Note: Bear with me on some of the things I mention in this chapter. It'll all be explained later because I didn't want to give a fictional history lesson about Strangereal that could run this story dry. As this story goes on, I'll start to reveal more about Blaze too. Also I felt like I should include missions 11a and 11b for more dramatic effect I guess. I don't know, I guess I just like writing this fan fiction. I hope you like it.

Fun Fact: I actually had to bust out a couple of my model airplanes to help me describe one of the Dogfights.

Chapter 10 – Retaliation

November 3, 2010 0600hrs Oured Osea

We arrived in Oured sometime around 1900hrs. If I factored in the number of time zones we flew through, then we arrived in Oured at around 0100hrs. Jetlag was one of the few things I hated about flying long distances, right next to holding in my bladder. Sure we were assigned special equipment to take care of that problem but I never liked wearing it, so I rarely ever flew with it.

Anyways, we arrived late into the night and we landed at an airport close to Oured and left our planes in the hangers that airport security reserved for us. We weren't allowed to go near them after we got our bags and we couldn't come in contact with anyone else in our group. We were each escorted by four guards and rode in separate vehicles to our temporary quarters, which was hotel with guards taking shifts guarding the doors of our rooms. They wanted to make sure we couldn't escape the hotel and as another precaution, they put us on the sixth floor.

"Captain," I heard one of my guards yell as he knocked on my door.

I had just woken up when he forced his way into my room and started telling me to get ready to meet my attorney. What the hell am I going to need an attorney for? It's not like he/she could build a solid case for me in one day. The guard kept shouting at me to get out of bed and that I've had enough sleep for the night. Four hours isn't enough sleep for me, asshole.

"Captain, get your ass out of bed," shouted the guard.

I looked at his uniform and I noticed he was an MP, but what really got my attention was that he was a Staff Sergeant. I didn't like pulling rank on people but this little shit was asking for it.

"What the hell did you just say Staff Sergeant?" I said as I got out of bed.

"I said get your ass out of bed, now!" said the MP, trying to maintain some kind of authority over me.

"Staff Sergeant, I suggest you watch your mouth before I kick your ass down to an E-1," I said trying to intimidate him.

"You can't do that," said the MP.

"Oh but I can. You see, you're supposed to be guarding me and prevent me from communicating with my team, who happen to be in custody under suspicion of war crimes that we haven't been convicted of yet. So in short, I own your ass because I still have my rank. What do you think your CO is going to say when a Captain reports you for insubordination?" I yelled.

The MP could only look at me because he knew I was right. If I was found guilty of the charges that were placed on us, he could've ordered me around all he wanted. This was the first time I actually cracked the whip on someone and I actually liked it. It made me feel like I actually had authority over someone, even though I did have authority over Wardog, this felt different.

"My apologies sir, but you have to get ready to meet with your attorney," said the MP.

"I heard you the first time, now get the hell out of my sight," I said and the MP left my room.

I took a shower, shaved and got dressed. According to my regs, I wasn't allowed to wear any of my uniforms outside of a military base so I had to dress casual. Blue jeans, a white t-shirt, my black hoodie, and my black sneakers spelt freedom to me. I forgot how good it felt to be back in casual clothes after almost a month of wearing nothing but my flight suit. The MP noticed how I was dressed when I opened my door so he could escort me to the vehicle that would take me to meet my attorney somewhere in Oured.

"Sir, you're supposed to be in uniform," said the MP.

"I'm not part of the Osean military and my regs state that I can't be in uniform if I'm not on a military base," I told him.

He was about to start arguing with me but then he stopped himself. I guess he was going to see if I was in the wrong and rub it in my face afterwards. We headed down stairs and I could see the rest of my squad getting into their vehicles. They were all wearing their uniforms and looked at me in total confusion when they saw how I was dressed. I was restricted from talking with them and I couldn't tell them why I wasn't wearing my uniform. I'll tell them later.

The drive towards our destination was extremely uncomfortable. I had to sit between two MP who just looked straight ahead the entire time like statues. They didn't say a single word, nor did they move at all. My God, I'd never have thought that I'd miss Chopper's bitching this much. I tried readjusting myself in my seat once and the MPs quickly had their hands on their nightsticks ready to beat the hell out of me. I was so happy when we finally got to where we were headed.

We had arrived at a restaurant somewhere in downtown Oured and we went inside. The place was surrounded by taller buildings and the interior of the restaurant seemed like a place for stuck up rich people to dine at. Wine glasses were already set out, along with silverware that had been placed in the proper location. Neatly folded napkins were set on top of plates and a decoration of some kind was placed in the middle of each table. Elegant chandeliers hung from the ceiling and natural light poured through the windows and lite up the whole dining room.

The place was completely empty besides from a few people in suits who I didn't recognize and additional MPs. There was also another person who was sitting near the bar and I couldn't see his face because he was reading a newspaper that he held up. The MPs directed us to sit with our assigned attorney and we sat down at their tables. I was told to sit with the guy reading the newspaper.

"Sir, Captain Antonio Castillo will be you client today," said an MP as I took my seat.

"Yes, I'm well aware of that, now please take your leave," said the man to the MP. "Seems like you and your friends are knee deep in the shit, eh Captain?"

"Yes sir, but no one would believe us when we told them what happened," I said.

"I believe you, but whoever did it has the entire Yuktobanian nation demanding the blood of those who did and the news articles about the attack aren't the least bit sympathetic to whoever did it," said the man.

He folded up the newspaper and set it on the table so I could finally see his face, it was Lieutenant Colonel Harkin. I was in total shock when I saw that it was him. I was grateful that he was here but things must've been worse than I suspected if he had to try and defend me and my team from the accusations. I was about to say his name out of pure joy but the look he gave me suggested that I shouldn't.

"What are you doing here sir?" I asked quietly.

"I'm here to help you get out of this mess Kid, but after everything that's happened and after all the reports that are still coming in, it might be damn near impossible to clear your guys' names," he whispered and he looked around before he continued. "Now listen, all you need to know is that I had to kiss a lot of asses to get here and if anyone finds out who I really am and that you know me, I won't be able to help you so for now, my name is Colton Greer and I'll be your attorney."

"Yes Sir Mr. Greer," I said and we got to work.

Lieutenant Colonel Harken was able to pull a few strings for us, like set us up in this restaurant so we could all have breakfast while we each gave our sides of the story. I told Lieutenant Colonel Harkin everything that happened yesterday from when we woke up, to when I went to sleep. He listened and wrote down everything, including my relationship with Kei. He would stop me at certain point so I could give him more detail about some of the things I mentioned.

"So tell me again about that transmission you heard while your radios were being jammed," he said.

"I heard someone identify himself as the 8492nd leader and he told all 8492nd units to proceed as planned. That was the only radio transmission that I heard clearly until Thunderhead cleared the jamming with ECCM. Soon afterwards, that was when we started hearing enemy chatter about the college being attacked," I said.

"The 8492nd squadron, eh? They were the same squadron that you said took over the rescue operation of that transport plane that you protected, right?" asked Harkin.

"Yes sir."

Harkins eyes grew dim and I could tell he was deep in thought. He slouched back in his chair, removed his glasses, and rubbed his face with his hand. He looked at me with very weary eyes and said, "They don't exist."

"What do you mean?" I asked.

Harkin didn't say anything and took a drink from his coffee cup. He started flipping through some more papers that he had with him and wrote some things down. There's something he's not telling me, but he must have a good reason. I knew what Harkin's job in the military was and it worried me that he knew what was going to happen next in the war.

"Let me see your watch," said Harkin.

I took it off my wrist and gave it to him. It was a Timex Ironman digital watch that I had bought a few years back when Earth was still conducting economic trade with Strangereal. Now it was the only thing I had left to remind me of where I came from and it had a lot of sentimental value to me. As Lieutenant Colonel Harkin continued to examine it, I noticed that he was quietly talking to himself as he looked at it from front to back.

"Sir, what are you doing?" I asked.

"I'm thinking of a way to help you in the future, and this watch just might come in handy," said Harkin. "I know how much this means to you, but I need to take it with me back to the R&D labs."

"Why would you take it to them? I don't want anything else to do with those assholes," I protested quietly so the MPs wouldn't hear me.

I held my hand out and demanded my watch back. I can't trust those guys in R&D, or Research and Development, after they nearly got me killed last time. Harkin put my watch in his pocket and tried to calm me down. I was angry, partially because I wanted my watch back but now it was because of my history with the people he was talking about. Harkin knew how much I hated them after all the shit they put me through

"Listen Kid, you have to trust me on this one. They've been able to get this stuff right ever since they continued the archeological expeditions on Strangereal. You know what they've been able to accomplish ever since they discovered the ruins here, the Arkbird, those burst missiles, Excalibur, and even Stonehenge. They've been applying the stuff to create weapons, but I'm trying to get them to make better use of all this for more practical uses like tools. Please trust me," said Harkin.

I did trust Harkin and he knew just how hard it was for me to trust people, especially those who wore lab coats. I slouched back in my chair and looked the other way as I thought about it. I know I can trust Harkin; he'd never lie to me. He might not tell me everything, but he never lied to me.

"Alright fine," I said. "But I want that thing back and I want them to make sure they can get it to work before they try doing anything to my watch."

"I'll make sure of it," said Harkin. "Now back to your defense against your charges, where are the planes you flew on the mission?"

"They're in one of the hangers over at the airport," I said.

"Alright, do the ground crews take the black boxes out of them at all?"

"Not that I'm I aware of."

"Alright, I'm going to try and see if I can get some evidence out of them. In the meantime, we're pretty much done here," said Harkin as he gathered up his papers, finished up his coffee, and then got out of his chair. "Nice clothes by the way."

I chuckled at what he said and saw the other attorneys get up and follow him out of the door as the rest of my team remained seated and we waited for the MPs to come escort us to the vehicles so we could head back to the hotel. I hope to God that he's able to get that information in time.

1732hrs Oured Hotel

There was nothing to do in the hotel room I was held up in except for watching TV. The shows that they aired were just as stupid as the ones from Earth that I heard about like the Jersey Shore, and Teen mom. The reality shows of Strangereal were just as terrible, if not dumber. I decided to work out a little and do push-up, triceps dips, and leg lifts, etc. just to pass the time. Eventually, I heard a knock on my door and I answered it. One of the MPs said I had a phone call from a Mr. Greer. I picked up the phone in my room and they transferred the call.

"Hello?"

"Hey Kid, it's me," said Harkin.

"Hey, did you get what you needed from the black box?" I asked trying to be hopeful.

"That's just it, we downloaded all the information on them but nothing is there. All of the recorded radio communications are gone. Someone erased the data on all four of the black boxes."

"What? Do you know who did it?" I asked.

"No, we're trying to determine who had access to your planes ever since you got back to Sand Island yesterday. So far nothing has turned up," said Harkin. "Kid, tell me you did something you weren't supposed to and managed to get something for me."

"I need you to come to the hotel so you can get it, they still got me locked in here like a virgin on prom night," I said.

Harkin hung up on me and I grabbed my PDA. I opened the data I had downloaded off of my black box and made sure it was all there, and it was. Hopefully this could help us tomorrow. I waited for the Lieutenant Colonel to get here and when he finally arrived, I handed him my PDA and showed him the information I had downloaded.

"Good, but here's the thing, we won't be able to use this in your defense because they'll consider this tampering with evidence. You can't even mention the fact that you have it recorded on here," said Harkin.

"Then how are we supposed to prove our innocence?" I asked.

Harkin could only look down and rub the back of his neck. "I don't know, you'll just have to tell the court your side of the story as best you can. I'm sorry, I can't help you anymore," said Harkin and he left.

I wanted to tell him that wasn't good enough, but I knew he was right. Someone is trying to frame us, but why? I hoped Harkin was going to be able to get some information out of the data on my PDA, but I just have to wait and see what happens. I got my uniform together and I ironed my shirt and pants so I wouldn't have to worry about it in the morning. I picked out my socks, polished my shoes, and hung up my pants and shirt. I was all set to go to court tomorrow, but I wasn't looking forward to it.

November 4, 2010 0700hrs Oured Courthouse

The court began with everyone taking the oath to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. I doubt the brass is going to believe us even though we swore to tell the truth. After that was taken care of, the brass had called us in by pairs so we could give our side of the story. I was the first to go in and the brass didn't seem too thrilled to see me or Michelle. The judge was a Brigadier General and the Jury was made up of all officers who were higher ranks than me. I felt out of place among everyone else in the court room who was a member of the Osean military.

"Captain Antonio Castillo and 2nd Lieutenant Michelle Rockford, you're both here because you stand accused of attacking innocent civilians in Yuktobania, how do you plead?"

"Not guilty," we said in unison.

We told our side of the story and everyone just listened. The judge and the jury were quietly commenting back and forth to each other about how some parts of our story were either bullshit or highly unlikely. When we told the court about the radio transmission we heard from the 8492nd squadron, the judge ordered someone to find the squadron in the military data base. We then continued telling the court what happened after we had shot down our last transport plane.

"Was you AWACS able to confirm your location after you completed your mission objective?" asked the judge.

"No, Thunderhead said that enemy jamming waves were still interfering with their radar by the time we started to head back towards Sand Island. They couldn't confirm our location when I gave it to them," I said.

After I got done sharing my side of the story, we were escorted out while Kei and Kyle were brought in. Damn, Kei sure can rock the hell out of her uniform. We then had to wait outside in the lobby with the others who were waiting to testify. We still couldn't talk to each other or interact with them in anyway. All we could do was sit quietly and wait. I used the time to catch up on some sleep, and I started to dream.

I was in the van with my family headed to Curtis Air Force Base to watch the summer airshow that the base hosted for the military families. I could see my dad as he opened his door to get out of the driver's seat and I saw my older sister, younger sister, and little brother with me too. My mom held my little brother in her arms as Lieutenant Colonel Harkin greeted us outside of the security checkpoint that led onto the tarmac where the rest of the crowd was sitting in the bleachers. A lady pulled up alongside us in an old 1940's military motorcycle with a sidecar and told my parents she was giving rides to all the kids and my younger sister and I asked if we could go and my dad said it was alright. We rode around with the lady for a couple of minutes and we watched some of the pilots as they performed flight demonstrations with their planes. The lady then dropped us off where our dad was waiting for us. As I got out of the sidecar, I saw a gold charm bracelet and someone had announced over the loudspeakers that whoever found it should return it to the tent near the runway. My dad went with me to return it and the lady it belonged to was married to one of the pilots. She told me that her husband would take me for a ride in any of the airplanes they had on the base.

"Captain!" I heard Michelle yell and I woke up.

"What?" I asked rubbing my eyes.

"They called us all back in," said Michelle.

I got up and entered the court room and I stood behind one of the stands next to Kei. All the lights of the court room had been shut off except for the ones that were illuminating us. When did this turn into an interrogation? We stood there for half a minute before the judge said anything.

"Captain, despite all the evidence that has been presented to us by your defense, we don't have enough to dismiss the charges against you and your squad. We have some questions we want to ask you before these Court Martials proceed any further," said the judge.

What more can we tell you if you don't believe what little evidence we gave you? Are these last questions your final taunt before we go to jail?

"You claim that you mission objective was to shoot down any enemy transport planes in the area and you encountered enemy fighter escort as well correct?"

"Yes sir, we had to stop the transports from reaching their destination and we shot down any fighter escort that got in our way," I said.

"And the enemy fighter escort that abandoned the transport planes to fend off the attackers, were they in your way?" asked the judge as he voice began to rise

"No sir, we didn't pursue them and we stuck to shooting down the remaining transport planes," I said.

"Well Yuktobanian reports claim that those fleeing pilots were shot down and killed by a flight of four Osean F-15s."

"But that wasn't us. By the time we got there they had already left our AO," said Kei.

"They must've been shot down by the 8492nd squadron. We heard the leader order the other units to proceed as planned. We didn't know what they were talking about so I assume they were the ones who attacked the college," said Justin.

"So you're trying to say the other squadron, who you somehow managed to hear through thick ECM, did it?" asked the judge.

"That's right; we heard them over the radio. They called themselves the 8492nd….." said Grimm but he was cut off by the judge.

"8492, 8492, is that all you people have to say? There is no squadron in our military with that number!" shouted the judge.

Now I understood why Harkin didn't want me to tell the court about how the 8492nd squadron provided support for the presidents transport plane. If the 8492nd weren't Osean pilots, then we were responsible for putting the president in danger.

"Dammit, what the hell's going on here!" yelled Chopper.

But before anyone could respond to what he just said, the lights came back on and an Osean Major ran into the court room and handed a piece of paper to the judge. The judge read it and by the look on his face, something was very wrong. He put the paper down and looked up at us. This can't be good.

"We got an emergency here; our armies are bogged down with the Yuktobanian invasion, so we're short on operational aircraft. Unfortunately, as a result, we're going to have to request that you flying aces take off for us. The MPs will escort you to your planes and you'll be briefed along the way, this court is adjourned," said the judge and hit his gavel on his desk.

We all piled into two of the MPs' SUVs and headed towards the airport. We were told that terrorist had unleashed plums of toxic nerve gas in the city of Bana, which was like a two hour flight south of Oured. We were called in to spread a neutralizing agent that would stop the spread of the gas and that CDAC, or Capital District Air Command, already had specialized planes at the airport but they were sending our armament over to us.

We arrived at the airport and we rushed to change into our flight gear. This would've been a hell of a lot easier if I wasn't wearing my Alphas, otherwise I would've literally torn off my shirt instead of loosening my tie, unbuttoning my shirt, and folding it all of it nice and neatly. We finally got into our flight gear and headed out to the runway where we saw four Mirage 2000Ds waiting for us. They were tandem seated planes so we had to bring along our WSOs. The planes were equipped with six canisters of the neutralizing agent and there were no room for missiles, so the only offensive weapon we had were our guns. We got strapped into our planes and I was already having trouble getting everything to work.

"Hey, do any of you guys speak French?" I asked over the radio.

"Why the hell would that matter?" asked Chopper.

"Try starting your plane," I said and waited for a response from Chopper.

"You got to be kidding, really?" groaned Kei.

The Mirage 2000 was built by the French and for some reason; Capital District Air Command didn't bother relabeling all the instruments when they got their hands on these planes. How hard is it to unscrew the panels off and re-label everything?

"Wardog squadron, take off immediately!" shouted the control tower.

"We will as soon as we can translate French into English," I said.

The control tower sent someone who knew a little French out onto the runway and he helped us get our planes started. He was about to explain how everything worked to Michelle, but I told him to go help the others with their planes.

"Captain, what am I supposed to do for the entire flight?" asked Michelle.

"Just sit back and look pretty, all we have to do is stop the spread of that gas and I doubt radar is going to be of any use," I said as I taxied onto the runway and took off.

The controls were pretty much the same but I hated the fact that I couldn't read anything in the cockpit. I armed my neutralizer bombs and proceeded to head towards Bana as fast as I could. The rest of Wardog was still getting ready to take off by the time I was already ahead of them by forty miles, but they managed to catch up as I approached Bana.

"Okay, once you've reached the airspace over the city, drop the neutralizer bombs. Make good use of them," said CDAC

"Roger, gee thanks for the step by step instruction there," said Chopper sarcastically.

"1st lieutenant Davenport, we've heard from the front lines that you like to shoot your mouth off on the radio."

"Uhh, Davenport is too busy carrying out his mission to answer you at this time, Sir," said Chopper.

"Alright guy, split up and drop those canisters right on top of the gas, we only have a limited amount of this shit so don't waste it," I said and we all split up.

I headed for the area with the most skyscrapers and flew through them to get an idea of where exactly the gas was coming from. Michelle started screaming at me again as I flew through them. I was really getting tired of her screaming, but I decided not to say anything because it was only the second it happened. I pulled up to gain altitude and when I was at three thousand feet, I dove back down and dropped four of my canisters on the plumes of gas I saw coming from the ground. The bombs burst into a white mist around the gold plumes of nerve gas and they evaporated into the air.

"How you guys doing over there?" I asked.

"This is Archer, the southwest side of the city is almost clear."

"This is Wildcat, southeast sector is already clear of the gas."

"This is Edge; northwest sector is clear as well."

As I was moving into position to clear the last gas dispersal sites, I listened in on the police chatter coming from the ground. They were evacuating the civilians as fast as they could, but most of them were trapped in areas where the gas was heavily concentrated. Reports from the police indicate that the maximum exposure time to the gas was three minutes before the average person started to feel the effects. I could see the bodies of dead men, women, and children all over the streets. How could anyone do this?

"Blaze, bombs away," I said as I dropped my final neutralizer bomb on the last plume of gas in the area.

"The northeast sector is clear of gas, all other areas are clear as well," said Erica.

"City Police HQ, 10-4. All other districts are clear, and the city is clear of gas. We really appreciate the Air Force for doing this," said dispatch. "Uhh, hold it, standby… The terrorist are escaping with the chemical weapons in a truck. Suspect proceeding south on route 22, all units close on that area."

"Hey, let's go watch," said Chopper.

I was already scanning the roads and I spotted the truck. It was speeding down the empty roads and I could see cop cars closing in to intercept the truck from multiple directions. I saw one cop car drifting around corners and flying down the road to get to the truck first. He identified himself as Baker 7.

"10-4, listen pilots, sorry to trouble you but our patrolmen aren't exactly trained to fight in wars. Do you think you could help them out from the air?" said dispatch.

CDAC asked if that was really necessary and police dispatch requested that they at least send some MPs to lend some aid. All Wardog could do was just keep an eye on the truck and make sure it didn't get away, nor were we told to RTB, so we stayed on station. Baker 7 spotted the truck as it tried pulling a sharp left turn and it skidded into a building and came to a stop. Baker 7 wasn't able to get to it fast enough before the truck started moving again. Wardog was then ordered to assist the police anyway we could and we were ordered not to let the truck escape.

"Roger that, I got it," I said as I lined up a shot on the front of the truck.

"Hold on, I don't need you fighters to fire on them or anything," said dispatch and I quickly broke off my attack.

"Not even just a little?" asked Chopper.

"No! Come on guys, really?" said dispatch

"Did you hear that Captain, they said we can't shoot 'em," said Chopper.

"I heard Chopper, and you better not be getting any funny ideas about it either," I said.

"I know I was just kidding."

We formed up and flew at six hundred feet to watch the chase. The terrorist in the back of the truck started throwing things out of the back to try and slow down the police. They threw T.V.s, chairs, weapons, and I thought I saw them throw out a box of fried chicken. Damn, that made me hungry. The truck then started to drive through some of the street that went further into the city. I had to weave in and out between buildings so I could still keep an eye on the truck.

"Captain, you could still see them if you climbed to higher altitude! I don't want to die because you crashed into the side of a building!" shouted Michelle.

"Shut the hell up Rockford, I can't concentrate!" I shouted back.

I continued to fly and I saw the truck get on the highway that led to a nearby suspension bridge. The police had setup a road block on the opposite side to prevent the truck from going any further. Suddenly, CDAC reported unidentified helicopters headed in the direction of the terrorists' truck.

"We got a visual on the helicopters already. Next time, tell us sooner," said Chopper.

"This is Baker 7, we've surrounded the area but that's a military helicopter. We don't have anything that can go up against it. Fighters, shoot them down for us"

"That's what I've been waiting for, let's go!" said Chopper.

Grimm formed up on my right wing and we headed for the helicopters to shoot them down. The helicopters were Mi-24 Hinds and Mi-28 Havocs and they were fully loaded with missiles, rockets, and guns. When we were close enough, my missile warning alarm went off and I quickly broke off my attack. The Mi-28s followed our every move and tried to stave off our attacks on the formations. Alright I got something for your asses. I climbed above the helicopter formations and the Mi-28s tried to keep their sights on me as I gained altitude over them, but they couldn't without stalling out.

As soon as I was well above the enemy helicopter formation, I pushed the stick over and put my Mirage into a dive. I lined up a shot on two Mi-28s and I pumped them both full of 30mm cannon shells, reducing them to burning slag heaps as they fell out of the sky. The rest of Wardog followed my example and shot down more of the incoming helicopters.

"Hey, aren't these Yuktobanian attack helicopters?" asked Grimm.

"Report to Command. Yuktobanian helicopters have entered our airspace. Repeat, Yuke copters have breached our airspace!" said Chopper.

"Anyone have eyes on how many they got left?" I asked.

"This is Smokey; I count five more helicopters…. Scratch that, I count three more helicopters remaining."

Chopper quickly shot down two of the remaining helicopters and Grimm downed the final one. As soon as the picture was clear, CDAC ordered us to return to Oured airport ASAP because there was another threat that had to be taken care of. We flew back to Oured at top speed and got back there within an hour and we landed our planes. I didn't know how to shut down the engines and the French speaking guy had to help us again. After that was taken care of, we ran towards one of the CDAC officers that were waiting for us on the runway.

"Glad you guys didn't decide to run, but we have another developing situation on our hands," said the CDAC officer.

"What's going on?" asked Kei.

"We have reports that those helicopters that you shot down over Bana came from Apito International Airport. Our Radar is picking up multiple formations of enemy planes headed to the airport but we have no Intel as to what their motives are. The sudden appearance of the enemy fighters has plunged the airport into chaos. Passenger planes can't land and have to maintain a holding pattern before its safe for them to land. We want you to eliminate those fighters before they have a chance to carry out their orders," said the CDAC officer.

We headed to our F-15s which had already been refueled and rearmed by the time we got back. They each had four sidewinders and four JDAMs. CDAC didn't know what to expect and they feared the Yukes would try to launch an attack of any kind. I wouldn't take any chances either. We got in our jets and we took off for our second sortie for today.

2101hrs Apito International Airport

We arrived over the airport and we had visual contacts on the enemy formations. Civilian 747s were still circling the airfield in holding patters, waiting to land. I could see the some of the passengers' faces, they were really worried. I have to keep these people safe, no matter what. I spotted two MiG-29s dead ahead and I ordered Kei to follow me while Chopper and Grimm held position over the airport.

"Captain, I got another pair of enemy fighters coming in from the west over the lake," said Kyle.

"Roger, Chopper, Grimm, intercept them and don't let them get near the airport," I said.

"Aww how peaceful this place is, I'm chokin' up here," said Chopper sarcastically.

Kei and I latched onto our targets and they proceeded execute their evasive maneuvers. The flight lead's maneuvering was more aggressively than his wingman and as a result, the wingman eventually lost sight of his flight lead and he egressed out of combat zone. Kei got the first lock and shot down the flight lead with a missile shot.

"We just got word that the remaining enemy commandos that gassed Bana, are headed to the airport," said CDAC. "We're guessing that those fighters are here to clear a way out for them."

"So which one is the containment attack, are they both for real?" asked Chopper. "Come on Grimm, shoot!"

"I can't attack, I keep thinking about all the people in those houses down below," said Grimm.

He was right; the enemy plane was flying over the metropolitan area on the edge of the lake. I hadn't noticed where the enemy plane that Kei had shot down had crashed. I looked over at the smoking wreckage of the crashed plane and saw that it had crashed in a wooded area further north of the populated areas. That's a relief.

"Grimm, break off your attack and get him to chase one of you. Lead him over the lake at low altitude and then shoot him down," I said.

"Kid, we're both a little preoccupied at the moment. Maybe you and Nagase can get over here and lend us a hand," said Chopper.

"Edge, clear Grimm's tail and I'll take care of Chopper," I said and I dove for the enemy MiG-29 chasing Chopper.

We were flying at five hundred feet above the water and Chopper didn't have any room to maneuver. I have to clear his six quickly. I was two hundred yards behind the MiG and lined up a shot with my gun. I told Chopper to break hard left and he did. I had a clear shot at the MiG and I fired into his plane's fuselage. The MiG plummeted into the water and I watched Kei as she climbed above and behind her target. She rolled over into a dive and sent a stream of bullets into her targets cockpit and it crashed into the lake.

"Grimm, the radar!" shouted Erica.

"Look at all the enemies on the IFF!" shouted Grimm.

"Where, down below? On the ground?" asked Chopper.

I looked at my radar and I only saw the friendly IFF tags of the C-5s parked on the runway of the airport. What enemies are they talking about? Michelle told me she couldn't see them either and it was confusing me as to what Grimm and Erica were talking about.

"This is airport control tower, military transport planes parked on the runway, state you squadron number and call signs."

"This is Capital District Air Command, we have not deployed any allied military transport planes to civilian airports at this time," said CDAC.

"Tanks, coming out of the transport planes, they're firing. It's the enemy! Enemy forces inside the airport!" shouted the control tower.

I looked over towards the airport and saw small flashes of light followed by bigger flashes of light. I could see a huge explosion which I assumed were the airport's fuel tanks blowing up.

"This is the middle of Osea, how can they be attacking here?!" shouted Chopper.

"Everyone get back to the airport, now!" I yelled and I turned towards the airport.

We sped towards the airport and I ordered weapons free. I targeted the first T-72 that I saw and dropped a JDAM right on top of it and Kyle confirmed the kill. We were all flying over the airport like wasps buzzing around their disturbed nest. We were knocking out the tanks and mobile AA guns, and I saw infantry flooding out of the transport planes behind the tanks.

"How did they sneak in here," asked Justin.

"Never mind, just destroy the tanks and transports planes. Don't let them cause any more damage here," said CDAC.

"When we passed over the airport just a moment ago, everything was fine," said Grimm.

"Maybe the commandos are nearing the airport and they Yuke decided now was the best time to clear an egress route for them," said Kyle.

"How in the world did they…"

"Grimm, finish taking out those tanks. We'll worry about how they got in here later," I said as I dropped another JDAM on top of another T-72.

"Captain, I got multiple hit on radar headed towards the airport," said Erica.

God dammit, how much worse can this get?

"Chopper to Kid, we just need to protect this airport facility right?"

"We also have to watch out for those 747s circling the airport," I said.

We were totally outnumbered and the stress was getting to me. It was clear these guys wanted retribution for the attack on the college that got attacked. My rage was growing and I realized that this attack was like the one that killed my dad. The enemy planes consisted of Su-25s, Su-27s, and MiG-31s. Every enemy pilot I saw from that moment on had those green eyes that I despised so much. I latched onto one of the Su-25s I saw heading for the airport. He was diving on the main terminal and I wasn't going to let him attack it. I have to force him to break off his attack or his wreckage will crash into the terminal. I locked onto the Su-25 with a missile and he broke off his attack. He broke hard left and spoiled my missile shot, but I was in position to use my gun. I shot his left wing off with my gun and he crashed onto the side of the runway. No sooner did I shoot the Su-25 down, did I send a missile into a Su-27s fuselage and send it crashing into the lake. I'm not going to let it happen again, not as long as I can do something to stop it.

I could hear the 747 pilots tell the control tower that they were getting low on fuel. The control tower said that it was too dangerous for them to land and waved them off. More landing request came through and by the sound of things; the guy in the control tower was stressed out to the point of tears. I know what it's like not being able to do anything. I continued on my rampage and I could tell I was freaking out Michelle by the way I was throwing my F-15 all over the sky, trying to shoot down the enemy fighters.

"Then again, we did sorta do the same thing to them, over in their territory," said Chopper.

"So this is their retaliation for that? Why do people have to be so stupid?!" said Kei.

"Well if that's what this is, then where did all these fighters come from? Even if they could refuel in the air, fly all the way here and get through our defenses to destroy our capitol, there's not nearly enough of them to occupy the entire country. These guys are on a suicide mission and they know it… They must really hate use or else they wouldn't have gone this far," said Chopper.

"This isn't a random terrorist act…" said Kei softly. "Blaze, we can't lose any time here we have to hurry!"

"Then finish off those tanks and shoot down those fighters before they do anything else to the airport!" I said.

I heard the guy in the control tower sobbing and felt like doing the same thing. Keep it together Antonio; you have to protect these people! I dropped my last two JDAMs on one of the transport planes and I could see some parts of a helicopter inside of it. I realized that the Yukes were hell bent on killing as many Osean civilians as they could. My mind was racing with thoughts of rage and hate and I wanted all of these Yukes dead.

"Hatred only breeds more hatred, it all just feeds on itself," said Kei.

She was right, if I submitted to my hatred, then I would become the demon that I feared becoming. I'd rather be dead than let my inner demon take over me. I had to remember to be human, to be better than those who would do things like this. I had to learn to let go, but I couldn't let go of everything. I still wanted that green eyed bastard. I was deep in thought and I didn't realize that I was flying straight and was being locked onto by a MiG-31.

"Blaze, what are you doing? He's right behind us," shouted Michelle.

I snapped out of my train of thought and instinctively barrel rolled over the MiG that was tailing me. The MiG then applied full throttle and sped out of range so that I couldn't catch him. I broke off my attack and dove into the fur ball of enemy planes still flying above the airport. I spotted a lone Su-27 at my two o' clock high as he pulled a wide left turn and I went after him. I pulled my F-15 into a climb and rolled up and over him and got into position on his tail. The displacement roll I just performed allowed me to get behind the Su-27 without the pilot noticing me and I fired my gun into his right wing and right horizontal stabilizer. He spiraled harmlessly into the ground and I went looking for another target. I saw a MiG-31 streak in towards one of the 747s towards my three o' clock and I locked onto him and fired a missile. He broke hard to his left and my missile flew past him, but he left himself open for me to attack with my gun. I fired a long steady stream of bullets into the underside of the MiG and I broke off my attack because I was closing in on him too fast. I looked back and saw the MiG fall out of the sky, tail first.

"All tanks and transport planes are confirmed destroyed. It looks like they only have a few foot mobiles left but airport security it taking care of them," said Kyle.

"Then take out the remaining fighters and be careful where you shoot them down," I said.

I only saw four more enemy planes and I engaged the final Su-27. We flew head on past each other and I turned hard left to go after him. We circled each other for half a minute before I decided to lag roll out of the circle and get a better angle on the Su-27. I did this maneuver several times before I finally got on his tail. The Su-27 then started to increase its speed and fly further ahead while he was still making hard left and right turns. I increased the throttle of my F-15 to close the gap between us and got into position to fire a missile. As I was about to fire, he leveled his plane for a split second and I could see what he was going to do. He's going to perform Pugachev's Cobra! I saw everything happen in slow motion and as soon as I saw his nose start to lift up, I pulled back hard on my stick, applied hard right rudder, and performed a high G barrel roll over him. I had to fight to keep myself from blacking out while I put my body through nine Gs' all of a sudden.

The Su-27 had just started coming out of his cobra as I came out of my barrel roll. He was still in front of me and now I had a little bit of a height advantage over him. He saw this and dove into a defensive left spiral, which is basically a rolling scissors towards the ground, and we were losing altitude fast. He was slowly gaining the advantage over me and I had to do something. I disengaged me angle of attack limiter on my plane and I was about to pull back hard on the stick and cause my F-15s nose to go perpendicular to the angle we were diving at, but then I remembered that Michelle was in the back seat. She wasn't used to all of this violent maneuvering and she could die from the stress my maneuver would put on her. Dammit, I can't put her in harm's way. I have to find another way.

"Hang on Rockford, you might get a little dizzy from this," I said.

I pulled tighter into my opponent's defensive spiral, cut power, and pressed hard on the left rudder peddle, putting my F-15 into a controlled flat spin stall. The negative G effects weren't as intense as the other maneuver I was planning on doing, but it did make us dizzy. I was losing altitude at the same rate he was and the spin was keeping his plane in my sights. I fired a burst from my guns at him and he broke out of the descending spiral. I nosed my plane down and got out of the stall. I could still see his plane's white underbelly against the night sky and I climbed up to meet him. I was in gun range and I was about to fire when he barrel rolled over me and I over shot him. Way to use my move against me. I dove for speed and pulled into a hard right turn for about ten seconds. He's going to try and get a better angle on me for his gun. My pursuer lag rolled to get a better firing angle at me, but when he started his roll, I rolled in the opposite direction and broke out of my tight turn. I quickly reversed direction and I found myself in the perfect position to fire my gun at him. I fired a short burst that hit his plane just behind the cockpit and he immediately performed another Pugachev's Cobra. I didn't see that one coming and now he's got the advantage. As soon as he picked up speed again, he closed in and sent a couple bullets into my left wing, but I barrel rolled over him and again I had the advantage.

We continued playing this deadly game of cat and mouse and we couldn't seem to keep the upper hand when either of us got it. This guy isn't like the other Yukes I've flown against. According to some of the reports from the frontlines, I've flown against some of the top aces in the Yuke Air Force and I've managed to shoot them down. Maybe it's one of them and they've improved since last time. We kept switching back and forth into firing positions and I could tell this pilot was becoming just as frustrated as I was. I lost track of how many times we were able to get on each other's tail and how many times we scored hits on each other, but this fight was going on for far too long. My only focus was him and only him. I couldn't hear, smell, or taste anything but I could only see this enemy pilot and I could only feel my hands on the controls in the cockpit.

We came out of another defensive spiral and flew in the opposite direction of each other. I was exhausted and I wanted to sleep, but I had to keep going. I pulled my F-15 around and came head on towards the enemy Su-27; he wasn't about to stop fighting either. There's one thing left that I could try, but I could end up killing myself and Michelle if it doesn't work. I maxed out the throttle and flew towards the enemy Su-27. I could just barely make out the outline of his light and dark grey plane as he drew closer. All of my senses started to come back to me again; I could hear the rest of Wardog cheering for me, I could smell the air as it came through my oxygen mask; I could taste the sweat on my upper lip. I could feel the sweat from my forehead drip into my right eye. My eye, I can't wipe the sweat away. There wasn't any time, I closed my right eye and kept my other eye glued to the enemy plane. I have to time this just right.

The enemy pilot opened fire with his gun when he was in range. I could see the tracers fly right by my canopy as I closed in on him. I was within a hundred feet of him, going well over six hundred mph head on with the guy when I made my move. He was going to pass me on the left side and just when he thought I was going to break off, I kept going. I barrel rolled passed him and I felt my F-15 jerk to the right and shudder violently as our wings made contact with each other.

I struggled to regain control as I lost altitude. Come on you piece of shit, level out! My plane was still spiraling out of control and my hands were quickly twisting knobs, pressing buttons, flipping switches, and pulling at the stick. I heard everyone yelling at me to get my plane under control, but I couldn't pull the stick back hard enough. I wrapped my legs around it and I could feel myself regaining control of my F-15. I regained full control just seventy-eight feet above the ground. That was close.

I circled back around and started looking for the enemy plane that I had grazed. He was flying at low altitude and his left wing was belching out smoke. When I barrel rolled past him, my right wingtip grazed his left wing enough to render it useless and I could see the gash in his wing. I saw him fumbling at the controls trying to keep his plane level, but I couldn't see his face. It's him, I can feel it. I fell back behind him and prepared to send a missile his way.

"Kid, wait! You're not seriously going to shoot him down are you?" said Chopper.

"I am," I replied.

"He can't do anything else to us Blaze, let him go," said Kei.

"You expect me to let him go after everything that he and his friends did today?" I yelled. "I'm going to shoot him down and if he lives, he'll get captured and if he doesn't, then I'm sure someone will find a place in hell for him."

"You're no better than him if you kill him like this," said Kei.

I could tell that this pilot the guy I was looking for, but Kei was right; I would lose myself if I stooped to his level. I made a promise and I have to keep it, I never break my promises! My moral dilemma was eating away at me and I didn't know what to do. Suddenly I saw the pilot eject and his plane crashed into the forest just south of the airport. I couldn't see his parachute and I didn't bother looking for it.

"Form up on me, we're going back to Oured," I said glumly.

"Sir, if it makes you feel any better, we were all amazed at how well you flew against that guy," said Grimm.

"Yeah Kid, I don't think I could've kept up with him the way you did. Nagase felt so helpless when she saw how well he was flying. I'm just glad you had him on the ropes," said Chopper and everyone agreed.

"Hey, how's Valkyrie? She still alive?" asked Erica.

Kei flew closer to my left wing and saw that Michelle's head was leaning against the canopy. Kyle tried calling her name a few times but there wasn't any response from her. Oh God, no! I ordered us to get back to Oured ASAP and we gave our planes full throttle.

2251hrs Oured Osea

"Mayday, mayday, mayday, this is Wardog leader. Control tower I need immediate landing clearance and an EMS on standby," I shouted over the radio.

"Copy that Wardog leader, they're standing by," said the tower.

I didn't know what was wrong with Michelle so I tried landing my F-15 as quickly and smoothly as I could. I taxied over to the flight line, shut off the engines, popped the canopy, and checked on her. She was alive, but unconscious which gave me a huge relief. I unstrapped her from her seat, took off her helmet, and helped the EMS team get her out of the plane. They put Michelle on a stretcher, loaded her into the back of an ambulance, and took her to one of the nearby hospitals. The rest of Wardog had just finished parking their planes and ran towards me. This is going to embarrass the hell out of Michelle if the others find out she pissed herself.

"Captain, is she alright?" asked Justin.

"Yeah, she just fainted. I really should stop flying with a RIO," I said.

"What's a RIO?" asked Erica.

"Radar Intercept Officer, it's basically the same thing as a WSO, but Marine pilots call them RIOs. Anyways, I guess my flying was a bit too much for her," I said and I began looking over my plane.

There were bullet holes and tears in the metal scattered all over the body but overall, my plane was in good shape. I took another look inside the cockpit and I didn't see any damage of any kind, but I did see Michelle's air sickness bags on the floor. How those things didn't burst open, I'll never know. The smell of urine was bad enough. I looked behind me to see the rest of my team looking at me in awe.

"What?"

"Kid, did it ever occur to you that you might just be the most talented pilot in the entire world," said Chopper.

"No, not really," I said jumping down from the cockpit. "There's always someone one better though."

"Captain, has anyone ever told you that you fly like Mobius 1, except your flying is more refined?" asked Kei.

Crap, they might connect the dots sooner than I suspected. I looked at her befuddled, trying to cover up my surprise at Kei's comparison. Everyone else looked at each other before their eyes all turned on me and they waited for me to say something.

"No, in fact that's the first time I've ever heard that," I said. That actually was the first time I heard that.

An MP SUV drove up to us and an OADF Colonel stepped out of the passenger door. I had never seen him before, but I could tell he knew who we were. We snapped to attention and saluted him until he put us at ease. Then he started to speak.

"Captain Castillo, 1st lieutenants Nagase, Davenport, Hardin, and Nelms, 2nd lieutenants Rockford and Boldman, and Staff Sergeant Grimm, you've all been scheduled for another court martial hearing tomorrow. However, in light of recent events, you'll be sent back to the frontlines to help with further assisting the Osean invasion of Yuktobania, so instead of your court martial being postponed, Strategic Air Command has decided to drop all charges against you. You are to report back to Sand Island at 0900hrs, tomorrow morning. If you all really are innocent, then I suggest you prove it out there on the battlefield."

I honestly didn't know how I should've felt when the Colonel said the charges against us have been dropped. Yeah, I was happy that we were cleared, but I was weary as to why they dropped them. Lieutenant Colonel Harkin couldn't have convinced the brass to drop the charges against us; his line of work doesn't have that kind of pull in the Osean government.

The Colonel dismissed us and we were driven back to our hotel. When I got back to my room, I went straight to the bathroom and took a shower. I couldn't remember the last time hot water felt so good. After I was done, I brushed my teeth and I heard a knock at my door. I opened it and saw Kei standing outside. What is she doing here? I held up a finger as if I was telling her to wait a second and I finished brushing my teeth so I could talk to her.

"Hey, what's up?" I asked as I looked out the door wondering where the guards were.

"We're not under guard anymore because the charges got dropped," said Kei. "But that's not why I'm here. May I come in?"

"Yeah sure," I said and I held the door open as I let her inside. She was wearing one of the hotel's white robes over her blue pajama bottoms and white tank top. Her hair was still wet and I could tell she had just gotten out of the shower. Kei sat down on my bed and I sat down next to her. She looked like she was worried about something and I was about to find out what.

"I've been noticing things about you lately and they scare me," said Kei softly. "I know you have things that you're hiding and I know that you don't want to talk about them because you're afraid of what we all might think."

Kei grasped one of my hands and she held it tightly. She wasn't looking at me and it bothered me. As much as I wanted to tell her everything, I just couldn't. Partially because I was under orders, but mostly because I knew no one else in my team would understand. I know Kei was here for me, but I felt like she couldn't do much to help.

"I want to trust you, but you put us all at risk with these secrets you're keeping from us. From me! I love you Antonio Castillo but how can I trust you if I don't know what you're hiding from everyone?"

All I could do was look down and argue within myself. You should tell her. I can't, she'll think I'm crazy and abandon me. You love her and if she truly loves you back, she'll stay with you. I let go of Kei's hand and paced around the room a little. I have to tell her. What Kei asked me next made me realize what she already knew about me.

"You're Mobius 1, aren't you?"

How do you like them apples?