The Hero Within

Sand Island, an island reef in the middle of the Ceres Ocean, is the forward airbase for the Osean Air Defense Force. From this sunny island, many pilots have answered the call of duty in the war against their former ally: Yuktobania. Having survived the first-day blitz of the war, Sand Island and it's pilots have rebounded and returned to deal Yuktobania many crushing defeats. Victories such as Operation Footprint, an amphibious landing in Yuktobania's Bastok pennisula, and the sinking of the Hrimfaxi in the Razgriz straits has already raised this small base from a distant, remote base to the pinnacle of Osean military might.

And the pilots who have raised this base to such greatness continue to fly in the wild, blue skies in their efforts to bring peace and stability back to the two nations. This squadron, Wardog Squadron if said by Osea or Demons of Razgriz if by Yuktobania, had had an otherwise flawless battle record in the air up until events in the November City area the day prior to now. Despite the valiant efforts against overwhelming odds, the Wardog Squadron had lost one of their own in one lost effort of valor. Giving his life so innocent civilians in the city stadium could escape, Alvin H. Davenport, Chopper to his friends, gave the last full measure of duty as he finally died in a fiery crash inside the stadium's walls.Our story recalls a bit of the human side of the tragedy of the November City raid.. more perticularly with Wardog's leader, Captain Blaze. In his greatest time of doubt, Blaze would once again find his true purpose in life and also discover the power to bring this realization to reality

We join up with Captain Blaze, an Osean pilot-officer in his early 30's, as he walks from the crew quarters of his assigned area towards the base chapel. His blue/gray eyes remain fixated on this simple white and black building before him. On his face one can see a look of near-perfect calmness, a trait obviously brought on by long duration of intense mental and emotional strain in combat. But for Blaze, his calm demeanor outside is nothing compared to the chaos in his mind. Many emotions plague his thoughts as he nears the few steps leading into the chapel. Stopping outside to release a nervous sigh, Blaze ultimately decides to start what he had willed himself to do since returning from the doomed flight last night.

Walking through the opened darkwood doors of the church, Blaze is suddenly presented with that of a great Protestant display of religion. Pews line the sides of the path before him, leading up to an altar with the cross of Jesus displayed above in full glory. Realizing the depth of this place, Blaze instinctively removes his officer's cap and places it in his left hand. Aside from a few other worshippers scattered throughout the church, Blaze is essentially alone.
"Welcome to the house of the Lord, young pilot." An old voice echoes from Blaze's left side. Turning to face him, Blaze immediately catches the sight of the chapel's main priest. "Good day, father." Extending his hand, the priest replies warmly "As to you as well. My name is Father Armstead and I run this church. Might I ask your name, pilot" Blaze accepts the handshake with one of his own "My name is Captain Blaze, I'm the one who called earlier." Smiling, the two exchange their gesture and then replace their hands to their place. "Ah, the young hero of the Wardog Squadron all the younger pilots talk about. I understand you wished to ask me something" Eyes downcast now, nervousness filling in his mind, Blaze asks quietly "Father, could we talk in private" Looking up to the cross, Father Armstead replies "In this house of God, it does not matter what you may discuss, Blaze. Come sit with me and we will talk." Looking at the priest now a bit confused, Blaze follows Armstead to a pew on the far right side, away from many of the other worshippers.

Taking their seats now, Father Armstead asks what Blaze would like to know. Blaze begins with a sigh but then starts calmly. "Father, I'm not a religious man but I don't know who else to turn to right now. I'm starting to lose my will to continue the fight in this war.." "It is natural for a man of the service to feel doubt and depression in times of war. Please continue." Nodding, Blaze indeed continues "Last night, our flight was engaged in combat above November City after a routine flyby. During the battle.. one of the men in my unit was shot down. He could have ejected but he chose to stay to protect thousands more. And since then I can't help but feel guility for not being strong enough to protect my wingman." Father Armstead nods in understanding as Blaze continues to confess his fears. It doesn't fail to pass the priest, however, the Blaze's initial calm mask is quickly falling apart as he reveals his inner thoughts. "It first started a few weeks ago when my senior wingman, a woman named Nagase, was shot down in enemy territory. She was stranded, alone, in the middle of Yuktobania for nearly a day before we rescued her from invading enemy patrols. Even though I was overjoyed to have her back, I couldn't shake the feeling of guilt for having for her near-death. Everything seemed to go smoothly following us next mission over the Jilachi deserts but we soon were invited to November City.. I.. I just don't know if I can handle losing any more of my pilots up there.." "I undestand now, Blaze. You are afraid that you will lose your friends in the skies of battle while unable to stop it. It is natural for any man or woman in the military to hold such fears. We all fear death but especially the death of those closest to us." "But how do you get over that fear? If I hesistate in battle, it might result in losing in my flightmates. How do I get rid of this fear, Father" Smiling a bit, Armstead answers honestly "By confronting it."

"Confronting it" Blaze asks, unsure of his answer. With a nod, Armstead repeats his answer. "If you confront this fear of death, you will be able to do greater deeds and protect those you love most. I have heard stories about you, Blaze and how you have risen to greatness. They say that you were raised in dreadful conditions, having to fight for everything in your life. How you became strong inside to continue living and to one day find peace. God has given you a great gift, my son, and now is the time for you to use the gift He has bestowed on you." Looking questioningly at Armstead, Blaze says very simply "What is it" Armstead replies "Have you ever heard of the story of David and Golliath" Blaze nods in response "Yes but just the basics to it." Armstead tells him afterwards "When David's people were attacked by the armies of the Golliath, the young boy would rise to the fight. Golliath was much more bigger and stronger than the young David was and proclaimed his superority when David engaged him in a fight. However, it was not the giant who won but the boy. Blaze, for you the Golliath is your fear and the things blocking your way to personal salvation. But the David in you is your unwavering determination to ensure that you will ultimately succeed. You have survived a bad upbringing, a grueling life at the academy, and now you are nearing the end of your will in this war. But God has not abandoned you and He will grant you the resolve to continue and protect your flightmates."

Feeling a bit better now, Blaze asks one last question still on his mind "But what if I fail to keep up my resolve" Armstead answers with a knowing smile "I believe that you will do just fine after today. You just need to remember who you are fighting to protect and you will gain the strength to continue on. Remember that feeling you experienced when Nagase was rescued, Blaze. Feel it everytime your flight comes back intact from a sucessful mission." Armstead notices something, however, as he mentions Nagase's name. Blaze's expression had changed from solemn to a more reassuring appareance. Unclear if it was the feeling or the woman who arose the reaction, Armstead finishes up their conversation "Do you feel you can now continue on and protect your flightmates, Blaze" Though small, Blaze smiles a bit in confidence "Yes, I think I can now. I just need to protect those who mean the most to me and I'll make it through. Thank you, Father."

Rising to their feet, the two walk towards the chapel entrance in silence. However, as Blaze turns to say goodbye to the priest, Armstead tells him one last thing "Do not forget what God has given you, Blaze. If you stay focused and determined on your goal, she will never leave you again." Blaze's expression changes from calm to surprised. "Father" Giving the pilot a reassuring smile, Armstead answers proudly "It's clear that she means a lot to you, Blaze. Perhaps if believing in yourself isn't enough, fight to protect her as well. God be with you, Captain Blaze." Slipping his officer's cap back on, Blaze handshakes with the old priest once again and bids him goodbye of his own. As Blaze walks into the distance, Armstead smiles once again "Good luck.. Blaze."

Soon after, the 3 remaining pilots of the Wardog Squadron would take part in the attack on Fortress just outside of Cinigrad. Reports from the battle indicate that Wardog had practically demolished the base with no reported casualites in the flight. For Wardog, this would be the final glorified moment in their history and the glory of the Aces of Razgriz was about to begin. The feeling of Divine duty in protecting millions of people during the SOLG drop would not be lost on Blaze... following November City, Blaze would never again lose a member of his flight...

How did you like? I'm sorry if it isn't all that great but it was written at 3-4am on a whim. First AC fiction by the way.
(A PsYcHoPaThIc DuCkIeS PublishingTM Fiction)
E Was Here 2005