Op. Lighthouse: Nexus (Ch. 26 - Final (24 December, 2014 update))

Operation Lighthouse: Nexus
Chapter 26 - For the Strength of the Pack

Lucine’s F-15 flew over the plume of smoke that was billowing from what was left of Aile’s fighter. Flying in a sideways position, Lucine looked out the side of her canopy down at the wreckage. All that remained of the Eagle was scattered flaming debris surrounding a sizable crater in the tarmac. Unable to comprehend what had just happened, Lucine was totally speechless.

In the facility, Yuki was also speechless. Staring into the space beyond the wall of the cell, she stood wide eyed and silent. Elise was on the verge of panic following Yuki’s outburst. She had no idea what was going on, but was too afraid to ask.

“Yuki, what’s…” Elise tentatively began. Yuki was completely overtaken by shock and didn’t respond. After several moments passed she suddenly closed her eyes and sighed heavily in relief.

“I’m… I’m okay,” a voice said over Lucine’s radio. Lucine suddenly perked up in her seat. She pulled her F-15 into a sharp turn while flying in knife edge. It was then that she spotted the parachute.

“Aile?!” she asked excitedly.

“That was too close,” Aile said. About a hundred meters from the wreckage of his F-15, Aile stumbled over a concrete barrier on the edge of the taxiway. Cutting his parachute loose, the young pilot slumped down onto his rear behind the cover of the barrier.

“Oh thank God…” Lucine sighed and slumped forward, held back by her harness. “But, how did you…?”

“I barely managed to get out in time,” Aile said as he pulled off his helmet. The visor was smashed and the side dented, but thankfully the parts inside, most importantly his head, were still in one piece. “I… ah,” Aile rubbed the dizziness from his eyes, “…saw the missile coming at the last second. Pulled the eject handle and went flying. Good thing for this suit… it protected me from the blast. Speaking of which, what the hell shot me?”

“I’m not sure,” Lucine said as she raised her visor. She carefully wiped away some tears that had formed in her eyes. “I’m checking now…”

Using the control on the throttle quadrant, Lucine oriented the sensors in the direction from where the shot had come from. It only took a moment for Moondance to get a fix on what had fired the high-speed missile. Lucine cringed.

“I don’t believe it,” she gravely said.

“What is it?” Aile asked with a serious voice as he watched Lucine’s fighter.

Lucine raised her head and looked toward where her sensors were pointed. She could see the three dots in the distance over the horizon.

“Fighter frames… FF-24s. Three of them” Lucine replied.

“What? How?” Aile asked, looking out ahead of where Lucine was flying.

“I don’t know,” Lucine shook her head. “There should be no way… I don’t get it.”

The FF-24 frames on her display disengaged large tubes from their legs which tumbled haphazardly toward the ground.

“They had expansion rockets.”

“Even so, there’s no way they could have made it all the way from Key West that quickly. They must have come from Cuba,” Aile realized. “That’s the only explanation. They had assets in Cuba we didn’t know about. Damn it.”

“So much for our intelligence…” Lucine lamented.

“Lucine… you have to go. You’re in no shape to fight those guys.”

“What? No!” Lucine was appalled at the suggestion…

“You don’t stand a chance against three air-to-air spec frames,” Aile shook his head. “Get the hell outta here. I’ll meet up with Lance and Annabelle. You get back to K27 and start planning our rescue.”

“Aile, there’s no way I’m leaving you down there,” Lucine replied as she circled overhead.

“Damn it, Lucine, would you listen…” Aile trailed off when he saw one of the closing frames launch a missile. “Lucine, watch out, missile your nine o’clock high!”

“Whoa!” Lucine exclaimed as she moved to avoid the missile. Thanks to her stealth system, the missile couldn’t track accurately and streaked right by. Having lost its lock, the infrared guided missile instead zeroed in on the flaming wreckage of Aile’s F-15.

“Oh geez…” Aile said as he sprung to his feet and broke into a run. Just as the missile hit the ground behind him, Aile took a dive. The blast tossed a plume of soil and tarmac into the air. Aile covered his head as remains Earth and taxiway rained down on him.

“Aile, are you alright?” Lucine asked worriedly.

Aile shook the dirt from his hair as he turned around on the ground and looked upward. He could see the three frames approaching from above. They broke formation and arced outward in different directions to surround Lucine’s fighter, each one drawing sharp contrails in the cool morning sky.

“Yeah, I’m fine,” he coughed as he got to his feet.

“Fox two!” Lucine called over the radio. Dusting himself off, Aile looked up in time to see the flash of light as one of Lucine’s Sidewinders ignited its rocket motor. The missile accelerated forward and turned immediately after leaving the rail. For a second it looked like the missile would score a hit, but at the last possible moment the frame kicked out its legs and changed direction. The missile turned toward it, but flew harmlessly by. The target detector detonated, but it was too far away for the annular blast-fragmentation warhead to harm the armored frame.

“Lucine, it’s no use, get out of here while you can,” Aile pleaded with her.

“No,” Lucine replied, her voice strained under the G forces as she turned. “I can still fight!”

Aile watched as Lucine fired her cannon at the second frame, which immediately tried to avoid. Lucine’s aim was much better than the frame pilot had expected, and a few of the rounds connected despite his attempt to dodge. The twenty-millimeter rounds exploded on the frame’s armor, creating an impressive display of sparks, but it wasn’t enough to do significant damage. Aside from scratched paint and unseemly dents the frame was unharmed.

Aile heard another sound besides the concert of jet engines above. Looking to his left he could see the three land frames stomping along the far side of the runway. The crashed C-130 was there as well. Aile looked back up to where Lucine was desperately fighting.

“I’m winchester all air-to-air armaments,” Lucine said dejectedly, looking at her armament panel. “All I have now is air-to-surface munitions. Think I can hit him with a Maverick?”

“Lucine, it’s time to go,” Aile said. Lucine paused a moment.

“Aile, I… can’t leave you.”

“Go on, Lucine,” Aile said with a sigh. “There’s no point in getting shot down. I…” Aile paused when he noticed one of the frames making an aggressive turn. “Lucine, watch out! Frame coming at you from your eight!”

Lucine snapped her head to the left. The frame had abandoned all caution and was already extremely close to her, it’s dual arm-mounted cannons raised. At such a close range it was impossible to avoid.

Lucine tucked her head into her right shoulder, closed her eyes, and waited for the impact.

A second passed. Then two. No impact came.

Opening one eye at a time, Lucine searched left and right for the enemy frame. She spotted it a moment later, rolling away from her in a defensive maneuver. Then she noticed the smoke trail.

“What?” Aile said over the radio. The other two frames were also taking evasive action. Someone had fired at them from a long way away.

Lucine reoriented her sensors, searching the horizon. A moment later Moondance identified three approaching fighters. The lead fighter was recognized and identified on the main screen. Lucine’s eyes widened in surprise.

MiG-29UB Custom “Wraith”

“Wraith?!” Lucine said in disbelief.

“Wraith?” Aile echoed in surprise.

A voice crackled over their open channel.

“Looks like we made it in time,” it said. Lucine didn’t recognize the voice, but Aile certainly did.

“Lang!?” Aile asked in disbelief.

“I’m disappointed in you, Aile,” Lang replied. “Going out on a half-baked, harebrained mission like this and you didn’t even invite us. And on top of that, you even managed to get yourself shot down.”

Several miles out, Aile’s MiG-29UB/AP Fulcrum, nicknamed Wraith, approached with two other fighters.

One of them was a Su-34 heavy strike fighter, painted in a light gray camo pattern.

“You know all you had to do was ask,” Skylar Bennet added.

The other fighter, a blue-gray two-seat F/A-18 Hornet, rocked its wings.

“We would have been here a lot sooner,” Diego de la Destiny agreed.

“You guys… I owe you,” Aile said.

“That’s two times in a row. You’re getting sloppy, Aile,” Skylar chided.

“Aile, we’ll handle things up here,” Lang said. “You just concentrate on getting to Elise and getting her out to the runway.”

“Lang, our transport was shot down. We don’t have any way out of here,” Aile said.

“Don’t worry about that, we brought our one of our own,” Lang replied.

Upon hearing that, Lucine searched for other aircraft. She detected a transport plane approaching the coast, flying low over the sea. It was a Russian made IL-76 jet transport.

“We’ll take care of these guys and secure the runway prior to landing the transport. What’s the status of the crew of that C-130?” Lang asked.

“They’re still alive, but one is pretty badly injured,” Lucine said.

“Copy that. We brought rescue equipment with us,” Lang assured her. “Aile, get to work. Don’t worry, we aren’t leaving anyone behind.”

“You got it, boss!” Aile replied excitedly. After checking his weapon and ammo, Aile broke into a run toward the facility’s closest entrance.

Lucine watched the three frames as they adopted a more defensive formation. She turned her gaze back toward the approaching allied fighters.

“How did you know?” Lucine asked.

“I received a tip from an old friend of mine. Actually, he had a message for you. Ahem…” Lang cleared his throat. “Sorry for butting in, Little One, but you know how I worry.”

Tears suddenly formed in Lucines eyes. “Damn it, Scott,” she said as she wiped them away.

“Fall back behind us, Moondance. We’ll take care of things from here,” Lang said.

“Copy that,” Lucine replied as she changed her heading.

“Now then, guess it’s time for the speech,” Lang said.

“I hope they’re listening,” Skylar remarked.

“It’s the international emergency channel. They’ll be listening,” Lang replied. He keyed the second PTT switch on the the throttle.

“Attention, Coalition frames. This is Knight One Zero One, representing the Republic of Via Independent Air Guard. The facility you are guarding is participating in unlawful, immoral human experimentation. It is our intent to liberate the test subjects and then put that facility permanently out of commission. If you choose to stand against us we will shoot you down.”

In the control room, Kolman also heard the broadcast. The support staff all exchanged looks of disbelief and worry. Several of them looked to Kolman for an answer.

Kolman just narrowed his eyes and muttered a name.

“Charles Lang…” he said with contempt.

Lang waited several seconds for a reply.

“Doesn’t look like they have anything to say,” Diego said.

“Three frames against three fighters, huh?” Skylar thought out loud. “You know, they say that a frame is roughly six times more effective than a fighter in a close range dogfight. Even though our numbers are matched, statistically speaking it’s more like three versus eighteen.”

“So, it’s almost even,” Diego replied. Skylar smirked.

“Yeah, almost.”

“Well, it doesn’t look like they intend to back down,” Lang said with a sigh. He was quiet a moment, and then said boldly, “alright, Wolfpack, on me.”

“Two,” Diego said.

“Three,” Skylar replied.

“Combat spread and weapons free. How and what you engage is up to you, but the leader is mine.”

“Roger that,” Skylar said.

“Understood, boss,” Diego said with a nod.

They were entering close in weapons range. The frames were approaching in a standard ‘V’ formation. Lang took a deep breath and switched the master-mode switch on the stick to ‘dogfight.’

“Break!” he called. Skylar and Diego both broke off as Lang shoved the throttles all the way forward.

Wraith accelerated ahead of the pack. The three frames broke formation as well in a similar fashion. Just as Lang had done, the leader of the enemy formation also chose to accelerate directly forward. Wraith and the lead FF-24 approached each other head on.

The frame fired first, but Lang had already reacted an instant earlier. Rolling over, Lang pulled Wraith into an extremely high-alpha split-s a moment before the two aircraft crossed. Performing what looked like an inverted Cobra, Lang’s airspeed dropped dramatically as the cold morning air condensed on Wraith’s wings and root extensions, creating an aura of white mist. At the same moment, he opened fire.

The frame pilot was unable to react in time and took several hits from the twenty-five millimeter as Wraith slid by. Wraith was already way below stall-speed, but using the axisymmetrical thrust-vectoring nozzles, Lang kept the nose on target, even as he fell away toward Earth, effectively flying backwards. The hapless frame faltered as Lang continued to shoot short controlled bursts into it as he fell away.

Having lost the right arm and a significant portion of its upper-rear armor, the frame pilot spun around and attempted to get a close range missile lock. However, Lang had already pointed the nose away and was accelerating toward the ground, reclaiming his airspeed. The frame pilot fired anyway, but thanks to the plasma stealth system the missile couldn’t track, and instead locked onto the rising sun and flew into the distance.

“If that’s all you have,” Lang addressed the frame’s pilot over the open channel, “I’m afraid this is going to be a short fight.”

Pulling a high-G turn, Lang headed back toward the enemy frame.

At the same time, Skylar and Diego entered the fight.

“Tally two bandits, Fireflies. One going high and one level at angels eight,” Skylar reported. One frame was climbing while the other approached them at an altitude of eight thousand feet.

“I’ll take the high one, you get the other guy,” Diego replied.

“Wilco,” Skylar responded.

Diego immediately pulled his Hornet into a climb. Two white-hot cones of exhaust erupted from the twin nozzles as he went into afterburner. At the same time, Skylar pulled his throttles back. He waited for the speed to drop into optimal corner velocity before bringing the power up to maintain it. As the frame approached head on Skylar boresighted it and acquired a lock. He fired without hesitation.

“Fox two!” Skylar called as he released a duo of R-74M dogfight missiles. The two missiles blasted off the underwing rails and streaked toward the approaching Firefly. As they accelerated toward their target, the enemy frame fired its high speed machine gun, filling the air with a stream of tracers. The two missiles were stuck one after the other and bursted mid-air.

Skylar clicked his tongue as he passed over the frame. He began a tight turn to reengage. However, utilizing its chief advantage, the Firefly kicked out its legs and rapidly slowed to a halt. Turning mid-air, the frame ignited its afterburner and headed directly toward Skylar as he turned.

Skylar glanced back and did a double take when he realized the frame was already hot on his tale.

“Oh, right…” he muttered. The frame fired, and at the same moment Skylar rolled. The tracers only narrowly missed the large Su-34 as Skylar executed a series of defensive maneuvers.

Dropping the throttles back a notch, Skylar carefully watched the enemy frame as it drew closer. When the frame was nearly on top of him, he rolled and pulled the stick back past its soft limits. The Su-34 pitched up rapidly, creating a cloud of condensation on its wings. Executing an impromptu hook maneuver, Skylar braced himself against the negative g-forces as the frame passed by. Wasting no time, he slammed the throttles forward and went into afterburner, rolling toward Earth and clawing for every ounce of speed he could get. As he righted his attitude, Skylar noticed Diego’s F/A-18, which was in a similar predicament.

Glancing back over his shoulder, he could see the frame already approaching. Feeling his options waning, Skylar came up with the best idea he could.

“Diego, come left seventy degrees. I’ll cross you nose on,” Skylar radioed.

Diego, straining under g-forces, forced his gaze up and to the left. He could see Skylar’s plane coming in from above. Noticing Skylar’s attitude and vector, Diego immediately understood.

“Roger that, hermano!” he replied excitedly as he immediately began his turn.

Skylar glanced back and saw the enemy frame catching up again. Looking forward right, he could see Diego was nearly in position.

“I’m starting my turn. Airspeed five hundred, we’ll cross in five,” Skylar radioed as he banked left.

“We’ll pass at one thousand… ninety degree starboard roll as we pass… just like the Angels.”

Skylar glanced in his rear-view mirror as he turned. The frame was still hot on his tail.

“Three…”

Diego’s hornet completed a sharp turn and rolled wings level.

“…two…”

Skylar focused on Diego’s plane, which was headed straight toward him. He resisted the urge to break away as the two planes closed at alarming speed.

“…one!”

“Roll!” Diego called. Both fighters rolled to the right just in time to cross belly to belly, mere feet apart.

Immediately after passing each other, Skylar launched two missiles at the frame that had been chasing Diego. Both missiles hit in the chest of the area of the frame, which sent it into a multi-axis tumble. Skylar banked away to avoid one of the arms as it tumbled haphazardly through the air.

At the same moment, Diego also fired. Using all three canons, the stock M61A1 mounted in the hornet’s nose, along with the dual twenty-five millimeter Bushmaster cannons, Diego send several pounds of steel into the frame that had been chasing Skylar. The armor-piercing ammunition tore into the lightly armored Firefly, which erupted into a fireball a moment later.

Pitching up from their respective kills, both fighters drew sharp contrails in the cool morning air.

The lead frame was flying near the ground, checking right and left. From above and behind, right in the frame’s blind spot, Wraith dropped down. Pulling out of a dive, Lang fired a missile. The frame turned just in time to catch the missile in the center of the chest. The warhead detonated, knocking the frame off balance. Its foot caught the terrain, and it flipped end over end, kicking up a mass of dirt from the ground. When the dust cleared, the broken frame was sprawled out on the ground, unmoving.

“Knight one oh one, splash a bandit,” Lang said as he took off his oxygen mask. He took in a couple deep breaths. “Looks like you guys are done too.”

“Two down, boss. One each,” Diego said. “Orders?”

“Well done, Wolfpack. Diego, I want you to put that phased array radar of yours topside and check for anybody else trying to crash Aile’s party. Skylar, you and me are gonna clear the runway, capiche?”

“Understood, going high!” Diego said as he pulled into a steep climb and went into afterburner.

“Copy that, boss,” Skylar replied, pulling into a turn to rendezvous with Lang.

Lucine watched Diego’s Hornet pass her as he climbed to a higher altitude. She glanced down toward Lang and Skylar as they made a gun run at the land frames far below.

“Damn, that was impressive,” Lucine said. “But how are you going to get rid of those guys?”

“We don’t have to,” Lang said, his voice straining against g-forces as he climbed away after his gun run. Lucine could see the dust settling around the land frames from the shower of tracers Lang had peppered them with. “We just have to distract them.”

“Huh?” Lucine said at the same time Moondance’s sensors chirped. She looked down at one of the screens to see the transport approaching at low altitude.

Before Lucine could ask, a voice came over the radio.

“Knight One Zero One, Candid Four Seven, we are setting up for initial run,” the calm and cool voice of a career pilot sounded.

“Candid Four Seven, we roger that. We’ll keep these guys off you best we can while you deliver the Kharkov. Remember, go easy on the controls. I got that transport for a steal.”

“Roger that. Commencing drop in two-five seconds,” the voice of the IL-76’s pilot said. The large transport completed a turn and brought its wings level as it approached the runway. Lucine noticed that it wasn’t aimed right at the runway, but was rather going to fly parallel to it. As it grew closer the rear cargo ramp opened as the IL-76 leveled off about a hundred feet off the ground.

“Three… two… one… dropping,” the pilot calmly radioed. Something dropped out of the back of the transport. It looked angular and narrow, but as it dropped appendages unfolded from its sides. Locking into place, the arms completed an angular, yet humanoid silhouette. It was a lightweight land assault frame.

The frame, a Russian K-64 ‘Kharkov’, kicked up a massive amount of dust as it skidded across the ground next to the runway. As the IL-76 banked away, the Kharkov came to a halt and brought to bear two almost oversized recoilless rifles.

“Knight One Zero One, this is K-64, Alina Vikhrov. Landing successful, continuing with mission.”

“Understood, Lina. We’ll leave clearing the runway to you.”

“Understood,” Lina replied as she spotted the three enemy frames. “Targets in sight, entering combat.”

The Kharkov aimed the recoilless rifle attached to its right arm and fired.

Lang checked the time, which was displayed on the top of Wraith’s central MFD.

“Clock’s ticking. It’s all you, Aile,” he said without keying the radio.

“Ah!” Aile winced as he caught his foot at a strange angle. His injured ankle forced him to limp slightly, but he ignored it as he proceeded down a long hallway.

Carefully checking every corner, Aile made his way through the lower levels of the facility. So far he hadn’t encountered anybody, but that luck suddenly ran out as he neared an emergency stairwell.

The security guards were just as surprised to see him as he was to see them.

“Gah!” Aile exclaimed as the guards raised their pistols and opened fire without any hesitation. Leaping to the left, Aile hid behind a thick support pillar as the guards poured on the fire.

The guards were slowly circling toward him while keeping on the fire. Aile took a deep breath to calm his nerves as he checked to make sure his MP7 was ready to fire.

One of the guards stopped to reload. Aile took advantage of the opportunity and immediately sprung out, pulling the trigger of the MP7 with abandon. The two guards, caught off guard with no cover, fell immediately as Aile hosed them down with a hail of 4.6 millimeter bullets.

The submachine gun clicked empty and Aile paused. The tinkling of brass shells was the only sound that was left. The two guards lay motionless on the cold concrete floor.

Taking a moment to collect himself, Aile took several deep breaths as he reloaded his MP7. After kicking the guards’ pistols away from their bodies for good measure, he continued on.

After his run in with the security guards, Aile was extra careful as he climbed the stairs. Checking left and right, he kept his head low as he proceeded down the hallway on the second floor.

So far, there weren’t any additional guards on the second floor. Rounding a corner, Aile spotted the door he had been looking for. Checking down the hallway one more time, he carefully crossed into the open and stepped up to the door. Allowing his MP7 to hang from its sling, Aile examined the door. It was plain but very heavy looking. There was a placard that read “Subject 152”. It was just the door he was hoping to see.

Succumbing to his excitement, Aile immediately began banging on the door.

“Elise!” he called hopefully.

“Aile!” he could hear from behind the door.

“Oh thank God!” Aile said as he breathed a heavy sigh of relief. He caught his breath and yelled “hang on, I’m gonna get you out of there!”

Aile examined the door for access. There was an electronic locking mechanism. He touched it, but seeing that it required a card to access, immediately gave up on the lock. He tested the door’s strength – it felt sturdy.

“Ah, dammit,” Aile cursed. Knowing he didn’t have time to fight with the door, Aile gripped his MP7.

“Elise, get away from the door! Do you hear me? Back away from the door and get behind something! Something solid, okay!”

“Ah… okay!” Elise said. Aile waited as patiently as he could, taking several deep breaths.

“Okay!” Elise called. Her voice was much fainter than before – she had obviously taken cover.

“You sound like you’re to my left… to the right of the door on your side, is that right?” Aile asked. He wanted to be sure.

“Yeah, we’re in the bathroom! It’s a concrete wall!” Elise called.

“Okay, here goes…” Aile raised his weapon but paused, “wait a sec, we?”

Aile shook it off and focused on what he was doing. Checking right and left to make sure no one was creeping up on him, he took a step back and took aim at the door. He angled himself forty-five degrees so he was pointing away from where Elise had taken cover and pointed the muzzle of his gun where he figured the lock was.

It only took a short burst. The armor-piercing rounds tore through the lock and blew it into several pieces. The once obstinate door swung open without protest. Aile carefully stepped in.

“Elise?” he asked. From around a corner, Elise poked her head out and look around with wide eyes.

“Aile!” she cried, immediately rushing to him. Aile let his MP7 dangle from its sling as he caught Elise in his arms. It was all he could to to keep from crying.

Elise didn’t even try to hold back.

“Elise!” Aile said. He breathed an extremely heavy sigh of relief as Elise sobbed in his arms. “It’s so good to see you.”

Elise couldn’t reply, but instead just wailed into Aile’s chest. Aile smiled despite the situation and just hugged.

“It’s alright… I’m here,” Aile said soothingly.

“What… took you,” Elise managed. Aile smiled. He was about to reply when he noticed they weren’t alone.

“Uh… hi?” Aile said.

The small raven haired girl didn’t reply. She kept her head low and cautiously looked Aile up and down the same way a cat would size up a stranger.

“Yuki,” Elise sniffled. She pushed away from Aile and dabbed at her eyes. After taking a deep breath, Elise introduced them. “Aile, this is Yuki.”

“Oh, hi…. uh, Yuki,” Aile replied, then looked at Elise for any kind of elaboration.

“She was here before me… she’s a test subject, like, uh… like I am.”

“Right, of course,” Aile nodded while rubbing his chin, “we didn’t expect there would be others.”

“It’s just me and Yuki,” Elise replied. “I didn’t see any more.”

“Well, good thing you’re both here. Makes things easier. C’mon, we’re getting out of here!” Aile said.

“Like hell you are,” sounded the cold voice of a woman. Aile gripped his weapon as he spun around to see a tall, dark haired woman step into the doorway. She was wearing a lab coat and glasses, and held a small pistol in her hand. She was flanked by two large security guards, both armed with submachine guns.

“Just hold it right there,” the woman added. Rather than sounding alarmed or excited, the lady seemed more like she was dealing with an annoyance. Aile narrowed his eyes, but didn’t loosen the grip on his MP7. It was a standoff.

“And just who the hell are you supposed to be?” Aile asked.

The woman wore a smug look.

“Doctor Alcena Shealy. And you’re Aileron Phoenix,” Doctor Shealy said.

“What?” Aile replied dubiously.

“Rumor has it you’re also one of the third generation optimums. I’m looking forward to finding out first hand. You certainly are a fine specimen.”

Aile glanced over for a second. He could feel Elise’s hand touching his back. She was shaking, and Aile could sense that she was afraid of this woman. He felt a fire building in his chest.

“Like hell,” he said through clenched teeth, tightening his grip on his weapon.

“Don’t even think about it,” Doctor Shealy advised with a bored sigh. “I would hate to see something bad happen to your girlfriend.”

She was right. If shooting started, Elise and Yuki would be right in the line of fire.

For a long moment Aile just stared at her. The guards seemed to be getting antsy as well. They didn’t appear to be well trained, and Aile worried one of them could pop off at any moment. Even so, they were completely silent, and the only sounds that could be heard were of the explosions from the battle in the distance.

“Aile…” Elise whispered. Her voice was desperate.

Aile took a moment and analyzed the situation. He knew that whatever he did, he couldn’t put Elise in danger. That was his single most important priority. He let out a sigh.

“If I hand myself over, will you guarantee their safety,” Aile said.

Doctor Shealy smiled. She opened her mouth to speak, but was interrupted by one of the guards.

“Guwah!” the guard exclaimed as his blood suddenly spattered against the frame of the door. It was a heavy caliber bullet that had hit him in the arm, near his shoulder. The extremely loud shot echoed through the hallways. The guard immediately dropped his weapon, only to be struck again a moment later, but this time in the head.

Suddenly the other guard’s attention was diverted. Aile seized the moment.

“Nevermind!” Aile shouted. Firing on full auto, Aile mowed down both the doctor and the second guard. In the heat of the moment, Aile used the remainder of the bullets in the forty-round magazine.

Silence returned. Aile turned to the girls, who were cowering behind him covering their ears.

“Are you both okay?” he asked. They both nodded. After making sure that, other than being shocked, they were both okay, Aile stepped forward to check the guards and doctor. All three of them were very obviously dead. Aile took one last look at the doctor, who wore a permanent look of surprise on her face.

“I may have overdone it,” Aile said, looking at his weapon.

“Not really….” Elise muttered.

Yuki just averted her eyes and was silent. Since Aile didn’t know her, he didn’t notice how shaken up she was. Elise, overwhelmed by the situation, only vaguely registered that Yuki was even more pale than usual, if that were possible.

Aile quickly reloaded while kicking away the weapons on the floor.

“K27 squadron, I’m coming out,” a voice shouted.

“Go ahead,” Aile confirmed. A young man Aile had never seen before emerged from behind a pillar and headed toward the room. He was holding a bolt-action scout rifle and wearing a tactical vest over regular clothes. Even though Aile had never met him, for a moment he seemed to recognize the other man.

“Well, she’s dead,” the new arrival said.

“You’re the inside guy?” Aile asked.

“Yeah. Kaden Dirk, nice to meet you,” he replied as casually as if they had met in the post office.

“Aile Phoenix,” Aile replied, “Have we met before… I feel like I know you.”

“Not exactly, but you were acquainted with my reflection,” Kaden replied.

“Okay, I have no idea what that means,” Aile replied.

“I’ll explain later,” Kaden said. He turned to the girls. “Are you both okay, Yuki, Elise?”

“Uh, yeah,” Elise nodded.

“I’m okay,” the smaller girl squeaked.

Kaden seemed a little dubious as he looked at Yuki, but a moment later nodded.

“Good,” he said.

“We lost contact with you,” Aile said.

“Yeah, my secondary long range transmitter took a bullet,” Kaden replied. “And there was too much interference at the center of the facility for my short range backup to work.”

“Secondary?” Aile asked.

“Yeah, my primary was damaged a few days ago. Your fault.”

“I… what?” Aile asked.

“Like I said, I’ll explain later.”

“I see,” Aile replied. Elise suddenly remembered something.

“Oh…” she said, walking back to the nearby bed. She retrieved a jacket that was neatly folded. “This is yours. I never got a chance to thank you before.”

“Not at all, Miss Elise. Thanks for taking such good care of it.”

Aile eyed Kaden a little suspiciously, but a moment later shook it off.

“Kaden Dirk… thanks for the assist,” Aile said. “We have a transport… they should be landing any minute. We should get out there.”

“Right, about that,” Kaden replied as he draped his jacket over Yuki’s shoulders. The younger girl just froze up and looked very nervous as Kaden zipped the jacket up over her. “There are reinforcements coming from Guantanamo. Squadron strength. There’s no way they’re letting that transport get away without a fight.”

“Guantanamo? That doesn’t bode well,” Aile replied.

“This base has a pair of frames that are used for ‘optimum integration testing’… basically to see how well an advanced human can integrate with a combat frame. They are prototypes, but they have been fully weaponized for testing purposes. Here,” Kaden handed Aile what looked like a USB flash drive.

“An activation key?” Aile said as he took the device.

“Yeah, you’re a frame pilot, right?” Kaden asked.

“Yeah, Fireflies, Fastbacks, what have you,” Aile said.

“Good. Head to the West hangar. Take the frame there and get these two girls to safety. It should have enough air-to-air firepower to get you out of here safely.”

“What about you,” Aile asked as he put the key into one of the pockets on his frame suit.

“I still have work to do. Move quickly, we don’t have an abundance of time,” Kaden said.

“Understood,” Aile said with a quick nod.

“Mister Kaden, I….” Yuki spoke up.

“Don’t worry, Yuki, I’ll see you again soon, I promise,” Kaden said with a smile. “For now, go with this guy. You can trust him… but I think you know that already.”

“Ye…yeah,” Yuki replied. “I’ll take care of your jacket.”

“I know you will,” Kaden replied then turned to Aile. “Okay, be careful. I’ll see you on the flipside.”

“Ah… right,” Aile said. With one last smile, Kaden left. Aile turned to the two girls with a slightly confused look. “Well, we’d better do as he says.”

Elise nodded.

“Okay… just tell me what to do,” she replied bravely.

“Just stay behind me,” Aile checked his MP7. “Both of you.”

Yuki smiled and seemed be be relieved.

“Alright, let’s move!”

Re: Op. Lighthouse: Nexus (Chapter 26)

So, new chapter after forever. Don’t worry, I’m not here to make excuses.

Okay, I lied. Here goes.

Basically, I was stuck on this chapter for a long time. I wrote it and rewrote it several times, never quite happy, and never having an ending. I wanted this to be the final chapter for one stupid reason - I was into this crazy idea I had that it should have the same number of chapters that a TV show has episodes in a season. So, I was dead set on making 26 the final chapter, and as such I was stuck on it forever because I didn’t have an ending.

Then, the other day I realized something. I was being an idiot. I had most of the chapter done, why not release what I had? So what if the story was 28 or even 29 chapters, who cares?

So, here’s 26. Not quite done, but getting close. This will buy me some time, and hopefully some motivation to think of an actual honest to goodness ending. I have more content I will be editing into a chapter 27 of about this same length which shouldn’t take long at all, but knowing me I’ll find a way.

If there is a good thing to come out of this long hiatus and many rewrites is that the chapter is better than it was initially. Rereading it so many times I managed to cut out a lot of things that just didn’t make sense and replace them with more logical ideas. I wasn’t happy with the dialog either, and honestly I’m still not, but you gotta post sometime. Video games aren’t the only things that get stuck in ‘development hell.’

Thanks to everybody who pandered to my pathetic needs for attention. If it weren’t for you guys, I would never get anything done.

So, that said, please let me know what you think. I know it’s a little short, but more will come. I’m sick of running.

Re: Op. Lighthouse: Nexus (Chapter 26)

I’m extremely happy to see a new chapter in one of my favorite stories and It’s a good one.
As always thanks for writing for us readers and good luck avoiding writers block.

Side Note: Yes I still exist I just don’t disengage my lurking cloak very often. :stuck_out_tongue:

Re: Op. Lighthouse: Nexus (Chapter 26)

Thanks for the reply, hiddenname. I was beginning to wonder if anybody actually read this. I see the views counter go up, but nobody says anything. I can’t tell if it’s just curious newcomers clicking on the story, reading the first sentence and clicking ‘back’, or if it’s long time fans catching up on the latest installment. It’s very frustrating to put time and energy into something and get so little back in return. But what can you do, right?

Thanks for disengaging your lurking cloak to reply to me, it is much appreciated. As long as I have one person reading the story, it will eventually get done. However, the motivation I have to write is directly proportional to what I get in return. I can tell you I was poised to post again one week after I posted this chapter, but when I got no replies my energy faded, and after ten days of zero feedback I just couldn’t work up the gumption to write a single word.

Re: Op. Lighthouse: Nexus (Chapter 26)

I enjoyed it too. i love the war frames!

Re: Op. Lighthouse: Nexus (Chapter 26)

Holy moly, your back! I really have to go a few chapters back just to remember the plot again :wink:

Re: Op. Lighthouse: Nexus (Chapter 26)

Hello,

Well your probably not going to like what I have to say. I have been following your story and commenting and trying to motivate you from the beginning of it.

Waiting years for another chapter, and then reading your response in that last chapter that you have 10 projects on the go and very little time to do much on all of them, and that it is hard to continue with such a small reader base and the fact that your not going to make any money out of it etc, and now with this chapter you say that you will eventually finish it if only one person is reading, and after no replies you didn’t want to write.

Sorry but I just was NOT going to reply immediately after reading it. I did read it soon after you posted.

I can’t speak for anyone else, but I am truly sick to death of the number of abandoned stories. So much so that now, I am to the point of NOT reading any new stories until they have been placed in the completed story archive.

At least that way I know it is finished.

Op. Lighthouse: Nexus (Chapter 27)

Operation Lighthouse: Nexus
Chapter 27 - Escape

“Candid Four Seven is lining up for approach,” the transport pilot radioed.

“Understood, Four Seven,” Lang replied. “Diego, what’s the news?”

“Nothing yet, boss,” Diego replied.

“Lina, how are things on your end?” Lang asked.

“Still engaging,” Lina replied. Lang could tell from her voice that she was enduring some heavy g forces. “I have them occupied on the Southeast quadrant of the airfield.”

“Roger that. Be advised, we’re about to land the transport, so keep them busy. Skylar, give her a hand.”

“Wilco,” Skylar replied as he broke off.

“Bring it in, Candid,” Lang said.

“Roger that, beginning approach.”

“Should I help, too?” Lucine asked. “I still have a Maverick left.”

“No, hang on to it,” Lang advised. “If something goes wrong we may need to cover our escape. That missile can buy us time.”

“Ah, right,” Lucine said. She sat back and tried to relax. “Come on, Aile…”

Aile made his way quickly through the facility with Elise and Yuki following closely behind. Even though Elise hadn’t been active for a few days she was able to keep up without any trouble. Yuki, however, seemed to have very low stamina.

“Are you gonna be okay, Yuki?” Elise asked the panting girl when she began to fall behind.

“Y…yeah…” Yuki nodded as she tried to catch her breath. She adjusted Kaden’s jacket over her petite shoulders and pressed on.

“Sorry, but we can’t be slow… not at a time like this,” Aile said.

“I know,” Yuki panted, “don’t worry about me. I’ll be okay.”

“This way,” Aile said as he descended some stairs. Once on ground level they proceeded down a long hallway. As they were nearing the end of it, something caught Aile’s attention.

“There! Over there!” a voice rang out. Aile, Elise and Yuki turned around to see a group of security personnel rushing into the hallway behind them.

“Uh oh!” Aile said reflexively. One of the guards leveled a submachinegun in their direction. Aile immediately let his weapon fall to his side, grabbed both Yuki and Elise, and shoved them both behind a support pillar on the side of the hallway.

“Stay down!” Aile shouted as he roughly pushed the two girls down.

“Ahh!” Elise cried.

“Ita…!” Yuki exclaimed as her shoulder struck the wall. Aile tried his best to cover them with his body. The small cover created by the pillar was enough to keep both girls safe, but all three of them couldn’t fit completely.

“Ahh… ow!” Aile cringed when a nine millimeter bullet struck his back.

“Aile!” Elise said in alarm.

“It’s okay…” Aile said as he winced. The armor of the frame suit he was wearing was enough to stop the small caliber ammunition, but it still hurt.

Another round struck Aile’s back. He grunted in pain as he tried to shove closer to the wall, but the girls couldn’t be squeezed any further. In desperation, Aile grabbed hold of his slung MP7 and stuck it out into the open. Squeezing the trigger, he sprayed a magazine full of bullets down the hallway without looking. Two of the guards took hits.

“Gahh!” one of the guards cried out as a bullet struck his leg. The other one was hit somewhere in the upper body. He didn’t make a sound as he fell straight onto his back… It caused the rest of them to stop shooting, but only for a moment.

“This is going no…” Aile grunted as another bullet glanced off his armor, “…where.”

“Aile, what’re we gonna do?” Elise asked. Aile could tell she was very nearly panicking, only barely keeping it together. Aile completely understood as the sounds of bullets relentlessly smashing into the cement pillar was all but deafening. Yuki had her hands on her head but remained completely quiet. With all the excitement, Aile couldn’t tell whether or not she was shaking.

“Ah, dammit,” Aile said, then keyed his radio. “Lucine, do you read me?”

“Lucine?” Elise, who seemed to momentarily forget about her panic, asked in surprise.

“Aile? Where the hell have you…” Lucine replied, her voice partially masked by static.

“Tell me you have a Maverick left!” Aile interrupted.

“Yeah, just one…. what’s going on?” she replied. She could hear the gunfire whenever Aile transmitted.

“Lucine, do you have my beacon?” Aile asked.

“Yeah, I see you now. Far West side of the facility. Intermittent signal, but I have you.”

“Okay, Lucine, listen. We’re pinned down here, and I need you to put that Maverick in the building about… a hundred meters East of my beacon!”

“Aile, that’s danger close,” Lucine said worriedly. “Are you sure?”

“Yes, I’m sure! Do it, Lucine. Faster the better!”

“Understood,” Lucine replied as she banked away from Wraith. “This is Moondance, I’m breaking away to provide air support for One Oh Seven.”

“Roger that, kid. Be careful,” Lang replied.

Lucine selected the AGM-65 Maverick from her armament panel as she changed her position. Turning sharply, Lucine aimed directly at the facility’s West wing.

“I’m currently displacing… fifteen seconds!” Lucine said.

“Understood! Augh!” Aile radioed.

“Aile, are you okay down there? I can hear gunfire!”

“I’ll be better in… about twenty seconds!”

“Okay… keep the channel open.”

“Yeah!” Aile replied. He held down the PTT switch. Lucine could hear the bullets smashing, Aile grunting and Elise crying out in alarm.

“Okay, stand by…” Lucine said. Taking a deep breath, Lucine forcibly calmed her nerves. Lining up, Lucine centered the crosshairs on her display. The infrared image from the Maverick’s imaging infrared seeker lazily panned across the terrain as she approached the target. She centered the crosshair on the area of the structure about a hundred meters away from where her instruments told her Aile was located. Clicking the switch, she locked onto the structure.

“Alright, Aile, I’m ready.”

“Send it!” Aile replied.

“Moondance, rifle!” Lucine said excitedly as she squeezed the launch button.

The missile’s rocket motor ignited with a boom and it accelerated off the rail in an instant, trailing an orange flame nearly three times as long as its body. Climbing slightly, the Maverick’s guidance system prepared it for a top-down attack.

“Keep your heads down and cover your ears!” Aile said as he pushed himself up and on top of the two girls.

After several seconds the rocket motor burned out, having used up all the fuel. Now ballistic, the missile curved downward into a forty-five degree dive and pointed itself at the roof of the West wing.

Several shots hit the pillar. The guards were advancing while firing. Aile was using both his arms to cover the girls, and couldn’t cover his ears. He steeled himself for the imminent impact.

The missile was only visible by the residual heat left over from the rocket’s burn. The still red hot components at the rear of the cylindrical airframe made it resemble a shooting star descending upon the building at frightening speed.

“Good night,” Aile muttered an instant before the Maverick hit.

There was an intense gust of hot wind followed by an incredibly loud boom. The reverberation created by the explosion of the one hundred twenty five pound warhead shook the very foundation of the entire building. Dust and smoke billowed through the hallways as debris crashed to the ground.

From outside, Lucine could only watch as the missile slammed into the building like a giant sledge hammer. A great cloud of smoke was raised from the explosion, and the multi-story area near the end of the long hallway East of Aile’s beacon buckled and looked like it might collapse.

When the shaking finally died down Aile carefully pushed himself off of Elise and Yuki and took a look around. He saw sunlight somewhere in the distance where they had come from, partially obscured by the cloud of thick dust and smoke. The guards were nowhere to be seen, only a huge pile of rubble, some of it burning, where they once stood.

“Good shot, Lucine!” Aile yelled between coughs. He hadn’t intended to yell.

“Aile, are you okay?” Lucine asked, relief clearly evident in her voice.

“What?” Aile shouted again. “Sorry, I think that may have damaged my hearing!”

“I SAID ARE YOU OKAY!” Lucine shouted into the radio.

“Yeah… yeah, we’re okay!” Aile said.

Aile shook off a layer of dust that had covered his back and hair.

“Are you two alright?” Aile asked. Both girls were huddled in the small corner looking terribly shaken. Elise was pale, and Yuki probably was as well, but it was impossible to tell as she was already pale to begin with.

“We should get moving, I’ll…” Aile stopped when he noticed the puddle. He first looked to Elise, thinking her diaper had leaked. While it was indeed quite damp, her diaper was holding fast. Looking closer, Aile realized that Yuki had wet herself quite badly.

“I’m… I’m…” Yuki said as she looked down on herself in disbelief. Aile could see that tears had formed in her eyes and she was shaking all over. “I’m sorry!” she finally managed.

“It’s okay,” Aile said as gently as possible. He offered his hand to Yuki. “This is nothing new to a guy like me.”

Elise gave Aile a dry look to which he just shrugged.

“C’mon, it’ll be over soon. You’ve been remarkably brave, so just hang on a little longer, okay?” Aile added.

“O…okay,” Yuki said as Aile helped her to her feet. Her gown was soaked and dripping, and her legs were glistening in the morning sunlight that seeped in. However, apart from the accident, she was physically unharmed.

Once Yuki was up, Aile helped Elise to her feet as well. Aile was going to ask if she was okay, but Elise nodded before he could.

Aile walked up to the edge of the debris several meters away.

“Good effect on target,” Aile radioed as he examined the damage.

“Aile, the transport just touched down,” Lucine advised him.

“Roger that. We’re moving to the West hangar to seek alternative means of extraction. Concentrate on getting the C-130 crew to safety. Will rendezvous with you ASAP, how copy, over?”

“Ah, copy that,” Lucine replied.

Aile walked back to the girls.

“Let’s move,” he said. As they continued on, Aile noticed Yuki stumble.

“Ah… I’m sorry,” Yuki apologized again. She was still shaken, and was having trouble keeping her balance on her weakened legs.

“Aile, I have her,” Elise said as she moved to help Yuki along.

“Okay,” Aile nodded. “Just a little farther, c’mon.”

The trio continued to the end of the now decimated hallway and found a large, heavy door. Aile let his now empty MP7 hang from its sling and drew his Walther pistol. He found the door to be unlocked.

“Stay back,” he said quietly. Opening the door slowly, Aile checked for any potential threats. Stepping into the dark hangar, he looked around for a light switch. There was a heavy power breaker on the wall near the door. He moved to it and flipped the switch to the on position. With a loud series of clicks, the lamps on the roof all illuminated. The room was devoid of personnel.

The lights illuminated a humanlike silhouette in the center of the room. Aile suddenly sucked in his breath.

“There is no way I am this lucky…” he said in disbelief. The aerial frame situated in the center of the hangar was larger and more bulky than the FF-24 Aile was used to piloting. Similar to the MiG-42, this frame had four engines, but it was much sleeker in design, and cut a more imposing silhouette. If one were to compare this frame to a human, its build would be most aptly described as “athletic”. The arms and legs also appeared more muscular, due to housing both powerful actuators and internal weaponry. All in all it was a much more impressive machine than any other Aile had seen first hand.

“Aile…” Elise stepped up and put her hand on his back.

“This is a Lightning Four. A prototype. How the hell did they get their hands on this?” Aile wondered aloud. He turned to Elise and grinned. “Elise, this is our ticket out of here.”

A scissors lift had been set up in front of the Lightning IV. Aile, Elise and Yuki rode it to the cockpit hatch at the top of the chest. The cockpit hatch was already open, and Aile helped Elise into the rear seat of the frame. Once Elise was safely inside, Aile scooped up Yuki in his arms.

“Sorry, I’m just a little worried you might slip,” Aile said with a kind smile. Yuki blushed and swallowed.

“Thanks,” she squeaked.

Elise put one knee on the rear seat behind the pilot’s station and reached out with both arms. Aile took a step onto the Lightning and handed Yuki off to Elise.

“Careful,” Aile said as he lowered Yuki down. Elise took Yuki into her arms as the latter carefully set her feet down on the floor of the cockpit.

“I have her,” Elise said. She sat down and pulled Yuki into her lap and began to get them both strapped in.

“Let’s get this thing started,” Aile said, failing to completely hide his excitement as he hopped into the front seat. Sitting down he took out the key Kaden had given him and stuck it into the center console.

“I’ve studied this thing since it was just a drawing on a cocktail napkin,” Aile admitted. “Looks like all my fanboying is about to pay off.”

He immediately started the main computer and waited for it to boot up. A hum filled the cockpit as the systems came to life. It only took four seconds.

The menu was displayed on the center console MFD. Aile selected expedited startup, ordering up only the abridged version of the startup sequence.

“Watch out!” Yuki suddenly said. Aile reacted immediately. Standing up and drawing out his pistol, he aimed at the door below just as it swung open and one of the base security came in. Without hesitation, Aile fired. Three shots rang out and the security guard staggered backward before falling to the cold cement floor. More followed behind him. Aile continued to fire his pistol, causing the guards to take cover behind the various equipment carts scattered around the hangar.

Aile glanced toward the girls in the rear seat. Elise had released the harness and ducked behind the cockpit frame. Yuki was crouched down in front of her, but instead of hiding, she was flipping switches on the instrument panel.

Surprised, Aile wanted to watch her, or ask her what she was doing, but instinct told him there was no time. Putting his trust in the small girl he had just met, Aile fired two more rounds from his pistol at the intruding guards, causing them to keep their heads down. Amid the gunfire, Aile could hear the rising sound of the engines coming to life. He fired once more and the slide of the Walther locked back, indicating there were no more rounds in the magazine. The guards seemed to notice this as well and popped out. Aile ducked down, but just as the guards opened fire the canopy hatch came down over his head and locked into place, sealing them safely inside the armored cockpit. The guards fired anyway, but the small caliber rounds were unable to penetrate the Lightning’s armor, and to Aile, Elise and Yuki the incessant fire sounded like sporadic hail during a winter storm.

“Nice going, Yuki! You’ll have to explain to me later how you did that,” Aile said excitedly as he sat down in the pilot’s seat. The smaller girl, illuminated by the multifunction screens on the dash, had climbed back on Elise’s lap and was holding onto her. She nodded, but didn’t say anything as Elise got them strapped in once again. Once finished, Elise put her arms around Yuki for extra support and looked up at Aile. She smiled and gave him a reassuring nod. Aile smiled back.

“Right, it’s time to leave,” he said as he turned his attention forward. Aile switched the avionics on and after a momentary delay required for calibration, the outside world was brightly displayed on the screens that made up the inside of the canopy. Screens on the walls and floor also activated, providing a nearly unobstructed representation of the outside world. Aile could now see the world as if the frame was his own body. From his new point of view as a giant, the tiny guards firing at him seemed completely harmless, even trivial.

Aile took control of the frame. There were steel cables holding it in place, but Aile knew the powerful artificial muscles would be more than a match.

“C’mon!” Aile said as he commanded the frame to stand. As he stood, Aile forcefully ripped the cables out of the floor. The heavy steel cables broke off and went in haphazard directions, smashing test equipment and tool carts. One of the cables careened toward the guards, who retreated as quickly as possible, but one of them wasn’t fast enough and was knocked off his feet.

Aile felt the head of the frame hit the roof. Pieces of the rafters rained down around him and without hesitating he took a step forward. The behemoth frame, some sixty feet in height, surged forward like a tidal wave. Crushing everything in its path, the powerful frame moved toward the closed hangar doors. Aile selected the Vulcan cannons and fired a burst. Turning his head from left to right, he raked the hanger doors with twenty-millimeter ammunition, blowing holes and tearing the mechanisms apart.

Reaching forward with the arms, Aile used the immense physical strength of the Lightning to rip the doors from their tracks. With nothing to support them, the large hangar doors fell to the ground in front of them.

The world opened up in front of them. The morning sun colored the horizon orange and light blue. The cockpit was bathed in the light, and though it was only a representation of what the outside looked like, Aile immediately felt a powerful sense of freedom.

Using a switch on the left stick he selected flight mode. The four engines quickly wound up, producing a loud whine as they reached full idle.

“Elise, Yuki, hang on tight,” Aile advised.

“Okay,” Elise replied, redoubling her grip on the smaller girl.

Kolman was still monitoring the events from the control room. The main monitor, a large screen at the front of the room, showed that the West hangar doors had been breached.

“Do you have control of the Lighting?” Kolman asked.

“Negative, sir,” a female technician reported, “full control has been shifted to the pilot and overrides aren’t working. He must have the master key.”

“Dirk…” Kolman breathed. “What about the Caldwell team? Can they move to intercept?”

“No sir,” another person, a male controller, responded. “They are tied up with the unknown Kharkov that was air dropped from the transport. The captain’s unit has just taken heavy damage, status unknown.”

Kolman thought a moment and seemed to reach a decision. He turned to another of the control room personnel.

“Tell the ground crew to ready the Sandstorm. I will be personally operating it,” Kolman said.

“You, sir?” the controller asked.

“If you want something done right,” Kolman said while turning toward the door and loosening his tie, “you have to do it yourself.”

“Here we go,” Aile said, throttling up. The frame vibrated with the combined power of the engines as they howled. The dials on the central screen showed the power of all four engines rise as they propelled the Lightning forward across the ground and immediately into flight. Thundering over the tarmac, Aile turned while checking left and right.

He could see the transport, a Russian made IL-76, sitting on the middle of the runway. It had lowered its ramp, and there were people already working to free the crew of the crashed C-130 Hercules.

A warning chirped. Aile looked over to the left where he could see two Caldwell land frames. They were engaged with a single unknown frame farther out to the North. Between the two forces, Aile noticed that one of the Caldwells had already been destroyed, its twisted metal carcass smoking on the ground several hundred meters from the runway. Looking up, Aile could see his MiG-29 and the other three planes soaring above.

“Weapons,” Aile said to himself. He called up the armaments on the left display. When he saw the list of armaments his eyes widened.

Thirteen hundred twenty-three rounds remained for the twin Vulcan cannons in the head, ten AIM-120D AMRAAMs, and eight AIM-9X Sidewinders in the rotary launchers in the arms and legs. The display also showed another weapon. Aile recognized it immediately: XM-112 HDSR - Hypervelocity Dual Stage Railgun.

Selecting the HDSR, Aile glanced to his right and watched as the Lightning’s right arm automatically retrieved the handheld weapon from the back hardpoint. The heavy-looking rifle looked almost too long to be held by one hand, and Aile could feel the Lightning automatically compensating for the extra weight and air resistance on the right side.

“Girls, hang on. I’m gonna clear the road,” Aile said as he banked slightly to line up with the enemy land frames. Centering the reticle, he licked his lips and pulled the trigger.

The HDSR discharged. The first stage was that of a conventional chemical combustion, like a regular gun. From there, the explosively accelerated projectile was imparted with a greater acceleration by electrically charged rails in the barrel. The result was a super high-velocity projectile that was both lightweight and powerful. Aile had read an article that stated the bolt fired from the HDSR would be as powerful as an APFSDS round fired from the Rheinmetall cannon on an Abrams main battle tank.

An instant later the first frame was hit by the shot. The high-speed round pierced the rear armor of the Caldwell almost like it wasn’t there, tore through the internals with minimal deviation, and violently exploded out of the front of the torso. The devastating blow was immediately followed by a conflagration as the engine and fuel cannisters ignited, and the heavy land frame fell onto its side, producing a tremendous amount of black smoke as it burned in the morning light.

The second frame noticed when his partner went down, and turned toward the Lightning. However, it only took a second for the HDSR to reload, and Aile fired a second time, hitting the remaining Caldwell in the front center torso.

Aile watched the Caldwell fall onto its back, unmoving.

“Aile, is that you?” Lang’s voice came over the internal speakers. Apparently the frame automatically monitored the international emergency channel. Aile found the PTT switch and keyed it.

“Yeah, it’s me,” he looked around but couldn’t find the microphone. “We had to commandeer this frame.”

“Roger that,” Lang said. “You’ll have to tell me later how you managed to dig up a Lightning.”

“Believe me, I’m just as surprised as you are,” Aile replied. “Any sign of trouble?”

“Diego just detected multiple contacts approaching from the East. They must be stealths because we didn’t detect them until now.”

Aile searched for the sensor controls. Finding the appropriate page, he turned on all the active sensors. He also found the transponder.

“Lang, I’m setting my transponder to one three three seven, how copy?”

“One three three seven, copy that,” Lang replied. “Recommend you switch to secure channel, button two.”

“Button two,” Aile said. He flipped to the radio page and set the frequency from memory. Immediately, he could hear the chatter from his comrades.

“Tally eight bandits, F-35s, heading in from zero niner five, angels two zero at two two miles,” Diego reported.

“Copy that. Wraith is Winchester all air-to-air armaments. Anybody else have any missiles?”

“This is Wolf 107, I have missiles,” Aile responded. “Leave these guys to me.”

“Roger that, Aile,” Lang replied. Aile kicked the afterburners on and pulled into the vertical, stowing the HDSR on the back hardpoint at the same time. Ascending rapidly, Aile checked his sensors. He spotted the F-35s on his LIDAR. The next-generation sensor package allowed the Lightning to easily detect most stealth aircraft. Locking up all eight fighters, Aile selected his AIM-120s and put them into ripple firing mode. The air-to-air targeting computer automatically ordered the fighters into a “shoot list.”

Reaching twenty thousand feet, Aile lined up with the targets. The computer advised him to fire with an audible “Shoot, shoot!” cue.

“Lightning Four firing, fox three, ten rounds!” he reported as he squeezed the pickle button three times. The bay doors on the legs snapped open and the rotary launchers within ejected two AMRAAMs, one from each leg. As soon as they were away, they ejected two more. After ejecting all ten, the bay doors closed. The ten missiles climbed rapidly to a higher altitude to engage the distant fighters from above. Aile could see that they had noticed the launch and were taking evasive action. Rolling inverted, Aile eased the stick back to maintain positive G forces. He pulled a slow split S, maintaining one and a half gs, and headed back toward the facility.

“Lang, I just fired all my Slammers at the oncoming fighters. This should buy us some time. I’m going to rendezvous with the transport and drop off my passengers. From there I will move to escort the transport as we make our getaway.”

“How many passengers are you carrying?” Lang asked in confusion.

“Two. I’ll explain later,” Aile replied.

“Copy that, Aile. Proceed,” Lang replied. “Diego, keep watching those fighters and keep us posted. Katrina, how are things going down there?”

“We’re extracting the pilot now,” Katrina Malia replied, the sound of a rotary saw cutting through metal could be heard in the background. Down on the ground, Kat and two combat engineers extracted Lance from the crushed cockpit of the C-130. He was bleeding a lot, but he was still conscious. Annabelle was also with them. “We’ll be out of here in sixty seconds.”

“Roger that. As soon as they are clear, meet up with Aile and take charge of his passengers.” Lang said.

“I’d be happy to,” Katrina replied.

Aile proceeded back down to low altitude. Throttling back, he carefully watched the airspeed as the Lightning automatically changed its posture to increase air resistance and redirect thrust down and slightly forward. As the airspeed dropped into the double-digits Aile put the Lightning into a hover before setting it down softly about a couple hundred meters from the IL-76. Commanding the frame to kneel, Aile popped the hatch as the engines spooled down and became inaudible.

“Elise, I need you to take Yuki and get on that plane, okay?” Aile said while pointing toward the IL-76.

“O…okay,” Elise said. Aile could tell she was nervous, so he set the Lightning into idle mode, unstrapped and turned around. Kneeling on the seat, he reached over and helped Elise get unstrapped.

“I promise I’ll protect you,” Aile assured her, to which Elise reluctantly nodded.

“I know you will,” she replied.

Out of the corner of his eye, Aile noticed someone running over. It was Katrina. “Look, there’s Kat, she’ll take care of you, okay?”

“Okay,” Elise said, took a deep breath, and looked at Yuki.

“C’mon, Yuki.”

The smaller girl reluctantly got off of Elise’s lap. Having wet herself and then sat on Elise’s lap, both girls were now wearing pitifully wet hospital gowns.

“It’s almost over,” Aile added as he turned back to the controls. Taking the frame out of idle, Aile brought up the left arm and opened the palm right next to the cockpit. Locking the frame’s joints, Aile stood back up to help the girls onto the large mechanical hand.

“Careful,” Aile advised. Yuki sat down on the palm and grabbed hold of the thumb that was bigger than her torso. Elise stepped out onto the hand as well, but once she was secure, she turned to face Aile. For a moment they just stared into each others eyes. It was the first moment they had to actually look at each other. Elise looked like she wanted to cry, but a moment later she grinned. Putting her hands on the canopy frame, Elise leaned forward and without any hesitation kissed Aile on his lips. At first Aile was surprised, but he immediately put his hand on Elise’s upper arm and kissed her back. They couldn’t linger very long, and Elise broke off after only a few seconds.

“Thank you,” she said. Aile smiled at her.

“Sorry it took so long,” he replied.

Elise sat back next to Yuki and gave Aile a nod. Aile sat back down and reengaged control over the Lightning. He carefully lowered the girls to the ground where Katrina was there to meet them.

“Elise, long time no see,” Katrina said. “And who’s this little cutie?”

“This is Yuki,” Elise replied, motioning to the smaller girl.

“Nice to meet you, Yuki,” Kat said. “But we should get better acquainted on the plane. C’mon, we have to move.”

“I’m ready,” Elise said. Kat helped Yuki off of the Lightning’s hand while Elise carefully stepped onto the ground herself. She looked up to Aile with an uncertain expression. Noticing her apprehension, Aile waved at her reassuringly. Elise smiled and nodded, then turned toward the IL-76. Katrina gave Aile a thumbs up, which he returned. She then ushered the girls toward the waiting transport.

Aile strapped in and closed the cockpit hatch. He stood the Lighting back up and checked his surroundings. He could see the unknown friendly frame taking up position near the transport as well.

Everything seemed to be moving smoothly. Diego also reported that Aile’s missiles had been effective in slowing down the oncoming attackers. They were regrouping, but he had successfully bought them enough time.

Aile reinstated flight mode. He could feel the frame vibrating as the powerful engines spooled back up to idle.

“Aile, watch out seven o’clock high!” Lang suddenly shouted over the radio. Aile snapped his head and looked over his left shoulder. An unknown frame suddenly appeared seemingly from nowhere. Flying right at him at high speed, the frame opened fire.

Author’s Notes

Hi guys. I’m back with another chapter. If it looks long, that’s just because there was a lot of dialog. I originally intended to post all of this in one chapter, that being 26, but it was super long and I was having a hard time getting it done, so I decided to do this in the interest of progress.

I also decided to post in the same thread because that seems to be the done thing on this forum nowadays. When I posted on Foxtalestimes and ABDLstoryforum at the same time, I would always post in one thread on FTT and one-thread-per-chapter on this forum because that was the style that was favored. Now it seems to have changed, and I’m just trying to keep up with the times.

I never did get around to replying to the last few messages after I posted 26, so I will take care of that now.

Warframe is a pretty fun game. Sort of like being a space ninja. Oh, wait, you meant my frames. Thanks man, I’m glad you like it. Really, I’m pulling my punches because I am always unsure of two things: how much technology related stuff to add, and how much I want to add for a story that I basically can’t show anybody outside of this esoteric community. If I have a really cool idea and put it in Lighthouse, then I can’t use it anywhere else for fear of the association. Most of us keep this aspect of our lives separate from the rest, so I think you all can understand why I feel this way. But, what’s done is done, so I can still use everything I have added thus far.

Me too. I feel like there are people out there who know the story better than I do. I recently recompiled the first two stories, so I have a bit of a heads up on those since I read through them again. Speaking of which, I need to link those. Thanks for reminding me. I’m also glad you are still enjoying the story, Eliah. Feel free to tell me what you like or dislike. I love feedback.

The stereotype for authors is that we are a fragile bunch, and while I can’t speak for the rest, I have a pretty thick skin. Feel free to lay it on me if you are unsatisfied. Well, you already did so I guess I don’t have to say that.

Art is a struggle. It’s not something that one can easily turn up and do every day. Good authors write every day, but that doesn’t mean they produce readable content consistently. I’m not a good author, though, so I am just glad I can do this. I guess what I’m trying to say is this isn’t easy.

Even so, I hope you enjoy this new addition. I’ll try to keep 'em coming, but I can’t promise anything.

Special thanks to pampers91. He and I have been collaborating a little over PM and he’s the main reason so much progress (relatively) has been made over the last couple of months. Couldn’t have done it without you. Well, I could have, but I wouldn’t have. Wouldn’t have done it without you!

You can also thank him for getting me to revisit the old stories and recompile them into these PDF files.

Lighthouse:

Moonlight:

Nexus will get a similar treatment once it’s done. It’s might be kinda tough to track down all the chapters, but I think most of the story still exists on this forum.

Let me know if there are any problems with the downloads.

Re: Op. Lighthouse: Nexus (Chapter 26 - 27 (08 July, 2014 update))

I could have sworn I replies to this when posted…

Anyway, I highly recommend not waiting for stories to end up in the Completed section. There’s a bunch of finished stories right now that aren’t in there simply because the author’s haven’t bothered to move them there yet.

Although revisiting this now has given me an idea for something :slight_smile:

Re: Op. Lighthouse: Nexus (Chapter 26 - 27 (08 July, 2014 update))

Go on good sir!

Re: Op. Lighthouse: Nexus (Chapter 26 - 27 (08 July, 2014 update))

Might have something to do with the fact that it’s a giant pain in the ass for the writer to “move” the story (by reposting all of it in a new thread in “Completed”), where an admin or a moderator can simply click on a thread whose title has been renamed to “completed x date” and select “Move To” on the dropdown list and shift said thread to a different forum. :wink:

Re: Op. Lighthouse: Nexus (Chapter 26 - 27 (08 July, 2014 update))

There’s a reason for that, and if you want to discuss it, you can private message me or post about it in either Suggestions or Off Topic :slight_smile:

Re: Op. Lighthouse: Nexus (Chapter 26 - 27 (08 July, 2014 update))

Nice read RT thanks for the new chapter.

Re: Op. Lighthouse: Nexus (Chapter 26 - 27 (08 July, 2014 update))

Thanks RT. Is there a place where the entire set of stories for this is in one spot?

Re: Op. Lighthouse: Nexus (Chapter 28 - Finale)

Operation Lighthouse: Nexus
Chapter 28 - Clash of the Storms

The stream of red tracers lanced over Aile’s head.

“Elise!” Aile yelled when he realized the shots weren’t intended for him. The rounds impacted between Elise and the transport, kicking up a heavy cloud of smoke and dirt. The impacts were well in front of Elise, Kat and Yuki, but the explosive force was enough to knock them off their feet. Aile looked over to see the source of the shots, an unknown aerial frame, quickly approaching from the far side of the base. The frame, which Aile didn’t immediately recognize, pulled into the vertical and spun around, flying backwards with its back to the sky.

Aile could sense what it was doing. Throttling into full afterburner, he blasted off the ground at the same instant the enemy frame fired a missile at the transport plane waiting below. Firing both head-mounted cannons on full auto, Aile managed to blast the missile out of the sky before it could hit.

Continuing to accelerate into the vertical, Aile watched the enemy frame while he frantically radioed the ground team.

“Kat! Kat! Are you there? Are you three okay?”

Aile heard coughing over the radio.

“Yeah… we’re alive,” Kat radioed. “What the hell was that?”

“I’m not sure, but it’s coming back,” Aile replied. “Get Elise and Yuki to that transport and get it off the ground as fast as you can! I’ll handle this guy!”

The enemy frame came again. Aile positioned himself between it and the transport, ready to intercept any more missiles. At the same time, Aile aimed the HDSR and fired. The rifle discharged, the recoil of the powerful weapon causing the Lightning to twist a few degrees midair. The unknown frame managed to avoid the shot by changing its trajectory just before Aile pulled the trigger.

The Lightning’s computer identified the frame as ‘Sandstorm AF2’. The frame itself was smaller and faster than the Lightning, and it weaved right and left as it approached, making keeping a lock impossible. Forgetting the transport, the Sandstorm instead focused its attention on the Lightning. Aile tried to increase the distance between the two frames while simultaneously firing the HDSR, but the nimble Sandstorm was able to avoid every shot.

Without warning, the Sandstorm barreled straight toward him. Aile took the opportunity to fire the HDSR right at it, but the agile frame barrel rolled around his shot and closed in. Aile only had an instant to bring up the arms to defend himself.

The Sandstorm stepped on the Lightning as it passed over it. Aile was thrown around in the cockpit from the heavy impact, and the Lightning was knocked off balance.

“Aahhh!” Aile shouted as the world turned upside down.

“Aile!” Lang called as he watched the Lightning flip end over end.

“Enemy entering range, I’m engaging!” Lina called as her frame stomped out from behind the transport. She took aim with her recoilless rifles and fired. The high speed rounds arced through the air toward the Sandstorm. The shot was expertly aimed, and looked as if it would hit, but at the very last second the Sandstorm changed its posture just enough to avoid the rounds.

Igniting its afterburners, the Sandstorm climbed rapidly, flipped around, and brought its weapons to bare.

“Lina watch out!” Lang called at the same moment the Sandstorm fired. Lina used her frame’s arms to shield the cockpit, but the Sandstorm’s cannons tore them to shreds. One of the recoilless rifles exploded and caused the Kharkov to lose its balance. In that instant, the Sandstorm fired a missile.

“Lina!” Lang called in alarm.

The missile streaked down from above and collided with the Kharkov. There was a tremendous explosion, and the Kharkov crumpled.

Aile had barely managed to right the Lightning before hitting the ground. Kicking up a tremendous amount of dust, the Lightning skidded backwards across the terrain and finally came to a stop in the posture of a sprinter at the starting line.

“Lina?” Aile said when he heard her name over the radio. He searched for the Sandstorm, the Lightning’s head tracing his own head’s movements. He spotted it flying over the runway at fifteen hundred feet altitude. It was engaged with Wraith.

“Lina, are you okay?” Lang asked.

“Boss, this is Kat!” Her voice indicated that she was running. “I’m going to check on Lina now! I just need a minute!”

“Okay, but you get that transport…” Lang paused to avoid a shot from the Sandstorm, “… in the air as soon as possible!”

“Believe me, I know!” Kat responded.

“Skylar, move to protect the transport. Nothing touches it, understood?”

“Yessir!” Skylar replied.

“Candid, spool up your engines. You go the instant they are aboard.”

“Roger that,” the transport pilot replied.

Lang noticed the Sandstorm approaching. The enemy frame fired, and Lang snapped the stick over. Several tracers slashed by, with one of them glancing off Wraith’s right wing, scraping some sparks from it.

“Slippery as always,” a voice came over the radio. It was an open channel, the emergency frequency. Everyone heard it loud and clear. “How long do you intend to keep on running?”

“I should have known it was you,” Lang replied as he pulled Wraith into an Immelmann turn. “Dyson Kolman. This must be pretty important for you to come out here yourself.”

“You know how hard it is to find good help, Charles Lang,” Kolman responded. The Sandstorm came to a hover a few hundred feet from the ground. “Still choosing to fight on the losing side of a battle I see. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised you would take the humanitarian position.”

“Humanitarian? I don’t know about that,” Lang said as he rolled level. “But if doing this throws a wrench into whatever plans you have, then that’s all the reason I need.”

“Heh, obstinate as usual,” Kolman said. “However…”

The Sandstorm raised its weapons, taking aim at the approaching Wraith. “I think it’s time to end our acquaintance,” Kolman said as he prepared to fire.

“Lang!” Aile called as he rushed in from the side. He fired the HDSR at the Sandstorm, which evaded the shot, but in doing so failed to engage Wraith. Lang took the opportunity to fire a burst from Wraith’s cannon, but Kolman avoided that too.

“Phoenix,” Kolman growled. Igniting the afterburners, he ascended as the Lightning continued to fire at him.

“Lang, you know this guy?” Aile asked as he watched the Sandstorm flee. Aile ceased firing as the range increased.

“It’s a long story, Aile, not much of it pretty,” Lang replied. “I don’t know what he’s been doing lately, but I can assure you this man is responsible for kidnapping Elise… and for pretty much all the other trouble we’ve had over the last several months.”

“This guy is…?” Aile asked, refocusing his attention on the Sandstorm. It had turned around and was coming back toward him in a wide arc.

“Lang, this is Kat!” Katrina radioed. She had reached Lina’s Kharkov, and with all her strength she was prying open the warped cockpit hatch.

“Kat, how is she?” Lang asked.

“She’s alive,” Kat replied, her voice strained. Lang could hear the creaking of metal over the radio. “But she’s pretty badly hurt. I need a minute to get her out.”

“Alright, but hurry,” Lang said.

“I’ll keep him busy, Kat. Take care of Lina!” Aile said as he increased the throttle.

“Leave me,” Lina’s voice came over the net. Aile was startled to hear her voice sounding so weak.

“Like hell,” Lang said.

“Don’t listen to her, boss,” Kat said. “I’ll have her out in thirty seconds.”

“Roger that,” Lang replied. “Aile, I’m leaving the Sandstorm to you. We’ll take care of the transport. You just concentrate on fighting him.”

“Copy,” Aile replied.

“Aile, he’s dangerous. Not the kind to give second chances, understood?”

“Yeah, I get it,” Aile said. “Leave it to me.”

Lang turned Wraith back toward where the transport was landed and increased his speed. Kolman noticed him leaving the fight.

“Running away and leaving everything to a child?” Kolman radioed. “Even I thought you had more honor than that?”

“A child? You’re in for a world of hurt, Kolman,” Lang said as he accelerated away.

“Get back here!” Kolman said, but before he could give chase Aile fired a pair of Sidewinders at him. Taking evasive action, Kolman wasted no time in shooting the duo of missiles down with a high speed gattling on the Sandstorm’s head.

“It’s just you and me,” Aile radioed to Kolman. He positioned himself on the opposite side of him. It Kolman wanted to shoot the transport, he would have to turn his back on the Lightning.

Resolving himself to the battle, Kolman turned to face the Lightning head on.

“Aileron Phoenix,” Kolman radioed calmly. He raised his weapons and fired at the Lightning, which easily danced out of the way. “I know all about you. An irregular who can pass through national borders like they are nothing. Someone who doesn’t live by the petty rules put in place by modern society. I thought you, at least, would be able to understand.”

“What’s to understand?” Aile asked as he targeted the Sandstorm. He fired two more Sidewinders from the rotary launchers in the Lightning’s forearms.

“The future of mankind,” Kolman replied as he flew backwards, filling the air with lead from his gatling. The missiles approached, but ran into the wall of bullets. “Society has become stagnant… the weak thrive while the strong are pushed to the corners. At this rate, humankind won’t be able to progress to the next level of development.”

“What?” Aile asked. Even though Kolman was having a monologue, his flying was flawless. Aile had to acknowledge Lang’s words – Kolman was definitely good, probably as good as Aile’s boss himself. The realization was a little unnerving, and Aile felt frustrated. “Stop talking nonsense!”

Even though Aile could tell Kolman was just trying to rile him up with words, he couldn’t help but be drawn in. Perhaps the strongest weapon aboard the Sandstorm was his silver tongue.

Aile knew he had to finish things quickly, so he took aim and fired the railgun.

Kolman avoided the shot while at the same time firing his own guns. Aile hadn’t realized it was a trap.

He avoided the well-aimed shots, but some of the rounds grazed the Lightning, with several of them hitting the HDSR. There was a flash, then sparks as the railgun’s capacitors burst one after the other. The operating system detected the explosion and disengaged the rifle. Aile heeded the warnings going off in the cockpit and twisted to shield himself as the rifle tore itself apart in a brilliant display.

“Damn!” Aile lamented the loss of his most powerful weapon, but his years as a pilot who fought on the losing side of battles had taught him not to dwell on losses.

The Sandstorm continued to fire, but Aile continued to avoid the shots with cool precision. Kolman stopped firing when the separation between the two machines got to be too great.

“The girl, and the other test subjects, they hold the key,” Kolman radioed. “Modified human beings, given the gift of superiority by understanding. Controlled evolution through science. And what did society do with this achievement? Shunned it, outlawed it and hunted down and destroyed all the progress that had been made. All that remains are the few optimums that managed to stay alive.”

“So you kidnapped them? Took them against their will? How does that make you any better?” Aile asked as he throttled up to close the gap. Kolman fired, but Aile pulled the Lightning into a wide barrel roll to avoid the shots. At the same time, Aile fried both Vulcan cannons. At that close a range, Kolman couldn’t evade the extremely high speed stream of tracers, and several of them hit the Sandstorm.

“Sacrifices have to be made to progress, kid,” Kolman replied as he fired at the Lightning as it passed by. Aile anticipated that and cut the power to drop below the firing arc. Throttling back up, Aile changed direction and flew underneath the Sandstorm.

“You speak of sacrifice, but who’s sacrifice?” Aile growled. “Such words are only an evil person’s rationalization.”

Turning around, Aile acquired a hard lock on the Sandstorm. Flying sideways, he fired two Sidewinders, rotated, and fired two more. The four missiles arced in from different angles.

Stopping midair, Kolman reversed direction and flew backwards toward the ground while simultaneously firing his Gatling. He skimmed the ground while delaying the missiles, giving him enough time to destroy most of them. The Gatling ran dry before he could destroy the final missile.

“I don’t need to justify my actions to you!” Kolman replied as he evaded just in time to avoid the last missile. The Sidewinder missed him and plowed into the ground, raising a plume of dirt. Aile came in for another pass, firing the Vulcans down at the Sandstorm. Kolman also returned fire up at the Lighting, but neither frame managed to hit the other. Aile spun around and fired another burst as he coasted backwards, but after one second the ammunition ran out.

“Dammit,” Aile growled as he glanced at the armament panel. He was out of weapons.

Kolman wasn’t, however, and fired at the retreating Lightning while gaining speed.

Aile weaved back and forth, but couldn’t avoid all the shots. One of the rounds glanced off the Lightning’s wing, which raised another warning on the status panel. Aile forced himself to think. An idea came to him, and he searched the ground. He found what he was looking for and accelerated toward it.

Kolman watched the Lightning pass and turned to keep firing at him.

“Your time in this world is up, kid,” Kolman taunted. Aile ignored the Sandstorm and headed for his objective - the wreckage of the land combat frames he had destroyed earlier. The Lightning warned him that his approach speed was too fast and that he would hit the ground if he didn’t pull up. Aile used his intuition to time his maneuvers perfectly. He only had one shot at what he was about to try.

He pulled back on the controls just in time to avoid slamming into the ground. Throttling up, Aile used the leg engines to slow his descent at the last moment, and landed on the ground, skidding toward the wreckage. He took manual control over the frame and reached out, roughly colliding with the hulk of the dead Caldwell. Using the strength of the powerful arm and back actuators, Aile lifted the carcass above him and turned around on the ground.

Kolman fired as he passed overhead, and the rounds hit all around the Lightning. Aile used the Caldwell as a shield, and while several rounds hit its armored front, none of them penetrated deeply enough to hurt the Lightning.

Aile saw what he was looking for. Dropping the Caldwell, he reached forward and grasped the two anti-armor daggers that were mounted to the waist armor and tore them off. They were the same kind of daggers he had seen Lang use back at Icarus.

Aile felt a surge of confidence as he throttle back into afterburner and left the ground. Kolman saw him coming and turned to meet him.

“You’re persistent, I’ll give you that much,” Kolman said as he leveled his weapons at the approaching Lightning. “Just like Lang. But persistence is nothing without conviction!”

“I’m just a pilot, Kolman. I don’t know a whole lot about human progress or science, but even I know that somebody who picks on girls is a bad guy!”

He rushed straight toward the Sandstorm, the Lighting holding both daggers at its sides. Kolman took careful aim and fired, but Aile sensed it and rolled out of the way, only turning the minimal amount to avoid the shots. Without slowing down at all, Aile flew straight into the Sandstorm and threw the Lightning into a forward somersault. He flipped over the Sandstorm, and as he completed the maneuver he plunged both daggers into its back.

“Gah!” Kolman said as the Sandstorm’s main engine went up in flames. The force of the explosion threw the Sandstorm forward, but Kolman managed to stay aloft with the help of the smaller leg engines.

Aile accelerated away from the Sandstorm while turning.

“It’s over, Kolman,” Aile said as he completed his arc. He brought the Lightning into a hover in front of the Sandstorm.

Kolman fought to stay airborne. He caught a glimpse of the transport plane climbing away in the distance behind the Lighting.

“Not yet!” Kolman said as he suddenly flew sideways and fired a missile from an internal bay.

Aile tried to intercept the missile, reaching out with the Lightning’s arm in desperation, but it was out of reach. At such a close range the Lightning couldn’t engage the missile with its anti-missile laser system, either. The missile streaked by the Lightning and headed for the IL-76.

“Lang, missile in the air! Headed for the transport!”

“Dammit, we’re too far forward to intercept! Moondance, can you take care of it?” Lang asked.

“Leave it to me!” Luncine radioed as she made a high-g turn to change her direction toward the oncoming missile.

Boresighting the missile, Lucine worked the controls to put her plane between it and the transport. It was coming fast, arcing in from above. Once she was in position, she activated her stealth system to protect the transport in the same way she had protected Aile earlier.

The system came online, but after a brief burst of particles, it stopped. Lucine looked down at the display and confirmed her fears. She was out of particles.

She looked up at the approaching missile, then back at the helpless transport. She made up her mind and focused her attention forward.

“I won’t let you shoot them down,” Lucine said as she headed straight for it, intending to take the shot for them. The warning system started beeping. Lucine thought it was her plane’s early warning system warning her about the missile, but it was something else.

“Lucine, frame coming at you from your nine o’clock low!” Aile frantically called.

Lucine ignored it and concentrated on the approaching missile, which was growing larger in her HUD. She forced away the urge to close her eyes and put everything she had into her flying.

Just before the missile hit, she was surprised when a stream of tracers lanced in front of her. Instead of her, the frame that had arrived was shooting at the missile. The rounds hit and the missile exploded, which rocked Lucine’s F-15 back and forth. As she flew through the other side of the smoke and debris, Lucine continued breathing.

“What just…”

“Sorry I’m late,” a new voice came over the net. Lucine’s eyes widened in recognition.

“Kaden, is that you?” she asked.

“Yeah, it’s me,” Kaden Dirk responded as the FF-24 Firefly aerial frame kicked out its legs and rapidly decelerated, “are you okay, Lucine?”

“Yeah, I think so, but… you were the operative?”

“I was. Sorry, it was a secret, even within the organization. It was a sensitive operation.”

“I see,” Lucine said. She released the push to talk switch and let out a sigh of relief as she slumped down in her chair. As she did so, she felt a new bulk between her legs. Lucine sighed again, but this time in exasperation. In all the excitement, she had unconsciously given up control and thoroughly soaked her diaper.

“Moondance, who is this guy? Should we shoot him down or buy him a drink?” Lang asked as Wraith and Kub caught up to Moondance.

“This is K27 squadron, Hunter Two-Two, Kaden Dirk. I’ve been working undercover in the Juventud research facility. Wolf squadron, I’m requesting permission to join your formation in the liberation of captive test subjects.”

“Moondance, you know this guy?” Lang asked.

“Yeah, he’s a member of my squadron, I can vouch for him,” Lucine said.

“Good enough. Welcome to the party, Hunter,” Lang replied.

“Dirk?” Kolman asked. “I should have known better than to trust you!”

“Sorry, Kolman, but a man like you can’t afford the luxury of trust. You and your organization don’t respect human life, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise you’ve been betrayed.”

“You’ll pay for this,” Kolman replied.

“Not likely. Though, before I go, there is one thing you should know. You were wrong about Aileron Phoenix. He isn’t one of the missing optimums… but I am.”

“What?”

“Technically, I’m only a generation two. But as you know, us gen-twos have some unique advantages.”

“Impossible. All the generation twos were accounted for!”

“Well, it doesn’t matter if you believe me. Your time is over. I can’t say it was nice knowing you,” Kaden said, then addressed Aile. “Phoenix, we’ll look after the transport plane, so I’m leaving Kolman to you. I don’t think I have to tell you this, but he’s a dangerous man.”

“So I’ve gathered,” Aile replied as he turned to face the limping Sandstorm. Hovering in front of him, Aile took a moment to size him up.

“Eject, Kolman,” Aile said after a long moment. Kolman hesitated to reply.

“You’re letting me live?” he finally said.

“No,” Aile shook his head. “I just want to see your face before I kill you.”

A silence hung between the two pilots. After a long moment passed, Kolman suddenly throttled up as much as he could and let out a battle cry as he rushed toward the Lightning. Aile simply watched him come, but a moment before they collided he spun out of the way, ending his rotation by plunging a dagger into the side of the Sandstorm’s torso. The blade, tipped with a jet of plasma, effortly passed through the thin armor and into the cockpit, evaporating Kolman’s body in an instant.

Aile released his grip on the dagger and the Sandstorm fell. Aile watched the machine fall into the ground where it crashed and then caught fire. Aile watched the burning wreckage for a moment, and was satisfied that the threat presented by Dyson Kolman was no more.

“Lang, I’m done here. I’m joining the formation,” Aile radioed. “What’s the status?”

“Diego?” Lang asked.

Diego’s Hornet was still flying high-altitude cover.

“The F-35s that weren’t downed by Aile’s missiles have regrouped and are coming. They will be in firing range in three minutes.”

“Anybody have any missiles left?” Lang asked.

“I have missiles. Half a dozen one-twenties,” Kaden replied.

“Good. Everybody form up on the transport and we’ll get out of here. Mr. Dirk, please cover our retreat.”

“Wilco,” Kaden replied.

“Hang on, I have a problem,” Lucine said.

“What is it?” Lang asked.

“That last burn ate up the rest of my fuel,” Lucine said.

“We have a tanker standing by over the Atlantic,” Lang said.

“That’s a kind offer, but…” Lucine said as she watched her engine status on the main display. “I ran out of fuel a little while ago. The EPU fired automatically, but it’s all but gone.”

The number-one engine suddenly coughed and quit.

“I just lost number-one,” Lucine said. She released the push to talk switch and glanced at her lap. “In more ways than one…”

“Lucine, bail out,” Kaden radioed. “I’ll pick you up and then we can go shoot missiles at the bad guys together.”

Lucine hesitated, but knew she couldn’t linger. It was time to take action.

“Alright. I’ll leave it to you, Kaden,” she said. She checked her altitude, speed and heading, adjusting slightly and pointing the flight path indicator at the empty sea beyond the coast below. The second engine suddenly flamed out as well, but there was enough momentum to carry her fighter to its final destination. Lucine made sure her restraints were tight, and that there were no loose objects left in the cockpit. As the speed dropped, she took a moment to look upon the dash of her beloved fighter one last time.

“It’s been a hell of a run,” Lucine said as she ran her hand over the instrument panel. She looked to her left and saw that Kaden was in position to catch her. The speed dropped below two hundred knots and the stall warning sounded. “Alright, Kaden, I’m punching out of the office.”

“Leave it to me,” Kaden responded.

Taking a deep breath, Lucine released the flight controls and gripped the ejection handles at the sides of her seat. She steeled herself and pulled up on them simultaneously. The canopy was blasted away, and then a moment later the seat rocketed away from the fighter. Lucine’s frame suit protected her from the sudden gust of two hundred mile an hour wind, but she still had to endure fifteen gs of acceleration. A moment passed and the parachute deployed, the seat dropping away from her. Lucine gripped the harness as she hung helplessly from the parachute and floated toward the sea below.

Kaden skillfully manipulated his frame’s arms as he simultaneously maneuvered into position. Opening the large mechanical fingers, he carefully took Lucine into the palm of the Firefly’s hand. Lucine’s parachute caught in the wind, but Kaden held onto her as she released it. As the chute fluttered away, she looked down at the fighter Moondance as it hit the surface of the sea. There was an explosion, and pieces of the fighter skipped across the surface. Several small secondary explosions rang out. The system that was designed to protect the fighter’s secrets destroyed all of the important components with small explosives. Lucine couldn’t keep from shedding a few tears.

“This is Hunter twenty-two, I have her,” Kaden said as he opened the cockpit hatch. He carefully pulled the hands closer to the cockpit and set the auto-hover. Unstrapping from the seat, Kaden stood up and reached out to Lucine. She took his hand and Kaden pulled her inside all at once, causing her to squeak in surprise.

Kaden landed back on the seat and pulled Lucine onto his lap as he shut the cockpit hatch.

“I forgot how strong you are,” Lucine said to Kaden.

“Sorry, it’s only a single. I gave the two-seater to your friend Phoenix.”

“It’s okay, as long as you don’t mind me sitting in your lap,” Lucine said with a somewhat shy smile.

“Good work, Hunter,” Lang replied. “Is she okay?”

“She’s secure,” Kaden said. “We’ll proceed to cover your retreat.”

As Kaden took control over the Firefly again, he heard a call from the Hornet.

“Hang on, something is weird,” Diego radioed. “The F-35s have peeled off and are retreating.”

“What?” Lang asked.

“Wait, I have another contact,” Diego said as his plane orbited high overhead. “Something coming in from the Southwest.”

“A fighter? Frame?” Lang asked.

“No…. it’s too small. This signature… that’s…” Diego paused. “A cruise missile!”

“A what?” Lang asked. “Where is it headed?”

“The facility!” Diego said. “Somebody’s shooting at the facility!”

“Hunter, you know anything about this?” Lang asked.

“No, it’s not us,” Kaden replied. He thought for a second, then suddenly his eyes widened. “Phoenix! Get away from the facility!”

“What is it?” Aile asked.

“Everybody, make best speed toward the sea! They are trying to protect their secrets!”

“Wait, is that a…” Lucine said as her eyes widened.

The blinding flash of light confirmed her fears.

“A nuke…” Lucine said, her face showing her shock.

“Hang on!” Kaden said a moment before the pressure wave hit.

It started as a low rumble, but then all at once the Firefly was hit by the massive wave. Lucine cried out, but Kaden held onto her with his left arm while using his right to fly the frame. He quickly recovered from the jarring impact.

“You okay?” Kaden asked.

“Yeah? What about them?”

The radios were filled with static, a result of the burst of gamma rays interacting with Earth’s magnetic field. It took a few seconds to clear up.

“… still up,” Diego’s voice said.

“Everyone report in,” Lang said.

“Kub, still flying,” Skylar said.

“Hunter Twenty-two and passenger are fine,” Kaden radioed.

“Candid, respond,” Lang said. There was no reply from the transport. “Candid… Candid, are you okay?”

The transport plane had been rocked by the pressure wave, but unlike the rest of the planes it hadn’t taken any action to right itself. It was lazily tipping its right wing toward the ocean below.

“It’s the EMP!” Skylar said excitedly. “That old transport plane wasn’t properly shielded!”

“Candid, pull it up!” Lang said. “It’s no good, they’re completely NORDO!”

Kaden was about to take action, but noticed something coming from behind.

“That’s…”

“Hang on Elise!” Aile’s determined voice shouted over the radio.

The Lighting had broken the sound barrier and was flying straight toward the falling transport. Aside from losing a couple of service panels, it had weathered the blast wave well.

“Aile!” Lang called. “What is he…”

Aile flew straight to the transport, kicking the legs forward and putting the arms to the sides to rapidly slow down as he flew underneath it. Matching its speed, Aile ascended while using the arm controls to raise his machine’s arms above its head. He roughly collided with the underside of the transport, effectively catching it on his shoulders.

He throttled into full afterburner. The engines lit up, white hot cones of exhaust scorching the air beneath the transport.

“Come on, Lightning!” Aile shouted as he poured every ounce of his will into the controls. Engaging ‘War Emergency Power’, Aile pushed the engines to one hundred fifty percent power.

Even though the Lightning was extremely powerful, the transport was three times bigger than it. Aile held the throttle forward as the Lightning’s computer began to issue frame stress warnings, and he could hear the joints creaking under the immense load.

“Can he do it?” Lang asked worriedly.

Amazingly, the transport began to level off, its descent slowing. Bottoming out only a hundred feet over the churning sea, the transport, under the power of the Lightning, began to nose up and gain speed. Kicking up a massive spray of seawater, the Lightning shuddered as it propelled the transport back into forward flight.

Various excited voices filled the radios.

“I can’t believe it!” Skylar said.

“Way to go, hermano!” Diego said.

“Aile, you are completely insane!” Lucine chided.

Inside the cockpit, Aile was sweating. Even though he wasn’t putting any physical effort into lifting the plane, he felt like he was holding up the one hundred fifty ton aircraft on his own shoulders.

The alarms in the cockpit intensified. The Lightning was at its limit.

“Lang, I don’t think I can keep this up,” Aile said through clenched teeth, his voice strained. He noticed something out of the corner of her eye. Turning his head, Aile noticed the IL-76’s left engines blowing out white mist as they spooled up. He looked right, and noticed those were coming back online as well.

“This is Candid,” the pilot’s voice radioed. He sounded completely worn out. “We lost our electricals when that nuke went off, but we managed to reset the breakers and get primary systems back online. Damn EMP even fried our radios, but thankfully the rescue team’s portable transmitters are tougher. Question though, how are we still flying?”

“The Lightning is currently supporting you, Candid,” Lang replied. “Recommend you take the load off his shoulders as quickly as possible.”

“Holy… roger that!” the transport pilot responded. A few seconds later and the IL-76’s engines were at full throttle. Aile could literally feel the weight lifting from his shoulders as it began to fly under its own power again.

He sighed in relief over the radio.

“You okay, Aile?” Lang asked.

“Still flying,” Aile said, his voice exhausted.

“Good. Candid, come right to heading zero four seven, we’ll hit the tanker and get the hell out of Coalition territory. Watch your airspeed… riding the Lightning warped some of your fuselage which could lead to interesting aerodynamic characteristics.”

“Roger that,” the pilot of the IL-76 said emphatically.

“Wolf squadron, go stealth, but maintain active scanning. Diego, what’s the news?”

“The enemy planes aren’t coming back,” Diego replied. “Looks like they got orders to leave us alone.”

“Stay on guard. Hunter two-two, take point. You’re the only one with any weapons left,” Lang said.

“Copy that,” Kaden replied.

“Aile, we’ll fly escort. You just concentrate on keeping close to the transport,” Lang ordered.

“Wilco, boss,” Aile replied. He pulled the damaged, but still airworthy, Lightning prototype next to the transport plane.

“Wolf one oh seven, some of our passengers want to talk to you. I’m handing them the radio,” the transport pilot said.

“Copy that, Candid. Go ahead,” Aile replied.

After a few seconds, Katrina came over the net.

“Aile, are you okay?” Katrina said.

“Yeah, Kat. You?”

“We’re all here. Thanks… for catching us.”

“You’re welcome. Is Elise alright?”

“Yeah. A little shaken, but she’s okay. Want to talk to her?”

“Yeah, could I?”

“Recommend you switch to secure channel, button nine.”

“Button nine,” Aile confirmed as he adjusted the radio frequency from memory. A few moments passed before a transmission came over the radio.

“Aile?” Elise’s voice said.

“Yeah, it’s me. Are you okay, Elise?”

“We’re fine,” she said, but before she could continue, Aile heard her sob.

“It’s okay, Elise. We’re all alone on this channel,” Aile said.

Elise, who was on a voice activated microphone, began crying. Aile looked over at the transport and felt utterly helpless, like they were still worlds apart. He wanted nothing more than to hug her.

“I’m sorry, Elise… that you had to go through so much. And that I wasn’t strong enough to protect you from it.”

Elise took a few moments to calm herself enough to speak.

“Aile, you came for me. I knew you would, and I know you did everything you could. I’m sorry I have caused you so much trouble.”

Aile breathed a sigh.

“It’s not your fault. The man responsible… he won’t be bothering us anymore.”

“So… it’s over?” Elise asked.

“Yeah,” Aile gazed out toward the horizon. “It’s over.”

The mixed formation continued Northward, away from the facility, drawing contrails in the cool morning air.

Re: Op. Lighthouse: Nexus (Epilogue)

Epilogue

Spring was just around the corner, but it was still cold in Oregon. As such, the majority of students opted to stay in doors for their physical fitness period. However, in the cold morning fog, one student had ventured outside to get his exercise.

The track was silent, the recycled rubber surface damp with mist. Arnold Tyler sat at the start line, carefully stretching. He winced as he reached for his outstretched foot. The injury he had incurred earlier in the year hadn’t completely healed. The doctor had advised him to take it easy, but he was going crazy just sitting around. His physical therapist would chastise him again, but Arnold didn’t care. He had to run.

Once his stretching routine was completed, Arnold stood up. He took a deep breath and steeled himself against the pain as he took the first step forward. Another step, then another, Arnold began to pick up speed. His wound protested, but he focused instead on the cold air on his face. The first bend in the track came and he rounded it while increasing his speed. He felt a little more bold that morning, and decided to try for a nine minute mile time. Considering he wasn’t supposed to be walking, he thought that time would be pretty good.

As he reached the second bend, Arnold felt a sharp, stabbing pain surge through his abdomen. He tried to shake it off, but it was too much, and he felt his legs buckling. He stumbled a couple of times, and then finally fell to his knees. Cringing in pain, Arnold held his body as the pain began to subside. After taking a couple of breaths, he tried to stand, but the pain returned.

“Damn,” Arnold muttered as he let the pain pass. He knew he should quit there and then, but he wasn’t ready to stop just yet. He had to at least finish one lap.

He steeled himself again, and tried to stand. The pain came again, and he gave up, dropping back to his knees. However, just as he was about to lose hope, he felt someone grasp his arm.

Arnold looked to his left and saw a familiar face. Lucine Arlette was taking his arm and putting it over her shoulders.

“Lucine!” Arnold said.

“Take it easy, Arnold, we’ll help you,” Lucine said. Arnold felt someone grasp his right arm. He looked over with tear filled eyes as Aile Phoenix put his right arm over his shoulder.

“Aile…!” Arnold said, barely holding back sobs.

“It’s alright, buddy,” Aile said with a warm smile. “Let’s do this together.”

They began a slow, but steady trot around the track. With the added support of his friends, Arnold felt his pain disappearing.

End

Re: Op. Lighthouse: Nexus (Ch. 26 - Final (24 December, 2014 update))

Woohoo! Finally an end to this story :wink: And a good one as well! Thanks

Re: Op. Lighthouse: Nexus (Ch. 26 - Final (24 December, 2014 update))

I’m glad you liked it, Eliah. Thanks for commenting!

Re: Op. Lighthouse: Nexus (Ch. 26 - Final (24 December, 2014 update))

Is there any place where this awesome story is in one piece in its entirety? 8)