"Mentor"

Author: Haruo Chikamori

E-mail: hhchikamori

Rating: T

Classification: Meg/Animal

Spoilers:

Summary: Everyone knows Animal has been a mentor to many officers in Naval Aviation, but at one point Animal had one too.

DISCLAIMER: The characters Harm Rabb, Jr., Meg Austin, Sarah "Mac" Mackenzie, Meg Austin, AJ Chegwidden, Bud Roberts, Harriet Sims-Roberts et al. belong (in concept if not name) to CBS/Bellisarius. Animal and all OC characters are the property of Heather and Hugo Chikamori. No profit is being made from this story, nor is any infringement intended.

Author's Note: PROTRAMID is actually a three week indoctrination on-shore (actually), which involves three weeks of introduction to the surface, submarine, aviation and the Marine Corps communities. PROTRAMID is an acronym for Professional Training Midshipmen – which all second year midshipmen go through in order to determine what MOS in the Navy they would like to specialize in. I have adjusted it to a single specialty and the time involved has been adjusted to akin a Tiger Cruise for civvies, but included are midshipmen. "Danny Boy" is considered to be an unofficial signature song and anthem, particularly by Irish Americans and Irish Canadians; considering my wife is of Irish descent, it's familiar around my family as well.

VF-41 Black Aces Ready Room, USS Nimitz (CVN-68), Somewhere in the Mediterranean, December 1982

Lieutenant Commander Davey Quinn, understandably named Mighty by his fellow squadron-mates gazed upon a young fresh-faced lieutenant junior grade by the name of Toshio "Animal" Nakamura. "Well, how did you like our little trip across the Atlantic?" LCDR O'Flaherty grinned at Animal.

"Seemed interesting enough. Sir." Animal replied.

"Well, just you wait, young cone, you're going to have all the flying in the world that you can handle when we get out into the Med." The lieutenant commander grinned affably with an affected Irish brogue as he gesticulated with his hands. "We got the Russians, Libyans, Syrians, and all sorts of other ians that you could ever want to tangle with. Aye, young cone, we even have Ian MacDonald o'er here." He said pointing at another red-headed Scottish-American. "A good man to watch yer back if ya get into a bar scrap."

"I see you're a good stick. Highest marks that Pensacola ever saw in the boat phase of the program. All consecutive green three-wires. No deviations from flight path." Lieutenant Commander MacDonald grinned at him as he told the other aviators and NFOs gathered around the new guy. "And the Tubbyjet might be a gentle steed, but it ain't too friendly to cones on the approach, he had to stick it in, there's no auto-land." But his demeanor changed as he looked firmly at the young aviator. "But this is a whole new ball-game, you gotta earn your respect. The F-14A Tomcat is a whole new beast. We'll see how good you really are, if you can get your mount aboard on a night carrier landing in the middle of a storm." That was the ultimate test of a carrier aviator – to get aboard above a storm-tossed ocean, winds gusting hard enough to blow you off course, torrential rain; the only option being to ditch in the ocean…and that was more often than not a fatal choice, and to top it all off, it was night-time, pitch-dark and you couldn't see a damned thing; all you had to go on was hope and the skill in your two hands to deftly maneuver your controls so that you could land that swing-winged beast under your control on what amounted to a postage stamp in the middle of the goddamned ocean. That was the true test - getting aboard when you were unable to divert to shore.

"C'mon." LCDR Quinn grinned at Animal. "Let's go down to the mess. I'm sure the cone's hungry and he'll probably learn better when his stomach's full."

VF-41 Black Aces Ready Room, USS Nimitz (CVN-68), docked near Naval Station Rota, Spain, April 1983

"You're doing good." LCDR Davey Quinn looked over at Animal. "Three intercepts of Libyan MiGs this cruise. No shoot-downs like our esteemed commander of the squadron, but still damned good regardless. We're homeward bound – should be reaching Norfolk 20 May 1983 or thereabouts. I hear that you have a presentation for Canoe U. We should be getting a group of third-class midshipmen for their annual class cruise prep. They'll be flying into Rota and they'll be with us for the homeward leg of the journey."

Animal rolled his eyes. "Oh, joy…we get to play baby-sitters to a bunch of middies."

"Rotsee, just like me, I see." LCDR Davey Quinn replied, noting the disdain in Animal's voice. "Yes, I know, they're smug, arrogant bastards, but well…we tolerate them."

"You tolerate us because you love us." LCDR Jason Barker grinned. "…and because we're effective." He said waving his hand showing his Naval Academy ring. Most ROTC graduates smirked and sarcastically commented that that ring was probably the only ring they'd ever wear considering that the more arrogant these Canoe U pukes were, they'd get ignored by anything other than women who were looking for prestige over love. Or that ten minutes in the presence of a Canoe U puke and they'd be wanting to do the same – spew chunks.

"Effective?" LCDR Quinn said sarcastically. "Oh…that's good. They train you in effectiveness in Canoe U? So what course is that?"

LCDR Barker grinned back at LCDR Quinn. "You know you love us."

"Like I love hemorrhoids" was the flippant reply.

VF-41 Black Aces Ready Room, USS Nimitz (CVN-68), docked near Naval Station Rota, Spain, April 1983

"Welcome aboard, I'm Lieutenant JG Toshio Nakamura." Animal looked over the midshipmen sitting in the ready-room seats. "I'm an F-14 Tomcat aviator in VF-41 Black Aces. You've been selected out of your class because of your interest in Naval Aviation – PROTRAMID." He paused for a moment to look over the faces of a select few Naval Academy midshipmen as they looked around the room. The covetous looks on their faces were apparent as they gazed upon the gold naval aviator wings on Animal's khakis. That was their holy grail. "For the next four weeks, you'll be with the squadron as we rotate back to Naval Station Norfolk. You will not be riding into NAS Oceana as the air-wing debarks, but you will be riding the boat back to the dock. During these four weeks you will get to learn all the details of Naval Aviation, minus the flying of course. Any questions?"

The midshipmen were eager. "Any flying displays, sir?" a lanky dark-haired midshipman asked.

"Thirdclassman? What's your name?" Animal asked.

"Thirdclassman Harmon Rabb Junior, sir." The lanky middie replied.

"Thirdclassman Rabb or Thirdclassman Junior?" Animal quipped to some laughter from the rest of the midshipmen.

"Thirdclassman Rabb, sir. The Junior came from my father who bore the same name, sir."

"OK…in answer to your question, Thirdclassman Rabb. You will get to see various displays from different aircraft. Prowlers, A-7s, Marine F-4s and F-14s. You'll also see the helos perform as well. Maybe one of these days, you'll get to fly one of those."

"I'm hoping for F-14, sir." Thirdclassman Rabb stated.

"Doesn't everybody?" Animal replied.

VF-41 Black Aces Ready Room, USS Nimitz (CVN-68), docked near Naval Station Rota, Spain, May 19, 1983

"Sir, it's been a pleasure to experience the PROTRAMID cruise." Thirdclassman Rabb stated as he looked over at Lieutenant JG Toshio Nakamura who was standing in full flight-gear, HGU-33/P helmet in hand, MBU-14/P nestled in the helmet liner, ready to be pulled on as Animal would mount the F-14A Tomcat. The pre-fly-off preps and the incessant whine of the jet engines required everyone to wear ear protection if they were going on the flight deck. Thirdclassman Rabb would join his fellows on the Pri-Fly to watch the fly-off.

"All I can say is work damned hard. You gotta be tops in your class to be considered for Aviation training. And then you gotta be tops in flight school to get F-14s. If you want it bad enough… Thirdclassman Rabb, you'll make it." Animal stated to the young midshipman.

"Hey… Animal!" LCDR Quinn hailed him. "You comin' or you ridin' the boat in?"

"I'm comin'…" Animal replied as he looked over at his RIO, Lieutenant Jose "Sasquatch" Salcedo who just chuckled. "Hold your horses…"…he grumbled. "sir…"

VF-41 Black Aces Ready Room, USS Nimitz (CVN-68), Somewhere in the Med, August 1992

Oh, Danny Boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling
From glen to glen, and down the mountain side,

"Nice to see you again, Lieutenant Commander." Captain Davey Quinn grinned as he looked over at the young lieutenant commander. "How have you been? I see you've made a name for yourself with 2 MiG Kills to your credit. Glad to see you back in the Black Aces."

"Sir. Glad to be back. Didn't feel right without the ace of spades on my flightsuit, sir." Animal replied glancing over at his mentor who was now commanding Carrier Air Wing 8.

"Well, we're back on deployment…and this time, they're sending us into the Persian Gulf. Operation Southern Watch. First tour as O6." Captain Quinn replied. "Department of Defense wants me to sit on my butt, but I'm going to be flying missions."

"So, what's the gouge, sir?" Animal looked over at the map on the table.

"Well…we're going to be flying the route in towards Basrah. We've been authorized to utilize an alpha-strike to take out surface to air targets along the route. F/A-18Cs will be targeting the surface to air missile sites with HARMs. I want you to lead the second wave, I'll be in the first wave."

"Aye aye, sir." Animal replied as he felt a wave of apprehension sweep over him at the news. The second wave was the one that would get hit the most, when the defenses were awake. "When are we flying this?"

"The mission's scheduled for 0300 hrs. We're going to be flying at night so that the air defenses won't have time to react to us being there." Captain Davey Quinn looked over at the lieutenant commander. "Animal, this isn't going to be a cakewalk."

"No, sir, I suspect not." Animal replied.

"Good to have you back, Animal."

Fast Eagle 105, Somewhere over Iraq

The summer's gone, and all the flowers dying,
tis you, tis you must go and I must bide.

The F-14 was flying through the thickest flak and AA that one could have possibly imagined as they headed towards their targets which were Iraqi surface to air missile emplacements. The Iraqis were throwing everything up at the attacking aircraft that they could in the hopes of hitting one of them.

Animal looked over at his RIO through the rear view. "Scooter. If we get back after this…"

"Hey, shipmate, don't make any promises you can't keep." Scooter shot back.

There was sudden chatter on the coms and the one call that rang out was, "Fast Eagle 100 hit…Angel 1 inbound." There was dead silence after that. All radio-traffic ceased so that Angel 1 could have priority.

Animal's second wave attacked the surface-to-air sites with vicious savagery after that. He knew that Captain Quinn's aircraft was down, but he didn't know whether his CAG was dead or alive. The only thing that they could hope for was that he was sitting on a sand-dune somewhere waiting for rescue. But Animal knew that was a slim hope in hell. When the mission was over and the aircraft trapped, Animal headed for Ops. As he came through the door, the stricken faces of the DCAG and the rest of the operations staff told him all he needed to know.

NAS Oceana Base Officer's Quarters,

Animal was not the escort officer - the escort officer was usually the same rank as the deceased or higher. In his mentor's case, it would have been the captain of the ship and unfortunately all of them were in "could-not-leave-the-ship" roles. So Animal escorted the body of Captain Davey Quinn back to NAS Oceana where he handed off the duties to the O-6 who met him at the ramp and proceeded to BOQ with his RIO who had joined him. There would be a remembrance ceremony for him later on once CVW-8 had flown back in and the Theodore Roosevelt had docked back in port. So for now, the escort officer, Davey Quinn's wife and children and friends and family as well as two of his shipmates would be the ones who would be at the funeral and interring of the body.

But come ye back when summer's in the meadow,
Or when the valley's hushed and white with snow,

NAS Oceana Air Wing 8 Commander's home

Mrs. Sheila Quinn was in tears. She had known the minute that the dark navy blue Navy Sedan had pulled up that something was wrong. She had sunk to her knees, the minute the Navy Captain had come to the door with a sombre expression on his face and she could do nothing but weep as the Navy Captain had uttered the words that denoted that her husband was dead, shot down over some godforsaken sandpit in the middle of Iraq.

'Tis I'll be here in sunshine or in shadow,
Oh, Danny Boy, oh Danny Boy, I love you so!

Sheila, long after the Navy officers had gone, looked at the picture of her husband in Navy dress blues, sinking to her knees on the floor, brought her lips to the glass encasing the photo, the bitter tears of loss splashing against the glass.

Arlington National Cemetery, December 2007.

Admiral Toshio Nakamura clad in dress blues and greatcoat clad with four stars on each shoulder walked up to the headstone and tossed back a salute. Fifteen years ago, Animal reminisced as Commander Meg Austin-Nakamura, his wife, stood beside him. Brushing off some of the snow that had accumulated on the headstone, he patted the headstone. Standing back, he looked over at his wife of nine years. "We lost him during the opening days of Operation Southern Watch." He said, his eyes looking rather misty. "It seems a SAM got him. He wanted me to take second flight in because he knew that I could lead that flight in…while he opened up a passage. Somehow he knew."

Meg wrapped her arms around him. "He was your mentor. He always knew what he had to do."

"But…why?" Animal asked her. "Why did he have to sacrifice himself?"

"Because he knew that to save you from those SAMs and allow you to be able to train those you've trained before, he had to sacrifice himself." Meg replied. "Those men you trained to become fighter pilots at NSAWC? You were their mentor as Captain Quinn was to you…"

Animal nearly jumped ten feet high, when another voice added. "Your wife is right, Tosh, and he would have been proud. I've been following your career. Davey's sacrifice wasn't in vain. Your work in NSAWC, in the fleet. You were meant to be there. Davey wanted that for you." Animal turned around to see Sheila Quinn standing there, a little grey amidst the red hair but still standing tall; a lady in her fifties. "…and he'd be so proud." The tears spilled over her brimming eyelids as she launched herself into Animal's arms. "He would have been…" she sobbed into the depths of Animal's greatcoat. "…were my Davey still here…"

"I'm so sorry." Animal whispered. "I should have taken the first flight."

"No…Tosh…" Sheila looked up at him. "He wanted to hand you the reins…and you took the reins and went so far. That's his legacy. His mentorship led to this; you became a mentor to those whom you've trained and it's a legacy he would be proud of and you should be proud of too."

"…and that's his parting gift to you." Meg said as she also added to his embrace. "He wouldn't have wanted you to feel guilty for surviving. Remember him, and cherish his memory, but don't let the guilt consume you, my love."

"…exactly." Sheila Quinn added. "Listen to your wife. Tosh."

"I should…shouldn't I?" Animal smiled wryly.

"We Irish women are always right." Sheila replied. "Davey knew that…only too well."

"Exactly." Meg said…and that was that.

"But when you come, and all the flowers are dying,
and If I'm dead, as dead I well may be,
You come and find the place where I am lying,
And kneel and say an
Ave there for me;

And I shall hear, though soft you tread above me,
And all my grave will warmer, sweeter be,
For you will bend and tell me that you love me,
And I shall sleep in peace until you come to me!"

~The End~