Storm Hawks Extended Universe
A series of (mostly Stork-centric) backstory and episode companion fics, loosely inspired by 100prompts on Livejournal. Written in no particular order, copious use of headcanon, shameless amounts of adoration for this series. Cross-posted at AO3.
Coincidental Fate (#59 - Destiny)
Notes: Set directly following episode 46, "Origins".
Summary: Aerrow reflects on the Guardian's prophecy, and Stork inadvertently complicates things.
"Well... these bird guys interrupted me while I was defending our home against a squad
of Cyclonian wannabes, to tell me I'm a Sky Knight. And so we came here to find the
Condor, rebuild the Storm Hawks, and fulfill some kind of Atmos-saving destiny?"
Aerrow draped the blanket gently over Radarr, not wanting to wake his co-pilot, before tiptoeing out of his room. Or at least, the room he'd ended up with once the scuffle for the Condor's living quarters had settled. The corridors of the ship were dimly lit with the ship's standby lights, and with the exception of the reverberating sound of snoring coming from not one, but two quarters — Finn's and Junko's — only the nasal metallic creaking of the mooring lines echoed through the metal hull as he made his way toward the bridge. He hadn't been able to sleep, and the last several hours of anxious tossing and turning had left him too on edge to keep trying.
He was surprised to find the wheelhouse port, leading out to the narrow deck that ran the perimeter of the bridge, open... and occupied.
"Hey Stork," Aerrow said quietly, but winced as the merb jumped and spun around to face him, hands reaching back to grip the railing. "Sorry for startling you," he added apologetically. He'd already begun to realize that their new carrier pilot was even more high-strung than their initial impressions had suggested. "Couldn't sleep?" he asked, hoping the conversation would help.
Stork twitched, but gingerly unwound his four digits from the railing as he shook his head. "I'm a chronic insomniac," he stated flatly. "Besides, I'm used to having the Condor to myself. Having other people on board is... loud."
Aerrow uttered an awkward laugh, rubbing a hand through his red hair. "Yeah, Finn does kinda snore a lot. Junko too, apparently. You get used to it though, you'll tune it out in no time."
The green-skinned pilot responded with an unimpressed "hnnh" and turned back to face the open air again. The breeze had picked up, swinging the mooring lines in graceful, swooping arches, black against the starlight.
"I was surprised when you had said that it was better for the Condor to remain suspended when at rest," Aerrow said, folding his arms in front of him and matching Stork's lean on the balcony edge as he watched the cables. "I'd always assumed carriers landed when they weren't actively flying."
"The new ones do," Stork replied with a shrug of his narrow shoulders. "But the Condor was built before the anti-grav crystals used in dry docks were reliable. They tended to short out at inopportune moments, and drop half-built ships on whoever was unlucky enough to be standing beneath them— splat." He smirked a little at Aerrow's wince before continuing, "The Condor's trestle structure was never all that well designed, it puts a lot of stress on the landing gear. I had to reinforce stanchions pretty early on when I was rebuilding her. So, mooring lines."
That was the most the Aerrow had heard Stork talk about anything that wasn't infectious since they'd met, and the fondness for the carrier was audible in the pilot's tone. Without realizing it, Aerrow's grimace had reverted back to a smile. "You know a lot about the Condor," he said. Even as he spoke, he recalled Piper's radio transmission from a few days ago, when the leecher crystal had sent the Condor plunging down towards the Wastelands once again.
"Stork, it's not worth it! You need to bail out!"
"Uh-uh... this pilot goes down with his ship!"
That kind of dedication was rarely seen in even the most tenured of Sky Knights, and Aerrow felt secure that, the merb's quirks aside, they had made the right choice in offering him a place on the team. Aerrow suddenly registered that Stork was staring at him expectantly, and realized that in his musing, he'd missed whatever the green one had asked him. "Uh, sorry. What was the question?"
"I said, was Finn the reason you couldn't sleep either?"
"Oh. No, I, we- the three of us, we've all been together for years, I can sleep right through it now." Aerrow raked a hand through his hair a second time, shaking his head absently. "I just... can't get what those bird guys said about me out of my head. I mean, 'the last descendant'? That's pretty far-fetched, you know?"
"Not really," Stork replied candidly. "I can see where they were going with the family resemblance part."
The merb blinked large yellow eyes at Aerrow's bafflement, and the two of them stared at each other for a moment. "What 'what'?"
"What do you mean, a family resemblance," Aerrow repeated, and for the first time since they'd met, Stork saw that the teenager was rattled. For a moment, the merb debated the wisdom of trying to play off the remark as nothing, but if Aerrow was already sleepless now, the likelihood that he'd simply drop the subject was low.
"I'm going to go out on a thermal here and guess you've never seen a picture of the original Storm Hawks," he said finally, even though he already knew the answer. When Aerrow shook his head, Stork heaved a sigh that seemed too big to be contained in his skinny frame, and pushed back from the railing. "Follow me."
He led Aerrow back through the bridge and down the Condor's corridors to one of the cargo storage holds. Even though he'd given them all a tour of the carrier initially, there were several areas he'd glossed over as having things like "supply rations", "survival kits", and a generic "odds and ends" — this hold contained the latter. There were heavy duty crates stacked in many piles against the walls, and Stork went over to one without hesitation. Aerrow hung near the doorway, feeling an unsettled flutter in the pit of his stomach, and shifted his weight from one foot to the other.
The merb was sorting, lifting crates down with surprising ease, though Aerrow could see that they were all heavy. Muttering under his breath about some kind of thieving beetle, he finally located what he was searching for, pulling the top off boxes inside. "Here we go," he said to himself, as if he'd all but forgotten the redhead in the room. Shuffling through papers, he finally produced a newspaper clipping. Turning around, he held it out to Aerrow, who took and unfolded it.
STORM HAWKS PREVENT INVASION OF TERRA ELASTIS! read the bold headline, and detailed the squadron's routing of a Cyclonian settlement troop which had intended to establish an outpost on the resource-rich terra. Aerrow vaguely remembered hearing about it after the fact; it had happened when he was very young — from the date on the clipping, less than a year old.
But the methods that the Storm Hawks had used, mostly tricks of deception and guile rather than matching force for force, had been retold for years afterward. Yet it was not the content of the article that made him stare hard at the paper, but the grainy image of the celebrating squad, with a tall man centered in the middle: the cocksure grin, the playful salute at the photographer, the way the rest of the team clustered near him like he was a center of gravity. The old clipping was in black and white, but he knew unequivocally what colour that messy shock of hair was.
Aerrow stared at the paper, until he felt like everything outside of the cargo bay had stopped existing. "That's..." Aerrow began, only to trail off helplessly.
"Lightning Strike, leader of the Storm Hawks," Stork finished, watching him closely with his arms folded loosely over each other while the famous name seemed to almost reverberate through the hold. After a moment of letting that sink in, he continued in a quiet tone. "Given your age and... the timing, you'd have to be his son, to look so much alike. No one ever...?"
Aerrow shook his head, half to answer and half hoping it would dislodge the phantom ringing in his ears. "We're all orphans," he said, gesturing numbly in the direction of the crew quarters to indicate Piper and Finn's rooms, and Radarr in his own. "It's always been just us. I mean, I think Finn knew his mom, but—" He broke off, sitting down heavily on the nearest crate, the newspaper pulled taut to near-ripping in his hands without his notice. "I don't— this doesn't make any sense."
Stork maintained his silence, not comfortable interrupting Aerrow's unwelcome epiphany. Yet when it seemed like the teen wasn't going to say anything further without some kind of prompting, he offered lamely, "There's always a... chance that it's just a coincidence."
Aerrow laughed suddenly, but it was an incredulous and unsteady sound. "That'd be one hell of a coincidence, Stork. No, I... it's just a bit much." He looked back up at the merb suddenly, and there was alarm in his green eyes. "Can you not tell the others? I don't— this isn't the reason I wanted to do this, the Storm Hawks thing, so it'll... be weird," he finished awkwardly. He'd never been very good at articulating his thoughts, especially when he was flustered, and this was as off-balance as he'd ever felt in his whole life. It was one thing to find out that he'd discovered the identity of a parent he hadn't known, but for that parent to be Lightning Strike of all people...
Suddenly Aerrow wanted to find the Guardian birds and wring a few more answers from them.
The pilot tilted his head slightly, ears flicking back as if testing the steady sound of snoring from down the corridors, and then back. "It's going to come out eventually," he said, neither in agreement nor denial of the request. "You guys may have been isolated on Neverlandis, but the Condor's the most famous ship in all the Atmos. She's going to attract attention anywhere we go, and someone's going to point out the similarity sooner or later."
"I know," Aerrow answered heavily. While he didn't like the idea of keeping secrets from his friends either, he needed some time with this to process. "But I'm gonna... think, about it, I guess. Please?"
Stork shrugged, bony shoulders lifting in acknowledgement. "Doesn't matter to me, it's not my business, anyway." At Aerrow's silent sag of relief, he intercepted the reply the teen had been about to offer. "Don't thank me for it, you're the one who's going to have to eventually explain it. Like I said, not my business."
The redhead's mouth quirked wryly. "Merbs are clairvoyant too?"
"Of course not," Stork replied, yellow eyes glinting with dark amusement in the overhead bay lights before he moved towards the stacked crates to begin replacing the boxes and papers within, sealing them back inside their casings. He shooed the teen off the crate he'd been sitting on so he could restack it with the others, and tugged the tarp back down for protection. "I just like knowing the odds of anything that had a high probability of backfiring horribly at the worst possible time."
Aerrow gave the pilot an unsure look, decided it had probably been a joke, and uttered a "heh" in response. "Oh... you forgot this one," he said, realizing that he was still holding the newspaper clipping. "Are those... all boxes full of Storm Hawks things?"
"You keep that one," Stork said, deftly tying down the tarp with a complicated knot, meant to hold against the frequent shifting of cargo in the hold during flight. "And some of them are; what was left on the Condor when I found her. It didn't seem right to throw away the stuff I couldn't use in the repairs, but I didn't want to leave it lying around either."
A cold pit hardened in Aerrow's stomach. "When you found the Condor, there weren't...?"
Anticipating where that was leading, Stork was quick to shake his head. "No. No bodies, everyone— must have bailed out before." Even still, he looked spooked, which didn't settle Aerrow's nerves much. Then again, he reflected, Stork said that he'd been on the grounded carrier for years — Aerrow wasn't sure he believed in ghosts, but that was unthinkable, living in some kind of haunted ship.
"Right. Good, okay," he said, and slowly folded the newspaper clipping into a smaller square that he could tuck inside the pocket of his flight suit. "I... yeah. I'm going to go back to my room now," he said. "Uh... thanks, Stork. Goodnight."
He left the pilot to finish securing the crates, and made his way back to his bunk. Radarr had flopped over in his sleep, dislodging the blanket. Aerrow draped it back over him before deciding that his own chance at sleep would not be happening tonight, and settled in to wait for the dawn.