On the Job Training

An Ace Combat 5 story
AN: This is an exploratory chapter. Tell me what you think and I might continue. It's mostly meant to be a fleshing out of Blaze's character, as I don't like the idea of the 'off-screen hero'.
It was, I reflected, an exceptionally smooth ride out to Sand Island. That was saying something, to be sure, considering the make of plane we were riding in. The plane was little more than a flying delivery truck, and designed for carrier operations. Unfortunately, the combination made for a plane that was particularly susceptible to turbulence.

For the umpteenth time that flight, I looked over to the man who was piloting it, a middle-aged, balding man in the blue jumpsuit of an aircraft maintenance technician. According to the patch it sported, he belonged to the 703rd Company of that particular service branch. According to our smooth ride, he was either preternaturally skilled at picking out a route free of turbulence or a really hot hand on the transport's flight yoke. Well, I'd know as soon as we started to enter ground effect during landing, but I got the feeling it was more the latter than the first.

He had introduced himself to the trainees and reporter that his cargo was, and that included me, despite my spot in the co-pilot seat, as Peter Beagle…though he asked for us to call him 'Pops'. It seemed appropriate.

Not quite wanting to return to my book yet, I glanced over my shoulder to look at the pilot trainee who had taken the seat of the radio and navigations officer. A short (common among fighter pilots), slender (not quite so common), young woman (very rare), she had an elegance which was rare among our flashy breed, the egomaniacs known as fighter pilots.

Her name was Kei Nagase, and though she was not someone I had really talked to during our basic flight training at Heirlark AFB, my choice of reading material had elicited some conversation between her and I, though she was mainly spending her time writing in a red covered book with gold lettering on the cover, as she was at that time, her intensity on the task, as well as a sort of tenderness that she held for the book. Why, I couldn't say. I hadn't yet felt confident that it would be right to ask her what was in the book.

My eyes returned to the sea in front of us…and a small speck that seemed to have a number of colors in it. "Ah…Nagase? Are we coming up on Sand Island?" As I asked this question, I started to look over my shoulder at her, but as she put her book down and started to bring up the navigational records, Pops's voice stopped her.

"Yeah, that's it, Veras. You've got good eyes, even for a pilot." My gaze shifted to him, and a small, but surprised smile curved my lips. It's good to hear someone complement your eyesight in my chosen profession, but I was somewhat surprised to hear him remember my name so accurately after just introducing myself to him once over five hours ago. Speaking of which, my legs were getting stiff.

"Thanks. Uh, Pops?"

"What is it, Veras?"

"I was just wondering how long it would take us to reach the final approach. I'd kinda like to stretch my legs so I don't stumble off the plane onto the tarmac."

"Oh, it'll be about fifteen minutes. Call it twenty till tarmac. Why don't you and Nagase both do that? Take five, and don't worry about it. I know this patch of sea pretty well." Man, was that an understatement. He knew the waves and islands about better than the back of his hand.

"Thanks." I unstrapped myself and made my hunched way out of the area that was cramped by the overhead controls that were meant for the pilot and co-pilot.

Nagase was a little more graceful with her rise, with a quiet "Of course, sir," but, to be fair, she did have more overhead to work in, and she was maybe a quarter of a foot shorter than me. I'm not the graceless sort, you know.

Anyway, I followed her through the cockpit door to see Alvin Davenport, a friend of mine, my bunkmate at Hierlark, actually, talking to the reporter that had been allowed to do a story on the Sand Island Detachment of the 108 Tactical Fighter Squadron, commonly known as the Wardogs. He had explained to me earlier that he was most interested in Captain Jack Bartlett, the detachment leader, and a man who shared the same first name as I.

I couldn't really blame Genette for wanting to do a story on Captain Bartlett…he truly was the best BFM and ACM instructor in the Osean Military Defense Forces. On the other hand, Genette was firmly anti-war, so why in the hell he would be doing a story on fighter pilots was beyond me. That was something I intended to ask him as soon as I got the chance on the ground.

But right now, I knew that Genette was plenty occupied trying to follow my rock and roll obsessed buddy's illustration of…ah, one of the last simulation combat flights we had engaged in at Hierlark. Come to think of it, Nagase had flown an excessively competent wing for me in that one, and we had splashed Alvin and his wing, an egotistical dandy, even for a pilot, who insisted on being referred to as Mustang, a callsign he had picked out for himself. It was a classic example of teamwork against a split element, and that was probably why Alvin was recounting it, considering that it had been a rather crushing defeat for him.

Amusingly, he was having trouble describing it, lacking the necessary number of hands, having only been gifted with two, just like the rest of us. Mustang sure wasn't going to help him…he was still sorely bitter about that defeat.

So when Alvin saw Nagase and I, it didn't surprise me that he called us over to have our hands play the part of our virtual planes.

Nagase was just asking me, "Veras…is Davenport going over our last simulator exercise with the reporter?" and I was just answering:

"Yeah, looks like we're at the part where we were pulling into the high yo-yo…" when Alvin called over to us.

"Hey Jack, Nagase! Help me out here. I'm trying to explain our last sim to the shutterbug here, and I'm missing a pair of hands." Alvin had an earbud in one ear, and I could hear the faint strains of a rock song through it…Blurry, by Puddle of Mudd, I thought. More contemporary than most of what he listened to, as he was firmly rooted in the classic rock era for his base, but he also was willing to branch out a bit with is collection.

We acquiesced…you just didn't try and deny Alvin, nor did you really want to. He could grate on your nerves a bit, sure, but he was easy to get along with. Besides, he filled up the empty spaces where I was supposed to be talking. As friends, we complemented each other well, and both of us were classic rock fans. But enough about that. Soon we were all explaining to Genette how it had gone, Alvin's more wild explanation matching his hands' wild and wide movements, while Nagase and my more smooth and matching 'flight paths' that our hands followed matched out calm and laconic description.

But it was inevitable that we would get our arms tangled. With all we were doing, it had to happen, cheeks brushing and bodies pressed closer than the Book would like. Genette certainly got a good laugh out of it, seeing us lying on the floor, Alvin draped over my back and with his arms around my neck, and me on top of Nagase, who looked somewhat uncomfortable with Alvin and my weights on top of her…not to mention my arm kinda squashing her breasts under her flight suit. Thank the Fates Above that it wasn't my hand. That would have robbed the humor from the situation entirely for she and I, though I'm sure Alvin would have gotten a huge guffaw out of it.

Pretty much all of the trainees were laughing when I finally was able to lever Alvin off of me with my shoulder and roll off of Nagase, and right onto Alvin with a grunted "Off boy," Considering that I was damn sure that he had started playing along for the other pilots' amusements, I felt that my actions were both just and humorous.

I didn't really have a barometer for just available at the time, but the raise in the volume of the laughter seemed a pretty clear sign that it was indeed humorous. And when I got up and Kirk, Alvin's dog, trotted over to slobber all over his face, I decided to take that as confirmation of the justice in my actions…not that the humor wouldn't have been enough reason to pull that one.

Extending a hand to Nagase's still-prone form, I helped her up, and we started to make our way back to the cockpit when Genette calmed enough from his laughter at Alvin's continuing actions to ask us how long we'd be flying till we reached Sand Island.

I started to do some mental calculations and estimations, but Nagase's voice preempted me. "We're about ten minutes from landing." It looked like our little explanation had taken a bit longer than intended.

Then Nagase and I were through the door and our new home for however long advanced training would take, and perhaps longer if we impressed the Captain, was looming larger.

Yeah…right. As if a bunch of 'nuggets' were going to impress this captain.

AN: And there's the beginning. Tell me what you think by way of review. Response will determine if this story goes anywhere.