Ch. 32: Old Faces, New Friends, and Angry Seas

December 23, 2010, Kestrel: Genette

Bartlett was back but refrained from meeting anyone until he, Nastasya, Prime Minister Nikanor were able to stand on their own power. That basically meant, Nastasya was in control until Nikanor came around. That was yesterday, today, all three stood on the deck, talking to Andersen and Pops.

He had returned once more. He brought Nikanor, the Prime Minister of Yuktobania with him. And surprisingly, he had brought one more person. A female recon major in the Yuke Army… the one who broke his heart 15 years ago. I asked her what I should call her. She said "Just 'Major'", her accent thick. I asked her for her real name, she took off he glasses and smiled for a picture.

It became clear why no one could find him in the POW camps. The very first POW of the war, he had escaped before they could even get him into the camps. Yuktobania's situation was just like ours. Their leader, who espoused reconciliation, was imprisoned after a silent coup de tat, and the country proceeded right into full scale war.

The Recon Major remained faithful to the Prime Minister and to his vision of peace. And that faith had brought her here. We all met later in the 'war room'. She brought with her, a single disc. She told us it contained the secret plans of the Belkan 'Grey Men'. So far we have been unable to decipher the encryption code.

Kestrel Deck. Dec, 22, 2010. 2000

Garret stood on the stern deck of the Kestrel, looking up. They have been on the move now for a couple hours heading north towards the Kirwin Islands and then head south later in the week. Not sure why, but oh well. He loved nights like this. The air was cool, the sky was clear and the stars were numerous.

"Garret?"

"Yeah?"

Kei walked up to him and he put his right arm around her and pulled her in close. Even though they were still at war, peaceful nights like this were rare and…

"Hey Kid!"

And not going to last very long with Bartlett around. Garret turned around, annoyed. Kei could only giggle.

"You know that there are rules against that sort of affection." Bartlett strolled up to him with Nastasya under his arm.

"I do. But do you?"

"Well technically, I'm a POW."

"And technically, I'm dead." The two aviators stared at other until Bartlett blinked.

"Ha! Yes! I win!"

"Yeah, yeah, you have your fun. Whatcha doing out here anyways?"

Garret turned around and was rejoined by Kei. "Not much. It's quiet out here. And it smells better than the room."

"That was not my fault Garret."

"So it was you who stunk up the room! I told you to lay off the spicy Sapin food, but noo!"

Bartlett and Nastasya chuckled silently. Young love.

"We managed to find out the weapon the 'Grey Men' plan on using." Nastasya spoke up.

"Which weapon and where is it, if you don't mind me asking?" Kei asked her.

"Please, call me Nastasya. I know we didn't exactly get off on the right foot but we have to stick together on this boat full of men."

"Hey." Bartlett and Garret said together.

"I see your point." Kei replied to her.

Nastasya took a couple more steps and pointed up to bright star.

"The SOLG."

"The what?"

"The Strategic Orbital Linear Gun. SOLG for short."

"Ah." Garret said quietly.

"The SOLG. A military attack satellite that your country began building during the war 15 years ago, then abandoned in the peace that followed. The ARKBIRD was reborn partly to resurrect that dreadful star. Now, even after the ARKBIRD was destroyed, the space center's mass driver is still launching supplies into orbit. What is this star receiving from them?"

Garret had a suspicion. Kei could feel her blood boil. She tensed but relaxed when Garret squeezed her a little. It was not the time blow steam or jump to conclusions. But it was a time for waiting and letting the data on that disc prove them wrong or correct. Hopefully, wrong.

December 29, 2010, 1630, Mid-Ceres Ocean

The radar operator on the Kestrel was looking at the screen when it lit up. First he thought was a screen malfunction. First it was two white blips, then four more, followed by a whole lot more. An enemy fleet was approaching. He picked up the radio.

"Get me Andersen!"

40 minutes later,

It was all hands to battle station. The fleet turned out to be 5th Naval Battle Fleet of the Yuktobanian Navy. 18 ships ready to pounce on the seven of the 3rd Naval Fleet. Once more, not good odds. Nikanor took the radio to talk to his fleet.

"This is Prime Minister Nikanor, representative of your government. I am on the…", he got away from the radio to turn to Andersen. "Kestrel?"

"Yes, Kestrel." Andersen responded with a slight nod.

Nikanor continued on the radio. "I am on the Osean carrier Kestrel for the sake of restoring peace between our Yuktobania and the country of Osea." His accent was thick, his voice strong, full of resolve. "We will once again…"

"Attention, all vessels. The only thing that exists between Osea and Yuktobania is HATRED!" Another Yuke voice boomed out as the forces drew near. It was the fleet commander, Staline. "Prime Minister Nikanor has joined the enemy. Recognize him as such, and sink the enemy fleet with him."

"But… Commander, that's the Prime Minister talking." A ship from the left, the Yuke fleet's left, circled out in front of the advancing fleet. "We don't know what we're fighting for anymore. Sir, please, cancel engagement, and stand down."

On the Kestrel, Andersen ordered for a helicopter to be readied to head for Oured.

"All vessel loyal to the fleet, a traitor is blocking our way." The guns on the flag ship turned. Everything went still. "Attack the frigate ship, Pitomic. Open fire!"

No mercy. Every ship loyal to the fleet commander, opened fire on a ship, whose crew that peace. The Osean fleet could only watch in horror.

"Prime Minister," Andersen spoke silently, but sternly. " Please take your leave."

"But…"

"Go to our President, and get a televised picture with the both of you together, shaking hands. Show it to the world. I have helicopter waiting."

With a nod, Nikanor left.

"This is Missile Destroyer Gumrak of the glorious Yuktobanian Navy. We cannot follow a fleet commander willing to fire upon and sink one of his own ships. We will protect Prime Minister Nikanor. All ships who are with us, change course and follow us." The gruff voice finished and steamed ahead to join the Kestrel."

The Yuke fleet commanderwas back on the radio. "Any vessel that does not follow the flagship will be upon!"

Andersen could see several ships moving out of the enemy fleet formation or hang back.

"Protect those brave defectors. Launch Fighters!" But he was already late on that. Three black F-35 JSF were already in the air. The fourth was just about to launch.

1744, Ceres Ocean

"Captain, what your orders?"

"Survive!" Blaze shouted back at Archer. "Break and engage. All weapons, hot!"

The Razgriz were reliving the battle of St. Hewlett all over again. Except, these ships were bigger, much bigger, and they had an aircraft carrier, that wasn't launching fighters. Odd.

Blaze decided to stay low and go right thru the center of the fleet, hoping to catch a few of the ships in crossfire. That plan backfired, quickly. There's fine line between life and death and insanity was the border patrol. That amount of fire that was pumped out by that lead ship, the Kaniak, was just mesmerizing by itself. Add to it the munitions being flung out by the four frigates and five of the smaller destroyers, great god.

Edge was busy circling from the left to the back of the fleet. Her movements were being mirrored by Swordsman and Archer on the right. Their plan, sink the attackers from behind. Or at least, catch them off guard. But the time they got there, two frigates were sinking, one was on fire, and the last was working with half the guns.

Damn, Blaze works fast Edge thought to herself as she unleashed two LASM on the Kinaik. It would take more fire power than that to even cripple it.

Razgriz barely heard ships report in to join the Kestrel. He was engaging the remaining frigates when out of the blue, when eight Yuke fighters appeared out of the setting sun. It seemed bullets and missiles were coming out of every which direction at random. It was getting a bit insane. Blaze managed to sink a cruiser and down a Typhoon and a Su-32.

"Blaze, this is getting a bit hairy."

"Yeah, I know!" He dodged a missile that took out the Su-27 tailing him. He hoped nothing else could go wrong. He was wrong.

"Osean fleet approaching! We've been labeled a traitors." Andersen said. That was Blaze noticed that music was being played. Who the hell…

"This is the Aircraft Carrier Barbett. Our crews and ship alongside the Perry class Frigate, Chilvary will be joining the Razgriz and the Kestrel. Launch Fighters!"

Help was on the way.

Blaze was just lost in the battle. Everything was either after him or just about to turn on him when he shot it down.

"Archer you got one on…"

The F-2 blew up.

Uh…

"This is Sparrow squadron leader, Havoc. We're fighting with you." Blaze watched four single seat F/A – 18 Super Hornets followed their leader into the fight against the Osean and shrinking Yuktobanian fleet. It was a hard thing to shoot against their own countrymen but it was the only to survive and tell the truth. They were being used to fight a war that was rooted, not in anger against Yuktobania, but rooted in revenge by Belka who wanted to see the two countries kill themselves in a forever lasting bloody conflict. Blaze hoped that this current hatred that was against his squadron, his fleet, himself even would soon sort itself out. It was the way of human nature. Lash out with what you already know, but hopefully realize your mistake before it was too late. The truth would be out there for all to see. And it started with downing that Yuke lead ship, now! Damned ship won't die!

He launched two missiles at the bridge of the Kiniak followed by a LASM to the side, effectively crippling and blowing up the ship.

"Of course their shooting Grimm. We're supposed to be dead!" He heard Snow say to Grimm.

"All Yuke Fighters down!" Edge screamed.

The Osean fleet was still out there firing away at the Kestrel and her fleet. Blaze roared in.

"Osean fleet, stand down! You're being used! We don't want to shoot you down."

"Are you guys the Razgriz?" the fleet commander asked.

"Yes."

"And so we mingle with traitors. All ships shoot the Razgriz and Sparrow squadron down!"

Blaze only shook his head. "Havoc, you have to protect your ship! Razgriz, whatever you got left, be smart with it."

The eight planes split and let loose a barrage. It took a couple passes but it was over. Mangled messes of steel, oil, and bodies floated or sank into the sea. More, senseless, death and destruction. Bred of hatred and lies. Yes, there were survivors but it would have been better if the two 'enemy' fleets could have just stayed away or listened to what had to be said by both leaders of the warring countries. The Grey Men will pay, and pay dearly. The only consolation: a whole new fleet. Not a flotilla, but a fleet. Even snagging two extra aircraft carriers. Turns out that Yuke naval pilots, the crew, and the carrier's captain were scared to fight against The Razgriz and so decided to stay unlaunched and joined the fleet with the Kestrel. The Kestrel was voted to be the lead ship.

The Osean-Yuktobanian fleet:

The YNF carrier Admiral Tsanev.

Five Sovremenny destroyers: YNS Gumrak, Chuda, Dud, YNF Chaplya and Chizh.

The cruiser Chilvalry

A Nimitz – class aircraft carrier: Barbett with Sparrow Squadron.

The Kestrel and her fleet.

15 ships of the combined fleet. It was a sight to behold. Blaze led his squadron to the Kestel. Havoc did the same. As he climbed out of his F-35, he could hear Grimm chatting excitedly about two things: how he thought Snow almost shot him down and the new fleet.

"I told you, I wasn't going to.

"Yeah, but you still freaked me the flip out. You have announced yourself."

"I was going to, you cut me off. Not my fault you were scared."

"I was not scared." All four pilots stared at each other and just laughed. It was good to laugh after a battle like that.

"Hey." The pilots turned to see Bartlett standing there, hands folded across his chest. "Come on, slackers. Time for debriefing and to bring our new fleet up to speed with what we know."

"Lead the way, Captain." Garret said as he fell in behind his former flight lead.

0030pm Kestrel, December, 30, 2010

Garret fell asleep early with snuggled up on his right. It was a long day. Two enemy fleets faced off against the 3rd Osean fleet yet in the end, the opposing Yuktobanian and Osean fleets had defectors that joined the Kestrel and her companion ships and were dealt with. It was a good thing to have more pilots on their side. Sparrow squadron, of the 501st fighter squadron, though recently deployed have seen combat quite a few number of times. On the opposite side of that is the 32nd Fighter Group of the Yutobanian Navy. Because of where they were positioned during the war, they saw little action in the sky, but they were ready to fight for what they believed in. That and Nikanor's son, Joseph, was a pilot among them. It was an honor for both Sparrow and 32nd Fighting Group to team up with the Razgriz. They had to be reminded that they were humans and bled just like everyone else despite their reputation for being the heroes of the war. Yet the identities of the Razgriz were kept secret though. They were supposed to be dead.

That was a few hours, now Garret is passed out, far away in dreamland.

Dream

"Hey son."

"Hey dad. What's going on?"

"Not much. We've been watching. You're doing really good things."

"I know, but as long as this war continues, more people will die senselessly. It's not like I want to start answering death wishes of every person who shoots at me." His dad tilted his head slightly.

"I mean, take today. The sea battle. We faced off against and Osean and a Yuktobanian fleet. Why? Because to them, we were the enemies. We didn't seek them out. We tried to warn them about the war. But they didn't listen. We could have used the extra ships. Have a giant fleet. But no!" Garret threw his arms up in a silly fashion.

"Garret, you're losing your head here, son."

"Sorry."

"It's alright. Look, I'm not familiar with the intricacies of war, but I do know this: people fight. This is gonna sound weird but hear me out. They believed a lie. Both sides did. Yuktobania believed that Osea was going to drop nukes on their soil. Osea heard the same. And I'm sure you know what happened after that."

Garret nodded.

"The war grew and your squadron got put in to basically lead the charge. At this point, just seeing the enemy would enough a reason to start even a gang fight in a school parking lot. People fight for what they believe in."

"But I'm so tired of killing. After a while it wears a guy down. I don't show it to my squadron mainly because I leave it on the battle field or in the skies. And I don't want to be insane."

"I understand. Let me ask you something. Why do you think God allowed for ancient Aurenites to fight? You think they liked to kill?"

"No. Maybe? I mean, they killed lions for the fun of it."

"Only the strongest did. But you're missing the point. They had a job to do. Just like you did. I'm sure most resented the idea but they believed in God and his promised more. You're fighting for peace, truth, and justice. Ideals and beliefs that have transcended generations upon generations. Yet the stay that way because people have fought, died and killed for them. Taking another life is not easy and once it's done, it's done but when people are being oppressed, being wronged and lied to, something has to be done. You and your squad have bust this war wide open and the truth is being revealed. Justice is being done to those who have started this unjust war. You have been put in this situation for a reason, not because you can fly well – that's an added bonus – and it's time to finish the work. No one said it will be easy."

Dang, his dad is good. Pretty much silenced all arguments had.

"Still enjoy making me feel like kid again dad?"

"Well you are my son. So, yeah."

The two laughed.

"WHERE'S MY BABEH?!" A familiar voice rang out.

"Uh dad?"

"Angelica has been missing you bad."

"You guys visit me in my dreams. It's not like anyone of you have excuse."

"True."

Angelica ran up to her son and promptly hugged her son.

"Have you been hurt? We saw the battle yesterday. It looked dangerous. You were insane." She rambled while checking his arms and legs for any bruises.

"Mom, I'm fine."

"Good. You are to report to me every night from now on."

"You do realize I don't have the ability to see you guys every night. As a matter of fact, you visit me."

"And we will continue to visit until we see that little lady your dating."

"Hey Uncle Mike. All we're missing is Chopper and the gang's all here."

They quartet laughed and talked about the sea battle.

"Garret?" A soft voice called out. He turned around. Kei was standing there and he ran over to her.

"What are you doing here, Kei?"

"Am I… am I dead?"

Garret could only laugh.

"Far from it. We're both very much alive. Come, I got some people I want you to meet."

He led her over to where his family stood and introduced her to his parents and uncle. They all approved of her. The white –grey where they all stood turned dark.

"Kei, it's time to wake up."

"What? Why?"

"Something bad is coming and I don't want you here to see it."

"What? Are you insane?"

"No, but my dreams can get pretty violent and the last thing I need is for you to die in my dream." Garret said sternly.

She nodded. "So how do I get out of here?"

"Harm her." His dad said.

Garret raised an eyebrow.

"What? It's either that or a pleasant experience and we have no time for that."

Garret turned to Kei. "You know what to do if it gets too crazy right?"

"Yeah, wake up as hard as I can. Just don't grab my arm."

"No promises." Garret pinched her arm and Kei faded out and woke up in the bed.

Garret faced to where the darkness was coming and heard a voice call out to him.

'"Lawson!"

"Right here Hamilton!"

"Don't think you've won boy! I still get my mark, monkey!

"You do realize that I am half Belkan right? So if you call me monkey, you're one right along with me!"

"Don't you start with me! I still have one card to play and the Grey Men have one final blow. Hope you can stop a satellite!"

Out of the darkness, a giant 600 foot long pole with a rotating 'X' shaped contraption emerged out of the darkness. The SOLG. Four planes engaged and all four crashed into it.

"We will defeat you, Hamilton!"

"I beg to differ. I will find you and kill you in the skies. You'll truly be dead!" The SOLG turned to face Garret as it continued its fall. It fired.

Garret woke up to a dark room, panting hard and his heart pounding once every thirty seconds, so hard that it could be heard clear across the room.

"Garret?"

He turned to the left and saw Kei, staring at him.

"Kei." They hugged. She made it out. "You ok?"

"I'm fine. Which is more than I can say for you. You ok?"

"No. They Grey Men have the SOLG. And I think we will see Hamilton very, very soon. He knows where we are." Garret was still trying to catch his breath. Kei was taken aback by the specific-ness of his dreams.

"We'll get him when we can, ok?"

He nodded and sighed.

"Gar?"

"Hmm?"

"You kept your promise."

Garret chuckled, held her close and drifted off to a dreamless sleep.


Right, so... I'm sorry. That's all. I'm sorry that it took so long. School isnt even an excuse anymore. I'll do better next time, honest.

iamsupervegito: im sorry, but i do see your point. Vihan just came to me, that's all.

anyways, I am working on the graduation for HSW section of the Shorts. uh... i know how i want to end it. Dont be mad if Kei's section is short, but its easier for me to write for Garret than her.*shrugs* after that, i guess i'll do the AC5/Dragon Flies bit and let you all, my readers, decide if its good enough to be continued or not.

Yes, Vihan is my new work. i keep piling them up dont i? lol anyways, keep in touch. i'll try to do a chapter a week. keyword: try. ;)

so tell what you think? the 32nd will be explained in the next chapter. i think that's it. yeah. you know the drill.

Be safe, God bless.