Birds Of A Feather, Fight Together

January 03, 2016:

Sam organises a raid on a suspected Sentinel shipment … and receives a surprise. May proves why she's called The Cavalry

Air Space over the Tri Cities

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions:

Plot:

Mood Music: None.


Fade In…

Over a blank stretch of the North Pacific, a group of four C-130s trucks along at cruising speed. They're nondescript, their flight plans logged and their cargo manifests uninteresting. Not to mention completely fraudulent.

Sam Wilson, flying in his stealth uniform, looks like a bird to RADAR, which means he's the one to confirm it. "Scanners read some pretty wild EM stuff in there," he says into an oxygen mask designed not to impede his communicator. "Definitely not a cargo of vinyl toys, then. Looks like Simmons' analysis was good." He pauses for a second, then adds, "Problem is, I can't tell what kind of defenses they've got. I'm going to wait for you guys to catch up, then we hit hard and all at once. Hopefully they won't have time to scramble any escorts."

When dealing with high-tech terrorists, it's hard to guess just what you'll be facing, so Sam brought a squad of SHIELD and JL:A heavy hitters. They're specialized in aerial combat and electronic intrusion, so they should have the skills to take the convoy down. Of course, this unholy alliance of Purifiers, Reavers, and AIM has proven nothing if not surprising so far.


Melinda May follows Wilson and the C-130s but from much farther out, her own quinjet — a variant model designed with a far greater than usual complement of communication arrays and computer processors — flying on the path and with the manifest of a private passenger jet. She's listening in on the comms, her eyes obscured by her aviators. "Acknowledged, Falcon. ETA, two minutes." She's sure any passengers with her on THIS particular mission heard everything she did and are likely getting ready now.


Answering to the call of a comrade was one thing, answering to a call among multiples?

Meh. Shayera will bite.

She bit long enough to be pulled from the continous repairs of the Valmorra to not necessarily suit up and boot up as it was to eject her wings from that hidden space and fly. The only armor that clung to her form was the helm, utility belt settled upon her waist as the two rods remain against her left thigh, trusty mace at her right.

"I personally don't mind going in first." Shayera states matter of factly, teeth gritted to contain a growl that was soon allieviated by the snatch of those rods and a toss of them within the air midflight. Even though lately, she wasn't eager and too keen on fighting, she knew that she had to do something.


Jericho can get fairly fast, in ground terms, when he's flying, but he's not generally up to keeping up with aircraft unless they're helicopters. So he's hitched a ride for this one. Once things start getting bumpy he'll ditch the quinjet and take to the skies… probably very briefly before he takes to the inside of an airplane someone really wishes he wasn't inside.

In the meantime he scans the networks both friendly and, potentially, hostile. If he can find the latter that is. He's good but the people who do this kind of thing don't tend to be idiots and he knows first hand that underestimating the enemies gets you killed dead. Anything, Oracle?

At May's callback to Falcon Jericho checks his kit. Pistol. Check. Blade. Check. Snazzy new black armor for this kind of 'hero' work?

Check.


Not technically a passenger, Oracle is listening to the Quinjet and anyone who's come along.

"Accessing the in vehicle electronic systems." The redhead has already accessed other systems, determining the manifest and 'logged' location - not that she believes either for a moment. "That will tell us what they've fitted the vehicles out with." Yes, she could have done this much earlier - but that increased the risk of being detected …

Nothing yet, Aspect. Patching feeds through to you when they're appropriated.


"I can see you having some pretty fancy sensors in your helmet, Hawkgirl, but getting that alien tech to connect to our network would have probably been a pain in the ass," Falcon answers with good humor. "Besides, this way I feel useful." He waits for May's quinjet and Shayera to catch up, then accelerates to intercept speed and zeroes in on the lead cargo plane. "Hope this transciever of yours works, Oracle. If I have to do any hacking more complicated than plugging it into their flight computer, there will be hunting and pecking involved. As if this trip wasn't bird-themed enough already…"

Their approach has been stealthy so far, but as the trio closes in, it seems that some detection system aboard has made them: the cargo doors of each aircraft start to open. There's a spike in electromagnetic signals, as well, for those that can detect them.

"Heads up, flight group. We seem to have woken them up," Sam says. He rolls, shedding a bit of altitude, and lines himself up to fly straight into the cargo opening. Unfortunately, as he does, a crackling beam of crimson electricity stabs out at him, necessitating more evasive maneuvers. There's something in there: something huge and hovering and cylindrical. Something holding on to one of the ramp's support struts with a tiny, shrivelled arm.


Melinda May can't really get away with bringing the quinjet too close to the C-130s, as even unmarked it's pretty blatantly a SHIELD aircraft. But she can at least let Tren… Rook join the fray and then put a (faked) weapons lock on one or more of the cargo planes to get them to stop firing. "Clear to go, Rook. Owl, keep us posted."

Oh, and if anyone tries to call her Goose or MommaDuck, she will be VERY. put. out.


"Fancy. Is that what you call technology light-years ahead of your own." Shayera's tone may have seemed put out, but she was generally just joking. It doesn't take her too long to catch up, but she was still lagging behind, keeping far away from the quinjet to avoid being a pigeon caught in the propellers, or anything of that sordid nature.

The call to arms, at least as Shayera took it, drops whatever drawl she had coming up in the form of something snarky has her pausing just a beat, listening to orders from May with a slight smirk as the names were given.

"And we shall henceforth dub thee Swan." Whelp!

Her wings arch terribly as she cracks through the sky, rods soon twirled around her fingers as she pauses partly to catch the red beam that aims towards Falcon.

"Oh no you don't!"

*TWHOP*

Both of those Nth Metal rods cut through the air like bullets towards the darkened depths of where the red beam fly.


'I have a code name' had been Jericho's objection to the mission code name but May'd found it amusing. She'd even almost smiled. And had, in any case, insisted. So there you have it. Aspect is, for the duration 'Rook'. There are worse call signs after all and Jericho had spent a good chunk of the flight browsing bird names by way of both education and revange. Grandma Nene had been high on the list but eventually he decided that he really didn't want both arms broken. Besides, Shay just called her swan. So there.

"Rook deploying." A black armored figure exits the quinjet and sprouts amber wings, which is the only clue other than the voice about who it is. Weaving through the fire the hacker tries to appropriate a transmitter as he comes in and foul the targetting systems. Whether or not he can, though, he's aiming dead center of the wings on the nearest Herc.


"Just get close enough, Falcon, and deploy the transceiver. I'll do the rest from there." And if worst comes to worst, Ora— Owl will get Aspe— Rook to conduct some in mission modifications.

"Spike in electromagnetic emissions from the convoy. Heads up." beat "Falcon, I need that transceiver deployed … so I can appropriate their controls." Her systems are good, but hacking flight systems? This requires a slightly different approach.


The lowered ramps of the cargo planes suddenly disgorge robotic escort drones. Each is bright yellow and cylindrical, about the size of a washing machine drum, and flies around on a rocket engine housed in the back. They bristle with laser turrets and, if a target gets too close, whirling propeller-like blades.

Shayera's rods deflect the energy beam with a tremendous crack, but their flight toward the lead aircraft is blocked by the sudden appearance of a translucent energy barrier. They bounce away with a slight buckling and an electric crackle.

The source of the energy beam starts to cackle maniacally — not loud enough to be heard over the wind and engines, but directly into their minds. "FOOLS! Flee before my UNRIVALED INTELLECT!" it psychically screams. "My analysis told me that you would ATTEMPT an attack on this shipment, and even now, your every attack is as OBVIOUS and PITIFUL to me as a child's first SHAMEFUL attempts at BIPEDAL LOCOMOTION!" The energy shield protecting the lead plane drops for a second, and the beam fires again, this time split into multiple segments that track toward each of the fliers.

Swan's target lock elicits a cumbersome attempt at evasion from the cargo plane. All of the C-130s have been slowed by lowering their ramps, and this puts that one in a particularly vulnerable position for Rook to get aboard. Falcon veers away from the lead aircraft as the barrier blocks him, as well. "Change of priorities for me," he says. "If any of you can figure out how to get through that barrier, go for the lead." He swoops around to lock onto the third plane with his magnetic talon grapple. He has just enough time to slam the wireless hacking transceiver onto the engine before he is driven away by raking laser fire from the escort drones. "Owl? I really hope you're good to go."


"Someone shut that maniac up," May, er, Swan says grumpily, but then she has to throw the quinjet into an evasive maneuver that would never happen if there were passengers aboard. Trent, be glad you bailed when you did. The quinjet goes into a dangerously tight barrel roll and when it pulls level again, it fires a single shot at the thing screaming vitriol. She doesn't dare fire any more, not with three friendlies so close by. "Owl, confirm, did I just see that force shield drop for a split second before they fired their weapons?"


Her rods didn't fly far, for as they bounce and ping from the shot and invisible field, Shayera's hands were stretched outright, liquid pools forming with the palm of her hands as she Nth was summoned back to her person with a one handed catch with a left and grab of her right. The rods were snapped together to for a staff, twisting as the surface lines and brimms with electricity. Oh, it was on like donkey kong…

"It called us fools." Shayera said matter of factly, not perturbed in the slightest. May's question causes her to glance but only once.. before arms were pressed against her sides to create a all too direct freefall towards the ship itself, hoping for a quick opening once those weapons fire.


Rook swerves away sharply, folding his wings to drop him about twenty meters before they deploy again. That had been close. The hacker isn't armored beyond the protection provided by his new suit here and that beam would of roasted him unless he took it on the wings. He was army, after all. Airborne yes but not air force. "Let me see what I can do. That drone system has to be networked… and it sounds like Peabody in there has a hell of a complex. Oracle, work on the flight systems. I'll see what I can do about the drones."

Jericho drops back, firing from his gunblade mostly to keep the damn things busy. Sam and Shayera are much better arial combatants so he'll let them take the lead on that. In the meantime he scans the opposing network, looking for weaknesses and unleashing Maxwell. The code-imp loves breaking things. Between the two of them, maybe they'll find a way in. Subvert the drones. Crash them. He doesn't care, they just need to get out of the way. Code streams past on his HUD as he opens several windows and unleashes the first in a barrage of custom malware. The sort of thing that'd make Anonymous prance with glee if they ever saw it.


Pyschic screams … don't transmit electronically "Swan, shut who up?" Owl asks for confirmation - clearly she's missing something.

Falcon's deployment of the transceiver takes a moment to connect and then the redhead's hands fly over her console, information feeding up onto her screens. "Better than good, Falcon. Just ask around…"

Noting the dip in the shields, she's about to pass that information back to Ma—- err Swan, and the rest of the team. "Confirmed, the force shield drops just before the weapons fire. A consolidated attack, just before they fire again, should get you through." Although, she's now hacking the systems and see's Jericho's handiwork, yeah, she can use that… and sets off her own trojans from the inside… trying to hijack the command and control systems and put them firmly in the teams hands.

"All fliers, on my mark, target the vehicle… they're charging weapons again … " Watching the readings, she waits … before adding "Mark…"


The team times their dive perfectly so that they'll pass through the barrier at the instant the plane's weapons have recharged and can fire again. There's just one problem: this time the beams fire about a second and a half earlier than before, directly at them, and the barrier is back up before anyone can get to it.

More shrieking laughter is beamed directly into their heads. (Owl excepted, of course.) "Pitiful pawns of your own TINY BRAINS! My analytical faculties are so SUPERIOR that I have already analyzed your own analysis! Of COURSE you timed the recharging intervals of the M-Beam! Knowing that, it was LAUGHABLY simple to exaggerate the interval, thereby taking you COMPLETELY UNAWARES!"

Falcon, sent flying by his collision with the reestablished barrier, struggles to control his spiraling descent. "It wouldn't be half as bad if he didn't have to scream a random word or two every sentence," he grouses. A laser burning through his leg snaps him painfully back to attention; he tucks his wings back and turns his plummet into a swoop, a horde of drones in hot pursuit.

Owl's electronic assault very quickly spreads through the airplane's flight systems. Your typical C-130 is getting a bit up there in age and nowhere near this networked, but AIM does seem to have a bit of a thing for excessively elaborate computer systems. Pretty soon she has complete control of the aircraft.

Jericho's demonic viruses come up against a lot more resistance. Although the drones are networked, their functions are largely autonomous. The central control unit only provides basic guidance — 'kill this thing' — and then the drones analyze their own situation to decide how best to get to that goal. The whole thing works a bit like a homicidal fleet of Google Cars. They absolutely refuse to self destruct or crash themselves; there's not even a ready-made way to ask them.

The gunblade is actually a lot more effective, dispatching two drones in spectacular rocket-fuel fireballs, and sending another skittering away in a mechanical panic.


Okay, so this guy is an ass on top of being a screaming maniac. And only the lead plane appears to be shielded. "Owl, drop the other two planes into the ocean." She keeps with the evasive manoeuvres, but again hesitates to open fire in return.


With a fan of her wings Shayera stops short as the ship returns fire and she shield forms again, her staff swinging harshly in front of her to combat the beams and halt its attack. Her hand lifts to press against her ear as she falls back, glancing towards Falcon to see if he's in need of any.. —Nope, he's flying again! All good on that front.

As May-Swan gives the order to take down the other two planes, Shayera dislocates the staff, snapping them against her hip as she allows the Nth to bleed and coat her in her armor. "You drop, I grab and take those to SHIELD headquarters." Shayera certainly wasn't in the killing or collateral damage business, no siree!

"Say the word!"


Jericho frowns. Why do the annoying ones always have to be the smart ones. Decentralized networking is definitely the way to go with a drone network like this. It keeps people from doing exactly what he was trying to do, but it's expensive and he was hoping they'd have opted for the cheaper and simpler central control model.

The armored hacker speeds up, bringing first his gun and then his blade into play as he closes with the drones, looping in between them to make it hard to target him without high risk of hitting one another.

He has one other electronic gambit to play. Since they are recieving their targetting data from the central source, he's going to try to subvert that. Or failing that, mark everything in the area as hostile. "Hey, Peabody, you code like a six year old. Is this stuff off the shelf DoD knockoffs? I swear I've seen this before."

It's not true, actually the code is quite clever, but this guy has an ego. Time to prick it and see if he'll make a mistake.


Still unaware of the pyschic input, Owl's eyes widen as the weapons fire and shield goes back up into place. "I have control of the main aircraft, Swan." she reports as May requests she drops the other two planes … hands fly once again, and the other two planes start to plummet - thankfully Shayera's there to grab them.

That done, with control of the aircrafts systems, the Gothamite disables the shields … now… can she bring down that weaponry. "Shield should be be down." the update given to the rest of the team.


Jericho's retargeting initiative seems to go through. It's every drone for itself as they start ripping into the unshielded planes and each other. This doesn't make the airspace any less dangerous for the JL:A/SHIELD team, but it does make it a hell of a lot worse for the convoy itself. The beams, however, are still being repelled from the lead aircraft. That's not an onboard shielding or weapons system: both are being projected by the psychic monstrosity guarding the lead cargo plane.

The creature watches the rear planes go down, leaning forward out of the shadow of the aircraft, and can finally be seen for what it is: a giant head in some kind of hover canister, tiny, vestigial arms and legs dangling at its sides. Its enormous eyes bug out in horror as it watches the disabled planes tumble out of sight. "Wasteful PINHEADS! Are you INSANE?! You're just going to let that PRICELESS technology PLUMMET into the OCEAN?" It's practically frothing at the mouth at this point. Apparently for all of its 'massive intellect,' it doesn't have the slightest idea about the properties of nth-metal.

The being's force field starts to crackle with energy, strengthening and growing more milky-opaque by the second. "Fortunately, I've calculated the costs of this venture down to the United States MILLI-CENT! You may have succeeded in a pointless act of VANDALISM, but all I need to PROFIT OBSCENELY on this trip is t—" With an abrupt, deafening inrush of air, the spherical area contained within the shield blinks out of existence. It's some kind of teleportation. Wherever that thing ended up, it took most of the plane's cargo, not to mention the better part of the C-130's tail section. (And, presumably, continued its unhinged, narcissistic rant.)

The plane immediately pitches forward and starts to crash into the ocean, shedding screaming, yellow-suited crew. Shayera has already bugged out; it's up to the rest of the group to devise a way to save whatever they can.


Melinda May mutters a curse. There is NO way the quinjet can stop a C-130 from flying like a brick into the ocean. Though maybe… Okay, this is scary dangerous, but she's got to risk it. The quinjet dives after the cargo jet, managing to avoid the crew it's shedding and aiming to place itself just in front of the aforementioned brick. If she can use the jet's built-in tow line and pull the C-130's nose up… maybe that'll be enough to keep it from crashing into the ocean. Mostly.


Jericho winces as the Herc goes nose down and concentrates on finishing the now distracted drones off. "Oracle, force the last one to land at Langly, if you can steer it there. SHIELD and the DoD can take charge of whatever's inside." Oh, and the JL:A, he supposes. Aspect - er Rook - isn't used to thinking in those terms really. He still does most of his work with a small group of people, only one of whom is JL:A.


"On it, As— Rook. Hawkgirls got them …" Oracle has finally got access to the video feed in the plane. "MODOK… of course." As the creature teleports, the redhead tries to get images from the video of what was in the cargo it's taken.

With the C-130 plummetting to the ocean, there's little she can do … piloting isn't something she's done a heap of …


Melinda May says, "Someone catch those falling men! Or…Owl. Link the C-130's controls to mine." Maybe she can pilot both in. Maybe. It would be a first for her, that's for damn sure."


May's maneuver is desperate and dangerous. To get in front of the plane, she has to dive the Quinjet faster than the larger craft's terminal velocity, all while avoiding tumbling crew. Then she has to apply enough pitch to get the plane's wings back near level before they both hit the ocean. Even then, if she can't get the thing moving laterally fast enough to create significant lift, the dead weight of the Herc will drag both aircraft underwater. Pulling off the maneuver would take a pilot of unparalleled skill and near-complete disregard for personal safety.

Fortunately, they didn't just send a pilot.

They sent the Cavalry.

Flying alongside a mere 50 feet over the water, with a pair of jumpsuited AIM goons dangling from each arm, Falcon's awestruck expression is somehow visible straight through the air mask. "God damn, May," he says, too stunned to remember about the temporary codenames. The SHIELD agent pulled the plane out of its dive so late that it actually skipped off the surface of the Pacific like a thrown pebble. The Quinjet's engines don't have enough power to keep the crippled aircraft aloft forever, but for the moment it's — just barely, sort of — flying.


Melinda May manages to get the C-130 to NOT faceplant into the ocean and then uses that tow hook to (precariously) settle the quinjet on top of the bigger jet's back. Hopefully by now Oracle's figured out how to make the Quinjet's systems control the C-130 or this is gonna be a really soggy ride in just a few moments.


"Patching them through, Swan." Oracle responds as she then starts to work her own brand of magic, recoding and splicing the quinjet and C-130 systems to interface them. "It's not elegant, Swan, but that should give you some semblance of control."

There's also a flight plan appearing on Mays screens… somewhere safe to set down that … isn't too far.


Clamping the Quinjet to the C-130's hull and using its wings as a sort of improvised tail section, Swan manages to get the whole thing flying. It's not quite graceful enough to live up to her temporary namesake, as there's still the small matter of having a giant gaping hole in the back of the aircraft. Falcon flies straight in — nervously, as it's hard to tell just how stable this arrangement is — and sets down the crew he managed to rescue. "You're under arrest," he yells over the bellowing wind. The AIM jumpsuits are too busy scrambling away from the yawning void where the cargo section used to be to argue. The Avenger makes a dismissive gesture and then takes back off. He and Jericho do what they can in terms of rescuing the crew and securing the aircraft. There's not much cargo left here, but the captured crew are sure to yield some answers. Plus, it's safe to say that Shayera's haul of Sentinel parts will be full of interesting technical tidbits.

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