Author's Note: Hetalia chapter fic, and it's a steampunk AU. Outside the obvious US/UK, future pairings in this will likely be Germany/N. Italy, Poland/Lithuania, Greece/Japan, Hungary/Austria, Sweden/Finland, Spain/Romano, Prussia/Switzerland. Thanks so much to Radishey on livejournal for Brit-picking the first four chapters of the story. I appreciate it greatly! As of 9/4/2012 this story has gone through revision. No plot elements were changed though, so it's not necessary to reread at all.
You Can't Take the Sky From Me
By Everything is Magic
The large fans in the hangar were loud enough to almost conceal the exuberant footsteps that pounded against the concrete. America was practically bubbling over with enthusiasm as he shoved a piece of paper into his comrades' faces. "I knew it. I knew I'd get it eventually!" he yelled in delight, wrapping his arms around the shoulders of two of them.
"What is it Lieutenant Jones?" asked the black-haired young man under America's left arm.
He laughed, his grin growing. "Japan. I told you not to call me that. Just America, no lieutenant. And besides it's captain now." He paused and squeezed his arms around the pair a little tighter, before turning to the blond next to him and pointing to the double barred insignia now pinned on his chest. "That's right Canada. You get to be the right hand man to a captain now!"
Canada smiled weakly, pleased for America but worried that his new assignment might bring a whole load of unpleasant work for the aero-engineer.
Japan was busy politely congratulating his new captain when France finally piped in. He was standing across from the trio, hands on his hips and bomber jacket slung over his shoulder. "Congratulations, ace pilot." He walked toward them and shrugged. "Although it would be nice if the Aviation Force awarded ranks based on more than just flight skill."
America clenched his fist, wadding the paper up between his fingers, and removed his arms from the shoulders of Japan and Canada. "Fuck off, France. You've seen my stats. You know how many missions I've lead and my rate of success. I'm not just some rookie pilot who got lucky." He pointed his finger and beamed. "I'm a hero!"
France sighed and shook his head. "Fair enough. Congratulations." He placed his hand on America's chest and smirked. "But being your subordinate doesn't mean I'm going to start asking permission for… you know." He spun his finger in a circle across America's shirt. The younger man slapped his hand away and cringed.
"Pervert. You've been my subordinate since you joined this unit, and I've never let you do that crap."
Japan glanced to Canada and sighed. "I think that nothing much is going to change here."
America had stopped arguing with France and was now perusing the hangar. It contained his plane, an Aeronaut-7300 produced by the Aquila branch of the Worldwide Military. Aquila was America's home continent, and every pilot, although not required, generally wanted a plane from their respective part of the world. Japan's prized plane came from Tsuru and France's came from the La Poule peninsula in Habicht. The Worldwide Military was exactly that, a military encompassing all nations of the world who wished to be a part of it. It had been established a century before, and after years of struggle, had settled into a groove and proven to be quite an efficient idea. From Ho-Rang-Eee in the south to Fálki in the far north, the military's forces spread across the globe, dozens of independent governments, states, provinces, and continents, working together for a common cause. America and Canada both heralded from Aquila, the continent that held the military base they were currently occupying.
America's biplane was his pride and his joy, and he treated it as such. No one was allowed to touch it except for Canada, who worked in the hangar as a mechanic. He patted his plane on the nose, as if thanking it for helping him achieve his captainship, then turned back to the group. "We've got a major from the umm… the…" he scratched his head and pulled a piece of paper out of his pocket, "the Mid-Northern Passage coming. He's here to talk about a mission we'll be collaborating on next week."
Japan nodded, sitting down at a table and resting his head on his hand. "I'll do my best to make the mission a success."
America sat down next to him, putting his hands behind his head and propping his legs up on the table. "Heh. As if I have to worry about you not doing your best, Japan." He leered at France as the third member of the team joined them. "It's him I'm more worried about."
"France is a good pilot," Japan pointed out.
"But he's so easily distracted." America rolled his eyes, pointedly getting revenge for France's earlier comments. "If you know what I mean."
"Who doesn't?" France quipped. Canada, who had slipped out a few minutes earlier, came rushing back into the hangar panting.
"The two officers are here now." He sat down himself. It wasn't protocol to let a mechanic sit in at a military meeting, and in fact America thought he might get in trouble for it if anyone found out. But it was Canada, and Canada was as much a part of their team as anyone else. He never told him to leave the table.
As the two officers entered the hangar, America contemplated taking his feet off the table for a moment. He decided against it.
"Hellooo!" came the bright voice of the officer who was trailing behind. He was wide-eyed and vivacious, with reddish brown hair and an enthusiastic smile. This was in direct contrast to the man walking in front of him at a brisk pace, his expression stoic.
"Yo." America waved, leaning back in his chair so it tipped up off the ground.
"You're going to fall over," Canada fretted. America ignored him.
The two officers and saluted and then sat down on America's request. He introduced them to his team and they returned the favor.
"And I'm Second Lieutenant Vargas, but you can just call me Veneziano!" the other soldier interrupted, practically bouncing in his chair.
"My, my aren't you exuberant," France commented with a wink. Japan cleared his throat.
"Next Wednesday we'll be collaborating on a reconnaissance mission on the Medved side of the mouth of the Mid-Northern Passage. We've received intelligence that the Kosmider may be headquartered there," Germany explained.
America blinked. "Now what exactly is the Kosmider?"
"Shouldn't a newly minted captain know such things?" France sighed.
Germany frowned. "Actually it's a fair question. The Kosmider is an uprising on the Medved continent, but we have little information on any specifics. Nothing on their leaders or their members, even. There have been attacks on sky-pirate ships, and they travel in zeppelins. It's a huge mystery, hence the reconnaissance." He rested his elbows on the table. "Their slogan is My Vlasteliny Nebes- We Own the Sky."
"Since when did the military care about fights between sky-pirates?" America inquired. "As long as they keep it amongst themselves, they can fight all they want, right?"
"It's true that we rarely get involved in the affairs of sky-pirates. What they do is hardly legal as is," Germany agreed.
Japan's mouth formed a tight line. "But the World Military lets a lot slide with them, since thieving is a matter best left to local law enforcement. The sky-pirates are a dying breed. There's less than ten substantial crews left in the world's skies. Why would anyone even bother taking them out?"
It was then that Veneziano piped up, his expression nervous. "Umm… my brother is part of the Nuberu Pirates," he explained, wary of revealing this information to military personnel, "and he told me it's been merchant ships as well. Merchant ships blown out of the sky, and sky-pirates have had to do a lot of the rescuing."
"Why have we not heard about this?" America kicked his feet back onto the ground. "That's something we should know!"
"Military is trying to keep it secret because they don't want people to panic, I imagine," France reasoned.
Germany nodded. "If people think it's just sky-pirates under attack, the general public won't bat an eye. Pirate squabbles are just a part of the game."
America slammed his hands on the table. "That's terrible! We can't let them continue to go after innocent merchant ships like that. This sounds like a reconnaissance job for a hero!"
The major leaned over to Canada, who had been hitherto quiet. "Is he always like this?" Canada just nodded.
The mission was to begin at six 'o' clock military time the next Wednesday morning. Germany and Veneziano's unit would be covering the ground aspect of the mission, and America's unit would come in from the air.
It was Friday evening and America had been given the duty of doing flyovers around the mouth of the Mid-Northern Passage. He was to fly across the Ao-Jun Ocean and arrive in Medved on Saturday afternoon. Canada had given his plane a thorough check before allowing him to be sent off, chiding America for how his reckless flying wore down the machine. "No one in the world has a more expensive plane than you America, I swear."
America, as usual, ignored Canada's complaints. He didn't care how much it cost to keep his plane alive and well, he loved the freedom of flying too much to fly 'safely' as Canada had asked. He put one of his many records in the miniature record player he'd had installed in the plane. The records were small, about twelve centimeters wide, and the needle sometimes jiggled in flight and caused them to skip. But it was a minor annoyance. When America was on a mission by himself, silence unnerved him. A few hours into the flight and about twenty loop-de-loop stunts later, America checked the fob watch he kept tied to his belt. The front glass was cracked, but the time piece still worked. It was a few minutes after midnight.
He nosedived and flew upwards at an insane speed, relishing in the thrill of it, then doing it again for good measure. His latest record ended, and he switched it out for another one. He paused for a few minutes in his shenanigans to drink a cola and eat a burger he'd brought along, watching the midnight star bright sky as he did so. The stars felt close enough to touch at two thousand meters up in the sky, and he watched them as he munched on his late dinner. A down-tempo song came on his record, and he started to think to himself about how this was his first official mission as a captain. America earned his pilot license on his own at seventeen and jumped at the chance to join the Aviation Force as soon as he graduated school at eighteen. But as America was just now twenty-one, this meant he'd only been there for three years. He was young, he was an ace pilot, but damned if he didn't know he was good at what he did. And he was fiercely protective of any soldiers under his command. America was unable to understand why France, or anyone, would be bitter about his assignment. He thought back on his early months in the Aviation Force. He'd had a lot of good friends, but as he'd risen through the ranks and been awarded esteem upon esteem, they'd almost all become acquaintances and his friends dwindled down to just Canada, Japan, and France. He frowned and rubbed his nose between his glasses. Maybe they just couldn't handle my awesome, he told himself, not entirely convinced.
When he finished his dinner and his late-night contemplations, he was about 1,300 kilometers from Aquila and a thousand kilometers away from Luong, the island continent in the middle of the Ao-Jun Ocean. That's when he noticed something wrong with the plane. There was a slight rattle, which was worrisome enough. But the snap that came next got America reaching for his parachute. It came down from near the steam-powered engine, and almost, instantly, the plane began swerving wildly and falling.
America reached for his radio and shouted 'Mayday' and his coordinates, but he knew he was too far from anyone to garner attention. He cursed and toyed with the controls, slamming the record player off in the middle of doing so. Attaining temporary steadiness, he breathed a sigh of a moment's relief. He was going to crash, but maybe he could ease down slowly enough to save the plane. He began his descent.
In the near distance he made out a sight that had become unusual within the past twenty or so years, certainly they were already declining by the time America was born. It was a sky-pirate ship. Too dark to make out any colors or details, but he surveyed the huge sails that billowed in the high altitude sky. He could almost hear the loud steam engines that powered the ship from where he was. America had a crazy idea. He picked up his radio and called out again, hoping that the nearby ship would pick up his frequency. "Request permission to land on your ship," he relayed. "No legal action will be taken against your ship. This is a Code…" he paused to remember the number, "4472, meaning that umm… it's a neutral landing. I just need to make repairs."
He waited in the silence, the only sound being the distant steam engines and the rattle of his plane. Dammit. The plane was descending faster now, and he pulled up again, as much as was possible. "Is there anyone there?" A sudden terrifying idea struck America. Perhaps it was a ghost ship? People he knew had always laughed at him for it, but America was cripplingly terrified of the supernatural. Although he'd come to love it more than anything in the end, he was initially too scared to fly the first time as a child because he'd heard stories of phantom pirate ships in the sky. His stomach lurched and his heart sped up. He'd wasted time contacting the ship, and there was no way he could keep it up long enough to make a smooth landing in the ocean.
With wide eyes and a gulp, America began to shakily maneuver himself toward the ship. Its mast came into view, the sails red and white with blue flags scattered about. There were gas lights lit, but there was enough of a fog around the ship to mute them. So eerie. He grimaced, nearly paralyzed with fear as he landed as gently as he could on the deck of the ship.
He stopped the dying engine and stepped out of the plane as silently as he could manage, as if one wrong step would wake the dead. The deck appeared completely empty, so America tentatively opened the plane and took a peek at the engine damage. Before exiting, he grabbed a flashtorch from a compartment in his cockpit; he was using that now to survey the extent of the problem. There was a snapped belt, that much was obvious. He'd snapped this belt before, but it had never caused the plane to completely flip out as it had this time. He pulled back, wiping grease off his face and pulling his aviator hat tighter over his ears. The night sky was chilly. He turned back to the engine.
He didn't notice the footsteps on the deck, so intent was he on investigating the engine, and so insistent was he on pretending nothing could be wrong with this ship. They're just asleep, that's it.
But when he felt the cold steel of a sword's blade at his throat, he couldn't help noticing the presence of someone else. America's heart leapt into his throat, half expecting to turn around and see a mass of decaying flesh that had formerly been a pirate or some kind of sinister skeleton. Slowly, he turned his head, careful not to let the blade cut his neck.
It was not a zombie or a skeleton his eyes met with, but a young man, scarcely older than him and quite a bit shorter. He was wearing a pair of striped pajamas, and over them, a blue and red pirate coat with gold embellishments and a blue plumed hat that looked rather ridiculous with the pajamas. It was sideways, as if he'd pulled it all on in a hurry. His hair was sandy blond and short, and green eyes glared at him underneath thick, furrowed, angry eyebrows. It was a precision sharp rapier pointed at his neck, which he'd presumably just pulled from the belt that hung over his pajama pants.
"I thought you aviator military scum knew to stay the hell off of my ship," the pirate spat, venom in his voice.
America breathed a sigh of relief and smiled. "Oh good. I was so afraid you were a ghost!"