The Aces of Razgriz

Prologue: My name is Antonio "Blaze" Castillo

I couldn't believe what was happening. I could do nothing but cry as I watched the pilot of that plane release his bombs on the spectator stands where my parents were. Everything just seemed to slow down as I collapsed on my knees, staring at the flames that engulfed all those people. I looked up to see the pilot circle low overhead. I couldn't see his face because of his helmet and oxygen mask, but I could see his eyes. Those piercing, green, smiling eyes… I'll never forget that day

"Antonio? Antonio, are you okay," asked my mother.

I was sitting across the table from her in the dining room. It was the first time I got to see her in the past year since I left for flight school. She was a forty-six year old Master Gunnery Sergeant in the Marines. She and my dad were both my inspiration as to why I joined the Marines, but my mom's friend was the reason why I decided to become an officer.

"Yeah, I was just wondering if you were going to make it to my graduation," I said softly." Lt. Colonel Harkin said he'd try to get you in as a V.I.P," I said with a slight grin.

"I might be extremely awkward for a Master Gunnery Sergeant to be mixed in with a bunch of young Lieutenants," she said cautiously.

"I don't think you have to be in uniform," I said as I held her hand. She put her other hand on mine and leaned in closer to me and told me that my dad would be proud and that he still loved me, no matter where he was. I'd like to think God had taken my dad away from me for a reason. Part of me thinks it was because he didn't do a good job as a father. Another part of me thinks it was because he wanted my dad to pay for the people he killed in the war fifteen years ago. Thoughts like this crossed my mind all the time; there was a reason for everything. I looked at the clock on the stove and I noticed that my flight back to Heierlark Air Force Base would leave in a couple of hours. I got up from the kitchen table, grabbed my bag from my room, and headed out the door so that I could wait for my ride to the airport. I was saying my good-byes to my mother when a red sedan pulled into the driveway of my mother's house. The car belonged to a family friend, Lieutenant Colonel Nathan Harkin. He was a forty-nine year old man who looked like he was in his late fifties. His fierce brown eyes told the story of a battle hardened man who's seen a lot of horrible things in life and yet, he was always able to keep a positive attitude. If it wasn't for him, I'd probably be in jail or worse.

"You ready to go kid," said Harkin. I hated it when he called me kid.

"Ready when you are, sir" I replied

I liked Harkin, not just because he was like another father to me, but he was a Mustanger, an enlisted military person who later becomes an officer. He knows how much officers, fresh out of college, like to abuse their authority over the enlisted. Harkin was the kind of guy who knew when to crack the whip and knew when to let things slide. He taught me how to look out for myself and without his and my mom's support, there was no way I could've gotten to where I was.

"Well Antonio, you're in the home stretch of reaching your dream," said Harkin.

"Well I'm just glad I'm almost done with this, sir."

He hated it when anyone called him sir or saluted him, but I did it just out of respect. Lt. Colonel Harkin was a former fighter pilot who flew in the war 15 years ago. He flew with some of the best aces all over the world and I loved it when he told me about his time in the air. I guess it was because I've always wanted adventure in my life. That was only a small reason as to why I joined the military and decided to become a pilot. When I flew a plane for the first time, the pilot I flew with thought I was a natural. I remembered everything about the first time that I flew a plane and the initial reason I wanted to become I pilot. Harkin and I talked about everything together and he was one of the very few people who got me. He even gave me some advice that actually helped me meet my first steady girlfriend, even though it didn't end well. The thing was I never really knew that much about Harkin. I knew he worked for the government and that he knew my family from way back in the day. He was divorced and had a son who never really talked to him for some reason. I got the feeling he was hiding something that he was ashamed of and I knew it wouldn't be right if I asked him about it.

When we got to the airport, Harkin saw me off and made sure I got on the right plane because when I first went off to flight school, I boarded the wrong plane and arrived at my destination a day late. Good thing inclement weather postponed my other classmates' arrivals and I didn't get in too much trouble. I was conducting my flight training at Heierlark Air Force Base in northern Osea, but the locals referred to it as South Belka. Lt. Colonel Harkin was stationed there once and he said that he loved going out into town just to hang out with his friends. I didn't have any friend at Heierlark because of all the bitterness everyone had towards me. The only good thing about it was that I had a crush on a girl there, even though I didn't she ever thought about me. One reason I never talked to her was because I feared the regulations against fraternization and because I thought that a relationship with this girl would end just as badly as my last relationship, so I never really made any attempt to talk to her.

I was headed back to Heierlark in a C-17 with a bunch of other people who were stationed at the same base I was. I saw three other pilots from my class, board the plane with me. Their call signs were Shadow, Hoover, and Tito. Shadow was a cocky little son-of-a-bitch who thought he could outfly anyone. Hoover was a content pilot. He knew he wasn't the best and he knew he wasn't the worst so he satisfied himself knowing that he was good enough to hold his own in a one on one fight. Tito was jumpy little guy who never thought before he acted and I bet that was the reason the instructors thought he was a great pilot. He was lucky, nothing more and nothing less. The flight back to Heierlark was peaceful for the most part. I prefer first class on civilian airlines, but this was the military after all. We did get our benefits, but they weren't as good as they used to be after President Harling made the cuts in Osea's defense budget. The military wasn't a military anymore; it was reduced to nothing more than an oversized defense force. I really didn't mind it as long as it didn't keep me from flying. It was one of the main reason I joined the Marines. My mom, dad, and uncle served, but they didn't get to do anything I was able to do. Being a Lieutenant did have its perks and it gave me a wider range of opportunity in the military. My mother's MOS was supply, meaning that she helped manage equipment for the military like spare parts for vehicles, combat gear, tools, and other things of the sort. She was heavily injured the day half of my family died a Curtis Air Force Base but she managed to pull through. Even after all the injuries my mom suffered, I was surprised that she still stayed in the military. Her CO offered her a top position at the supply school at Camp Cornwall, a military base near McCord. I was real proud of my mother. She never let anything stop her.

Heierlark Base, September 16, 2010

We landed at Heierlark, unloaded our luggage, and headed back to our rooms. I saw some familiar faces, but it wasn't like I knew any of them personally. Everyone on the base knew me as the quiet asshole who never smiled. I was quiet because I was shy, and I never smiled because nothing ever got done with me walking around grinning like an idiot for no reason. If I had some friends, then I would've lightened up more, but everyone just shunned me because I was better than them.

"Hey, Castillo," I turned to see my crew chief, Master Sergeant Russell, run up to me so that he could tell me something. "I need you to come to the hanger and help me tune your plane for your hop tomorrow."

"Already?" I asked. I've been off leave for less than fifteen minutes and it's already straight to business. I figured they'd at least settle in and get use to everything.

"Yeah already, you're leave time is over which means you've had enough time to relax," he said.

I sighed heavily and acknowledged him. First, I had to head to my quarters to drop off my things and change into my uniform. As I headed back to my room, I ran into Kei Nagase, my crush, in the hallway. She was a very beautiful Japanese girl with short dark brown hair and eyes that I could just get lost in. I didn't know much about her other than her name and birthday. I couldn't read her as well as the other nuggets on the base so it was difficult for me to figure out what kind of person she was. Her eyes seemed like they harbored some kind of sadness and anger, but mostly sadness. She was just as quiet as I was and she was shunned by everyone else as well. The only difference was that she smiled more than me. However, she still had that look of sadness in her eyes whenever I did see her smile. I tried talking with her once but I was interrupted by one of the instructors. Since then, I've only been able to speak with her about small things like when our next hop was, where our instructor was, or the casual hello.

"Hey, Blaze," she said softly with a slight smile.

"Hey, Edge. Nice to see you again," I replied with a smile as I passed her.

I've only flew with Kei twice since we arrived a Heierlark. Both times we managed to out fly our instructors within a matter of seconds. Scuttlebutt, or rumor around the base, was that she and I were the top nuggets on the base. Maybe that's why we didn't fly together as often. I pondered this while I changed into my flight suit and returned to help Russell tune my F-5. Another thing that everyone seemed to comment on was that Kei and I flew like we had over two hundred hours in the air, which is over twice as much as what an average nugget would have by the time he graduates.

My reason for why I thought I flew so well was because I found my love for flying at a very young. I would later play a lot of flight simulator video games and watch movies about pilots flying in wars. There was also the time I actually flew a P-51D Mustang when I was eight. In 1995, I would follow the mercenary pilot, Cipher and his wing man, Solo Wing Pixy, as the dominated the skies during the Belkan war. I remember the stories my dad would tell me about him when my dad was lucky enough to see the Galm team provide CAS, or close air support, for his unit as they helped liberate the capital of Ustio. Cipher sounded like he wouldn't be a match for Mobius 1 though, but no one would be able to ever test that because Cipher disappeared after the war. Mobius 1 became the pilot I idolized when I was in high school. Lt. Colonel Harkin kept telling me that he flew like a young man; he held nothing back. His flying was sloppy but he had somehow managed to outfly yellow squadron. Harkin would let me watch the recordings of Mobius 1's flying and I refined it while I was training at Heierlark. Mobius 1 was a great pilot nonetheless.

Heierlark Base, September 17, 2010

I taxied my F-5 onto the runway and waited for takeoff clearance from the control tower. I had to wait for Major Pesi to get into position before I had to go looking for him. He and I were going to perform a combat exercise and I could tell the Major was looking forward to this flight for a long time. No one thought I knew, but I heard that Major Pesi was going to knock my skills down a notch after he was done with me. The exercise's objective for me was to adapt to a situation where I would be caught off guard. Adaptation was pounded into my head while I was in basic and while I was growing up, so I had a lot of experience with it, but I've rarely been able to apply it in real world situations. Improvise, adapt, and overcome was one of the mottos I lived by. I could only hope it would pay off today.

"Blaze, you are clear for takeoff, good hunting," said the control tower.

"Roger that tower," I replied.

I pushed the throttle lever all the way forward and I shot off down the runway. When I felt my F-5 lift off the ground, I raised my flaps and landing gear. I slowly gained altitude and headed for the AO, or area of operations, towards the west of the base. It was a beautiful day today. Patches of stratus clouds were here and there at around six thousand feet. A person could have a clear view of the sky if they looked up from the ground and I had a clear view of the ground from up here. I didn't have time to admire the snow covered valleys because I still had to head to the AO. I was there in a matter of minutes, and waited for Major Pesi to start the exercise.

"Alright Major, I'm here," I said over the radio.

"Roger that, Blaze. We're commencing the exercise now," replied the Major.

I knew Major Pesi wouldn't attack right away. That would make it to easy. If he really wanted to catch me off guard, he should've attack right away. He would have to plan his attack carefully if he wanted to catch me off guard. He was going to wait for me to get into a position that would best help his element of surprise. The thing was I had to figure out where he would attack from. There were only a handful of options the Major could choose from and the most likely possibilities involved him attacking me from above or from the clouds. I circled the area above the cloud deck, which was around seven thousand feet, for several minutes waiting for the Major to make his move. I kept my eyes fixed mostly toward the sun and on my six o'clock, but I tried to keep my head more on a swivel.

"Major, if you don't do something soon then, I'll have to come after you," I said.

"Blaze, I swear if you think I'm gonna fall for that then you got another thing coming."

"Major, I'm serious. You gave me all this time to think about where you might be and I narrowed it down to where you are."

"Well then I guess it's time for me to make my move because here I come."

As soon as he said that, I could see him at my seven o'clock high. He was diving on me with his F-5 out of the sun. Just as I thought, I can avoid him easily. I snapped the stick to the left while applying full left rudder and I watched his plane streak past me. He gunned his engines and tried to make a run for it and I followed him into his dive. The Major's plane twisted and turned all over the sky in an attempt to lose me, but I wouldn't be shaken off so easily. Major Pesi's plane was still diving towards the ground and I knew that he'd have no other choice but to pull out of the dive, but doing so would give me a good angle of attack.

His plane pulled out of its dive at five hundred feet and leveled off. I was in perfect position for a missile lock and pounced. My heart was racing as I gave my plane full throttle and closed in on the Major's plane. I couldn't help but think about everyone's reaction at Heierlark when they found out I was able to take down Major Pesi. He was the toughest instructor at Heierlark and the only pilot who I haven't flown against. None of the other pilots from my class couldn't keep up with him and he out flew all of them.

I had a missile lock, but then it couldn't help but remember what I read in an autobiography of a pilot who flew in the Belkan War 15 years ago. I remembered that he wrote that the one plane that's always going to get you is the one you don't see. He was right though, I would get shot down if I wasn't paying attention to everything around me. This was just one of the many rules of dogfighting that every pilot had to memorize.

I looked over my left shoulder and sure enough I saw another F-5 closing in on me. Who was the Major flying with? He was close enough for a missile lock but I wasn't being locked onto. He was going to use his guns to get me if I shot down the Major. I couldn't help but wonder why he didn't just shoot me down. Maybe he wanted to get my hopes up before he let me have it.

We were still going full throttle and I knew what I had to do, I had to deal with this new threat first. I cut the throttle, pulled my air brakes, snapped the stick back and to the right, hit full bottom rudder, and barrel rolled over my pursuer. Suddenly, I was on his tail in perfect position for a kill and I took it. I squeezed the trigger on my stick, causing my guns to roar to life. Flames from the fake bullets obscured my view of my target but I knew I had hit him. His plane was out of action and I only had to deal with the Major now, but I had lost sight of him. He used his wingman as a distraction while he made his escape. The Major was clever. He had a backup plan ready in case he lost the upper hand in this fight and now I had to deal with whatever he had planned next.

I was scanning the sky vigorously trying to find him, but I still couldn't see him. I had to think; how would I use a distraction like that? It only took me less than a minute to get rid of his wingman and we were below the cloud deck. I would've used tried to lose my attacker by climbing into the clouds or the sun. I climbed to gain altitude and get a better view of the area. I couldn't see anything below the cloud deck so I had to assume the Major was above me or at the same altitude.

"Come on Major, where are you hiding?" I said trying to antagonize him.

"You already got me, Blaze," he said in an extremely annoyed voice

Wait, I already bagged Major Pesi? If that was the case, then I was looking for his wingman now. Who was he? Did a new instructor rotate into Heierlark when I was on leave? I stopped thinking about it because it didn't matter anymore. All I have to do is adapt to the situation and shoot down the Major's wingman. I had to get him or else I would fail the exercise. There's no way in hell I'm going to let someone best me.

I continued circling at eight thousand feet, trying to locate my target. My eyes were quickly and carefully scanning my surroundings. I could see everything from where I was and I knew it was only a matter of time before I found my target. Suddenly, I caught sight of a glint of light towards my eleven o'clock.

"I see you, you son of a gun," I said to myself as I opened the throttle

I saw his plane circle towards me and come at me head on. We were closing the gap between us which didn't give me enough time to get missile lock or for me to get my guns to bear on him. I had to break off, but if I did then I would be an easy chase for him. I had to keep going. I could only imagine that the other guy was thinking the same thing because I didn't see any hesitation in the way he flew towards me. If this pilot was thinking like me then we were both going to be sent home in body bags. I could only hope that he would chicken out and peel away. We continued to speed towards each other. That's when I saw it. He rolled to the right just enough to avoid hitting me. I rolled my plane over as we passed each other and did a split-S to gain speed which I would use to attack him from below. As I pulled my plane out of the dive, I saw him circle back and dive towards me. He wasn't going to let me get an angle on him that easily. We passed each other again and we both banked towards each other, but we reversed direction to come at each other again. We were performing the scissor maneuver, trying to gain the advantage over each other. We were bleeding off air speed too fast and one of use was about to stall. Whoever sped up or stalled first would be vulnerable to attack. The only way out of this maneuver was to keep going and pray that my opponent stalled first. We kept it up until I felt my plane shudder. He was going to get me. I would fail my adaptation exercise to this guy and my place at the top of my class would now belong to this guy. I looked over at his plane to see him gaining speed, which was huge mistake on his part. He was going to make a run for it which put me right on his tail.

"I got you now," I said to myself as I gave chase. He tried twisting and turning to try and shake me off but I had already sank my teeth into him and I wasn't about to let go. Something was off about this pilot but he seemed to know what he was doing. This guy was experience and he pulled a bunch of maneuvers that seemed oddly familiar. The barrel rolls, the snap rolls, the inverted spirals, the displacement rolls, and they high and low yo-yos all felt too familiar, like I've done all of them before. Yeah, I played a lot of flight simulator video games, but feeling the plane move with me made me feel damn sure that I had done this before. This guy must've paid attention to how Mobius 1 flew. I was sure of it.

I followed my opponent into an Immelmann turn and almost acquired a missile lock on him, but he then put his plane into a descending spiral, which was a maneuver that a pilot would use if he was out of options. He was turning too hard for a missile to track him and I couldn't pull enough lead to get my guns on him. But he didn't know that. I wasn't in a good position to use my guns, but I fired them any ways. I was hoping it would scare him into messing up again. My guns roared to life as the flames of the fake rounds obscured my view. I guess he saw that I was shooting because he broke off into a climb.

I wasted no time in chasing after him and acquiring a missile lock on his plane. There was no way he could get out of this one. I pressed the missile launch button and the simulation ended. The average dogfight lasts about four to five minutes, but this dogfight lasted ten minute. I wanted to know who this guy was; he was the best challenge I've had since I started flight training. I pulled up next to the pilot I flew against to see who it was. The pilot's tinted visor was down and I couldn't see his face. I tried hailing him over the radio, but I didn't get any kind of response. I must've pissed him off if he wasn't going to talk to me. We both flew back to base together and I landed first. I didn't notice how much I was sweating until I touched down on the runway. My undershirt was drenched in perspirations and it almost penetrated the outer layer of my flight suit. I parked my plane outside the hanger and waited for Major Pesi's wingman. He landed a couple minutes after I did and parked his plane next to mine. He shut off the engines, popped the canopy, and he took off his helmet. Only it wasn't a he, it was a she. It was Kei Nagase.

Kei seemed just as surprised to see me as I was to see her. I couldn't believe that the best pilot I've flown against so far was her; everyone must've hated her as much as they hated me. I had to know what she thought about my flying and where she learned to maneuver like that, but before I could even approach her, Major Pesi came storming over towards her.

"Blaze, get the hell out of here before I kick your ass to the other side of the runway," shouted Major Pesi.

"Yes, Sir," I said. As I headed towards the locker room, I could hear the Major shouting at Kei. I turned around to look back and saw Kei just standing there with her head down while Pesi was shouting at her. I could've sworn I saw her body shaking like she was sobbing. I don't know why the Major was shouting at her but I don't think it was a good enough reason. Her flying was superb but she wasn't aggressive enough to evade me. I felt as though we could've learned from each other, but with graduation just three weeks away, there wasn't any point in it.

Later that day

I was in the mess hall eating my horrible excuse of a dinner, alone, as usual. All the other nuggets just glared at me because they heard about how I out flew two of the best pilots on the base. Flying seem almost second nature to me. If I was able to fly a plane other than my F-5, I could've really impressed some people or make them hate me more than they already did. I seriously thought BFM, or Basic Fighter Maneuvering was really easy and I couldn't see how everyone else on the base wasn't able to learn as quickly as I did. Flying in real life is way different than flying in a video game. Video games can't incorporate all the physics that occur when flying but I adapted rather easily.

I felt very uncomfortable as everyone just looked at me with their hateful eyes so I finished eating and left the mess hall. I was headed back to my room when I passed Kei's room. The door was half way opened and I could hear the faint sound of crying coming from inside. I realized that I hadn't seen her since the Major chewed her out when we got back from our hop. I wanted to talk to her to see if she was alright, but I wasn't sure if I should invade her privacy. I decided to see if she was okay. We were all nuggets trying to reach the same goal. Whether everyone liked me or not, I would've looked out for every one of them.

I took a deep breath and knocked on the door. "Kei," I asked as I entered her room. She wasn't on her bed or sitting at her desk. I looked to my right and saw her sitting against the wall, on the floor with her arms resting on her knees and her head down.

"Hey, what's wrong?" I asked softly.

"Nothing, just please, go away," she said softly.

Normally, I would've left but I felt like I had to do something. I couldn't stand to see her upset like this; I had to think of something, but what? I looked around her room for something to start up a conversation with but I couldn't see anything. My eyes eventually fell upon the desk in front of her bed and saw a book titled "A Blue Dove for the Princess". I walked over to the desk and held the book in my hands. I noticed the book seemed thicker than other copies I've held and I could see some pages with irregular edges sticking out of the book. I was curious to see what was inside but I knew Kei wouldn't appreciate it if I did.

"Put that down," growled Kei as she glared at me. Her reaction to me holding her book made me realize that it had sentimental value to her. My mother had read the book to my little sister all the time and I could remember what it was about. I might be able to finally talk to her.

"I remember this book from when I was younger. The dove was hurt and the princess nursed it back to health," I said with a slight smile. "Then when the princess became sick, the dove would help her recover." The glare seemed fade from her face as I told her about the story. I walked over to her still holding the book and sat down next to her. I held the book up and examined it, but I didn't open it. "I remember my mom telling me that the moral of the story is that there is always someone you could depend on, no matter how big or small they are. I doesn't matter if you know them or not," I continued. "But there are times when you have to find that strength in yourself to keep going."

Kei took the book from my hands, wiped the tears from her eyes, and opened it. Some of the pages were missing and I could see pieces of notebook paper with her handwriting on them. I saw her smile just a little bit and I knew that I was able to get through to her, but I had to keep it going.

"I must've read this book over a million times. Some of the pages are missing because it's that worn. My dad read it to me all the time when I was younger," Kei said. "This is the only thing that I have left of him."

I didn't know that one of Kei's parents died and I felt like I also I needed to distract her from the thought of her dad or else she might end up like she was before I started talking to her. I could only think about her book and make some kind of reference to it.

"Sounds like he was your blue dove," I said and Kei nodded.

"He was, but now that he's gone, I have to carry on by myself."

I thought Kei was just as shy as I was, but it turns out, she was just lonely. I thought deeper into it and I deduced that her relationship with her mother wasn't as great as her relationship with her father. The way Kei talked about herself just seemed like she had no one she could depend on. If Kei couldn't rely on her family for support, she truly was alone in the world. I knew exactly how she was feeling and I couldn't bear the thought of it. If I had to step in and be a friend whom she could rely on, then I was going to do it. I might end up in the friend-zone, but at least she'd have a friend.

"No, you don't. Being alone is a choice and I can see it in your eyes that you want your dove back," I said compassionately as I stood up and held out my hand to her. "Your blue dove is out there somewhere and you're someone's princess. You just have to give it time, he'll come for you, but in the meantime, I'm here if you need me."

She smiled a little, took my hand, and got up off the floor. We both stood there in silence, looking back at each other. I could feel myself blushing as Kei gave me a gentle smile. I also saw the sadness in her eyes vanish. I didn't know if it was because I did a good job distracting her or if it was something else, but all I could do was lower my head and try to look away. Just then, we were called to the base commander's office. As we walked down the halls together, both of us were wondering what he was going to talk to us about. I always got nervous around top brass because I could never predict what they wanted from me. My hands were shaking as I reached for the base commander's office door. Kei put her hand on mine to try and calm me down, which it did. We entered the room and stood at attention until he put us at ease, then he began to speak.

"As you no doubt have guessed by now, everyone's morale on this base has reached an all-time low. The other nuggets want to wash out because they feel like they can't keep up with everyone else and when I mean everyone else; I mean the instructors and you two. Now I can't have that happening because the OADF needs more pilots, but we can't make the other nuggets stay. So now I'm left with no other option," said the base commander.

I couldn't help but think that he was going to discharge us, even though he couldn't legally do that because we hadn't done anything wrong for him to even consider it. Either way, I was nervous as all hell about what he was planning to do with us.

"I'm transferring you two to the 108th tactical fighter group at Sand Island AFB. I'm sure the head instructor can give you two a better challenge than Major Pesi could've given you. Both of you leave tomorrow afternoon, understood?"

"But sir, I thought the 108th was a combat ready squadron. Why are we being transferred there?" I asked.

"Because you two have already shown us that you have what it takes to become combat ready pilots. Also like I've said, the OADF needs pilots and we're bringing in cadets by the dozens. As a result, they've been sent to bases all over the country trying to find instructors who can teach them the fundamentals of flying."

I guess I picked the right time to join the military and shoot for a career as a combat pilot if the OADF needed us this badly. I was also kind of curious as to why the country's defense force needed pilots. The whole world was at peace, and there were no signs of imminent war anywhere. It's always calm before the storm I guess. The last thing I wanted was another war raging on this planet.

"Now, you'll still be in a training unit and you'll have your graduation by the end of next month. Another thing, do me a favor and try not to show off in front of your new instructor when you get to Sand Island, alright?" said the base commander.

"Yes, sir" I said and the commander dismissed us. I was pissed because I had just gotten back to Heierlark, yet I was glad because I could finally get away from all the hard ass instructors here. I spent the rest of the day repacking my duffle bag and all of my other personal belongings. I was actually surprised I was able to get my laptop, my MP3 player, my casual clothes, and flight suits, all in one bag.

After I was done packing, I decided to go back and check on Kei. I stood outside her door and looked inside her room. Her bags were already packed and she was lying in her bed, listening to her music. I wanted to talk to her more but I couldn't really think of anything else to say. It would've been nice to actually have someone to talk with while I was stationed here, but it was already too late. I wondered if Kei felt the same way, but I guess I would never find out. I was turning to leave her alone when I noticed Master Sergeant Russell standing behind me, which startled me a bit.

"You know she likes you, right?" he said.

"You're crazy. Besides how would you know," I asked.

"Because I've only seen her smile when you're around," he said and he walked off.