Mattimeo sat in the trench wearily, the blaze of gunfire coming from beside him, in front of him, and behind him. He stood up and fired his Plasma Rifle until the battery was empty, taking out an oncoming Anglo Isles Rifle Grunt.
Hearing someone call from behind, "All fighting-fit gunmen to the nearest armor unit, we're sending in a squadron! All Assault and Bazooka Veterans are to escort them!"
"That's us, guys!" He commanded his squad, "Move out, cover that Battlestation and that AA unit!"
Olympus Squadron was comprised mainly of Assault Vets, Plasma Vets, and Mortar Vets, but they had a few Rifle Grunts and Bazooka Vets mixed in as well. It seemed that the moment the lifted himself out of the trench, Mattimeo was hit in the shoulder with a shot from an Assault Veteran. It came from... the east? "What the hell? Is that..."
As he spoke, a Western Frontier T-Copter landed nearby, pouring units out into the battlefield. "Damn, they must've taken the side of the Anglo Isles..."
Jonathan was on the deck of the Indefatigable, the mighty winds blowing the hair that was not protected by his bronze helmet. He looked below the ship, through the many dots in the vast blue abyss, to a mass of sand and trees covered in various explosions which blazed bright orange amongst all else. "Jonathan!" yelled a voice. Jonathan turned to address the man who spake at him who turned out to be his fellow crewman, Darryl Highwind. "What is it now, Darryl?" Jonathan replied, his voice nearly drowned by the roar of the ship. Darryl's lips moved, yet no sound seemed to come from them. It didn't take long for Jonathan to realize why for at that moment, Anglo jets shot past, delivering missiles to the hull of the Indefatigable. The whole ship trembled violently and both Jonathan and Darryl were thrown form their feet onto the deck. "Blast those cursed Islanders!" swore Darryl, "Jonathan, get to the AA decks." Jonathan nodded and began to smile. "Those who touch our beloved ship shall pay the price tenfold!" And off he went, without any care or thought to the conflict in the trenches below him.
After having the bullet removed and his arm bandaged, Mattimeo was stubborn enough to return to the battlefield. He caught up with his Squadron, whose AA unit was firing missiles at a Windis Empire airship. He saw some troopers land nearby and ordered half his men to charge. "Get over there, we can't have the Windis screwing this up!" As they were running, his troop started firing plasma bolts at the Windis squadron that had just landed. "That'll be a nice welcome present for 'em!"
Jonathan fell after another tremble shook the ship. He looked down and saw the Sols with their AA vehicles firing wave after wave of plasma. "Darryl," yelled Jonathan, "what gave the Sols cause to fire upon us?"
Darryl shook his head. He didn't know. Blast! thought Jonathan, what could give them good reason to fire on us? We're a neutral vessel!
Darryl cursed at him. "Get up already, Jonathan! We've not a moment to lose." They ran below deck, gripping tightly to the rails, for Anglo missiles and Solar plasma continued to hail upon them. They reached the first gundeck as others were rushing to their posts, chaos building fast in the atmosphere. An explosion rocked the left deck and through Jonathan on his face again, shrapnel shooting past his head. Darryl was already back on his feet and heading to the AA guns. Jonathan knew the Indefatigable would not last while taking heavy fire from fighters and AA vehicles. He saw the Admiral barking out orders over the sound of explosions and Windisian guns, deciding it was best to speak with the only man who could save their lives.
"Admiral!" yelled Jonathan, "We have to put her down!" The Admiral took no heed of him and continued his duties. Jonathan put a hand on the Admiral's shoulder and yelled again.
This time he received a push backwards and a command of, "Get to your post! We'll not surrender to this baggage." Jonathan sighed. He expected this kind of stubbornness from the Admiral but he still knew his life and his friends' lives were more important than one man's pride.
"Admiral, now is not the time to choke on pride!" Jonathan said, "You know we cannot survive up here. We must land."
The Admiral's eyes showed defeat as he sighed, "Very well then, trooper. Form a landing force and lead the way!"
Seeing a Windis Empire trooper approach one of his Outfit Members, he fired a bolt of plasma, but missed! The Windisian tackled the Plasma Veteran and they started grappling on the ground, "I don't have time for this..."
- BRRZT* "Olympus Squadron, we need you to board that airship! A nearby T-Copter will pick you up!" *BRRZT*
Hearing the command over the com, Mattimeo rushed to rally his men and load them on the T-Copter. They landed on the Indefatigable and immediately started firing mortars, grenades, bazookas, and plasma everywhere they could.
"You two!" Mattimeo yelled at Plasma Veteran and another Assault Veteran, "We're going to try and take the control room to bring this baby down!"
Nodding, his two troop members obediently followed. On the path to the engine room, they encountered a small resistance force. They were holed up pretty well, but their metal shielding was no match for the plasma bolts of the Solar Empire.
"Keep moving, guys!" Mattimeo encouraged his troops, "We can do this!"
"Digit" had just been unloaded from the Black Eagle transport, its purpose for coming was unknown. All Northern Axis units were pooling out into the "court yard" of the Northern Axis base "Solar-8" When all the vehicles had pooled in, they recieved their objective via wireless transmission.
The objective was "Take this disignated area, destroy everything that gets in your way, Solar, Frontier, Tundran, Norman, Windis, etc." and so, all the vehicles embarked from the main gate of "Solar-8" as they drove on, hundreds of NA aircraft appeared overhead, darkening the skies, and then they saw what they were looking for, 2 groups of enemies, fighting each other, mostly infantry, and above them was a large airship ship gently drifting down.
All vehicles assembed into a firing line, and began firing rapidly, "KABLAM! KABLAM! KABLAM!" thousands of rounds were expended on the 2 groups, although hiting few, they left their mark, as the enemy ranks quickly liquidated, and the tanks drove on to their next destination, as NA craft mingled inbetween the airship and Anglo fighters, joining the 3 way brawl.
Jonathan was preparing his landing ship and marines before takeoff. He needed to clear a path for the Indefatigable to land and that wasn't going to be easy. Sols and Anglos were fighting neck and neck on the southern half while the Northern Axis joined the fray to the north.
Suddenly, a Sol T-copter roughly crashed onto the bow, wood splitting and metal whining. A Sol squadron emerged from the belly of the iron beast and began defiling the beauty of the mighty ship. He began to see some men climbing down stairs heading towards the engine room. There was no way he would let them bring the tireless ship down. He quickly aimed at fired, hitting a soldier in the neck causing him to fall down the stairs into the others below him.
"To me!" he cried. "To me! The Indefatigable has been boarded." Darryl burst from below deck with a handful of marines ready to defend the pride of the skies. The Sols were taken by surprise as a hail of air propelled bullets bore down on them. They charged onto the bow with shields in front, turning the fight to melee combat as they tackled their opponents to the ground.
"For the Empire!" yelled Darryl. The marines repeated the phrase as they fought, morale as high as always.
Seeing an Assault Veteran hit out of the corner of his eye, Mattimeo turned around, fired a few shots, and proceeded towards the engine room with the remaining Flame Vet. Finally reaching his destination, he simply burned through the controls with Plasma, causing the ship to plummet.
"Ok, guys!" Mattimeo shouted over the com, "Get off the ship, she's going down! Meet me at the T-Copter!"
Opening the door to the engine room, he was faced with a Windis Rifle grunt, which the Flame Vet took care of. Mattimeo and his squad member hastily charged up the stairs, trying to get the the T-Copter...
Jonathan felt the ship begin to plummet down to the blue abyss beneath his feet. He saw the perpetrators of this cowardly act running back towards their landing craft. But they could not leave yet. In fact, he'd make sure they did not get back.
He cried out, "Vengeance!" before sprinting towards the man giving orders and tackling him onto the deck. Jonathan drew his REGENT K13 pistol and shoved it hard into the man's neck. "Why did you attack us?" yelled Jonathan, "We are a neutral force. Why did you attack us?"
Before he could get his answer he saw, out of the corner of his eye, a gun being aimed directly at his head. No more than half a second later, he saw that same man drop to the ground and heard Darryl yell, "What the bloody devil do you think your doing, Jonathan? Kill him already!"
In that moment, Jonathan lost focus of what he was doing. He was trying to make a quick decision: kill him or get him to talk? That lapse of concentration was a thing Jonathan remembered with great pain every night for the rest of his life, for a gloved fist was pressed hard against his face and he sprawled backward with a cry. The man got up and drew a hidden knife before Darryl could react.
Jonathan watched as Darryl let out a gasp for breath before falling down, clutching his stomach as his murderer calmly left his dear friend to die in vain, or perhaps it was an eternal lesson for Jonathan. His blood began to pump faster and faster until his entire body was throbbing and he charged towards the escaping T-copter. He thought if he could just grab onto to something he could climb aboard and kill the man who killed his best mate.
He jumped, he could feel the wind rushing over him, rejuvenating his very soul. It was calm, as though something was telling him that vengeance was not for him. But he did not heed the wind. He grabbed onto the shining white metal of the copter just in time as it took off over the sea. He was hanging there, tilting the copter onto an angle as it continued back towards the island.
Getting up off the ground from being tackled by the Windis trooper, Mattimeo saw that his T-Copter had already left!
"No! They left without me! Now I'm stuck on this doomed ship! Gone to hell in a hand basket!" Mattimeo frantically searched for a way off the ship. Finding none, he simply braced for impact and shot at any Windis troop that came near him. Above the din, he could hear a man yelling,
"Seven seconds to impact, sir!"
That's right, Mattimeo thought, the captain always goes down with his ship...
"...six...five...four...three, brace for impact! One!!!"
The airship hit the ground with an ear-splitting crunch of twisted metal, splintered wood, and screaming soldiers. Mattimeo was knocked against the wall, falling unconscious immediately...
Jonathan watched helplessly from his perch as he saw the beauty of the skies plummet to its death. Such a terrible end for a masterpiece, but Darryl would be avenged first. He pulled himself up into the T-copter, only to receive a swift kick in the face. The pain was nothing to him and he pushed his attacker out into his deep blue death. He picked up the dead man's fallen gun and began to blast away at the other men looking to kill this intruder. The men fell to the ground either dead or wounded yet he relentlessly continued, driving blast after blast of plasma into their bodies. One wounded man managed to reveal his gun before Jonathan could notice. He felt a surge of white hot pain in his arm yet he took no heed of it. The man died with a burst of plasma to the head but Jonathan did not see Darryl's killer. The pilot had long since heard the attack yet could do nothing without losing control of the plain. Jonathan ordered him out of his seat and killed him shortly after.
He had little experience with copters and quickly lost control. The plain was tossing up and down, left and right, yet still moving onwards towards land. Machine gun fire from land took him by surprise. He couldn't see who attempted to kill him but quickly lost all care for the thought because the copter pulled into a dive. He was going downwards with smoke on his trail, spinning the whole way. Jonathan saw the wreckage of the Indefatigable amidst the burning fumes. If I could just move towards it! he thought. The whole machine suddenly jerked and he was thrown through the wind shield onto soft sand below. His last thoughts before fading unconscious were of Darryl's killer and the killer of the Indefatigable.
Stevie sat with his back to the wall, eyes closed, the dust in the air coating his dry skin with a thick layer of grime. The heat rose in waves off of the sandy dunes and the faint sound of gunfire could be heard in the distance. Gratefully, Stevie took a swig of lukewarm water from his brown flask.
Suddenly, he heard footsteps behind him. He swivelled his head to find himself staring into a pair of dirty overalls and heavy combat boots that could only belong to one person. Tentatively, he looked up and found himself staring into the fiery eyes of Private Natalie van Dyke.
"Another day in paradise, eh, Captain?" She said.
"Mmm..." He replied awkwardly.
There was something about the feisty, young pilot that made him feel small. Although just three months out of training school, she had been anxious to head to the front, and she was already feared by her enemies (and sometimes allies).
"When do you think we'll be called forward?" she inquired as she peered into the distance. Far on the horizon we could see the ocean, where most of the fighting was taking place. A single plume of black smoke rose in the air, and a smattering of gunfire broke out, folowed by a large explosion.
"I don't know, private, but I hope no time soon."
"Aw, c'mon. I didn't come all this way just to sit in a dreary camp for days on end. I wanna get in my jet and kill somebody!"
Despite himself, Stevie smiled. "if we get to the front, private, I'm sure you'll understand what I'm saying."
She stared at him intensely for a brief second. Then, she spat and turned away. "Whatever, chief." She walked back into the base.
Stevie shook his head and took a swig from his flask, enjoying a few more minutes of peace. He even managed to doze off.
Suddenly, Stevie was jarred awake by a shrill siren blaring out over the base.
"Alert!" crackled a voice over the intercom. "All pilots to their planes. Battle formation! Alert! All pilots to their planes..." the message continued to repeat itself.
Stevie jumped up, discarding his flask to the sand. Sprinting was not easy in all his thick, black boots, but he managed to get to the equipment room in record time. Frightened faces and adrenaline met him as he stepped into the small hut, but he was all business. Stevie grabbed an oxygen mask and gloves and ran out to the runway. The planes were all there, gleaming in the midday sun, the Solar Empire logo emblazened upon their golden sides.
He jogged over to where his own bird stood.
"Hello, beautiful," he murmured as he climbed up the ladder on its side. "Have a good nap?"
Flicking several switches, he enabled his radio and was instantly blasted by the voices of nearly a dozen exhilerated boys. Then one voice jumped out from the rest.
"WOULD YOU BRATS SHUT UP?" screamed Private van Dyke. Stevie smiled to himself again.
Flicking the ignition key, he felt the plane's powerful engines begin to heat up. In front of him, the other planes began to take off one by one. Being a wing leader, he was one of the last to go.
Finally, it was his turn.
"Q, you have a green light."
Stevie turned the switch, flicked off the saftey, and shot off the runway...
Waking up in the wrecked shell of the Indefatigable, Mattimeo crawled out the nearest exit and opened his eyes to a huge burning mass nearby. The fuel tank had ruptured and left an enormous trail of fuel behind him. Seeing no way back to his squad, he called his next best bet.
"Skylark Leader, are you there? Repeat, do you copy?"
Mattimeo tentatively waited for a reply from the Q, the leader of Skylark Squadron, an elite airforce corps of the Solar Empire. He looked at the horizon in all directions, seeing nothing. "Wow, I really crashed this baby." He said to himself, admiring his work.
Mattimeo thought it was time he called Q again. "Skylark Leader, requesting pickup at..." Mattimeo didn't know his coordinates, his GPS went out from the crash, "Well, just look for a big, burning, half-buried airship. I'm right beside that."
He walked down from the ship's side, which was on top at the moment, cradling his Plasma Rifle in his arm in case something popped out of the shadow.
Stevie's squad was in tight formation. He was proud of his boys... and girl. At least they were keeping their heads. As the plume of smoke grew higher and higher, Stevie became more worried. What kind of massive accident had there been to cause such a fire?
All of his thoughts washed away, though, when his radio crackled to life. Through a staticy haze, he could hardly hear what was been said
"...Skylark... there... you... copy?"
"Yes, this is Team Skylark, we read you! Repeat, we read you! Who are you and what is your position?" Stevie replied frantically. "Hello? Hello?"
"...leader... pickup... look... big... ship.. "... and then just static...
Stevie swore loudly. It sounded like that was all he had to go on. He radioed over to the other wing commander
"I just picked up a scrambled transmission! It sounded like a distress signal!"
"Sir?" replied the other pilot. "I didn't hear anything. Are you feeling all right?"
"Don't you talk to your superiors that way!" Stevie yelled violently. "I think we should check it out."
"Err... I don't know sir. the orders were to remain in formation and draw the enemies' fire,"
"I know what our orders were, soldier," Stevie's voice dropped dangerously as he said this.
"Yessir, of course sir. Just... just trying to think of the team, sir."
Stevie considered this. he hated to admit it, but the other pilot was probably right. there was no 'I' in team. He ordered team Skylark to bank sharply to the right, where a mass of enemy troops had a group of Solar Empire forces pinned. it was the opposite direction of the accident...
Mattimeo was excited as he heard the echo of jet engines. These were quiet, implying they ran on Plasma. Plasma-fueled planes meant the Solar Empire was nearby! He ran in the direction he thought it was coming from, but the sound soon diminished, leaving him alone. He angrily stomped back to the wreck, sitting down near it.
"Stevie, it's Mattimeo! Can you hear me? Well, obviously not, or you would've responded by now! Damnit!" Mattimeo gave up, throwing his com across the sandy beach, watching it land about 10 meters away from the water.
But then he had a thought: What if he could wire his com into the satellite uplink from his malfunctioning GPS? It would increase his range by... almost 600%! Mattimeo ran over to the discarded com, ripping off the back casing and doing likewise to his GPS. He carefully removed the satellite communications node and plasma-welded it onto the com in place of the antenna. "Oh, yes. A masterpiece."
"Steve? Can you hear me? This is Mattimeo! I need a pickup from someone in your squadron. You probably don't have any room in your fighter, so someone with a T-Copter or Gunship needs to come get me! I'm standing by the big airship wreck, it's hard to miss!"
Mattimeo prayed that his makeshift super-com would bear fruit.
"Missile vets, to the left!" came an anguished cry through Stevie's radio. "They've opened fire!"
Stevie dropped a few meters and now he could see- several bright lights were arcing through the air toward his team.
"Alright." he said calmly into his microphone. "Evasive action! Draw their fire, but avoid being hit at all costs!"
A few mumurs of agreement came through his headset. "What was that?!" Stevie roared. "Are you soldiers or not, people? Let's hear you!"
"HOO-RAH!" yelled his team, and then he heard Natalie emit a high pitched, feral war-cry. For the third time that day, the young pilot made him smile.
Stevie piloted his plane in a wide arc toward the missiles, hoping to draw them away from the less experienced pilots. As he circled around, his radio again crackled to life. This time, the transmission was clear as a bell.
Stevie's eyes widened as Mattimeo emitted his cry for help. Unfortunately, his battalion was made up of only fighters. He could radio back to base for copter support, but by the time the chopper arrived the advancing enemy troops would be upon Mattimeo. There was but one thing left to do.
Stevie would have to pick Mattimeo up himself in his fighter. If Mattimeo was not claustrophobic, he might be able to squeeze into the cockpit.
It took only a split second before Stevie made his desicion. He had to rescue the brave, lone warrior. He radioed those pilots under his command, ordering them to distract the enemy for as long as possible. then he turned back to the direction from which he had just come.
As Stevie came closer to the massive wreck, he gasped. A twisted mound of blackened metal casing lay half buried in the soft sand. Debris lay strewn in a long line behind the wrecked aircraft and a fire was activally consuming the remains. how could anyone have survived that? nevertheless, Stevie spotted a lone figure waving up at him.
His engines powered by powerful plasma energy, Stevie smoothly manuevered his plane next to Mattimeo.
"Need a lift?" shouted Stevie as his comrade came towards him.
"A lift would be superb!" Mattimeo replied, hoisting himself up onto the plane by means of grabbing the elevators. "So I'm supposed to crunch into the cockpit?" Mattimeo looked dismayed, "Well, I suppose it's better than just standing here!" He crawled into the cockpit and lay, cramped, behind the seat.
"Where are we headed?" He asked Stevie quizzically; the only thing they could really do would be to drop him off at the nearest base. He didn't have an oxygen mask and the cockpit wasn't pressurized. On the other hand, they couldn't just leave the rest of Skylark Squadron to fend for themselves. Most of them were new and had never been in a real battle situation.
Waiting for liftoff, Mattimeo braced himself for the feeling of flying. He didn't like it at first, but once they were in the air, he'd be fine.
But he had just one more question, this one he asked himself, Where is the rest of Olympus Squadron? The last I saw of them, they got off the Indefatigable by T-Copter...
Stevie pushed the throttle and felt the plane slowly rise into the air. Mattimeo voiced his concern about the oxygen mask, but Stevie silently reached into a small compartment on the floor.
"I always have a plan, my friend," he said as he pulled out a spare mask. With shaking hands, Mattimeo secured the device around his face.
"All right," said Stevie. "Now, hold on!" And with that, he hit the thrusters.
Mattimeos face turned an unpleasant shade of green as the sleek jet sped towards the nearby air base, but plasma makes for a smooth ride and the plane was hardly affected by turbulence. In fact, Stevie suspected that Mattimeo started to quite enjoy himself.
Suddenly, Stevie slowed the plane down drastically. Out of the corner of his eye he had spotted a glint of gold. He slowly pulled his plane around in a wide arc, and as they got closer, he heard Mattimeo gasp.
It was a downed T-Copter! Around it were spread several Solar troops. Many were lying on the ground. Many of those weren't moving. As they touched down, Mattimeo jumped out of the cockpit before the engines had even cooled down. As Stevie climbed out, he saw several Sol soldiers running towards them. He suspected that this was the remainder of Mattimeo's original company...
Mattimeo dashed towards the remaining soldiers. Turning to a Corporal-Ranked Mortar Veteran, he started questioning him, "What happened, Corporal? The last I saw you escaped from the airship!"
"Well, sir," the Mortar Vet. replied, "We were just getting off the airship after you took out the engine room when we noticed you were missing! We were about to tell the pilot to turn around when we just started dropping! We crashed here. Only a few of us made it out."
Mattimeo ran past with a quick, "O.K." and went to inspect the troops. The only ones that had survived the crash were 2 Rifle Grunts, a Plasma Vet, and the Mortar Vet he had spoken to. He asked the other 3 soldiers about what had happened: they all gave the same answer as the Mortar Veteran.
Walking back to Stevie, Mattimeo quickly asked the obvious question, "How are we going to get these troops out of here? No way in hell are they all gonna fit in the plane. We'll need to get copter support, and then we need to heal the wounded!" He spoke of the Plasma Vet and one of the Rifle Grunts. "They don't have that kind of medical facilities at an airbase..." The Plasma Veteran had a badly broken leg and the Rifle Grunt was bleeding from a deep gash in his side.
Jonathan woke suddenly, Windisian Marines moving busily around him. He got up realized he crashed near his beloved ship and his fellow marines must have brought him in. Then he remembered his mission.
"Marine!" he called after one man who was carrying some parts back to the ship. "Was there a Sol around here when you crashed?"
The man thought for a moment. "Oh yes, there was one that I saw. We let him alone because we don't have time for prisoners." Jonathan got off the ship and looked at the sands around him. Most of the wreckage had been cleaned up so the footprints were clear. He saw them running to a large, wheeled mass that did not move. Then he saw the sand around it was blown back by some sort of force. The propeller of a T-copter. He swore angrily and ran back to the ship.
"Does anyone have a gun?" he asked loudly. The men laughed and continued their work. "Please!" he asked again "Does anyone have a gun?"
One man finally answered with, "Look here boy, we ain't puttin' bullets in our own 'eads, mind you. We need to be ready for those blasted Axis soldiers." Jonathan knew he'd get no more from them and he ran to the Main Cabin, desperately wishing to settle the score with the destroyer of his ship and the taker of his friend's life.
Considering his possibilities, Mattimeo came to a conclusion: They had to go back to the Indefatigable.
"Look, if we go back to the airship, they'll have a medical facility SOMEWHERE in that thing. It was a fully-functional fortress, so they ought to have the medical room well-protected." He argued to Stevie and his men, "We can radio in for a copter to pick us up and drop us off there."
Mattimeo knew that they would most likely encounter resistance at the crash site, but it was their only real chance. If they didn't go, the Rifle Grunt would soon die from loss of blood and the Plasma Vet might never be able to walk again.
I just hope this works.
As Mattimeo and the remaining soldiers suited up for their trek back to the Indefatigable, Stevie hustled back to his plane. He was homesick- homesick for the air, the feeling of flight, and the gentle purr of the engines beneath his feet. He climbed up the ladder of his jet and saluted Mattimeo.
"Good luck!" he cried.
Closing the cockpit, Stevie started the ignition and waited for the plasma to heat up. When the lights flickered to life on the dashboard, Stevie gunned the engine and felt the plane smoothly rise into the air. He turned south, back towards the ocean, and rocketed back to the battle. In the air in front of him he could see dozens of dots flying around madly, like bees around a bed of his mother's petunia garden.
Stevie radioed back to base.
"Skylark leader to base, do you copy?"
"Loud and clear, Stevie. What is your position? Team Skylark needs you, stat!"
"Damn! I'm on my way" Stevie pushed the throttle all the way up. At 5 G's, he hoped to stay conscious. Needless to say, he reached the battle fairly quickly.
It didn't sound good for Team Skylark. No one had been downed yet, but several planes had been heavily damaged.
"I'm back!" yelled Stevie into his radio. "How's it going?"
"It's not looking good, chief!" replied Natalie van Dyke, echoing his thoughts. "I took a missile to my port side. I think I lost an engine!"
"Private! You and any others who have been hit retreat back to base!"
"No way, sir! I'm not leaving!"
"Private!" roared Stevie. "Retreat, that's an order!"
Private van Dyke may have been rebellious, but even she wouldn't disobey a direct order from an angry Officer.
"Yessir." she said coldly. "Right away, sir" and she turned her disabled jet around.
Three other pilots returned to base with her, leaving Team Skylark with only 9 planes remaining. Missiles filled the air like moths around a garden light, and with dismay Stevie noticed a Windis tank battalion approaching.
"All right men." Stevie told his battalion. "Today we fight furiously! But, if I give the order, we will retreat! Understood?"
"Sir, yes, sir!"
"All right! Let's rock and roll!" shouted Stevie.
Jonathan received a harsh scolding from the Admiral who rambled on and on about the importance of keeping together and conserving all supplies. Jonathan knew he was right. He couldn't let all of this get to his head.
Shouts from outside caused Jonathan to instinctively grab his REGENT K13 and head out of the cabin. His gun, along with about a hundred others, were trained on the newcomers who were dressed in the livery of the Solar Empire. Just then, something struck him as he saw the lead man talking with one of the soldiers. He was the man who killed Darryl. Jonathan leveled the gun to the man's eyes and began to take aim.
Eric Wingsburg moved his troops forward through the thick of the vegetation. He was the expeditionary force of the Indefatigable and, after it crashed, he was ordered to rescue Windisian engineers that were taken prisoner by Axis forces. "Stop for a rest." he called to his weary troops. The sun was hot and they were unused to this climate. He took off his helmet and brushed the sweat from his brow, looking up at the sky. He saw several streaks of white. Just clouds... he thought to himself. Then he heard the sound. The sound of Sol planes bearing down on him. Eric reacted as quickly as humanly possible with a shout of, "Raise the white flag!" The beleaguered men looked around hazily. "Hellfire and damnation, you fools!" he yelled angrily, "The sky!" They looked up with renewed energy and quickly answered Eric's command. "We are a neutral force, men," he called to his troops. "I know you've been wanting to whet your rifles but now is not the time! Under no circumstances are you to fire. We need to prove to the Sols that we are not looking for a fight!" The white flag was raised high and waved back and forth by its bearer... but did they see it?
Natalie van Dyke was taking her time as she flew back to base. Although her cowardly copilots had blasted back to the landing pads, van Dyke was just cruising, enjoying a few last minutes in the air before landing.
As she left the sandy beach behind and began her flight over the jungle, she thought she saw a bright flash in the trees below. She dropped lower to the ground, but didn't see anything else.
Just the sun, she thought, just seeing things. Boy, is it hot in here.
Then the flag went up, and she saw them... Windisian troops, trying to flank the Axis' ground forces! But... why the flag? Could it be? A trick! Would any army stoop low enough as to actually exploit the gesture of surrender? But anything was believable of the Windisians. Natalie radioed back to base.
"Sir, I've spotted Windisian troops! In the jungle, marching towards the beach!"
"Van Dyke? What is your position?"
"I'm in a holding pattern over the jungle, sir! I see Missile Vets down there, but they haven't fired yet! They're waving a white flag!"
"I see... well, if they are surrendering..."
"I wouldn't trust the Windis, sir."
"We must believe that they aren't lying, Private. Send us your coordinates and we'll send out a T-Copter to pick them up."
"But, sir... sir, please reconsider..."
"No, Private. We will send some soldiers with the copter."
"But... yes, yessir. Of course sir." She sent the coordinates, sighing heavily. "Permission to keep an eye on the enemy, sir?"
The grumpy dispatcher muttered angrily. `Well, alright private. Whatever floats your boat, I guess."
Natalie smiled to her self. "Thank-you, sir. I'm out"
She continued to circle over the small band of Windis forces.
Meanwhile, back on the beach, Team Skylark was in serious trouble. Stevie was doing everything he could, but there were just too many enemies. To make matters worse, the tank battalion was now joining the fray.
"Damnit, I'm hit!" cried a voice over the radio. The voice swore. "I have to eject! I'm going down!"
Stevie saw a fighter of to his right burst into flames and a lone parachute open above it. The team's first loss.
"Skylark Leader to ground support. Do you copy? I've got a downed pilot floating down. You need to pick him..." Stevie trailed off as a missile blew a hole in the pilots parachute, and the figure began a freefall hundreds of meters to the ground below. "Damnit! Err, never mind"
Stevie looked below to see what had fired the deadly projectile. He was dismayed to see that the tank battalion, although mainly Heavy tanks and recon, contained a few AA Vehicles as well. He began a dive toward them and opened fire.
Eric's heart lifted somewhat once he saw the Sol jet assume a defensive position. At least the lives of his men were spared for a little while. An explosion near him ended that thought as he was thrown off his feet. In pain, he tilted his head to the right and, through the grains of sand in his eyes, he could see an Axis tank roll forward. The man with the white flag was dead, his body crumpled into a pathetic heap with the flag over top him. A fire began to burn in Eric's chest. His men were flying neutral colors, were in no sort of offensive position whatsoever and posed no threat to the Axis war machines, yet they still struck. His men began to get up only to be shot down by Axis guns, or wrestled back to the ground by Axis stormtroopers ready to take prisoners. Eric picked up his rifle as his fire grew hotter and hotter. With a yell, he jumped up and bashed the nearest storm trooper in the head with his gun. He shot it where it lay and drew his sword. It was old fashioned but all officers of the Empire were given swords for close combat. He was surrounded, his men dead or captured, with a sword and a gun in his hand. He wasn't going down easy.
Darryl coughed as the wreckage of a Sol jet landed near him, sand spraying everywhere. He saw the AA vehicles firing another Solar fighter in the skies and shouted, "Dash it all! Do you want to get us killed?"
The gunner looked rather sheepish before saying, "They fired upon us sir."
Darryl rolled his eyes and snapped, "Blast it all to bloody hell you fool! We are trying to get it into their thick craniums that we are not, I repeat, we are not participating in this war." The gunner turned red from embarrassment and turned away. Fools, he thought, we are a small battalion stranded on foreign soil with an entire army waiting to destroy us. He had been wishing to get back to Jonathan for some time now. The poor bloke probably thinks I'm dead. When the Sol had stabbed Darryl he had put his hand to his stomach, slowing the blade and preventing it from piercing his stomach. Then the ship went into a dive and part tore off and he, along with a few vehicles and men, were lost in the wilderlands of the Atolls. "Where are you Jon?" Darryl spoke aloud, "You better not be doing anything rash."
Natalie had been daydreaming when the explosion rocked the jungle. Immediately, she sat bolt upright and reached for her radio, fumbling it in her haste.
"Sir! SIR! I was right, they've opened fire!" she could no longer see the white flag. Instead... "There's tanks sir! I can't quite make out their colours, but... oh..."
"What is it now, Private."
"Sir, it appears our own allies have opened fire on the Windisians."
"What the... van Dyke, get the hell back here. If those numbskulls were thick enough to attack soldiers with a bloody white flag flying over their heads, I wouldn't trust them if they saw a jet flying over the jungle!"
This time, Natalie didn't argue. She immediately turned and began flying back to the base, smoke spewing from her inactive portside negine. She didn't notice the lone warior below bravely trying to fight his way through the masses of soldiers...
As he dived ever closer to the ground, Stevie saw the AA guns tilt up towards him. he gritted his teeth and resisted the strong urge to pull back up. Guns blazing, he saw the white hot plasma burning holes in the ground around the Windis tanks. He also saw the soldiers on the tanks arming the huge AA barrels. Finally, he saw the gunner signal to the driver and jump off the roof. He braced himself to roll when the missiles were launched...
...but he never had to. A soldier beside the tank turned to the driver and yelled something at him. the driver yelled back and, as if by a miracle, the guns were disarmed. Stevie stopped firing in disbelief and pulled up.
"Hold your fire!" he yelled into his com.
"What?!" was the reply from the pilots.
"We need to figure out what's going on here."
Mattimeo saw the barrel of the gun aimed at his head and instantly rolled to the side. Reflex, he guessed. "Whoa! Why are you aiming that boomstick at my face?" Mattimeo called to the Windisian, "What have I done to you?" He had never met this man, actually. He didn't recognize his fa- No. He had met him. On the Indefatigable. He was one of the troops that was defending the control room when the airship went down!
Damnit, I thought we cleared them all out! He thought angrily, Even if not, how did they ALL survive the crash? Eh, I guess they buckled their seatbelts!
As a sign of peace, Mattimeo signaled his men to drop their weapons as he did so himself. "See? We don't mean any harm! Taking out the airship... we thought it was a threat. What would you have done if you saw an unidentified fortress gallivanting around the battlefield?"
Mattimeo attempted to greet the man, as well, "I'm Mattimeo. Leader of Olympus Squadron for the Solar Empire. And you would be..."
"My name doesn't matter to you." Jonathan answered coldly. He was about to bring up Darryl when the Admiral burst from his cabin.
"Soldiers of a fellow empire," he said, "we will be as hospita-" A crack ended his sentence and he fell dead to the ground. Axis gunfire erupted around the wreckage again this time looking for the complete extermination of the Windisians. "Down, down!" commanded Jonathan. Explosions stirred the sand up around them as they ducked for cover. Blast! thought Jonathan. Where'd that bloody Sol get to? He dared to look up but saw nothing. The man was either dead or gone.
Stevie pulled up and surveryed the battle field. The fighting had eased and he saw the Windis troops muttering earnestly amongst themselves. His own pilots were doing the same on the airwaves.
"Alright boys, lets just do some watching right now. I don't know what these guys are doing."
"Yessir," said his pilots.
Stevie radioed back to base.
"What's going on back there, sir?"
"Hm? Oh, Skylark, yes. Everything is fine. All your pilots returned safely, despite a, uhh, slight disturbance in the jungle. But, no, everything is fine."
"That's good. Unfortunately, I can't say the same thing for here."
"It appears the Windis have ceased to fire at us!"
"What? Well, by all means, wipe them out now!"
"No sir. I refuse. Perhaps you would be interested in negotiating peace talks?"
"Er... I suppose so. Hang in there; we'll figure something out. Affirmative?"
"Yessir. Will continue to hold fire."
But Stevie's brow furowed as he replaced his radio. What the hell was going on?
Darryl tied another bandage around his hand which had begun to bleed again. The pain wasn't that bad and no serious damage was done. He looked up to make sure the Sols were still keeping a lookout. "Alright men," he shouted, "the way I see it, we're safe here." The men looked astonished and began to grumble in disbelief. Darryl sighed and said, "This is how it works, the Sols are unknowingly protecting us. As long as they are here and they do not fire on us then no other battalion would dare attack with so many fighters nearby." The men understood but they didn't fully believe it. They didn't trust the Sols and neither did Darryl. He leaned back against the AA vehicle and waved at one of the fighters. "Your move." he told them.
Jonathan was running through the thick of the jungle. "Where are you, murderer?" he called out. He tripped and began to roll down a small hill until he hit something hard. Dazed, he began to get up when he heard the sound of cocking rifles. Then he saw a familiar face that shouldn't have been there. "Darryl?"
The man shook his head. "No Jon," he replied, "it's Eric." Jonathan looked at the guns and recognized Axis soldiers. "Out of one hellhole and into another." he groaned. He tried to get up but was hit across the head with one of the guns. Blood trickled down into his mouth. "What's going on, Eric?"
"I'm all that's left of the expeditionary force."
"Well, what happened?"
"Confound it all, what's going on here?"
"I don't know but we're part of it now."
Stevie massaged his temples with his fingers as he continued to circle over the Windis. This was not how missions were supposed to work. Missions, in Stevie's opinion, were supposed to be filled with bullets and plasma and missiles.
Stevie picked up his radio.
"Sir, have you considered the peace talks?"
"Yes, Captain, and we have agreed to fly the commander down there in a T-Copter. However, he will have an escort. We will take no chances."
"Very good sir."
Natalie van Dyke's ears perked up as she heard the transmission from inside the Communications room. She wasn't eavesdropping- on purpose. But what was the commander doing? They had the Windis right where they wanted them!
She ran out to the airstrip, where soldiers were already preparing a T-Copter for the commander.
"Hey! Hey, yeah, you! I need a fighter, stat. I'm supposed to escort the Commander."
"Err, I wasn't given the orders to..." replied the soldier nervously.
"Well, the commander apologizes about the fact that he doesn't have the time to tell you every detail of his plan," said Natalie sarcastically.
"Well, I guess... OK then. Number Seven." he tossed her a key
Natalie wasted no time. She hustled over to the waiting plane and started the engines.
As she rose, Natalie pushed the throttle up to full and blasted off to the beach.
In no time at all, Natalie could see her team circling over the Battalion of Windis
Idiots, she thought. Kill them now.
She pulled up, and then suddenly went into a nosedive right at the Windisians, guns blazing. They looked up in surprise. She heard her team screaming at her over the radio. the ground was coming uo fast, and she emitted her infamous feral scream...
When the Axis guns started firing, Mattimeo saw the chance, picked up his gun, and bolted. He had used the twisted mass of blackened metal as cover, running as fast as his legs would take him towards the direction he thought was where Stevie and Skylark Squadron were.
He was now panting, sweating, and tired. It was hot out, and the fact that he was wearing his full body-armor wasn't helping, "Damnit." He said to himself, "I wonder when I'll actually get th-" As he spoke, he could see planes hovering around an armor battalion like bees around an especially nectar-rich flower, "Yes!" With renewed energy, he rushed to the site.
Upon reaching it, he had more guns aimed at his head than he could count. "It's ok!" He made sure he was clear to the Windis troops, "I'm a Sol. And from what it looks like," Mattimeo motioned towards the non-firing AA guns, "We have a ceasefire."
"What's the situation, guys?" Mattimeo radioed up to the entirety of Skylark Squadron, "I think I'm kinda out of the loop."
Natalie tried to stop and pull up. She really did. But by the time she tried to do so, her speed was just too high. She crashed amongst the Windisians with an explosion of flames and plasma. The last thing she heard was Stevie give an agonized cry before she died.
As for the Windis, they were blown everywhere. The Solar jets above could only watch in agony as the chaos unfolded below them. What would the Windis think of this breach of their temporary treaty? Whatever, they flew higher, hoping to stay away from the AA guns...
Darryl's head was aching. Some foolish suicide bomber decided to crash in the middle of his battalion, blowing a tank to hell. He looked up and saw the bodies of his comrades in smoldering, pathetic bundles. Who do these devils think they are?! he thought angrily. He saw the body of the gunner who fired on the Sols earlier. He was so vibrant and fool of life with a face red with embarrassment. He was no more than 19 and showed promise. Now that was over and his face was red with burns. "Damn thee, foul cowards!" he yelled. He leaped to man the guns of the AA vehicle and, with the Windisian battle cry, began to fire at the Sols. "God save the Regent, God save the Empire!" he cried. "Death to the brigands and murderers!"
"No!" Stevie screamed through tears of frustration as he saw Natalie's plane explode and the Windisian forces fly in all directions. There goes their ceasefire. Hopes of peace drained from Stevie's mind. But there was no time to think. Somehow, a Windisian soldier had survived and, enraged by Natalie's foolish kamikaze, was firing madly up at them. As if on cue, a stray bolt nailed one of the planes under his command and the pilot cried out in alarm. he didn't even have time to eject before his plane exploded into a million small fragments
Dammit, thought Stevie angrily. Another loss. He had sustained many battles before, but none were as grief filled as this one.
In a split second, Stevie made his decision.
"Retreat!" he yelled into his com. "Get back to the base! We have no time for this!"
He didn't have to tell his remaining pilots twice. They turned their jets and rocketed back to the Air Base.
As Stevie turned around he heard another noise to add to the chaos. The sound of... it sounded like a T-Copter!
Stevie swore loudly. And again. The Commander!
"Commander! Do you copy?" he yelled into the radio.
"Loud and clear, Skylark. We've agreed to try to negotiate with the Windisians," replied the Commander cheerfully
"No time, sir. Get back to the base!"
"Sir, look down!"
Stevie waited for the commander's reaction.
"What... what the hell?"
"I'll explain back at base. Right now, just fly that thing back to where it came from!" said Stevie frantically.
"Err, all right then... but this explanation better be good." And the two air vehicles turned and flew back to base, pursued by white hot bolts of plasma.
Mattimeo saw Natalie crash into the Windis troops and immediately turned tail. "Damnit! What do they think they're doing up there!?" He did a double take to make sure he was seeing right, then fled towards the airbase.
Walking at the fringe of the nearby jungle, he almost forgot, in his bliss, that there was a war to be fought. In fact, he did forget until he heard the drone of an engine and saw a Sol T-Copter fly overhead! He took his first instinct and threw a plasma grenade straight up, as high as he could. The pilot of the copter obviously saw it, because he turned and landed about 20 meters from Mattimeo, beckoning him to climb aboard.
"Thank you," Mattimeo showed his gratitude to the man and asked him where they were headed. He got a response that he didn't really expect:
"Well, we were headed to parlay with the Windis until Miss van Dyke decided to kamikaze into them! As soon as Wing Leader Stevie saw us, he ordered us to head back to Airbase Athens!"
"Great," Mattimeo replied happily, "Take me there!"
Upon arrival, Mattimeo saw Stevie and his squadron, or what remained of it, landing. He quickly jogged over to them and said just one thing, "Just WHAT the hell did van Dyke do!?"
Stevie was trying to comfort his distraught squadron when Mattimeo walked over to him and demanded to know what had happened.
"Look, I know as much as you do. She was always a bit of a hothead, but... I think she just lost it." his eyes filled with tears as he said this. What the hell? He hadn't cried, hadn't ever cried, since he joined the army. "We have to try to negotiate with the Windis. I know they probably aren't open to it, but we have to try! We can't keep fighting like this. hell, why are we even fighing them?"
Eric and Jon were being led through the dense jungles, bound by tightened knots continuously digging into their arms. They had been trudging for hours now at a slow pace. It seemed like the Axis troops were on edge and were trying not to move to hastily. Jon sighed. What are we doing here? he moaned in his head. We were supposed to fly right past the Coral Atolls and head to the Inventor's Republic for supplies. He sighed again and looked around and Eric and gasped with surprise. Eric's face was gaunt and pale despite the heat. "Eric, are you alri-" Jon couldn't finish his sentence as he felt a sharp pain in the back of his head from the butt of an Axis rifle. He fell to the ground and managed to look upwards in time to see what happened next. Eric received a boost of adrenaline and was thrown into a frenzy. He tackled the nearest Axis soldier into a rock with a sickening crack. Then Jon was knocked back on his stomach by an Axis soldier running towards Eric. All he heard was the shot echo across the jungle. Then the sound of Eric fall hit the sand and lay still, the sand turning steadily red around his neck head.
Darryl was spent. He rolled out of the gunner's cockpit onto the sand and began to cry, the tears mixing with the blood and the sand. Why? he asked himself.Why did this happen? It wasn't supposed to be like this. Where's Jon? Blasted fool, where the bloody devil is he? His thought were interrupted by a strange sound. The sound of something electronic charging up. He looked up to see a sleek white gun highlighted with a deep purple pointed directly at his forehead. "Get up," an unfamiliar voice commanded, "time to get moving."
"So she just... crashed into them?" Mattimeo managed to get the words out, totally disbelieving, "Why would she do that? They weren't even our enemies! Anyway, we have bigger problems! The Northern Axis has joined the war and they mean business! They attacked at the airship crash site and in the forest." Mattimeo informed Stevie.
"We need to rally as many troops as we can. We have to take out the Axis or ally with the Windis! You call for a T-Copter and I'll get my squa-" Mattimeo stopped in mid-sentence. What squadron? Most of them had died during the copter crash, and the rest were shot at the Indefatigable's crash site. "Like I said, I'll start recruiting new troops for my squadron as soon as we either terminate the Axis or come to an agreement with the Windis." He didn't seem in the mood to explain everything to Stevie.
"Hey, you!" Mattimeo called to a passing pilot, "Can you fly a T-Copter?"
"Y-yeah. Yes sir!" The pilot nervously responded.
"Good. Be ready to roll in twenty minutes. We've got some fish to fry."
Stevie watched as Mattimeo suited up and prepared for his fight against the Axis. The Skylark leader, on the other hand, was going to try to find the Windis. They were going to need their help in the fight against the new enemy.
As Stevie trotted over to his Fighter, he was approached by a young soldier. he recognized him as Donovan Anderson, affectionately known among his friends as Donny.
"Sir!" cried Donny. "Is there anything I can do to help?"
Stevie was just about to say no when he though it might be nice to have a little backup.
"Actually..." he began.
Ten minutes later, there were two fighter jets cruising the skies above the scarred battlegrounds.
"Remember" said Steve into his radio. "Look out for suprise attacks and the Windis. We'll try to get close enough to reach them over the open radio channel!"
Donny gave him a thumbs up as Stevie looked over at his ship
After sweeping over the wreckage of the Indefatigable and seeing no Windisians, Donny and Stevie turned back to the sight of their latest battle. Donny was the first to spot the unfamiliar, purple soldiers.
"Dammit!" cried Stevie. "Turn back! GET BACK TO THE JUNGLE!"
The two planes pulled off in a wide arc and raced back to the jungle, hoping against hope that they had not been spotted.
"We'll try a quick search over the foliage," said Stevie, looking for any reason not to have to return to the beach or the base.
Jon rolled over and saw the trail of smeared blood where they dragged Eric's body away. He tried to crawl away, to get away from everything. Away from war, away from pain, away from death, away from everything. An Axis troop stepped on his back, his boot heel painfully digging into Jon's spine. He pulled Jonathan on his feet and put his rifle to his head, ready to shoot. Jonathan smiled. Good for them and good for me, I guess, he thought.
Then he was thrown backward with the Axis soldier on top of him as the Axis tank exploded. Jonathan quickly realized that the soldier was dead, shrapnel embedded in his back. Better him than me, he thought, or is it? He didn't have time to think as the Axis troops dropped dead and a white suited man appeared in front of him as if from nowhere, the purple highlights on the armor's edge clearly standing out in the jungle.
"Come with us, sir." the man said. Jonathan was taken aback. Who was this man? Where did he come from? Just then he saw Darryl run burst from the underbrush, more soldiers following him.
"Jonathan!" he cried with relief, "You haven't gotten yourself killed yet." Jon couldn't speak. What could he say? A dead man stood in front of him. Darryl held up his bandaged hand. "You didn't think I'd go that easy, now did you?" Jonathan laughed and they embraced, Darryl's arms nearly breaking his spine. Darryl quickly regained his composure. "Jon, these men are here to take us and the other survivors home."
Jonathan was puzzled. "Why?" he asked.
The suited man stepped forward and answered, "We're men of the Galvanic Dominion. Your country recently reduced our financial problems greatly so this is our way of returning the favor. Now shut up and stay focused, kid. You're not home yet." Jonathan's faced beamed with delight. "What are we waiting for?"
Mattimeo was on the T-Copter with a different group of soldiers, Katana Squadron. They were searching for Axis troops to take down, out for blood. Their transport was accompanied by three fighters, two gunships, two bombers, and a Strato Destroyer. Flying over a forest, they saw a small group of soldiers with purple-trimmed armor speaking with what looked like a Windis troop, "Who the hell are they?" Mattimeo asked over the radio.
"Not sure," replied a gunner from the Strato Destroyer, "We'd better check it out."
"Yeah." Mattimeo agreed, motioning for the T-Copter pilot to bring them down.
Upon exiting the T-Copter, they had only a short walk to where the Galvanic Dominion was talking to- That man. He's the one who attacked me at the crash site! "Well hello, everyone. What have we here and who are you?" Mattimeo asked, motioning to the Dominion soldiers. "We're the Solar Empire and we're one of the major sides in this war. Us, the Anglo Isles, and the Axis just came in. We were just on our way to try and exterminate some of the Axis when we saw... well, you."
Stevie's eyes were dry. He felt like he hadn't blinked in ages. There was no time. He had to find those soldiers.
Suddenly, he heard Donny cry out in surprise. "What is it, private?" Stevie inquired.
"Sir, soldiers, to our left. They're in a clearing, and there's... there's those purple guys, and a Windisian and... and I think those are Sols!"
Stevie grunted. "Well, I suppose we'd better check it out. Hey, there's a clearing... looks like there's already a couple planes down there!"
The two Sols landed in the clearing, parking their planes beside the other fighters. When they walked into the midst of the motley group of soldiers, Stevie felt the barrels of several rifles raised at him. he held up his hands and motioned for Donny to do the same.
"We come in peace," Stevie began, hoping not to sound too melodramatic. "Please, hear us out." Stevie's eyes wandered over to Mattimeo, hoping that he would recognize him and explain to the others.
Jonathan and Darryl were impatient by nature and this intrusion was nothing but a delay. The Galvanic commander spoke, his voice sounding clearly underneath his full faced helmet with its red optic lens shining bright in the sun. "We don't have time for this, move it out!" And with that, two men picked up Darryl and Jon and they were off, the leaves of the drooping brush whipping painfully against their faces.
Within a few minutes, they reached a coastline stretching as far as the eye could see. A large, strange looking oat burst from under the waters, spraying water in every direction. A bay opened up and there were troops inside beckoning them forth. Jon and Darryl rushed to get and turned around to see other marines with tattered clothes and bandaged limbs limping towards their salvation. Finally, the bay doors began to close and the Galvanic commander called back to them. "Your story's over, boys. Get out of here." Then the ship submerged under the waters, taking its passengers home. The commander turned around, his men gathered around him as he said to himself, "And now the story of Lixfrit Cleritas begins..."
Stevie stared in disbelief as the Windis empire quickly moved away from him. How could they have not seen him? Oh well. That part was over and done with...
"Donny" he said gruffly. "Back to base. Stat!"
"Y-yes sir, Captain."
They returned to their planes and silently flew back. Not a word was spoken between them until they has almost landed.
"Hey, Private," blurted Stevie. "You guys did good out there today. I know it wasn't an easy way to begin your army career"
"Thank-you sir" replied Donny, taken aback. "Th-thank-you..."
The two planes landed at the airstrip. Stevie felt tired. It was tough, fighting in a war, but this one had seemed especially tough. All of a sudden, he noticed a small messenger running towards them.
"Captain!" it said shrilly. "Captain, I've been looking all over for you! Team Skylark has been released! Sir... sir, you guys are going home!"
Normally Stevie would have been crushed by this. What had gone wrong? he would have asked. But... he didn't. All he felt was relief, washing over him. Washing away the grief and the pain. He'd see Melinda again... Melinda...
Mattimeo, with the leaving of the Galvanic troops, had decided to call off his air raid and head back to Sparta Base, his deployment center. Upon reaching it, a young soldier, about his own age, ran into him, full force! "Whoa, bud! What's up?"
"About ten squadrons just got recalled! I'm going home!"
Mattimeo's eyes lit up, "Which ones, boy?"
"I don't remember 'em all. Just a few: Skylark Squadron, Piranha Squadron- that's mine-, and Olympus Squadron were all I remember..."
"That's enough, thank you." Mattimeo smiled and turned around. He climbed happily into a light recon which took him to the T-Boat he was to take home.
This was one hell of a war. One hell of a war, indeed.
Jon and Darryl returned home a week later and were greeted with tumultuous applause along with the rest of the Indefatigable's survivors. The wreckage was recovered by a large Windisian force later that quickly went in and out with no casualties. Despite the scientific approval to have the ship retired, the public exclaimed that it was now a national symbol of the honor and bravery of the Empire's sons. Jon and Darryl received medals and returned home to the hustle and bustle of the Imperial Capitol of Lindblum.
One year later, Darryl and Jon went their separate ways. Jon wed Katreda Birall, the daughter of a blacksmith and they lived together in the countryside of the Empire away from industrialism, the world and war. 9 months later, Jonathan was a father of a boy who was named Eric Windsburg Kite. Darryl, however, rejoined the Royal Windisian Air Force and became the pilot of the rebuilt Indefatigable. He is still in active service to this day.
Captain Stevie Clare and his squadron of exhausted pilots flew back to their various residences among the Corral Atolls and Solar Empire several days later. In his hometown, Stevie was not greeted by medals and cheering, but something different and almost as good. When Stevie stepped out of the dusty T-Copter, he was greeted with a pair of sticky little hands (his son) and a grateful hug from his beautiful wife Melinda. And that, that was as much as he needed. Let someone else deal with the rest of the war.