Disclaimer: Muv-Luv in all its forms is copyrighted property of age and the Lord of Despair, Kouki Uchiyama. Any references to persons living or dead are either ficticious, or used fictitiously. "Fortunate Son" is property of Creedence Clearwater Revival.

"It ain't me, it ain't me,
I ain't no General's son, son,
It ain't me, it ain't me,
I ain't no fortunate son."

1995, Malaysia.

"Lipan-5 to Lipan-6. How're you doing, mate?"

"Somehow, these Malaysian Hornets feel kinda off. Not like the ones in Oz."

"Yeah, well it's not as if we can do anything, can we?" grumbled Lipan-5 to his wingman. "Okay, familiarisation's over – let's RTB. Take the lead, I'm your wing."

"Take the lead?" asked Lipan-6, his grin evident, and Lipan-5 rolled his eyes.

"Yes, yes, take the lead. Show me some of that fancy flying you learned at the ADF Academy."

"You asked for it, John," laughed Lipan-6, kicking his F-18C Hornet into afterburner. He dove for the deck, the gray TSF barely 50 feet above the ground, and juked left and right, zigzagging, corkscrewing and performing barrel rolls, keeping just above the rainforest canopy. All throughout his mad dash, a smile was on Lipan-6's face.

Keeping formation with him throughout all the maneuvers was Lipan-5, a resigned expression on his face, as Lipan-6 leveled out and entered the landing pattern at RMAF Butterworth.

"Tower, this is Lipan-6, requesting flyby, over."

"Negative, Lipan. Pattern is full."

"Noted tower, thanks!"

"Lipan-6, what do you-"

The air traffic controller's angry shout was cut off by the roar of turbofan engines in afterburner as Lipan-6's Hornet thundered past the tower, with Lipan-5 still on his wing. The two Hornets pulled an Immelman turn at the end of the runway, before righting themselves and coming in to land. As the two Hornets made their way to Lipan Squadron's hangers, Lipan-5 finally spoke.

"Y'know, we're both going to get a chewing out for this, Ray."

"It was worth it, John."

"Let's hope Boss sees it that way."

"So, how's the new boy?" asks Captain Adrian Ong, Commanding Officer of No. 18 Squadron RMAF, to his right hand man. First Lieutenant John Davis takes a moment to collect his thoughts, considering his words, his eyes unfocused as he recalls his impressions from the familiarisation flight.

"Good pilot. He can fly, no question about it. Training wise, from what I saw today he's got good grounding in the essentials. He's got a good head on his shoulders for a new LT. A little cocky. Confident in his skills. All he needs is combat time, lots and lots of combat time, to get all nicely cooked." John shrugged. "As for a training plan, I have no training plan, Boss. Just chuck him in the deep end and pull him out before he drowns is all I can think of. That and lots of ass-chewing."

"Hey, that was all for your benefit," laughs Adrian, and John's lips twich in a small smile, as he inclines his head towards his mentor.

"Anyway, yeah, so with him around that gives us eight pilots total, and we can start going out again – we're back up to more or less full strength. Fuel is alright but spares are a major issue – for the next two weeks, I'm going to run all our training in sim-mode. Any word on our needs?"

"I'm still trying. But now that Raymond is in our squadron we should have it easier to get our spares."

"There are days I wake up and wonder what the hell our Defense Minister is doing. Buying secondhand Hornets without spares. And then those Army Finance brassholes keep trying to cut our costs."

"Well, that's why I managed to get a General's son into our squadron." His CO smirks at him. "You can't just work hard and fight hard, you need to work smart. You need to know how to play the system."

"That's what I have you for, Boss: to play the system, so I can concentrate on fighting," John replies, grinning cheerfully.

"You cheeky bastard!" says Adrian, but his expression is warm and fond.

John Davis and Raymond Tan were both different and similar at the same time. John was the son of an Army Colonel, a military brat who'd grown up in Sabah, only stepping foot in the land of his parents the day he joined the army. Ray was the son of a well-to-do and distinguished General, and had lived his whole life on Peninsular Malaysia. While John had enlisted and won his commission through OCS, Ray had been chosen for a cadet exchange program with the Australian Defense Force Academy. Where John was alternately serious and hot-tempered, Ray was always cheerful and friendly.

But despite all that, they understood each other.

Perhaps it's their backgrounds and command of language. Perhaps it's because their fathers are friends, although they only really met and got to know each other as young men. Perhaps it's because, at the end of the day, they are kindred spirits.

Whatever their connection is, it's cemented on their first combat sortie.

The ammunition counter on Ray's HUD hits zero as he empties the last rounds of his assault cannon's magazine into the side of a Destroyer-class, and the firing vibrations that have been shaking his Hornet's frame cease. Still hungry for a kill, he discards the empty cannon and draws a close combat knife, then lunges towards his foe. The Destroyer rears up as he slices deep into its side, then stumbles and crashes to the ground, its enormous body twitching as it enters its death throes, as if in pain - if such a beast can feel pain.

The problem with Destroyers is that they are never alone.

A nearby Grappler-class closes in and swings at Ray's TSF with one enormous arm: he parries the blow and retaliates by slicing its head off with the close combat knife. He spins to the left, seeking new targets, but is immediately ambushed by a group of Tank-class. Almost instantly, the hungry red forms leap onto his Hornet and force it to the ground, swarming all over the machine, their powerful jaws sinking into the armor plates with a hideous crunching sound. Ray struggles to fight back with the close combat knife, but can't free his TSF's arm from the tank that has it pinned. His breathing quickens and sweat forms on his brow, and he can almost feelthe Tanks working their way to his cockpit block.

Then he hears the bark of an assault cannon firing in semi-auto mode, and the red forms around his TSF explode in flesh and blood. The ground shakes with the approach of giant footsteps, as John arrives, clearing the space around the downed Hornet, switching from guns to the CIWS-1A knife, stabbing and cutting away the Tanks. Ray finds himself able to lift his TSF's arm again, and a moment later the machine's legs are free as well. The Tank-class that is covering his unit's head sensor as ripped away, and he sees John's Hornet standing over his, the knife in its right hand dripping blood as its left hand discards the dead tank's corpse.

A communications window opens in the corner of Ray's HUD, and John appears in it, his face a mixture of anger and concern.

"You okay?" he asks. Ray nods shakily.

"Yeah. Just a bit shook up. Thanks, mate. I owe you one."

John shrugs, then offers his Hornet's hand. Ray grasps it, and John smiles a little, his expression softening, as he helps him up and switches back to his assault cannon.

"Favor for a favor. It's what friends do. Let's move."

Theirs is a friendship forged through blood and shared hardship. The pilots of Lipan Squadron are closer than other squadrons, for in their shared adversity there is fellowship and belonging. They are different, these two young men, in almost all respects - but that doesn't matter, because they are brothers forged by adversity.

Author's notes: And so, after almost 3 years of no proper output, I've come back to writing fanfiction again, having been inspired by Muv-Luv Alternative, particularly it's two major spinoffs: Total Eclipse, and Tactical Surface Fighters in Action. TSFiA in particular was a major influence, being snapshots of the war all over the globe. Once I started reading TSFiA, I knew what my next story had to be. Helping Alastor Mobius Toth BETA edit Muv-Luv: Comet merely solidified my drive.

While the Royal Malaysian Air Force does have a No.18 Squadron, designated Lipan (Hornet), I have taken a few liberties whilst reinterpreting this squadron to its Alternative counterparts; in real life No.18 received brand new F/A-18Ds in 1997, not secondhand F-18Cs prior to 1995. The purchase of military hardware without spare parts is not made up, however - google the Adnan IFV, which we purchased without a clause for supply of spare parts, relying on the manufacturer's warranty. -.-;;

Well, I think I've said enough. Thanks to everyone who read, and I look forward to hearing from you. If anyone wants to talk Muv-Luv, I can be found at Animesuki's Total Eclipse/Muv-Luv boards. Cheers!

Note 01/02/13: There have been a number of edits to this story on some word choices and flow. My thanks to Nothern Fallout and Darthtabby for their helpful criticism (and the latter for an excellent rewrite of the final scene).