Hunter's Pirates
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It has been a lengthy, butt-numbing flight for the strike element tasked with intercepting a reported pirate transport in the vicinity. This particular flight is led by Captain Jenthson, in his usual scarlet Scimitar. A single blip, with a smaller cluster appear in their forward scopes in this little isolated corner of the Castor system "2 Freighter-sized vessels on scanners." A pause, and Pip looks over his All ships, report in." Pre-flight, the element was broken into wing pairs. Aquilina and Draygo, Xiang and Kaye, and Sonia and Trey. As he often does, the English squadron commander flies as the odd-man out. "Escort looks light, and it would appear, we've got the drop on them." And, it does. The Draymans come into weapons range quickly enough, with a staggered escort of four talons. The two large ships appear to be docked, joined at the airlocks. "It does feel nice to uphold the familial tradition of killing pirates. Torch, Midnight. Take your elements and -disable- the transports, before they can flee. Verdict? We'll kill the tangos. Break." A flick of a switch activates dumbfires, and his throttles are shoved forward…"Fire at all."

«Lead, Torch. Transports going under fire. Razor, Sloppy likes that Drayman up by them, so this blob's ours.» And by 'this', Alex means the Frayed Nerves, as that's where his craft is tilting towards.
Xiang manages not to /sound/ numb as she checks in over the comm. Or, at least, she keeps any posterior numbness to herself. "Pip, Verdict. Still with you, sir." She keeps her flight pattern straight, as is her preference, occasionally glancing back to double-check her distance from Kaye's plane. Some of that clipped mixture of excitement and compressed nerves enters her tone as they approach their quarry. Nothing numb now. "Copy, Pip. Breaking starboard, Mouse. On tango-two. I'll stay out of your firing arc. Fox two."

Following his wingman to their assigned target, Kell nods his head even though no one else can see him. "Copy that, Torch. Getting a lock on the fat cow's engines to disable it." Getting the drop on the enemy for once is welcoming to the rookie pilot who is use to going heads up or worse, getting surprised in an asteroid field and eating a missile up his tailpipe. "Tone is solid, Heat Seeker away."

You've got to hand it to Kaye: for all her faults, she's indomitable in the face of duty. Though she's already lost one fighter and crippled another during her time aboard /Majestic/, the woman returns to her station without protest - which, in retrospect, might just be because Mouse doesn't really protest against much of anything. But there /is/ one noticeable difference in her demeanor this time around: for some reason, her flying's much less playful than usual, and she doesn't even rock her Stiletto's wings as she forms up on Verdict, her weapons already online. «Verdict, Mouse copies. I'll do my best to have your back.» And banking into an aggressive turn that gives her just the right angle of attack, she fires the first missile of her engagement, pressing her medallion to her lips as her fighter turns away. «Fox Two.»
<COMBAT> Message from Trey: Holding off on posing until we have a Sonia.

«Roger that Lead. Okay Sloppy, lets clip a whale's fins.» Sonia turns up the power to battle levels and throtes her Scimitar towards the transports. «Target the engines Sloppy, hopefully we'll snuff a few of them out so they limp even more.»

«Whiffed.» Hint of frustration in Xiang's tone as her missile skims close, but not close enough, to the hostile ship. And now she's lost her free shot. «Coming about for another pass. Fox two.» And she does just that, though her Stiletto loops into a less aggressive stance now that they're properly combating the other ships. She does add, glimpsing a smoking bandit off her wing, «Nice shot, Mouse.»

And, the pirates know they've got company, clearly, now. The Talons, damaged as they are by the first round of fire, appear to spend most of the efforts on repulsing the attack on their cargo ships. «Fucking, fed pigs.» A quick transmission sent from a dandy-looking pirate pilot, and the Talons begin their own engagement. The Draymans running lights activate, and their engines flare, as they prepare to make their getaway. But, they are still docked, and certain procedures must be upheld, so they don't suffer decompression. The TCSF pilots still have time. Damage is light, though…and the freighters are still in prime health to run.

"Sloppy? Pirates don't have rights. Hang them all from the yardarm, I say." Pip's response are puncuated by the release of his first dumbfire, as his Scimitar finishes his first attack run, warhead leaving the weapon racks as his Scimitar flickers across Bandit1's cockpit, and banks hard to starboard, to reenter the melee.

«Well. That got their attention.» Alex ducks past the range of the ships' fire, missile tone sounding as it gains a lock again on the Frayed Nerves. His first shot got it in the cargo belly, but it's just a fleshwound. Bah. «Check six, Razor. Two bandits coming up on your arse.»

Seems like the escorts doesn't like their hippo companions getting shot up by the Stilettos as two of the Talons drop onto Kell's six with intent to kill. Breaking up and left, the young rookie tries to make it hard for them to get a good shot on him before looping back for another approach run on Frayed Nerves, "Razor here, got two blips on my six, they don't look happy."

Kaye wheels around for another pass, her Stiletto hot on her wingmate's tail even as a warning light begins to beep on her display. «Thanks,» says Mouse, medallion long-forgotten as tracer fire begins to flicker past her cockpit. «But I think they're shooting at me now, so - » The comm system clicks off as the woman pushes hard on the stick, sending her fighter into an evasive pattern as she tries to track her original target. And to herself: "This is really bad." She even forgets to call out missile launch - but launch one does.

The first pass Sonia makes is cursory at best, she acts as cover for her wingmate and observes as his dumbfire crashes into the cargo hold of the transpost with little effect. «Nice try Sloppy, we'll gut this pig on the next pass.» She wings over, rolling her fighter over and then bringing her missles up. She watches as one of the freighter's escorts wings about and tries to move into her wingman's six. «Sloppy looks like they didn't like our pass. Boost your ECM and pull in tight. Missle away!»

«It went in. Just didn't go through. I think engine backwash ate it.» Trey's scimitar thunders past The Ragged Edge, wings barely missing one of the turrets. He swings around and comes downward, preparing for another run. «Hey, there's a guy on my tail.» Trey glances backwards to confirm. «And I don't know, sir. We're law and order. Can I do it? I promise I can do a good job.»

It would appear that the hunters were stalked en route, or the Kilrathi have gotten -very- lucky to stumble upon this hot human on human action. A pair of Grikath bombers, escorted by four Dralthi burn hard into the melee, firing warheads into the mix, targeting Confed and Pirates alike. «Weak humans. Even your own kind do not fear your military.» A white-spotted Kilrathi face appears on viewscreens, mocking as they seek to destroy.

Sonia's missile does its job on the Ragged Edge, leaving it spinning in space, power clearly dead on the vessel, though it appears to be intact. One of the Talons is shredded by Pip's dumbfire to the face. «Fuck. This day keeps getting better and better. Hurry the fuck up, Frayed Nerves. Or we're leaving without you. Assholes.»> And, now everyone? We've got a three-way clusterfuck on our hands.

Scimitar flickers through the expanding cloud of vapor and gas and shrapnel that -used- to be Bandit1, only to have a Kilrathi starfighter flicker past Pip's cockpit, illiciting a curse into the comms. «Diamond. Kilrathi are here to play. Torch, kill that fucking other transport. Midnight…engage new bandits.» His own targeting systems pass over a Dralthi mid-turn, and he releases a spur-of-the-moment dumbfire, hoping for a quick victory.

Trey's second dumbfire explodes in the backwash of The Ragged Edge's engines, like before. Rookies. He's not waiting for a response from Pip, either. His words are light and almost playful. «Attention psycho space assholes. This is-» And then hell breaks loose. The shots on his tail drive home, and he's doing his flyby just as Sonia's missile tears The Ragged Edge's engines apart. «What? Where? Oh, shit.» In the confusion, Trey peers around, looks for something glowing red on his HUD, and targets it with rear aspect missiles. When in doubt, pop off a round. «Engaging… something.»

«Sonofabitch.» Alex spotted the blips on comm almost at the same time as Jenthson did. And one's coming up straight on his tail, though he doesn't turn his guns that way. The Frayed Nerves is still in sight and he's still gunning for it, trying to do more than the dent's worth of damage that his weaponry's done already. Disappointing, that. «Razor, Torch. New Dralthi on your seven.»

After side slipping a barrage of laser blasts and mass driver cannons, then corkscrewing an IR-Missile off of his tail, Kell begins to get a lock on the last operational Drayman. However, the sound of Kilrathi crackling through his comm system coupled with the screaming lock warnings as two of the hostiles, one Talon and one Dralthi, begins to paint him with their missiles causes the young rookie to release his Heat Seeker early and bail on the attack run. Pulling his flightstick back hard, he sends his Stiletto into a sharp climb while kicking the afterburners on. "Thanks Torch, got another one painting me too, might be a Talon or one of the Kitties. Breaking off for now and going evasive again."

«Midnight to Lead, gut on whale…» she flips her bird in a long arc alongside Trey's Scimitar and brings her mass drivers to bear. She zeroes in on one of the bandit escorts when Pip's command filters in over the comms. «What? Oh shit!»

«Cats.» Xiang doesn't swear - she very rarely does at all - but she bites off the word with the general hint of profanity. «Lead, Verdict. Changing priorites. On Dralthi. Watch yourself, Mouse. You've got a cat coming up on you.» She swings her ship sharply about to retarget the cat. Fortunately, Stilettos are designed for those sorts of turns.

«Thanks, Verdict» says Kaye, even as her fighter breaks off from the bandit she's wounded to engage the Dralthi now lighting up her warning lights like a Christmas tree. And then, entirely on the spur of the moment: «Hullo there, pirates,» she offers on an unencrypted channel, speaking over the pleasing tone now ringing in her ears. «I'm Mouse, and I really don't want to shoot you again. I'm targeting the incoming Kilrathi, and I think you should do the same.» A note of pleading enters her voice. «Maybe we can kill each other later?»

Oh, and - «Fox two.» She remembers this time!

You've got to love a furball. In the confusion that has broken out, Frayed Nerves breaks its airlock with the disabled freighter, and begins to run as fast as its damaged systems will carry it. Likely it is plotting a jump free of the combat zone. «We're clearin' out, fucksticks. You comin?» This is transmitted from the freighter, toward the remaining escorts…who are a little busy to run, clearly. As one is battered, and the other underfire. The Kilrathi bombers peel off from the dogfight, clearly in formation for a quick torpedo run on the fleeing freighter.

A glancing blow from the laser of the Frayed Nerves sends Pip's starfighter into a slight spin. «If you don't think you can kill the freighter, let the Kittens try…» Quickly snapped orders over the friendly frequency, and the Englishman turns his spin into a tight turn, ending with him releasing his heat-seeker at his heavily damaged prior target. "Lead has light damage. How is everyone fairing?" Conversational, even. Shit hasn't hit the fan enough to have him cursing like a chav.

With the pass of the fighters, the confusion of gun and missle fire streams just outside her canopy and Sonia banks her fighter at the last minute just as Bandit3 becomes a small nova in space. «Good shot Trey. Now lets go weed out some of these Kitties.» She sticks to Trey's wing as they flip over and bear down on one of the Dralthi's. The warning claxon of a missle lock screams in her cockpit and her AI paints the lock from a heavy bomber on her. «SHIT! Taking evasive Sloppy, one of the Cat's has missle lock on me.»

Aquilina has tone, has tone…and BAM, the Grikath after him slams a missile right into the nose of his Stiletto. Dont' ask what miracle of crumple-zone physics just saved him from exploding, as it also knocks the trajectory of that perfect, perfect missile shot off, skimming it past the Frayed Nerves' bridge. Another dent. «You dizzy fuck!» Unable to get a fast lock back on the Frayed Nerves, he does indeed let the Kilrathi keep themselves busy on it for a few seconds, taking a fast shot at the bandit zooming after Kaye.

"Understood, Lead. Breaking off from the Drayman." Kell acknowledges the order, knowing that the welfare of his squadronmates are more important than a Drayman who has two Kilrathi bombers breathing down its neck now. "Torch, watch yourself, you've got a Talon diving down on you at four o'clock high, engaging it." Pulling his Stiletto into a climb, Kell tries to get a solid lock with his Heat Seeker and lets it loose. "Fox three away!"

«Lead, Verdict. I'm still clean.» So far. «On Dralthi down.» Said with a hint of satisfaction, but she doesn't celebrate. «I'm tapped out of missiles. Switching to guns until I've got a moment to reload.» She banks up and about to try and do /some/ damage to the cats with her pingers. «On your three o'clock, Mouse. Let's go cat-fishing. Watch your six. That pirate's still back there. Torch is on him.» Quite confident in Torch's abilities, she sounds.

Kaye's fighter rocks backwards as a Kilrathi missile slams into her Stiletto, but though her screens go on the fritz for a split second, no serious damage seems to have been inflicted. "The Lord is merciful and gracious," she murmurs under her breath as she begins to turn away from the pirates once more: giving them one last chance, perhaps, before engaging - and to her everlasting surprise, the bandits break off. «Thanks,» she whispers, letting the fleeing pirates go to turn her attention to her wingmate's target. «Verdict, Mouse here. I'm coming onto your target from above. And Torch - wait! They're not shooting!» Her voice breaks off as she fires still another shot as she and Xiang converge on their target.

«I can see parts of the front of my ship that I probably shouldn't be able to see, sir.» is Trey's response to that. His missile tears the wing clean off of one of the pirate vessels as Sonia's missile finishes the job. Trey pushes the stick forward avoiding both wreckage and his wingmate. «Right. Sir, can I address the Kilrathi and read them -their- rights? I'll be good at it. I promise.»

With the pass of the fighters, the confusion of gun and missle fire streams just outside her canopy and Sonia banks her fighter at the last minute just as Bandit3 becomes a small nova in space. «Good shot Trey. Now lets go weed out some of these Kitties.» She sticks to Trey's wing as they flip over and bear down on one of the Dralthi's. (altered pose)

Kaye's fighter rocks backwards as a Kilrathi missile slams into her Stiletto, but though her screens go on the fritz for a split second, no serious damage seems to have been inflicted. "The Lord is merciful and gracious," she murmurs under her breath as she begins to turn away from the pirates once more: giving them one last chance, perhaps, before engaging - but unfortunately, they don't listen. «Sorry,» she whispers, squeezing off one last missile. «I - I - you should have /listened/!» There's a touch of sorrow in her hollow voice as she breaks off to join her wingmate. «I'll have your target soon, Verdict.»

«I can see parts of the front of my ship that I probably shouldn't be able to see, sir.» is Trey's response to that. His missile tears the wing clean off of one of the pirate vessels as Sonia's guns tear the remained to shreads. Trey pushes the stick forward avoiding both wreckage and his wingmate. «Right. Sir, can I address the Kilrathi and read them -their- rights? I'll be good at it. I promise.»

And? Confed earns its money in the last few seconds of dogfighting. What had been decidedly nasty odds turns into a rather lopsided fight in the other direction. Explosions tear apart the melee, with pirate and kilrathi starfighters dying to Minutemen and Illuminati in droves. All that remains of the hostile forces are the pair of Grikath bombers, though they show little interest in picking up the battle. They seem to be running, with the human freighter jumping out of system, damaged but alive. Both Kilrathi drop off a friend or foe missile in their wake, an attempt to cover their retreat.

«Jesus hell, chaps. Nothing can stop the Majestic's pilots, tonight.» Pip's words sound amused, as his Scimitar is already turning to engage the fleeing Grikaths, a dumbfire leaping from under his wing, and chasing them down. «Feel free, Sloppy…before this last pair, dies.» Victoria's battle-scarred hull is knifing through the wreckage of the battle as quickly as it can, toward the final foes. «A pity that last freighter survived. Calling in the marines, now. They want to…speak…with our pirate friends.»

«Verdict, you're perfect luck. Do that again.» Alex snickers into his comm just after his and Kaye's guns blow away the Bandit trying to crawl up her stiletto's proverbial tailpipe. The Grikath are next target, and obviously the one that's got back missile pods aimed at his wingman.

Trey perforates a Kilrathi fighter while his wingmate does the same. He swings around, intentionally buzzing The Frayed Nerves, effectively giving them the bird almost literally, and then switches to heat seekers for what is probably going to be the big finish. «Oh, good. Attention, -hairy- psycho space assholes. You have the right to die horribly in the cold vacuum of space. You have the right to go to kitty hell, where all the catnip is cut with sawdust, aaand… you know, I've got nothing.»

Watching as his Heat Seeker missile intercepts and collides with one of the Talon bandits at the cockpit, Kell grins at the result when the pirate fighter explodes in brilliant fashion. "Scratch one Talon, your tail is clear, Torch." Multiple explosions play out over the blackness of space and after checking his sensors, Kell sees that all the majority of red blips have disappeared while the friendly blue ones remain. Now he angles his Stiletto towards the remaining Kilrathi and broadcats on an open comm channel to bait the bombers, "Hah, look at those Kittens running with their tail between their legs, typical chickenshit Kilrathi!" However, as he taunts the enemy, his sensors picks up the yellow blip screaming right at him, causing the Rookie to break off into an emergency barrel roll.

As the Dralthi disintagrates from her sights, Sonia gives a whoop of a cheer as other hostiles quickly blink out from existence from her scope. «Midnight to Lead, scratch all of the fighters.» She flips her bird over and aligns herself with the Kilrathi bombers. «Sloppy, Midnight. I am on your six, lets bag us a bomber.»

«I think I rather like this Stil,» Xiang says as she brings her plane into a smooth vertical, to avoid denting it with any Dralthi splatter. «I may have to keep her. And give her a proper name. Luck is right, Torch, but I'll give it a try. Good show, Mouse. With me, on the cat.»

«Sorry…» Kaye's unsteady voice trembles as her Stiletto darts away from the wreckage of the pirates. «I didn't want to do that,» she mumbles, and her fighter wobbles ever so slightly in the backwash of several explosions - one of which was the enemy she'd just been about to attack. "Great shot, Jia!" Mouse exclaims in the privacy of her cockpit, momentary jubilation interrupting her thoughts. «I see your target, Verdict - shooting now.» No mockery is forthcoming from her.

«That's one dead Grikath, Verdict. Nice.» Pip's words come clear over the comm, before lining his sights up on the final, limping Grikath. Might as well dump off his last Dumbfire. There goes his last missile, and hopefully…no more will be required, on this day. A few moments of silence continue, while Victoria continues after the Kilrathi. «Marines en route. We will provide security while they board.»

«I learn from the best, sir,» Xiang replies to Jenthson over the comm. Trying to keep the surprise out of her tone. That exploded rather bigger than she'd been expecting. «Fair shot yourself, Mouse. That thing is very much splashed.» She slips vertical again, getting clear of the debris cloud so she can see where she's flying as she regroups.

Kaye has settled into a patrol pattern around the disabled freighter, her eyes a little wide, her pulse pounding loudly in her head as if she can't believe that the battle - just like that - is over. «Thanks,» she breathes, doing her best to force her voice to remain level; only now does she realize she's squeezing her controls much more tightly than absolutely necessary. «I'm - I'm really happy you're okay. And everybody else.»

Sonia grins as the massive amounts of weaponry rain down onto the remaining bomber from every angle by her wingmates. She pulls back before slicing through the corona of the Kilrathi's exploding ship and she scans the far reaches of her sensors. «Good shooting everyone. Sloppy, a pleasure to be your wingmate on this run.» She slips her fighter alongside Trey's and gives him a thumbs up through the canopy to him.

The verbal taunt seemed to have work as the Kilrathi fires another Friend or Foe projectile in his direction, causing Kell to reverse his barrel roll in the other direction. He watches as the missile streaks by his fighter without any damage before looking ahead to watch as his squadron's concentrated fire shred the remaining Kilrathi bomber. "Serves them right for crashing a party they weren't invited to." There is a slight pause before the rookie officially reports in his status, "Razor here, all system green and entering patrol pattern, waiting for arrival of the Marines' transport."

Aquilina's missile gets a much better lock this time, landing a perfect KABOOM on the grikath's cockpit. «Now that's a happy ending.» He glances back the way the Freaky nerves or whatever it was called got off too, thinning his lips behind his mask. Hmpf. «Razor, Torch. Good to see you in one piece, nicely done.»

Trey observes the Maelstrom of utter destruction from his cockpit and eases up on the stick, drifting into an escort pattern alongside Sonia, «It was a lot of fun not dying alongside you, Midnight. We should do it again some time!» He peers around at the remains, turning his neck as much as is permitted in the cockpit of a Scimitar, «That was a nice shot, Torch. Can you explain exactly how you manage to get a heat seeking missile into a guy's cockpit like that?» Chuckles he: «Every time I try I get a wing or, you know, something hot.»

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