Disclaimer: If you think I own Ace Combat, you need serious help.
Alexis Dragov ran a comb through his short black hair once more, smoothing out a none-existent errant hair. His tongue darted in and out of his mouth as he nervously licked his lips.
"Alex, relax will you?" His roommate James Eccles told him in an exasperated tone of voice. "You're all set up, so let's go already!"
"Alexis." Alexis automatically corrected. "You know I hate being called Alex."
James shrugged indifferently. "Alex, Alexis, same thing." He said in an unconcerned voice. Alexis glared at James, who ignored him.
"See you out there, don't be late or the Colonel will have a fit." James said as he left the room.
Alexis looked around the room that had been his sleeping quarters for the past six weeks. There wasn't much in the way of personal effects, a couple of books on navigation and basic flight manoeuvres, a poster of a half-naked film star in an erotic pose on the far wall (Alexis made a mental note to remove the poster before they left and felt a twinge of gratefulness that the barracks were off limits to civilians.) and a photograph. Alexis bent over and picked it up.
The photograph itself was relatively normal as far as photographs go. A man with short, straw-blonde hair, blue eyes and a narrow face, much like Alexis's face, was sat on the far left hand side of the dark navy-blue sofa with a small smile upon his face. On the other side of the sofa was a woman with long loose black hair, with a heart-shaped face and black eyes. She too, was smiling. In this case though, hers was a more expansive smile, her teeth showing and the tips of her lips reached the edge of her face.
Finally, in the centre was a teenage girl with long black hair that was identical to the woman sitting next to her. Unlike the woman though, the girl had her hair tied up with a blue ribbon. On either side, the man and woman had their arms around her shoulders.
"I'll be glad to see you guys again." Alexis murmured to himself. "Even you squirt." He added with a chuckle as he looked at the girl in the centre of the photograph. Then he turned around and left the room.
At that precise moment, the people pictured the photograph were on board a high-speed train headed for the unnamed airbase that Alexis was currently at. The woman was glaring at the man and visa-versa. The animosity the two felt for one another was almost palatable and you could cut the tension in the air with a knife. The teenage girl glared at both of them from her wheelchair.
"Mom, dad, it's Alexis's passing out ceremony! Can't you avoid wanting to kill each other until AFTER the ceremony?" she snapped at them in annoyance. The couple glanced at each other, before turning to face the girl.
"Rebecca" the man began, but she cut him off before he could go any further.
"I might not be able to walk any more, but I'm not stupid. I don't care what you two think of each other, I'm not going to let you ruin my big brothers passing out ceremony."
"We'll try." Her mother told her firmly. "But-"
The sound of a sudden explosion came from the front part of the train, cutting off whatever the woman was about to say. There was a sudden screeching noise and the occupants of the carriage were thrown about like rag dolls as the carriage slammed unto its side at high speed. Even then, the train continued to screech along for a further three metres on its side before finally coming to a halt.
"Rebecca, Emily, where are you?" Rebecca's father called out.
"I'm down here Thomas!" Emily called out from the other side of a seat as she gritted her teeth against the pain coming from her leg, which was bent at an unnatural angle.
"Rebecca! Rebecca, where are you?" Thomas called out once more, with ever increasing levels of panic in his voice. Pulling himself up to get a better look round, he turned his head and spotted his daughter, her neck twisted to an impossible angle. And on her head, with not so much as a speck of blood staining it, was her blue ribbon, still tied up in her hair.
Alexis's passing out parade had passed without a glitch. The weather was beautiful and not one single person had put a step out of place. The ceremony was not the foremost thing on Alexis's mind though and with good reason. Just before the ceremony had begun, he'd received the news that the train that had been carrying his family had crashed and that rescue teams were searching the wreckage now. The fact that the Erusian fighter that had derailed the train had probably been aiming for the munitions train on the opposite track was of little comfort.
"Lieutenant Alexis Dragov?" A tall, officious-looking man wearing a police uniform asked him, dragging him out of his stupor.
"Yes." He answered slowly.
"I'm Lieutenant Mitchell Rowl, of the North Point transport police. Your parents have been recovered from the wreckage of the train and are in hospital now." He told Alexis and Alexis nodded for the man to continue. "Well, aside from a broken leg sustained by your mother and a mild concussion for your father, they are otherwise fine."
"What about Rebecca? Have you found her yet?" Alexis asked with increasing nervousness. Lieutenant Rowl looked away.
"I'm sorry, we recovered her dead body less than ten minutes ago…" Alexis turned pale with shock, before suddenly bringing up the contents of his stomach up, all over his dress uniform.
"Damn it all, she was only fifteen!" Alexis cursed angrily.
It was an hour later when Alexis finally got to see his parents in the hospital. Like all hospitals, it had the distinct hospital smell to it of sickness and bleach. It was his father who spoke first, standing up to face his son.
"Alexis, I…" he started, before trailing off, knowing full well that any words he said would sound hollow.
"Tell me" Alexis began in a low voice. "Was she wearing that favourite blue ribbon of hers?"
"The one you gave her for her fourteenth birthday, yes." Alexis's father answered.
"Then I'm going to make the Erusian's fear that ribbon. I'll use it as my aircraft's insignia." Alexis positively growled and his father nodded.
"Make them pay." His father positively growled