Legendary Aces 2: Hero of Emmeria
Chapter 15: Ragno Fortress
-Into the Pass-
0950hrs 28 February 2016 (Polaris/Ortara Time)
"Garuda Team, scramble!" The voice of Captain Venturi called over the PA system. "Incoming bogeys from vector 130 inbound at high speed. ETA ten minutes."
Lily, Shadow, and I were sprinting on the flight deck when that announcement came. We met up with Marcus below decks and quickly changed into our flight suits. We were in our planes and off the carrier in five minutes.
I kept checking my radar, but there was nothing there. "I don't see anything on radar."
"I don't either." Marcus said.
I glanced at my radar again, but this time a message appeared on the second screen. "Hey, are you guys getting this message, too?"
"Yes." Lily said. "It says, "Garuda Team, stand down." Same for you?"
"What is this?" Marcus asked.
"Garuda Team, stand down." A male voice called over the radio. "This is the Sleipnir and an escort of four SE-03s. We are coming your way at a speed of twenty three hundred knots. You are ordered to meet us and provide additional escort as we close in and land on the Polaris."
"This is Supreme Commander Venturi. We will comply." Lily said.
"What the hell is going on?" Marcus asked, almost frantically.
"Shamrock, just stay on my wing." I said. "This is an order that goes above my authority."
"Above your authority? But you're the Chief Commandant!"
"Just take my word for it."
In another minute, we met and followed the Sleipnir and its escorts back to the Polaris. We were asked to remain airborne until the escorts had a chance to refuel, after which they took off again and we landed. With the Sleipnir sitting on the deck of the Polaris, an active escort was required at all times.
As soon as we landed, stored our planes below deck, and headed back up topside, we approached the Sleipnir, though we were met by guards armed with PR-30s battle rifles pointed at us.
"Put your weapons away." A familiar female voice ordered adamantly after the Sleipnir's door opened. "If you point a gun at those three again, I'll transfer you to the research base in Antarctica."
"I apologize, Ma'am." Each guard echoed.
The owner of the voice jumped out from the door and landed directly in front of me. She looked similar to Kye and me. She had the same silver eyes, and hair that reached to her knees, though her color was jet black. She wore a black dress shirt and matching pants.
"It's been awhile. How've you been?"
"I'd be better if you three would come visit me more than once a year."
"I apologize, but you know we are at war."
"You're rank two in Paragon, yet you're taking this long? Your sister cleared up her war in 2010 in only three months, and she wasn't even in Paragon yet. You are lagging behind. I might even send you to Antarctica if you don't hurry up and deal with Estovakia."
"With all due respect, who the hell are you to speak to the Chief Commandant like that?" Marcus suddenly defended me.
"Marcus, don't." I said.
"No, I won't have somebody talking to you like that."
"Lieutenant Marcus Lampert, correct? I've heard good things from Yami about your skills. I would consider more than sufficient to join Paragon's military branch."
"You have the authority to do that?" Marcus asked. "Let me guess... You're one of the Commanders under Liliana?"
"My name is Hatsumi Akari."
"Marcus, she can fire even me if she wanted." Lily said.
"Who can fire the highest ranking member of Paragon?" Marcus asked.
"Lily isn't the highest ranking member of Paragon." I said. "Grandma, you might as well just tell him your position."
"Did you just call her Grandma? She's our age!"
"Not quite." Grandma sighed. "Yami has told me that you've been good at keeping Atlantis a secret, so I see no harm in telling you who I am, but tell me something first. Judging by my appearance, how old am I? Answer with a numerical value."
"Twenty eight, maybe thirty? At the most."
"Yami, Lily, and Ali here are my great granddaughters. I was born in the year 1917 and am ninety nine years old. Do you believe me?"
"Is this what the trait is capable of?" He asked.
"Yes and no. I was the head scientist of Project Atlantis and was the first to undergo the experiment. I wasn't born with the trait like these three, but instead I am one of the eight Origin Traits. The lesser trait carriers won't retain their youth as long as I have."
"What's the difference?"
"I'll explain that." I said. "The eight Origin Traits went through an experiment to gain the trait. Their descendants inherited it from them through their genes. The descendants are called Single, Double, and Triple traits. The trait did something to our DNA. Normally, DNA appears as a double helix. Any carrier of the trait, however, has a triple helix. However, that doesn't mean all three parts are active for everyone. Single Traits are those who can track their ancestry to only one of the original eight. Double Traits can track theirs to two, and Triple Traits can track theirs to three. There is no Quadruple Trait possibility since there's only three parts of the DNA."
"I follow." Marcus said.
"The Origin Traits, due to their experiment, have all three parts active. Having all three active was not inherited by their children. Single Traits have only one of the original eight as an ancestor, and at the same time they have only one part of the enhanced triple helix DNA active. The other two parts are like normal DNA, but the one active part is enough to give the Single Traits abnormal human abilities. The Double Traits have two active, and the Triple Traits have all three active, like the Origins."
"And what are you?"
"Shadow and I are Doubles." Lily said.
"I'm a Triple." I said.
"If she looks twenty eight, but is actually ninety nine, how long will she live?"
"By our best estimations, if Grandma Hatsumi here were to live until she was physically seventy years old it would take another four hundred sixty two years."
"What about you? You were born with all three, right?"
"Yes, but I don't really want to think about that... I'll live a while... Anyway, Grandma, he believes you, so tell him."
"What could be more revealing that what you just explained to me?"
"I am the President of Paragon."
"Yami, Lily, Ali, I need to speak to you three about the incident last night. Come aboard the Sleipnir." Without another word, she jumped back up into the plane and waited for us to join her.
"Sorry, Marcus. Looks like it's just us three that she wants to talk to."
"I think I've learned enough for today, anyway. I'm gonna go lay down now..."
I giggled. "Okay."
Marcus headed toward the tower to go below decks while the three of us joined Grandma Hatsumi aboard the Sleipnir. It took me about fifteen minutes to relay everything about the night before.
"Only we and Captain Venturi know about the Void insignia that I found on the magazine on one of the guns, and only that one gun even had the insignia."
"Good. Keep this internal." Grandma said. "Nobody needs to know that those soldiers were carrying Void gear." She paused for a moment and sighed. "This worries me. First, a Void pilot flying Void's ZF-1 Apollyon fighter appeared on one of your missions, then Riedel's message about Void's number one ace gunning for Kye, and now Estovakians carrying Void gear. I wouldn't be worried about that last one if the first two hadn't happened."
"You don't think Void is giving Estovakia direct support, do you? I mean, the same could be said about Paragon helping Emmeria, but the only direct support that Emmeria has received was the X-03 shipment. And the only reason that happened was because we discovered Riedel's act of treason that gave Estovakia outside help with the Aigaion and XFA-44 data. Everything else was purchased by Emmeria before the war, even if it wasn't delivered until after the war started. Hmm... Wait, that pilot in the ZF-1 Apollyon never actually fired on us.
"I don't want to jump to conclusions, but we will be ready to act if need be. I'm going to return to Isle Pandora and set up a conference with President Marshall. I want you three to make sure Captain Venturi knows to keep all this under wraps. This is classified at Level Ten."
"Understood." The three of us said in unison.
"Good. Hopefully, this all blows over without a fault, but if we do have problems, I'll send the Halcyon and a few squadrons you're familiar with."
"Alright." I said.
Grandma Hatsumi held her arms out and soon received a hug from each of us. "Take care you three."
1010hrs 5 March 2016 (Polaris/Ortara Time)
1310hrs 5 March 2016 (Gracemeria Time)
I never have really appreciated the view Yami and Melissa have. You can see the King's Bridge and the castle from here.
I had walked all the way around the bay to Yami's house from the castle. I had considered moving the kids here, but decided against it. It was too risky to move them this far.
Both Yami's house and Melissa's house were unscathed. Neither had been touched by even a single bullet.
I'm getting low on money.'
I reached into my pocket and dug out my key to Yami's door.
She won't mind if I take some of her canned food. I might as well do a little cleaning while I'm here, too.
I've been coming by to tidy up at least once every two weeks. I couldn't let my baby sister come back from war to a dirty house.
After cleaning up, I gathered some canned foods in a sack and left the sack near the door inside the house. I locked the door behind me and headed to the market. Although Yami still had plenty of canned foods that would easily last a few more years, but she did not have any non-perishable drinks, so I had to go to the market to get something.
The trip to the market wasn't too long. I was fluent in many languages, Estovakian included, and could simulate their accents so well that I could pass for a native. They would refuse service otherwise. I was lucky in one regard, though. They only accepted Emmerian currency, which is all I had. I would have been in real trouble if they had switched to Estovakian currency.
After buying a case of water, I left the market and headed back toward Yami's house. As I was rounding the last corner to leave the market, I bumped into someone. The man was in the Estovakian military, so I didn't care to wait around to see his reaction.
I bolted down the street, knowing that I could easily outrun any normal person.
1025hrs 5 March 2016 (Polaris/Ortara Time)
1325hrs 5 March 2016 (Gracemeria Time)
The city was beautiful, disregarding the occasional damaged building. I couldn't imagine what it would be like if my country had never invaded. I found myself unable to resist going for walks through the streets.
When I rounded a corner on my way into the market district, I found myself colliding with a young woman and both of us falling down. I managed to catch myself, but she had already got up and sprinted away. She ran fast, despite carrying two cases of bottled water, one under each arm.
I shrugged and started to go on my way, but I noticed she had dropped something. I picked it up and discovered it was a wallet.
She carries a wallet like a man? I guess it's not so surprising.
I opened the wallet to see if there was any identification. I only managed to see the color of the woman's hair and skin, which was white and blonde, but that would be enough for me if it matched.
If it matches, I'll try to return it.
When I found the identification, I was very surprised when I saw the name.
Lieutenant Colonel Kye Akari! What the...?
I looked back toward the direction she ran just in time to see her round another corner about two blocks away. I stuffed her wallet into my pocket and sprinted after her.
Could it really be? She's a living legend!
I ran as fast as I could, much faster than most people would consider possible. By the time I rounded the same corner she took, she was still a block and a half ahead.
Damn, she's fast. Could she be a trait carrier?
I continued to follow her. She made a right at the next street. I took the same right just in time to see her taking a left one block ahead.
As soon as I rounded that corner, I found a hand on my neck and my back on the ground. She had waited for me here and now had her knee on my chest.
"Why are you chasing me? And how are you keeping up? No normal human should be able to match my pace, even with me carrying that water."
"I apologize, Miss." I said. "You dropped your wallet. I only wanted to return it. I did not expect that you could run as fast as me."
She stood up and helped me to my feet. "Very well."
I dug into my pocket and handed over her wallet. "Here you are."
"Everything is there." She said after a quick inspection. "I'm rather surprised to find such nobility in the streets like this."
"I have to ask. Are you really Kye Akari?"
"You saw my ID, did you? What if I am?"
"It's not every day that I run into an Osean pilot here while my country is at war with Emmeria. Travel to and from here is very limited."
"I've been here since the invasion."
"What's your story?"
"Don't give me that. I'll find out one way or another."
"If you insist, but I would rather not discuss this near potential eavesdroppers."
"Your name at least?"
"Come with me, then. There's a place we can talk in private. I have a rather unusual question to ask you anyway."
Gracemeria Central Station
1045hrs 5 March 2016 (Polaris/Ortara Time)
1345hrs 5 March 2016 (Gracemeria Time)
I lead him to Central Station and sat with. I stayed silent for a short while before asking the question that had been plaguing my mind for the last twenty minutes.
"Are you a trait carrier?"
"What do you know about that?" He countered.
"That should be my question." I said.
"I have two strands active."
"That would explain how you managed to keep up with me."
"It doesn't explain how you almost outran me despite carrying that extra weight."
"It wasn't that much extra weight, and I could have fun a little faster. I have three strands active."
"You're an Origin?"
"No. You said your surname is Pasternak. That doesn't line up with any of the Origin's surnames."
"My mother's maiden name is Romanov. She's Yuktobanian. My father is Estovakian."
"So you're a descendant of Alexandra Romanov? Who else?"
"James Marshall. What about you? I know the names of all eight, so I assume you are a descendant of Hatsumi Akari. I know your mother is Layla Bartlett, so I can also assume you are a descendant of Edward Bartlett, but who is your third?"
"I don't know specifically. I only know that my third is not one of the Paragon founders."
"So you have to be descended from one of the Void founders, then. We could be second cousins."
"It's possible." I shrugged. "I might be descended from Marshall or Romanov, or I could be descended from Tachibana or Knight. I have to ask. Are you a member of Void?"
"Not by choice."
"I believe you."
"I know two people that had... Misfortunes with Void's recruiting method. I can't say who they are, but both of them chose not to join Void and sought refuge. The misfortunes came after."
"Are they okay, at least?"
"Oh, they're fine. Void tried, but never found them. If I may ask, what does Void have over you?"
"My father. He's not a trait carrier, so they are holding him prisoner to keep me on a leash."
"That doesn't sound like tolerable terms."
"I visit often enough to make sure they aren't mistreating him, and my mother holds a rather high rank in Void. Not high enough to get him released, but high enough that he is comfortable at least."
"I suppose that's not too god awful. I'm guessing the only way he'll get released is if you give them your decision to stay willingly or if you die."
"That's unfortunate. Let's move on to another topic, shall we?" I asked.
"My questions have been answered. Go ahead."
"What's your role in the war? I assume that since you are a Void member and a Double Trait that you have or will have a significant role."
"My sole reason for coming here is to fight Garuda 1."
"You won't win."
"I don't want to sound arrogant, but I probably will by saying this." I started. "I'm Paragon's Rank One."
"The Ace of Aces, yes I know."
"Garuda 1 is Paragon's Rank Two. When she compares..."
"Yes. Garuda 1 is female. When she compares herself to me, she underestimates herself. She is damn near as good as me in terms of flying ability."
"You know her personally?"
"Garuda 1 is my younger sister."
"I will still fight her."
"I won't try to convince you otherwise, but a word of advice. When you do, fight her as far away from prying eyes as possible. If you fight in the desert, fight away from the troops. If you fight near the shore, take it out to sea and away from ships. If you lose, bail out and make sure you have something to use for Morse code."
"I see where you're going with this."
I could tell he was getting worked up underneath his calm facade. "You won't regret it."
"I have no intention of losing, but I'll keep that in mind."
"Good. I have another question for you. This one is unrelated to the rest."
"How is Estovakia treating the civilians of Emmeria that remained here in Gracemeria?"
"They are being treated well enough to my knowledge. There is a soup kitchen run by my country not far from the market district. The Emmerian civilians aren't allowed to trade in the market district, but they are supplied for at the soup kitchen. Speaking of which, how did you managed to trade at the market?"
"I'm fluent enough in your language that I can pass as a native."
"Makes sense." He stood up and offered a handshake, which I took. "I enjoyed are discussion, Miss Akari, but I must be going. I am expected at the airfield soon."
"Take care, Ilya Pasternak. I do want you to show me that soup kitchen if you will."
"Of course. I'm free in the morning on the tenth if you would like to meet here."
"Zero nine hundred sound good?"
"Alright. I'll be expecting you. Only you."
"Of course. Oh and, go have a dance with the angels."
I giggled at that and left.
Melissa's inside joke sure had gotten around.
"East of central Anea lies Ragno Fortress in Grageo Canyon. Our fortress there is still under Estovakian control.
"Substations for a giant dam and military tunnels line the area near the fortress. These places act as an extra means of defense for an already high security area.
"Now that we've destroyed the enemy's heavy command cruiser, we're on our way east towards Gracemeria. But the only route for our heavy deployment of ground forces to travel on passes through Grageo Canyon, and Ragno Fortress is Estovakia's trump card for keeping us out of Gracemeria. Chief Commandant Akari, do you have anything to add?"
"Yes. This mission will be split into three operations." She looked toward the Warlock Leader, Gary Campbell. "Warlock will be leading Operation A and will break through in a direct path to the fortress. Sky Kid will be providing air support for Warlock, as will be Garudas 1 and 2.
She turned toward Windhover Leader, Daniel Pollini, next. "Windhover, you will be leading Operation B. You will destroy their power substations and supply routes. You will be assisted by Garudas 3 and 4."
He nodded, and she looked to the Yellow Jacket Leader, Richard Lee. "Yellow Jacket, your unit will be attacking the underground tunnels running through the area. Before you can invade any tunnels, you'll need to blow the door off both ends of the tunnels and wait for a fighter jet to come along and dive in. I'm only allowing members of Garuda Team to perform the tunnel dives, so nobody else needs to even ask about it. Yellow Jacket will destroy the doors to one tunnel at a time and call for a dive. Garuda Team will respond and send one pilot in while the others provide cover. After that, Garuda Team will return to their assignments. Once the dives are complete, Yellow Jacket will send a message to our special forces, who will come in and infiltrate the fortress from the inside."
Chief Commandant Akari finally turned her attention back toward me, but spoke to everyone simultaneously. "Once those three operations have been completed, we will take the fortress itself. If any Estovakian aces show up, Garuda Team will take care of them with haste and return to the mission. If we're lucky, we won't have to worry about the Strigon Team, but be ready for them at all times."
"I have a question." Windhover said. "What about Avalanche and Stingray?"
"Their squadron leaders are sick, so those squadrons won't be participating in this mission. And to add to that, the only tank battalion coming is Warlock due to space issues. There's simply not room to include more battalions. Any further questions?"
Nobody spoke up.
"Then that's all I have." She gestured at me.
"If we can recapture that fortress, it's smooth sailing to Gracemeria from there. Eliminate the Estovakian unit there and recapture Ragno Fortress!"
"The battle is tipping in our favor. Everyone, let's get ready."
Grageo Canyon 55'02'05"N 88'06'10"E
1200hrs 6 March 2016 (Polaris/Ortara Time)
1400hrs 6 March 2016 (Mission Time)
"Princess, you took too much time admiring the scenery." Lily said.
"Hey, I couldn't help it. The view was too good to pass up."
On the way to the mission airspace, we had a clear view of the mountains. I wanted to take a picture, but I had no camera.
"We still arrived on time." I said. "Yahoo! You guys miss us?"
"How could we miss you?" Sky Kid asked rhetorically. "We see you every day."
"Can't keep your eyes off me?"
"Only while sleeping."
"A message to all the Estovakians out there. Don't be too disappointed once we shoot down all your toys!"
"Oh hey, it's DJ Zed." I said.
"I'm gonna present a couple of Golden King medals to Garuda Team. Made 'em myself!"
"Garuda Team, you guys are practically movie stars now." Sky Kid added.
"Ha. I don't think I want to be a movie star. My sister is world famous and she can't hardly walk in public without getting swarmed."
"Don't listen to civilian airwaves during missions." Ghost Eye interrupted. "Today's objective is to recapture Ragno Fortress."
"Killjoy." Yami said. "Ghost Eye, do you get pleasure out of killing the mood or do you just suppress something and take it out on us?"
"Cut the chatter."
"Is that an order, your highness?" I couldn't help but laugh.
"Yeah, yeah, mock it up."
"Anyway, serious time. Everyone remember their assignments?"
"Warlock Battalion is on its way to Ragno Fortress. Our plan is to break through the center."
"Sky Kid here. We're flying support for Warlock."
"This is Windhover. We are prepared to knock out their substations and supply routes on the water to cripple their forces."
"This is Yellow Jacket. We are set to invade the fortress and initiate attacks from the inside. There are four tunnels leading to the inside. We plan to break into their underground facilities through those tunnels."
"Good. Let us know when you're ready for the first one, Yellow Jacket."
"If we can pull this off, Estovakia won't have any trump cards left to play." Ghost Eye added. "Use everything you've got."
"Once we get over this canyon Gracemeria's straight ahead. We gotta win this, Talisman." Marcus said.
"Yeah. That goes without saying. Garuda Team, disperse! Teams of two. You know what to do."
I banked left and descended down to a better altitude to start my attack with.
"This is Warlock Battalion. We've got the fortress in sight."
"Any special requests?" I asked.
"Take out any enemy tanks on our path."
"Roger that." I flipped my weapons to ADM, got a lock on a group of tanks up ahead, and fired two ADM pods. Twelve DART missiles fired from each pod, turned toward their individual targets, and destroy a total of twenty four tanks.
"Windhover, this is Seraph." Lily said. "Shadow and I are falling in toward your position."
"Roger that. Beginning assault on substations and supply routes. I'm sending target data for the supply routes."
"We've got an enemy chopper unit close! We're gonna get flanked." A Warlock soldier reported.
"I didn't even hear 'em coming! Get our anti-air guns ready!" Warlock Leader said.
"Warlock, we're swing back around your way." I said. I checked my radar to see how many helicopters there were. "There's more coming from the north. Sky Kid, you take the south pack. Shamrock and I will take the north pack."
"Roger that, Talisman."
As soon as we were in range, Marcus and I both unloaded an ADM pod each and destroyed all the incoming choppers.
"Keep it up, Garuda." Warlock Leader said. "That was a nice fireworks display."
"And it's not even a holiday." Another Warlock soldier added.
"Hey if you guys wanna see fireworks, I could always go home and get a Seeker missile." I added with a smirk, although nobody could see the smirk.
"Whoa now, we want to capture Ragno Fortress, not destroy it." Warlock Leader said.
"But I like blowing stuff up." I pouted.
"I'm sure we can find an excuse to light something up after the mission."
"This is Yellow Jacket. We have broken into the first of the four tunnels."
"Roger that, Yellow Jacket. Garuda Team, reform." I headed toward the tunnel and circled around overhead until Marcus, Lily, and Shadow were in position. "I'm going in. I'm counting on all of you for cover."
I dropped my altitude and swung around to get level with the tunnel.
"Here goes nothing."
The inside of the tunnel was easily large enough to fly through and fire missiles, but due to how the ADM pods were launched, it was impossible to use them inside.
There were a few targets inside that needed to be destroyed, and I easily had enough room to take them out, though I had to be careful of the ceiling. There were obstacles hanging down at a few spots.
"Fighters flying underground? You must be seeing things!" An Estovakian said.
"We have to keep fighting! Fight back or you'll die too!"
Once I finished my fly through, with all the targets destroyed in the process, I made my way out of the tunnel. "Yahoo!"
"This is Garuda 2 to Ghost Eye. First tunnel down."
"Confirmed." I added.
"Roger that, Garuda Team. Three tunnels are left with targets."
"About that." I said. "We'll need a different pilot each time. None of us has enough normal missiles to hit two tunnels. Luckily, there are three more tunnels and three more Garuda pilots. Save your standard missiles. If you fire an ADM inside, it'll just be wasted."
"Roger that, Talisman. Just call out who you want to go in each tunnel as they are needed."
"That's the plan." I said. "Garuda Team, return to your assignments."
As I returned to Warlock, I noticed that they had advanced a fair distance.
"Concentrate on taking out their leader! Zero in on the target!" An Estovakian soldier ordered.
"Missed! Hurry up and reload."
That must be a tank operator. Ugh, it's almost annoying that our Paragon planes can intercept enemy transmissions. It's useful more than not, though.
"Blue Max, let 'em have it." Red Baron said.
"Happy Birthday, Stovies."
"There, at two o'clock." An Estovakian said. "Aim for those two planes flying together. Bring 'em down!"
"Hey, Shamrock. Looks like they are aiming at us. How should we respond?"
"Well, Talisman. First, I'll go into the next bedroom and hide under the bed. Then, I'll proceed to shout everything about them once they find us, tattoos, scars, and such. After that, you will be left holding the phone with a man breathing into the speaker."
"Ah. Then I'll say, "I don't know who you are. I don't know what you want. If you let my wingman go, that'll be the end of it. I will not look for you. I will not pursue you. If you don't, I will look for you, I will find you, and I will drop a bomb on you." I think that'll do it."
"Meh, too much effort." Marcus said as he launched an ADM.
"That works, too." I said. "You know what the funny part is? They were aiming at Seraph and Shadow."
"Thanks for that, I suppose." Lily said.
"Our defenses aren't working. They're going to wipe out our transport routes." An Estovakian reported.
"Don't worry, it's gonna take more than that to sink us." An Estovakian sailor added just before his ship exploded into a huge ball of fire.
Windhover snickered. "You were saying?"
I laughed. "I think we're rubbing off on Windhover."
"I've got enemy fighters on radar." Red Baron reported. "They're practically on top of Warlock Battalion."
"Harriers!" Sky Kid added. "It's a trap! They're squeezin' us in!"
"Just keep cool and blast 'em out of the sky." Blue Max said.
"I couldn't've said it better myself." I said. I got a lock on several of the harriers and launched my fourth ADM pod. I wasn't close enough to get a lock on all of them, so a few of the ADM Dart missiles took out some stray Estovakian tanks.
"You wiped out half of them in one go, Talisman." Sky Kid said. "We'll clean up the rest."
"Don't let them pick on our friends."
"Talisman, this is Yellow Jacket. The second tunnel is in need of cleansing."
"Roger that. Garuda Team, group up." I pulled back and headed to the tunnel. "Lily, you up for this?"
"Always, Princess." She said confidently.
"Alright, when you're ready. The rest of us will cover you."
Lily disappeared into the tunnel. The Estovakians soon started panicking about fighter jets in the tunnels again.
"Fighters are flying through this tunnel? You can't be serious!"
"Floor N-3 has taken an enemy attack! The control room is badly damaged and a fire's broken out!"
"Shut up and run. When you reach the position, for a line and aim straight ahead."
I gunned down an enemy fighter at the tunnel exit just in time for Lily to come flying out.
"Second tunnel is sanitized." She reported.
"Same old Garuda Team. Ghost Eye, we've only got a handful of targets left to destroy."
"Roger that, Yellow Jacket. Two tunnels are left with targets. I repeat, two tunnels left."
"Let us know when the next one is ready." I said. "Garuda Team, back to your assignments. Windhover, status report."
"Three docks and supply stations have been wiped out, along with several enemy fighters. We'd be done by now if not for them. We just destroyed the last dock while you were handling that tunnel."
"We can't maintain the fortress without these routes! Put out those containers now!"
"Transport route to the fortress confirmed destroyed." Ghost Eye said. "Now take care of the rest."
"This is Shadow. I've got a visual on the substation facilities."
"Those facilities supply power to the fortress. Taking them out will weaken their defenses."
"Consider it done."
They'll be done before long. What's Warlock's progress...? Ah, there they are.
"All tanks, advance! Keep moving ahead!"
"Self-propelled artillery is being sent out from enemy posts in the north and south." Ghost Eye reported. "They are approaching Warlock Battalion."
"Roger that, Ghost Eye." I said. "We'll take care of it.
"More self-propelled artillery is being sent out from the enemy posts. Exact number unknown."
"Roger that, as well. Marcus, head to the south post. I'll clear the north."
"Captain, some of their forces are withdrawing." A Warlock soldier reported.
One guess why.
"Let's break in through that hole!"
"Hold on. If we break through from a place like that, we'll get ambushed." Warlock Leader said.
He's proving himself more and more.
"Warlock, don't worry. We'll have the self-propelled artillery down in... Now."
"Thanks, Garuda. We're clear to advance!" W
"Shoot down approaching enemy fighters, and avoid combat above those facilities." An Estovakian pilot said.
"We've got a power failure in Building 3! Output has decreased a great deal!"
Lily, Shadow, and Windhover's team are making good progress over there. Despite us trying to minimize damage to the fortress, we're taking it relatively quick.
"Dammit! Building 1 has been destroyed! Anti-air guns! Shoot down those planes!"
"Buildings 1 and 3 are out of power. Our total power supply has dropped to 50%!"
"Prepare our emergency power sources! And shoot down those damn planes!"
"They're starting to squirm."
"Speaking of squirm, Garuda, we need somebody to squirm into this tunnel and clear it out." Yellow Jacket reported. "Tunnel three is ready."
"Roger that. Garuda Team, you know the drill."
"I'll handle this one." Marcus volunteered.
"Have at it." I said.
The Estovakians wasted no time panicking as soon as he dove into the tunnel.
"What the... I just heard a jet!"
"Enemy alert! We have enemy fighters inside the fortress!"
"They're flying fighter jets through our tunnels? These people must be insane!"
"We've got fire on Floor C-3! Get our firefighters over there now!"
"They know this place inside out. Stay on maximum alert. They could come at us from any side."
"Operation target destroyed! Just one left!" Marcus reported as soon as he pulled up out of the tunnel.
"Roger that." Ghost Eye said. "Clean up the last one."
"We'll have it ready in no time." Yellow Jacket added.
"Good deal." I said. "Garuda Team, let's finish up our assignments."
"Bring 'em down at all costs! Do you read me?!"
The Estovakians are starting to get desperate.
"Idiots! You have to follow my orders! What is it that you don't understand?!"
"The enemy's getting confused within its own ranks." Warlock Leader called out. "Don't let this one get away! Follow me!"
"There's an enemy tank battalion in front of the fortress!" One of the Warlock soldiers added. "We're almost within range."
"Warlock Battalion, assume attack formation! We're gettin' close to that fortress!"
"Listen up." An Estovakian said. "We're the last line of defense. Protect this fortress with your lives!"
"Our fire support has stopped! Where are the reinforcements?!"
"All self-propelled artillery has been dispatched. Our vehicle storage is completely empty."
Why yes... Yes it is.
"Hey, Warlock." I said. "Wanna make this interesting?"
"Interesting you say? Hit me."
"Let's hit 'em together. Target data sent."
"An assault from both the air and ground will not only finish off the last remaining targets of Operation A, but will also confuse the rest. Let's do it."
"Shamrock and I will sweep up some of them with our ADM fire on the outside edges."
"Yeah, yeah, that'll cause the rest to try to retreat toward the middle and have nowhere to go. We'll clear them out nice and clean."
"We'll follow your lead."
I sent target data to Marcus real quick. "Hit it." I fired my ADM at the leftmost of the enemy battalion and Marcus fired his at the rightmost.
Just as predicted, the rest tried to retreat in opposite directions and ultimately clumped up in the middle. Warlock opened up on them and cleaned them out.
"This is Warlock. We've broken through their line of defense. Lining up in front of fortress as planned. I look forward to more combination assaults, Garuda."
"This is Windhover. We've taken out the enemy's lifeline. Ragno Fortress is finished."
"Now we've just gotta take out the fortress itself and get our country back." Lanner said.
"Talisman, you're the man of the hour. Show us some of your best moves." Saker added.
"I'm the man of the hour? I'm pretty sure I don't have a penis."
"How sure is pretty sure? You fly like you do."
"What?" Lanner interrupted. "What's that supposed to mean? Women don't fly as well as men?"
"Open mouth, insert foot." Saker sighed.
"Haha, well I think women can fly as good as any man." I said. "The top six Paragon pilots are all female, after all."
"Defense barrier C-2's been destroyed! All stations ready for battle! They won't be long!"
"The last tunnel is ready, Talisman."
"Roger that. Shadow, you're up."
As with the last two tunnels, the Estovakians panicked as soon as she flew into the tunnel.
"What the... Are the Emmerians insane? What...?"
"There's no way!"
"All facilities on Floor C-2 have been destroyed! Those explosions blocked every way out!"
"Roger. Focus all defense on the main passage. Lieutenant Colonel Nekrasov, get me a damage report!"
"Final tunnel sanitized." Shadow reported.
"Confirmed." Yellow Jacket said. "All attack targets are destroyed. Now we can get on to the Ragno mission."
"Fighter jets diving into tunnels." Bird Eater added. "That's never been done before."
"Just another day on the job for an ace pilot." Swallowtail said.
"Hey guys, don't forget about Avalon Dam, Megalith, and Sudentor." I said. "Cipher, Mobius, and Blaze can tell you firsthand about tunnel flights."
"Right. I got so caught up in the moment that they slipped my mind." Bird Eater said.
"Ghost Eye here. Surrounding enemy forces have been weakened. Commence attacks on the fortress itself. I'll be sending the target data. Garuda Team, concentrate all fire on specified targets. "
"I've sent coordinates for the first target. Check your radars."
"It's time. Leonid Battalion, take action. We're taking back Ragno Fortress."
"Warlock Battalion is initiating attack on fortress enemies. All units take aim and fire!"
"All squads in position? We storm the fortress in 30 seconds."
The Special Forces will wipe the inside clean.
"Hasn't the radar room been restored yet?" An Estovakian asked.
"Our power cables were cut, so the main power is out. We'll have it fixed as soon as we can."
"I can't reach area N. I'll go check the situation myself."
Good luck with that. You'll run into our Special Forces soon, Stovies.
"Hey, guys, look at all those targets." I said. "You know what would be just great? If all of us fired two ADMs each."
"There's not enough targets for that." Lily said. "We'll waste some."
"Well then you and Shadow wait for the second batch. Marcus, let's hit it."
I turned my plan straight down, took aim, and released two ADM pods simultaneously, as did Marcus.
One pod left. I think he has two.
I slowed down and watched as the fourty-eight Dart missiles destroyed targets all over the fortress.
"We need more firepower!" An Estovakian panicked. "Where the hell is Strelka Battalion? Why aren't they returning fire?!"
"They've been buried in falling rubble. There's nothing we can do about it!"
"Target coordinates have been sent. This is the last group." Ghost Eye said.
"I've got four signatures on my radar, coming in hot." I said.
"This is the Oblako Squadron. We will sanitize the area of enemy fighters."
Looks like an enemy ace squadron.
"Garuda Team, pick a target." I ordered. "Last one to down their target has to buy a steak dinner at Ortara."
"I can go for that." Marcus said.
"Agreed." Lily and Shadow responded in unison.
I bolted after my target, cleared the distance between us, and got behind him in less than twenty seconds.
"No way... There's just..." His radio cut out as his plane exploded.
"First." I said.
"Second." Shadow added.
"Third." Marcus chimed in.
"Damn..." Lily said. "Well, at least we took them all out in less than thirty seconds."
"Lily's buyin' dinner!" I sang. "Opps... I mean Seraph. Haha."
"Regulus, secure C-1 to C-5." The Special Forces leader said. "Denebola and Algeiba, give me a SITREP."
"We've taken over Area N. A marker's been set, so we'll let 'em take care of the rest from the outside."
"This is Algeiba. We've secured up to S-8. We are currently engaged in S-9."
"Area S is secure. Chort Team, come over to floor S-1."
"Lily, Shadow, the last few targets are all you. And... Time."
They wasted no time in barraged the remaining targets with Dart missiles from their ADM pods.
"Fifteen seconds. I think that's all clear. Ghost Eye?"
"All enemy forces within Ragno have been destroyed. We have successfully taken back the fortress."
"This is Leonid Battalion. All areas are secure. We are now in a Stovie-free zone."
"Our special forces came in from a different route and have secured the inside. Ragno Fortress is under Emmerian control. Mission accomplished. Our special forces can mop up the rest. Head back to base, Garuda Team."
"We're really on a roll." Marcus said. "No one can stop us now."
"Just wait 'till I get some steak in me. I'll show you unstoppable. I'm the Juggernaut, bitch."
"You like the X-Men?" Sky Kid asked.
"Love 'em. I've seen all the movies, all the anime series, read all the comics... You name it."
"We should have an X-Man movie marathon."
"Definitely, right after I get some steak."
Hehe, I'm getting steak tonight! I sang mentally.
"Although it's often been called impregnable, we have taken over Ragno Fortress. Estovakia's just lost all their trump cards. No one can stop us now. All that's left is to head for Gracemeria."
1900hrs 6 March 2016 (Polaris/Ortara Time)
We're almost there. Just a little bit closer. Monica, Jessica, Laura, Allen, Maria. I'm coming for you all. Just wait a little longer!
0930hrs 7 March 2016 (Polaris/Ortara Time)
1230hrs 7 March 2016 (Gracemeria Time)
Holding a bag of apples, I walked up next to my plane.
This is my girl. No matter how bad things may look down here, we will not be defeated with me in this baby.
I could hear the radio behind me, and turned to see who had it playing. It was the new captain.
I also like our chances with the new captain in charge. He feels more like an older brother than some pushy authority figure.
"Toscha, give me one of those apples you have there." He said while gesturing toward me. "Then go have a dance with the angels, will ya?"
I gripped one of the apples and tossed it over to him. It veered off to the side, but he managed to catch it.
"Toscha. Come now, Toscha. You'd better learn more control than that if you want to impress your sweetheart. Terrible, I tell ya."
I started walking toward him. "At least I have a sweetheart to speak of, sir."
"I could have any woman I want if I made the effort."
I can't argue with him there. If he was serious enough, and I was a woman, I would probably fall for him myself.
I recognized the radio broadcast he was listening to.
Even though we have overtaken the city, he tends to listen to Emmeria Independence radio, an ongoing pirate broadcast.
"Listen." The Captain said. "They're talking about the "Golden King" again. It's as if they're mourning the loss of a flesh-and-blood king. It would really be something if they got it back somehow. ...makes you wonder."
My "older brother" seems to have a soft spot for the poor and downtrodden in this city. There's no way in hell we are going to lose this war. Even with the enemy having that pilot.
0645hrs 10 March 2016 (Polaris/Ortara Time)
0945hrs 10 March 2016 (Gracemeria Time)
I met with Ilya Pasternak at the agreed time. On our way to the soup kitchen, he told me that Emmeria had retaken Ragno Fortress and that his imminent duel with Yami was getting closer.
He also talked about some of the things that Emmeria Independence Radio had been saying in their broadcasts. He mentioned the Golden King and that it was like Emmeria was mourning the loss of a flesh-and-blood king.
Little did he know that the children and I had hidden the Golden King away to keep it safe from the invaders.
While we were at the soup kitchen, I found somebody with the surname Lampert, and discovered that they were related to Yami's wingman. Marcus's sister, Laura, along with Laura's husband, Allen, and their daughter, Maria, had survived, but were unable to leave the city due to injuries. They had since healed, but had no choice but to stay at the soup kitchen.
I offered to let them come with me. Once I parted ways with Ilya, I led them to the catacombs. Monica and Jessica were ecstatic when they saw Laura, Allen, and Maria follow me in.
Edit 26-June-2016: Trimmed Author's Notes, story marked complete.
If you have any comments, questions, suggestions, or any need to contact me, feel free to send a private message or leave a signed review (unsigned reviews are always welcome, of course, but do know that I cannot personally reply to them!)