"And it would probably be more interesting than looking at floating rocks," he then thought to himself as he looked at more floating rocks.
"I dunno, it might be fun ta try and tow a monolith back. Tha ready room could really use a new coffee table" Rally joked, as she pulled back on the throttles a bit, slowing down to make sure she got as clear of readings as possible. as far as she could tell, there was nothing but Asteroids and other variously sized rocks surrounding the mostly clear space she was floating in, and nothing else, though she was now coming to realize that the clear area was an almost perfect ellipsoid in shape, and she felt drawn toward the center of it.
As she drew closer, despite the fact that her sensors couldn't pick up anything, she felt as if there was in fact something there, something, a little bit different than the norm. She paused her fighter's relative motion to the debris field, staying back about a kilometer from the center point, feeling as if she were on the threshold of something, and took a deep breath.
"Awright, I'ma goin' in" she informed her wingman, pulsing the thrusters and starting to coast inward with some trepidation. As soon as she passed that line, coming closer than a kilometer, something suddenly appeared. it wasn't on her sensors, but she could see it, and she could swear that she felt it as well. Almost at the same time, numerous warnings popped up surrounding the empty space in the field, as dormant antimatter reactors fired up, and about half a dozen small craft that had been lying in wait activated, as if triggered by the appearance of the object, rather than the appearance of Rally herself.
"Well, Shoot" she muttered, trying to figure out what to do.
While trying to examine a conspicuous looking mass of iron and listen to Rally's updates on the anomaly, August's sensors sounded a warning, and his HUD fed him extra data. "What the... aw shit, important AND risky. Fantastic. En route, Rally, ETA one minute," he said as he swung his nose around and throttled up. "Are the UFOs Bandits?"
The readings that came up on Rally's sensors all showed up as being older model fighters of various make, though all of them had origins from humanoid races, being a similar pattern to the Talwar fighters and the Saber fighters they were based on. this didn't really help the matter of identifying them, as one of the fighters was of a model still in use by the UGR, though it was in the process of being phased out.
"Honestly i've got no clue," Rally responded to August, as her fighter came face to face with the object. The UFO's were about 20 seconds away from her position, meaning she needed to make a decision quickly. Without warning, Rally snapped around, a millisecond before her sensors alerted her to the main weapons energizing on one of the fighters, but the blue-haired pilot was faster, snapping off a few shots from her Talwar's cannons and disabling the opposing craft's own weapons, which cooked off immediately after, causing it to spin out of control. However, Rally didn't have enough time to counter the other five fighters, and immediately began a frenzy of evasive maneuvers, realizing she couldn't win by herself, despite her superior craft and piloting skills.
"Can ya make tha' minute a bit shorter? she asked her cohort, grunting a bit as the movements of her fighter caused g-forces from a myriad of directions, the pilot's suit doing its best to keep her from passing out.
"Seventy-five percent chance I either make there in thirty seconds, or not at all," August called back as a rock hurdled past his canopy at an alarming rate. He was throttled up well above what could be considered safe, but he wasn't about let Rally go at it all alone. "Make that sixty to forty for twenty."
August was set and focused. Pilot was practically in his genes, and the prospect of dogfighting in a debris field sounded wonderfully challenging. Main order right now, however, was to get there in the first place. Despite the relatively short duration of his approach, adrenaline made it seem longer, and finally he arrived at the edge of the open space Rally had found. Zeroing in on her position, he primed his weapons and set his sights on one of the Bandits tailing her. With a tug of his finger he opened up on one closest to her; reducing his speed to fall into the dogfight and start picking away at their tails.
"Not sure how I din't notice 'em flyin in 'ere" Rally posited, just as August made his entrance to the dogfight, "but I mighty 'preciate ya comin' ta help!" She vectored her Talwar away from the wayward fighter that her wingman had just disabled, watching as its pilot did whatever they could to stabilize their ailing craft and prevent from ramming uncontrollably into the surrounding rocks.
"Guess it's lucky we got this nice clear space ta fight in," she noted, firing a few shots just across August's nose to blow out the shields of a fighter that was trying to sneak up on the young man, causing it to veer off and try to regain its defenses. One thing was for sure- Rally and August outclassed whomever was flying against them by a high margin.
"We can review the logs afterwards, for now focus," August advised. Even though Rally and he were the more skill pilots, the Bandits still outnumbered them. Swinging his nose around he moved to fire at a enemy fighter that was trying to get a lock on his wingman, but his own HUD informed him that two of the fighters had gotten their own locks on him as well.
"Got two bandits on my six, breaking off to begin evasive maneuvers," he said. "I'm going to pull them around the edge and swing in. Meet in the middle?"
A brief survey of the goings on around them was all Rally needed to confirm that August's suggestion was a good one. With four bandits still in play, they needed to be able to cover one another without getting too focused and being flanked by an enemy. Rally changed her heading in a fraction of a moment to mirror her partner's movements, commenting on the whole situation as if it were no big deal- even though they were outnumbered in a relatively confined space.
"Awwwright looks like we migh' as well do tha yin-yang thing and get somthin' goin on in here 'cause it's gettin' too heated to stay frosty anyhow."
Upon reaching a predetermined point in space, August notified his wingmate before he banked hard to port and throttled up as he made a direct line towards Rally and her own pursuers. "Heading towards you now. Just make sure you don't clip me by mistake."
With his targeting computer doing all the hard work, the young Kerning waited for the lock confirmation, and received it right as his HUD warned him of lock attempts against him. "Fingers crossed," he mused as he opened fire.
Rally made her own evasive maneuvers, skirting the edge of the open space and dragging her pursuers on a bit of a wild goose chase before suddenly making a beeline back toward August and his pursuers. A similar warning popped up for the blue-haired woman as for her counterpart, as flying more or less straight was a very good way to get yourself killed.
"Awright i'm trustin ya ta not screw up on this-a-one" she commented, lining up her own target and hoping she got the right one as she fired a few bursts before banking sharply to the left but abruptly sending her ship to the right.
The two fighters passed close enough that the two wingmates could easily waved to each other. After jetting passed, August torn into the pursuing Bandits with a couple more bursts before breaking off and swing around again to capitalize on any enemies forced to divert course, and a cursory glance suggested it was likely two on two now; the Bandits had lost the upper hand, and shifted in favor of the two soldiers.
"Ball's in our court now. Hit them hard before they can regroup," he called as he began to chase down one of the remaining enemies.
"I guess so," Rally responded, flipping her ship around to get a bearing on the fighter that had been following her only to find it had apparently vanished. A quick check of her sensors showed her that it had simply evaded her maneuvers before she'd even done them- on top of that it was also the most modern fighter that they were going up against, an Estoc of the generation of fighter immediately prior to the Talwar they were flying against it.
"Might need a li'l help once yer done over there, though," the blue-haired pilot mentioned to her wingman, pushing her fighter to chase after the opponent that was now actually giving her a bit of a workout.
"Let me just polish off this one," August responded as he peppered the engine of the fighter in front of him. After making sure the ship was disabled he pulled around to get a view of Rally and her target. "An Estoc? Really? Guess there was bound to be at least one decent pilot in the mix."
He pushed his controls to bring him on to an intercept course with the remaining bogey. "Moving in to cut him off. Keep the heat on him."
The second Talwar of green flight juked and jived, pivoting around a rough center-point as she kept her fighter's nose as close to inline with the enemy as she could, but it was giving her a lot more trouble than it normally should have.
Rally grunted as she kept her focus on the target, now that she had confirmed the other five fighters had been taken out of the fray. "I'll keep 'em busy but it feels like 'es got more'n just a stock fighter there, it's movin' a lot quicker than it should!"
August approached from an objectively vertical plane perpendicular to Rally, keeping his sights set firmly on the Estoc. Whoever the pilot was, he was in fact pretty good. Once within a suitable range, he opened fire as he tried to rake a line right across the bogey's nose.
"We still have the advantage here, we just need to box him in."
The opposing Estoc started making some moves of its own, having noticed August making his way into a better firing position, and made to dive straight for Rally, braving her head-on fire with quite a bit of fancy flying, keeping the two UGR pilots at bay. Suddenly, two panels ejected from the craft, one on each side, exposing a series of mini-missile tubes on either side, which subsequently began launching out, causing all sorts of warnings to appear for both pilots as the myriad of self-guided projectiles began to head for the two Terrans. While each missile on its own was not much of a threat to a Talwar, a whole swarm of them could easily knock down their shields and poke a bunch of holes in the fuselage, causing all sorts of damage.
"Shit!" Rally cursed, firing off chaff to try and confuse the missiles and diverting from her former task of pinning the Estoc down, she was forced to make her way farther from the center of the ellipsoid opening in the asteroid field.
"Deploying counter-measures," August reported. He flipped a switch before beginning his evasion attempts. Pushing his controls down, he made a sharp dive away from the Estoc and its missile swarm as a number of flares were launched from his own fighter. "Great, he has missile pods too. Guys getting on my nerves." After a short while he pulled up once again, trying to angle his maneuvers to keep him on a rough path towards his target.
Instead of taking advantage of the situation and trying to take out one of the two Talwars it was facing up against, the Estoc did something much less expected- It dived between the two evading fighters and made its way toward the center point of the clear space- toward the unidentifiable object that Rally had somehow discovered earlier.
"Awww like hell ya do that!" Rally roared, flinging her fighter around regardless of the fact that there were still several mini-missiles tailing her. Shunting power from her shields to her thrusters, the blue-haired pilot tailed after the Estoc like a madwoman, firing pulses from her main cannons in an attempt to shoot down the craft. She only managed glancing blows, withering away its shields before a couple of the mini-missiles caught up with her, one popping her shields while the other airburst just behind the fighter, tearing into the starboard engine and causing Rally to lose power and making her fight to keep control.
"Now kill the bastard!" she yelled over the comms, hoping that August would finish what she had started.
His counter-measures had done the trick well enough, with just enough energy left in his shields to keep them up after a couple made it past the flares. Pulling out of his altered heading he throttled up to follow Rally's lead in chasing down the Estoc, though from a different approach. Before he was able to ask if his wingman was alright, her urging saved him a question and he focused on finishing the Bandit off. His approach was low and off of the Estoc's starboard wing, and once he had a lock he fired his cannons, foregoing burst fire in favor of continuous damage.
At the last moment, the Estoc banked, taking August's razing fire to the belly, which caused chunks of the fighter to blow out, but kept the engines intact and somehow missed the cockpit. The Estoc's pilot, sensing that there was no way for him to win this anymore, finally gave up on his target and banked away, heading straight toward the outer edges of the clear space and beating a hasty retreat. As the fighter disappeared, they watched as a couple of the fighters they had disabled but not destroyed limped along with their defeated leader.
"Well, I guess that's that," Rally started, limping her craft toward the mysterious object and halting just in front of it. Without warning, August was informed that Rally's cockpit was being evacuated of air and the canopy locks were coming undone, before it swung open, revealing the helmeted pilot inside.
"Oi, Make sure ta cover me while I grab this thing!" she demanded, reaching out to the object that she was floating so close to, and grabbing it. It appeared to be a small box, about half a meter in length, and the same in width and height. It had some strange markings on it as well as what looked like attachment points, but other than that there wasn't much distinguishable about it.
"How much you wanna bet this'n is what tha spooks were lookin' fer?" she asked august as she sat back down and began the procedure of closing her canopy.
"Well, it's no cosmic baby, but I'd be double checking your Geiger counter just in case," August said lightly as he began a defensive pattern around Rally's position. He stole a couple glances at the object as he circled, and he honestly did not like the situation. "Either way, get sealed up so we can beat feet back to the Karakoram. No need to be hugging that thing longer than you need to."
Once he was sure Rally was set back in her Talwar, August pulled around and made his way back to the tunnel.
Back inside her craft, Rally went about trying to find a secure place for the cube, eventually setting on simply holding it in her lap. She performed a re-pressurization of her cockpit, then got settled in and buckled up, fiddling with the engine controls in an effort to match the output of her good engine with that of the damaged one. With thrust equalized, she gathered herself back on the controls and responded to August.
"Awright, I'm all ready. we're jus' gonna have ta fly a bit slower than we're used ta is all. I've only got bout half my normal power output but at least it's stabilized." With that, she gingerly throttled up, swinging her fighter around to head back toward the Karakoram, this time taking care to fly the smoothest path back through the Asteroid field.
Upon exiting the field August notified Karakoram Control of the engagement with the Bandits, the acquisition of the unknown object, and of Green Flight's intention to return to the hangar. Confirmation was relayed quickly, and August fell in behind Rally's damaged fighter while en route back to base. Aside from taking a while longer to get back, the trip was uneventful.
"Alright Rally, you first. Get that thing off loaded, and I'll meet up with you."
Aside from having to spend a lot more time than normal monitoring the status of her engines, Rally's trip back to the Karakoram remained uneventful, and with August handling all the hard stuff, she was easily able to focus, with only a minimum of fussing with Control as she came in for landing. They had cleared the flight deck for her, as they had no idea how much other damage had been done or if she could even land controllably, but, it turned out to be for naught when her landing gear locked easily into place and she made a slow approach, touching down gently and smoothly, much to the chagrin of the emergency crews whom had prepared for a messy landing.
"Easy as pie!" she quipped, as the emergency vehicles made their way over, putting out a small fire that had erupted on her engine after it had come back into an oxygenated environment. Much more hurried seeming, however, were the group of intelligence people who swarmed the cockpit, doing everything short of prying it open before Rally could open it herself, then she and the cube were summarily pulled from the cockpit. the cube went into some sort of containment device, and a bunch of people in hazmat suits grabbed her for decon and a debriefing, since she'd done an unscheduled spacewalk in relatively unknown space.
Just before they pulled off her flight helmet, the blue haired pilot commented to her wingman, "Wellp, here we go again!"
Compared to Rally's landing, August's was as standard as could be. Upon exiting his cockpit he had a couple of engineers approach and take over checking the Talwar out. Before the interim flight leader could move over to check on his wingmate, she was already surrounded by Spooks and damage control. When she called over to him, he could only really shrug in response. "Alright, so much for that," he chimed as he looked around to make sure he wasn't going to be harassed as well, and then made his way out of the hangar to get out of his flight gear.