Ok, I am posting this here because I assassinated my Twilighted account. I'm not looking for traffic or reviews and I haven't reconsidered my flouncing situation--in fact if anything I am happier than ever that I decided to walk out. But I know some people wanted to read this and didn't have the chance or wanted to re-read it and have it available, so here it is.
I'm not going to be re-reading this msyelf so if you see grammar mistakes, shake your fist at my old beta from back then and please don't bring it up to me. I'm not going to fix them anyway.
I'll be posting as quickly as I can so we can get this over and done with as soon as possible for those who want it. I think the limit is a chapter a day, not sure. We'll see.
Chapter 1. Crash, Boom, Bang. /Edward/
How many roads must a man walk down
Before you call him a man?
Yes, 'n' how many seas must a white dove sail
Before she sleeps in the sand?
Yes, 'n' how many times must the cannon balls fly
Before they're forever banned?
The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind,
The answer is blowin' in the wind.
Why he had joined the Navy I would never understand.
He was so obviously a pacifist, a calm, gentle man. He never even raised his voice.
Right now the sound of his velvety southern drawl filled my Black Hawk helicopter, sounding softly through my earplugs, only slightly muffled by the noise around us. His voice was like a balsam, so soft and pure that he didn't need to scream for us to hear him sing, even over the sound of the rotor, or the wind whipping past us.
"Airfield Command, this is Hawkeye 07, we just overflew PGH-113 and are now entering radio silence area." I communicated to the watch tower of the US Navy Aircraft Carrier Forks.
"Hawkeye 07, this is Airfield Command. Stay with Hawkeye 03 and keep a low profile. Don't shoot until attacked. We expect next communication at 1900 hours."
"Roger that, A.C." I said and killed the radio.
How many times must a man look up
Before he can see the sky?
Yes, 'n' how many ears must one man have
Before he can hear people cry?
Yes, 'n' how many deaths will it take till he knows
That too many people have died?
The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind,
The answer is blowin' in the wind.
I tilted the helicopter slightly to the right to follow Hawkeye 03's smooth turn and lowered the vessel closer to the ground, still staying quite clear of the treetops. We were about a hundred miles from Pickup, heading east.
Below us the ground was covered in wild forests and undulating over mountains and hills. Wherever there wasn't a blanket of white snow, there was brown and jade green. We passed over a glossy lake, still not frozen by the cold.
I was used to taking geographical reference points, not always willing to rely on the GPS. The digital systems were nearly error-proof, but I preferred to be certain. I engraved in my memory where the lake was and then checked altitude, speed and engines again. We were comfortable with the fuel; we had plenty of it to come and go at full speed if necessary.
Whitlock's voice kept singing gently.
How many years can a mountain exist
Before it's washed to the sea?
Yes, 'n' how many years can some people exist
Before they're allowed to be free?
Yes, 'n' how many times can a man turn his head,
Pretending he just doesn't see?
The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind,
The answer is blowin' in the wind.
The song ended and his voice died down, smooth like silk.
Whistles and claps filled the silence left behind, and I smiled.
"Are they always like this?" a calm voice asked through the intercoms, amused. I figured, since I was the only one not participating—my hands were on the commands—that he was talking to me.
"Pretty much. Sometimes he sings Nirvana and they just go crazy."
The Doc laughed. I felt apprehensive that he was with us. He wasn't a combat surgeon; he had never been in a field mission. But he was the best doctor aboard the Forks and we were lucky to have him. I just wanted to make sure he was safe all the time. He was deep in the cockpit, not nearer the gates. I was relieved he had been placed there, surrounded and thus shielded by the men.
He looked completely out of character in battle gear. I didn't like it. He was too much of a good man, too pure.
I knew that thinking a man his age—nearer to forty than to thirty—was innocent was stupid. But he was, in so many ways. It was one thing to fish a bullet out of a man's leg, and another thing entirely to see the bullet get in there. He knew how to handle a gun but I doubted he'd ever shot one in his life. At least not at someone.
Plus, he was too blond and too handsome.
I snickered at that. I was so shallow sometimes. But then again, one couldn't be serious all the time; some vanity was good for the soul.
There was a broken down statue overlooking an old graveyard to my starboard side. I stored it as a geographical reference and then lined it up with the GPS location, for greater certainty.
A loud 'yahoo' startled me out of my reverie and I winced.
"Keep it down, Birkoff." I ordered.
"Sorry, Masen." His booming voice laughed. "But you're a whiny bitch."
"Watch it, Birkoff, or I'm tossing you out of my ship."
"Your ship? Buy it, did you?"
"Why yes. Pocket change. A Hawkeye all to myself. You know I hate traffic jams in the city so this looked like a good idea." I said ironically, and instantly regret it. Oh please just let it go, Emmet. Please.
"Oh guys, you know Masen's a millionaire, right?" Emmet teased.
I coursed under my breath. "Shut the fuck up, Birkoff."
He laughed again and I resisted the urge to lurch in the air; I knew he hated when I did that. But I was worried about Doc Cullen, I wasn't sure how many times he had been in a helicopter but introducing him to evasive actions merely to annoy my friend seemed unnecessary.
"Come now, guys." Jasper's southern lilt said reasonably. "Let there be peace, eh? We've got plenty trouble down there."
I had to agree.
Hawkeye 03, in front and a point to larboard, was in a rescue mission. It was supposed to be a simple in-'n-out thing but it was always best to be prepared, so Hawkeye 01 and I were at his tail. I checked 01's position to starboard and nodded. He was keeping a constant speed. Their pilot was a new guy from Washington and this was his first field trip.
I wished him luck but above all I hoped he didn't get in my way. I flew better with clear skies. I hadn't gained the reputation of the best combat pilot out there for my pretty face, either.
"How 'bout some Dave Matthews Band now, Houston?"
Rosalie. That was another fluke of nature. How many gorgeous, sexy girls like her joined the US Navy instead of running for America's Next Top Model? And she would have kicked ass at it too. Maybe even literally—the blond had a character to her. I sure as hell didn't want to cross her path on a bad day. She was shallow, vain and proud, but a good person. And one hell of a fighter. I'd lost track of how many martial arts black belts she had or how many weapons she could handle—she was the elite of the Navy and again, we were lucky to have her.
We were obviously intended as weapon support because we had the best fighter and the best doctor, whilst Hawkeye 03 got that asshole James Havoc and that medic, Laurent. I smirked to myself. Cullen was such a great guy.
I sobered at the thought, though. He was in my bird, he was my responsibility and I was determined to get him home safe. His wife was waiting for him back at home, probably cooking pie in some paradisiacal suburb.
I reviewed the details of the briefing earlier that day. Rescue mission. Two American news reporters were stuck behind enemy lines. They were being chased because they got some interesting pictures and stories and they had no way to get out, except being ripped right out by us.
Isabella Swan and Alice Brandon were their names. Isabella was the photographer. Alice was the news anchor. What two young American girls were doing in this fucked up war zone, I had no idea and it irritated me that they would stupidly put themselves in such a position.
I hated rescue missions.
I was a combat pilot, not a fireman looking for the kitten on the treetop.
I glanced at the GPS and realized we were one point from Pickup. Less than two minutes.
You cannot quit me so quickly
Is no hope in you for me
No corner you could squeeze me
But I've got all the time for you, love
The space between, the tears we cry
Is the laughter keeps us coming back for more
The space between, the wicked lies we tell
And hope to keep us safe from the pain
I liked it better when Jasper had his guitar with him. It was so old and banged up it was almost pitiable, but I could appreciate good music and Jasper Whitlock sure was one hell of a musician. I wondered still how he'd ended up in the Forks, or in the Navy for that matter. What, you don't get a record contract so you automatically enlist? Hardly.
I feared he was a dreamer. Did he think he could change things from within, stop the war, and bring peace? I hoped he didn't because he would be sorely disappointed. That was just not how things went along—
Hawkeye 01 to starboard exploded. I was momentarily shocked as the blast wave hit my bird and made us stagger to the side. The rotor flinched, hit by some piece of flying debris. Then my tail rotor hesitated and the helicopter made a wild turn to the left, following the main rotor. I clenched my teeth and tried to yank the bird back into control. Alarms and warnings were beeping like mad all around me and I was plummeting to the ground.
First I needed the tail rotor back. I switched it a dozen times before it reacted and the bird balanced back. The starboard stub wing crashed into a tree and I realized how very low we had fallen. I needed to get back up, but until I knew where the attack had come from. Ahead, below, behind? Was it airborne? Where the fuck was Hawkeye 03!?
Hawkeye 01 was down for sure. I wondered how old the new pilot, Jacob Black, had been. Not older than twenty three, I was sure.
I realized the starboard wing had lost the fuel tank upon impact. Shit. I needed to lose the counterpart on larboard to restore balance but I was almost sure that with what I had left of the main tank I couldn't get us all the way back to home base.
Another explosion and fire erupted below and in front of us. Hawkeye 03 went down in flames.
So much for the rescue mission. I lowered the nose to win some height and pass clear out of the crash site and I refused to look down and see what had remained. They were gone. I needed my mind on track. I could panic later.
"Hold on tight, boys and girl." I grunted. "We're in for a bumpy ride."
Evasive maneuvers were my forte. I made a close call to starboard and shot to the air, making a wide circle above the crash site. I was a sitting duck, but I needed to get the location of the enemy, and for that I needed to be shot at.
Eight o'clock from my current position. Gotcha.
I dropped altitude and evaded brusquely to the left. The missile was luckily not a heat tracker and it exploded into the forest.
Greenpeace would have my head.
My copilot, Mike Newton, was at my side, preparing for battle. That was how it was—I drove, he shot. I didn't like him one bit, but he worked well enough. He was just so annoying.
He shot the missile in the right stub wing and I saw a tank fly in pieces.
Mike yelled, but I wasn't so happy. Tanks don't shoot air missiles, you stupid fuck.
Sure enough, two more missiles were airborne. Again, I dropped to the left and down. I could avoid them by climbing altitude but the helicopter was faster in fall, and I needed speed. I angled us and overflew the spot where I knew the missiles came from.
They had a counter air missile bed there. Shit. They were more than ready for us.
I climbed altitude and made a wide circle to return. Mike was at the ready with the missile. I couldn't fuck up or we'd be dead, we'd only had one chance to do this and besides we only had one other missile. Mike had better not miss.
He didn't. The missile bed exploded nicely and I took to the air immediately, hoping to avoid the heat blast. I turned tail and headed back in my original direction.
Two birds down. 2 pilots, 14 troops each, 16 men per bird. 32 men down. 32 American soldiers down in enemy ground with slim to none chance to recover the remains.
I would finish this mission. I was going to find those fucking girls and bring them home and that was it. 32 men would not die for nothing.
And they had better be worth the fucking sacrifice or I was going to put a bullet through them myself!
"Are we in radio silence still?" Jasper asked, his voice shaky.
"Yes." I said sharply. "The mission is not done yet. We're not going back."
"But don't we have to alert…?"
"Radio silence." I barked.
I could see Pickup now. It was a wide hill with no trees on the top. The girls were nowhere to be seen but as I rounded and descended slightly they came darting out of the tree cover at the foot of the hill. I couldn't see them very well but one had flowing brown hair and the other was very small and thin.
"Prepare for pickup." I said, and angled the helicopter down as Emmet and Jasper strapped themselves to the harnesses to rappel down to the ground. I couldn't land, not on hostile territory. But I went down as far as I could to win some cover from the trees around us. I was a fucking sitting duck up here. I might as well paint a red target in our side.
"Men off." Emmet announced and fell off the side of the helicopter. Jasper joined him a heartbeat later and I checked the balance carefully, hovering perfectly still in the air.
An alarm shrieked in the controls. I couldn't make a wild turn with the two of them hanging from my sides. The only thing I could do was dip the nose and lift the tail, hoping to offer fewer surfaces and miss death by an inch. I hoped I hadn't slammed them into the ground, how much had they rappelled down before I dipped?
The missile ripped the tail rotor right off along with half the tail. I cursed loudly and did the only thing you could do when you lost your tail rotor—I killed the main engine and the main rotor, hoping to avoid the helicopter form twirling madly. It didn't stop fast enough and we started giving wild turns. Inertia kept my men from flying out, but I needed to get them on the ground and if it was in one piece better yet.
Attempting to control the bird was almost ridiculous in the situation, but I forced the controls anyway, maybe only out of sheer stubbornness. There was probably a God out there because the helicopter straightened slightly. I slammed it to starboard and hoped that same God was in a good mood because I would need His help. The main rotor blades sank into the ground viciously. The bird came to a brusque halt and I slammed against the harness. Something in my right flank broke. I hope it didn't splinter.
The blades snapped and we fell on our roof. The rotor engine sank on the ground and tore off a big chunk of frozen earth as we continued to roll.
And then, it stopped. The helicopter rocked on its wheels and came to a standstill. I blinked. We'd made it.
I looked to my right. Newton was looking as stunned as I did. Shattered glass had made a deep cut on his forehead. It would probably leave a scar. His blue eyes looked hazy, dizzy. I couldn't blame him.
"Troop?" I croaked out.
Shit-fuck! Fuck! I'd killed my men!
I unstrapped the harness and staggered to my feet. I grasped Newton's shoulder firmly and then passed to the back.
Rosalie and seven more of the men were still here. Rose looked unconscious but otherwise unharmed. The rappel cords Emmet and Jasper had used had been severed close to the anchors—someone had cut them loose. Good choice. It was better to fall down and land as gently as possible than being dragged down by a falling Black Hawk.
A grunt to my immediate left had me kneeling by Doc Cullen, who was sprawled on his back against the wall. His bottom lip sported a nasty cut, but he looked well enough. I offered my hand and cringed, clutching my abdomen.
Doc shot into action. His hands were insistent on my torso as the men started moving about, perfectly alert. I gasped loudly when his fingers found the right spot.
"Broken rib." He determined.
Rose was coming to. One of the men helped her up. There was a nasty bruise forming on her cheekbone and forehead but she would live.
Just then Emmet and Jasper popped into our right gate. Emmet's face was scratched badly on the left side—he'd collided badly against the frozen ground. Jasper was clearly favoring his right shoulder. It was probably dislocated. The two girls were with them, looking horrified and pale. I ignored them, furious at their very existence.
"We gotta talk to the Forks." Emmet said, helping Rose up. I nodded at him, too focused on not flinching under Doc's hands to pay attention. The enemy already knew we were down, there was no need to keep radio silence and it was fundamental to let them know our situation.
"Airfield Command, this is Hawkeye 07." Emmet said into his mouthpiece. "We're down; I repeat we're down at Pickup. We were grounded. The bird is lost, we're minus" he looked around "five."
Five men. Five more. 37.
"Hawkeye 07, what's the status of the other two birds?"
"Both down to ground and lost."
"Do you have the cargo, Hawkeye 07?"
"Cargo is secured."
"This is what'll happen. You will move from Pickup twenty points to a friendly zone and you will be recovered by birds at 2100 hours of the third of November. Check your chart."
Emmet displayed his chart on the helicopter's ground and looked about for a second. "I got the friendly zone. We'll be there, A.C."
Third of November. We were at the twenty ninth of October. They needed time to diffuse the situation, they needed to give the enemy time to think there would be no more birds so they could sneak a couple in, and we needed time to get to the pickup spot with our injuries.
And the god damned cargo.
I glanced at the chart to distract myself as Doc undid my shirt and looked at my bare chest.
There was a city nearby, perhaps two days' walk from here. It was medium sized. It was most likely full out war zone, but if needed be it would provide cover and refuge. I located it in my mind, seeking to orient myself. I took my compass from my leg pocket and studied it.
"We can't stay much longer, Doc. Make a quick work of it." Rosalie said, getting to her feet and jumping off the gate.
"I'm going to spray you with a painkiller and bandage you." Doc Cullen said. "It will be a temporary solution and I need to make a better job of it as soon as possible, but it will get you through the day. You can't force yourself. If you can't breathe you must tell me at once. If it hurts or the pain spreads you must let me know."
"Sure, Doc." I said dazedly.
"Jasper, come here and let me look at your shoulder." Doc said, as he sprayed a generous amount of painkiller on my wound. It was cold and uncomfortable but I preferred it to the pain. As Jasper crouched down next to him, Doc wrapped gauze securely around my torso.
Once he was done he turned to Jasper immediately. He made q quick examination and evaluation, decided and then firmly but gently grasped his wrist and elbow, angled the limb and pushed in.
Jasper barked out a loud cry and went very still. Slowly, he relaxed.
Doc got him in an arm sling and ordered him not to abuse that shoulder and then we were moving.
I was the pilot. The mission commander had been in the Hawkeye 03 and he was gone, so the chain of command passed directly onto me. I would have to navigate and give orders. That was alright, I could manage to lead, though I wasn't by any means what people call a natural leader. Emmet fit more into slot, but he seemed out of it.
The pleasant numbness at my side allowed me to focus on the situation. I pushed on forwards towards the new pickup point in silence, half mourning the losses, half thanking my own luck. Sure, I was sorry and angered and sick they were dead, but I was happy I was alive, too. I wasn't going to suffer survivor syndrome. I didn't feel guilty I had lived.
I didn't blame myself for surviving, though I had certainly had some business in it. Instead, I blamed the two stupid girls somewhere in the line behind me. It wasn't healthy, but it kept me in check, because they were so small and young and looked so soft and terrified.
Well, no. Not really.
They didn't look terrified. They looked determined, and ragged and tired. Their clothes were dirty and I could tell they had lost some weight by the way it hung about them. Doc Cullen had made a thorough exam of their state as we moved and had deemed them good enough to advance.
I'd glanced over them briefly to evaluate their resistance. I was going to have to push them. Civilians were rarely up to the Navy standards and these girls had seen some rough days. They would be exhausted by the time we got to the pickup point, but they could sleep on the helicopter or in the home base. My only concern was for them not to slow us down.
I knew I was being an asshole, but I couldn't help it. We wouldn't be in this god damned mess if it weren't because they thought they needed to do something for the freaking world. Stupid idealists.
I paused on my advance and climbed up a rock to take a better look at the terrain from a higher spot. The line kept going below and in front of me, and Emmet slapped my thigh playfully. I nodded without looking down. When I was sure the landscape as far as my sight allowed was clear, I jumped off the rock.
And Isabella ran right into me. She staggered back clumsily and I had to reach and catch her arm.
"Can you watch where you're going?" I asked rudely.
She arched an eyebrow and looked slightly pissed, but she seemed more embarrassed than anything else and she bit her bottom lip, looking down.
She was really beautiful, with very pale skin and dark wavy hair. Her eyes were a marvelous, velvety brown. I liked her straight eyebrows and small but soft looking pink lips. She was delicate and frail and so very tired.
I wondered what the hell she was doing here and that made me think of the men that had died trying to rescue her and I hated her all over again.
"I'm sorry." She murmured.
"You should be." I said with venom.
Rosalie stopped right by us and gave me a mighty glare. I relented and moved away, grim.
"He's an asshole." Rosalie explained behind me. "Just ignore him."
I was fine with her ignoring me. I was happy with her staying as clear from me as possible. Good men had died today, and all for what? So she could tell the world that this was a war zone and terrible things happened? The world already knew.
Wind picked up and the faint scent of flowers and freesias reached me. I looked over my shoulder to find the source and found Isabella right behind me. She was looking at me but I glared and she looked away immediately, blushing.
Lovely. I almost smiled.
I whipped my head away.
Fuck. I couldn't start to like her. No fucking way.
Like Elizabeth Bennet said in Pride and Prejudice: to find a man agreeable whom one is determined to hate. That would be the greatest misfortune of all.
Only in my case it was a girl.