So, today marks two months since I’ve released a chapter. Geez, months between releases… does that mean I’m an awesome writer like CS Fox yet? Haha…. anyway… sorry to make you guys wait. I decided since chapter 11 is fairly short that I would bundle it together with 12… which is unusually long. Hope you cats enjoy it!
Op. Lighthouse: Nexus (Chapter 11-12)
Operation Lighthouse: Nexus
Chapter 11: A Pilot’s Work
She hadn’t even run a half mile, but despite that Elise was feeling exhausted by the time they met for dinner. For someone like her, a frail girl with almost zero athletic abilities, the run was quite taxing. However, she was determined to keep at it. She wouldn’t give up until she could keep up with her friends.
Despite her resolve, her body was protesting. She was tired, and barely managed to stay awake through dinner. As soon as they were through eating, she decided that she was going to turn in early.
“I’ll make sure she gets into bed okay,” Rachael offered as they got up. Elise began to gather up her utensils and garbage from her meal, but Aileron stopped her.
“I’ll take care of that, babe. You just get to bed,” he said. Elise tried to protest, but was interrupted by a yawn. She blinked her eyes several times, then looked up wearily at Aileron, clearly defeated. She nodded her reply. Aileron gave her a hug, which she barely returned.
“Good night,” Elise said. Aileron smiled at her.
“Good night,” he replied. With that, Rachael and Elise left.
“You don’t have to…” Elise said, then yawned again, “… stay with me. It’s still early.”
“It’s okay,” Rachael said, “if you’re going to bed I’m going too… it’s not like I have anything else to do.”
Elise didn’t pick up on the sadness in Rachael’s voice. Even before her public accident, Rachael didn’t have many friends. She had everything that she needed to be popular except for one thing, the personality. However, she always wanted to be in the ‘in’ crowd, and as such tried very hard. In fact, she tried too hard, and that desperation was what afforded her a one way ticket to losersville. However, unexpectedly, it was there where she found real friendship. With Elise, and to a much lesser extent with Aileron and Arnold. Truthfully, ever since Aileron yelled at her she had seen the world in a much different way. Also, she had a lingering fear of the boy, even if he had been kind to her every day since then.
As for Arnold, the reason she avoided him was quite different. She actually rather liked Arnold, but because of her lack of confidence, she felt very uncomfortable if ever left alone with him.
Once they arrived at their house Elise collapsed onto her bed. Rachael watched her for a bit, wondering if she was going to just stay as she was. The way she had landed caused her skirt to settle in such a way that her diaper was completely visible, and Rachael could tell at a glance that it was quite wet. After a moment’s hesitation, she approached her friend and shook her gently.
“Elise, you can’t go to bed like that,” Rachael said gently. Elise shifted a little.
“Why not?” she murmured. Rachael smiled.
“You have to get out of your uniform at least… and you should probably change.”
Elise groaned, then took a deep breath and rolled over, sitting up. She rubbed her eyes sleepily.
“You’re right,” she said grudgingly. “I might as well take a shower too.”
After a few minutes Elise stepped out of the bathroom. Clad in only a white tee shirt and a new diaper, Elise padded wearily across the hardwood floor of their room. Rachael watched her as she approached her bed, her eyes barely managing to stay open. Deciding it best to help her, Rachael got up from where she was sitting and approached her friend.
“Here, let me help you,” Rachael said, guiding Elise to bed. As Rachael pulled back the covers, Elise sat down, then fell onto her pillow. Only, her aim was off, and instead of her head hitting the soft, fluffy pillow, it instead impacted with the hard, wooden headboard. Rachael heard the thud, but it was too late to prevent it.
“Ahh!” Elise cried out in surprise, and a moment later when the pain hit her, she began to sob.
“Oh my… Elise, are you okay?” Rachael asked, wide eyed. Elise was cradling her head in her hands, crying softly.
“Oww…” Elise whimpered, rubbing the back of her head. Rachael inspected the injury, and was relieved that aside from a forming bump, there was no damage or blood to be seen.
“Poor thing,” Rachael said with a sympathetic smile. She helped Elise get properly into bed.
“Thank you,” Elise said, still sobbing a bit. She offered Rachael a drowsy thumbs-up. “I’m okay,” she said. Rachael failed to completely stifle a laugh.
“What?” Elise asked confusedly.
“Nothing, it’s just that you’re acting more and more like Aile every day.”
“Oh,” Elise said, looking thoughtful, “that’s good.”
“It is?” Rachael asked.
“Yeah,” Elise said, then closed her eyes and smiled. “Aile is great… why wouldn’t I wanna be more like him?”
“I swear,” Rachael shook her head, “you’re hopeless.”
“Wow, I am tired,” Aileron said as he laid down on his bed. Arnold sat down on his own.
“Really?” he said, then glanced at the alarm clock. “It’s only eight… a bit early for you, isn’t it?”
“It is,” Aileron admitted, “but I guess carrying a hundred pound girl on your back while trying to run a half mile can take a lot out of a guy.”
“That and you didn’t sleep much last night,” Arnold interjected.
“And it was one hell of a weekend,” Aileron added. “I guess it all adds up.”
“Yup,” Arnold agreed. After that they were silent for a while. A few minutes later Arnold looked over to see that Aileron had fallen asleep. For a moment he watched his friend and thought about him.
He knew that Aileron was more than he appeared, it was just something he felt. Sleeping like that he appeared as just an innocent teenage boy, but when he was awake Arnold could see something unique in his eyes. A kind of spirit completely foreign to a youngster like him. He wished Aileron would tell him more, but at the same time he respected that he didn’t have to. Whatever Aileron’s secrets were, they wouldn’t affect their friendship. Arnold had already decided that.
Rachael awoke at about four thirty in the morning. She opened her eyes, noticing first the eerie shadows cast upon the ceiling from Elise’s night light. It was way too early to be awake, but Rachael had to use the bathroom. Badly. So, grudgingly she pushed aside her covers and began to get up. The air was cold, and she shuddered as her need grew more pressing. She quietly stepped onto the cold hard wood floor and began to make her way toward the bathroom when suddenly Elise shouted.
“No!” Elise said, sitting up in bed. Rachael, startled badly, turned to see Elise hugging her knees, her gaze transfixed on the wall directly affront her. At that moment Rachael had a decision to make. She looked at the bathroom door, then back at Elise, then back at the bathroom door. She bit her lower lip, knowing she couldn’t dilly dally at a time like this, but at the same time she knew she couldn’t just leave Elise alone after waking up from a nightmare. Sighing in defeat, she turned around and headed to Elise’s side.
“Elise, are you okay?” Rachael asked. She didn’t reply. Rachael carefully knelt down next to Elise and looked at her more closely.
“Elise, what is it… did you have a nightmare?” she asked.
“It…” Elise said softly, a tense edge in her voice.
“It… felt real,” Elise said.
“It’s okay, it was only a dream,” Rachael assured her.
“But… it felt so real,” Elise said, her eyes reflecting her distress.
“They… they were hurting her. She was crying for help…”
“Who?” Rachael asked. Elise turned and looked deep into Rachael’s eyes. Her gaze was distant, and it put Rachael ill at ease.
“My sister,” Elise replied, tears forming in her eyes.
“But, Elise,” Rachael said. She shivered as her bladder sent a final warning, “you don’t have a sister.”
Elise thought for a long moment.
“Right…” she said, “you’re right… I don’t.”
“Go back to sleep,” Rachael offered, giving Elise a hug. Elise hugged her back, and at the same time, Rachael felt her muscles twitch irregularly. She inhaled sharply, feeling an intense sense of urgency, but it was too late. The pressure that had been steadily building reached a peak, and she felt her bladder involuntarily spasm as she lost control. The next thing she felt was a hot feeling as the wetness soaked through her panties, then down her thighs. With some effort she was able to stop the flow quickly, but not before her pajama bottoms were noticeably wet and there was a small puddle on the floor. Rachael hung her head, sighing heavily. She was about to tell Elise what had happened, but then realized that the other girl had fallen asleep in her arms. Rachael smiled a bit at the sleeping Elise and carefully laid her down and tucked her in. After that she hurried to the bathroom, thinking that maybe it would be a good idea to ask Elise if she could borrow pull-ups to wear at night.
The rest of the week was fairly uneventful. Elise ran with Aileron after her music class every day. She had intended to drop it, but Aileron encouraged her to stick with it and develop her talent. As she didn’t have a seventh class, it was more practical for Aileron to run with her then. Of course, Aileron already ran with Arnold and Lucine at sixth period, but running again with Elise wasn’t a big deal since she couldn’t even run a mile yet. Arnold occasionally joined them, but Lucine kept her distance. Even though Elise had really done nothing to hurt Lucine, the latter still didn’t like her.
Friday rolled around, and after seventh period class Aileron had to bid Elise farewell.
“You’re coming back on Sunday, right?” Elise asked. She had grown so used to having Aileron there all the time that seeing him leave for the weekend almost had her crying. Aileron offered a reassuring smile.
“I’ll be back real soon,” Aileron said, “but even so I’ll miss you.”
“I’ll miss you too,” Elise said quietly, trying to keep from crying. Aileron bent down a bit and they kissed.
“This is getting too hard,” Aileron said as he trudged through the thick woods toward his hidden motorcycle. He had spoken to Lang earlier in the week and lined up some work. Late Friday night he would be flying a special mission to Via. He wasn’t sure what the objective of his mission was, only that it had to be carried out under the cover of darkness. After a rest in Via, he would return Saturday morning back to Icarus to complete the mission. Lang had offered him a generous sum of money for the job. In fact, it was a bit too generous. Aileron suspected that Lang had an idea of what was going on.
His Cessna Skyhawk, a recent addition to his ‘fleet’, was as he had left it. The small, single engine prop easily shared a hangar with his Albatross. Compared to the L-139 and MiG-29 he owned, the Cessna was a very inexpensive aircraft which he used for the sole purpose of going back and forth between there and the airfield. He would’ve used the Albatross, but that was reserved in case he needed a getaway vehicle in the event something went terribly wrong at school. Using the Cessna for this also helped keep them low-profile.
After Aileron secured his bike he walked over to the waiting Skyhawk, patting the nose of the Albatross as he passed. The fairly new Skyhawk was in tip top shape and ready to sortie. He did an abridged preflight, then started the aircraft up and taxied her out. After locking up his hangar, Aileron remounted his Skyhawk and proceeded to take off into the fading light of the winter Friday.
Op. Lighthouse: Nexus (Chapter 11-12)
Chapter 12: Raid
The Cessna touched down gently at Icarus airfield a few hours later. Aileron taxied off the runway and toward the hangar, where he came to a stop. Stepping out of the aircraft, the young pilot shouldered his backpack and headed toward his room, leaving the bird to the ground crew.
“How was the flight?” a familiar voice asked. Aileron turned to see Chuck Lang walking up.
“Slow,” Aileron said with a smile, shaking Lang’s hand.
“It’s been a while since you’ve been on a mission, hasn’t it?” Lang asked.
“Too long,” Aileron said, “I’m very much looking forward to flying my jet.”
“I’ll bet,” Lang replied with a chuckle, “hey, do you have a few minutes? There’s something I wanna show you.”
“Sure,” Aileron said.
They descended down into the secret hangar via the hidden stairwell.
“So, what do you want to show me?” Aileron asked curiously.
“That,” Lang said when their feet met the concrete ground of the former hardened shelter. Aileron looked up and beyond a couple of jets, one of which was his own, was standing a familiar frame. Only, it wasn’t quite the same MiG-42 that Aileron had sold to Lang a couple of months prior.
“Whoa,” Aileron said, his eyes widening. The MiG-42 Fastback had been heavily modified, and repainted in custom navy blue on gray color scheme. The colors would do little to reduce the visibility of the Fastback, but it was certainly striking.
“We’ve made some improvements,” Lang said with a smirk.
“I can see that,” Aileron said. They approached the frame and looked up at it in admiration. As the hangar wasn’t tall enough to accommodate the 56 foot tall beast, the frame was kneeling on one knee, almost as if bowing to it’s operator as a knight would to his king.
“We’ve replaced the Russian avionics with mostly American stuff. The computing power isn’t much improved, but the parts are much easier to get a hold of. Plus, everything is in English now.”
“The warnings and symbology was already in English before,” Aileron pointed out.
“Yes, it was, but the software certainly wasn’t. We’ve traced this guy’s origin back to Germany, where it was stolen.”
“That’s interesting,” Aileron said, nodding in comprehension.
“I had intended to replace the engines with American ones, but you just can’t beat the Russians when it comes to frame engines. Luckily I was able to get a hold of a pair of RD-44MKs.”
“The engine they call the ‘Sea Hornet’?”
“Yep. The smaller leg engines are the same as before, but I went ahead and had them rebuilt. The acceleration and maneuverability is fantastic.”
“Looks like you added more armor… that’s a good idea,” Aileron said, remembering how the frame’s original left arm had been blown off by an enemy air-to-air missile strike. That arm was sitting somewhere at the bottom of the ocean next to Lighthouse academy, and was probably home to hundreds of small fish by now.
“We improvised an FF-24 ‘armor up’ kit for that. Also, we changed the armament. Instead of the dual thirties, we went with an asymmetrical set up. The left arm houses a GAU-22 twenty-five millimeter, and on the right arm,” Lang puffed up a bit with pride, “is a Bofors forty millimeter cannon.”
“A Bofors?” Aileron asked in bewilderment. “Just add a one oh five millimeter howitzer and this thing’s firepower will rival that of the Spooky gunship.”
“Yeah, but can a Spooky pull ten Gs? I don’t think so.”
They both laughed over the joke that no one outside of airpower enthusiasts would ever understand.
An hour later and Aileron was sitting in his jet and being raised up to ground level on the heavy freight elevator. As he was being ascended he went through the familiar checklists. The engines were at full idle as he reached the top, and the elevator locked into place with loud report. Checking both directions for ground traffic, Aileron slowly added power to the engines. Wraith moved forward smoothly, turning toward the nearby taxiway at Aileron’s command.
The sun was slowly setting to the West. In a few minutes it would be dark enough for Aileron to sortie. Lining up with the runway, he applied the brakes and waited for his clearance. As he was standing by, Aileron initialized the sophisticated plasma stealth system, or PSS. With this system he could fly right into a radar beam and still be undetected. The only drawback from this system, aside from it’s substantial power requirements, was that it made the aircraft glow. It was still a good trade off, though, since the likelihood of stumbling to within visual range of an enemy aircraft was quite low. Especially with a talented pilot, such at Aileron, at the stick.
“Wolf one oh seven, you’re clear for take off,” the tower radioed to him after a few minutes. The sun was all but set now, and cast only a faint glow on the airfield and surrounding scenery.
“Roger that,” Aileron said. He added power gently until the twin Pratt & Whitney turbofans were overcoming the resistance of the brakes. Releasing the wheel brakes, Aileron felt the familiar kick in the pants as Wraith lurched forward. Licking his lips, Aileron steeled himself for the feeling that he had been waiting all week for. He shoved the throttles into full after burner, feeling the onset of G forces as the rocket-ship-like Fulcrum blasted down the runway at high acceleration. Passing quickly through one hundred and fifty knots, Aileron pulled the stick back. The aircraft just about jumped off the runway, and within an instant was heading dead vertical, still accelerating.
“Airborne!” Aileron radioed excitedly as he snapped the landing gear up. He rolled twice as he passed one thousand feet, then settled into a less steep climb to conserve fuel.
“Good luck, Wolf one oh seven, and have a nice night.”
“Thanks tower, you as well,” Aileron said as he climbed into the fading sky.
As usual, it was an uneventful flight. Routine, even. Only Aileron didn’t usually fly at night. Usually he would be on his way back to the States before the sun had set, and it was a rare occasion that he flew away from the setting sun. So, instead at having a pleasing sunset to watch, this time he had the darkening of the sky affront him. Climbing over the mid to high clouds, Aileron was treated to a beautiful view of thousands of stars, obscured only slightly by the rising moon. He sighed, wishing Elise were with him. He had left Lighthouse earlier that day and he already missed her terribly. He knew that he would be seeing her soon, but even the couple of days apart was hard to endure.
Within about four hours Aileron was on approach to Helios airbase, which was a coastal base in the Republic of Via. He landed with practiced grace and parked his aircraft at the guide of the ground crew. Immediately after Wraith was parked and the engines were shut down, members of the ground crew began detaching the cargo-pod from Wraith’s centerline.
That night Aileron stayed in an unfamiliar room, and for the first time in a while he felt a feeling that he almost didn’t know: loneliness. Aileron was used to moving around from place to place, since it had been like that for him for a long time. However, as of late he had a place to call home. Two, in fact. He had been constantly sleeping at either Lighthouse Academy or at Icarus airfield. This unfamiliar room felt cold to him, even though he was on a tropical island. In any case, he was looking forward to getting back to Icarus the next morning. He had to get some sleep for the flight back, since he would be landing in the morning light he would have to be extra vigilant so as to not get caught.
The reason he was landing in the morning was because of the inconvenient timing of the mission. Aileron wasn’t sure what he was delivering, but he did know that the guys at Helios needed it that night. Because he had already been up all day, a lot of which he spent traveling in two separate aircraft, he wouldn’t be expected to fly back to the US immediately after arriving at Via because it would be unsafe. So, this time, they just bit the bullet and scheduled him some downtime in Via so he could be well rested when he returned the following morning. It was an unusual set up, and Aileron was certainly not used to being around so many people who didn’t speak English. At least much of the crew at Helios spoke some of his language, but it wasn’t great English by any means.
Aileron tried to clear his mind. The trick he used to get to sleep was to focus on one thing and keep it in his head until his body and mind relaxed enough to initiate a sleep cycle. As was normally the case, he focused on memories of being with Elise.
Lately he had been forced to make some bad memories with her. The whole debacle with her father and the situation that arose because of that. It was stressful to say the least. He wouldn’t even think about the possibility of losing his beloved. He took comfort in knowing that the reason he was apart from her that evening was for their benefit, and the money Lang had promised to pay him upon his return would cover Elise’s tuition for the next semester. He was ensuring their being together by taking this job, even if at the time it was a hard one to take.
Shaking off the negative feelings, Aileron focused on the positive ones. He took his pillow from beneath his head and instead hugged it closely, imagining it was Elise. Of course, a pillow was very light compared to a human body, but he threw logic to the wind and tried to imagine what she smelled like, and the sounds of her calm breathing as she slept atop him like before. Those thoughts were enough to get him relaxed, and before he knew it sleep had taken him to the world of dreams.
The next morning Aileron awoke refreshed. It was still dark, and he had only gotten a few hours of sleep, but he was very healthy so it was plenty. He got up, showered, and got dressed in the clothes he had brought with him. Before heading out of his borrowed room he donned his flight suit and packed his effects into his backpack, tossing it over his shoulder as he walked out the door.
His plane was well taken care of, but nevertheless he did a thorough walk around. Everything was in order, and they had filled the tanks, both internal and external, to the brim. Wraith was looking good sitting in the hanger next to the MiG-21s and SEPECAT Jaguars of the local air corps. As he walked around the back of his Fulcrum, something caught Aileron’s eye. One of the Jaguars near Wraith was equipped with over wing pylons, on which were currently mounded a pair of AIM-132 ASRAAM short range missiles. Aileron smirked at the Jaguar’s somewhat unique ability to hold missiles above the wings, and crazy ideas of a similar system on Wraith began to dance through his head. He chuckled as he continued his preflight.
Everything in order, Aileron began to head out at seven o clock. He was towed out of the hanger by the ground crew, and once they detached the towing vehicle, he started up the engines and headed to the runway. Unlike Icarus, this was an actual military airbase, and there was quite a bit of traffic. Aileron had to actually wait his turn before he could take off. He didn’t mind waiting though, as the scenery around him was gorgeous. Palm trees and sandy beaches, with the ocean lapping harmoniously. It wasn’t a half bad place to be.
Finally his turn rolled around. As he lined up with the runway, Aileron noticed that a flock of people had gathered near the side of the runway to watch him take off. They appeared to be mostly ground crew and pilots, and at first Aileron was perplexed. Then he realized that people from Via only rarely got to see such a high performance aircraft in operation. Wraith, with it’s customized design, was quite the attraction. Grinning, Aileron decided that as long as they were watching, he’d give them something to see.
Once he was given clearance he immediately went into full 'burner. Wraith accelerated like a bat out of hell, and after reaching only one hundred knots, Aileron rotated. Using thrust vectoring, he pitched the nose up. The wings caught air and the airplane lifted off the ground, but was almost entirely supported by the engine thrust alone. For a moment Wraith was pointing nearly straight upward, but still moving down toward the end of the runway. As the engines began to propel him upward, he pitched even further, flying slightly backwards a moment before reversing direction, rolling level and powering upward in the opposite heading. Glancing down at the crowd as he passed, Aileron was pleased to see them cheering and waving their hats at him. He climbed upward, then reversed his direction again, and headed out to sea.
As he climbed passed twenty thousand feet Aileron calculated the remainder of his fuel. He had plenty to return to Icarus airfield, which would take several hours, even super-cruising at Mach 1.5. It was a peaceful flight, and before Aileron knew it he was descending out of the clouds towards his home base. He keyed the radio and called Icarus control.
“Icarus control, Wolf one oh seven is back and requesting landing clearance.”
Usually, there was a quick reply, but for whatever reason today they were lagging. Aileron waited five seconds. Ten seconds. Twenty seconds. Keying the mic again, he repeated his call, wondering if maybe his radio was malfunctioning. He was about to try the second radio when suddenly a voice filled his headset.
“Wolf one oh seven, Icarus control,” a voice said. Aileron was surprised that it wasn’t a regular controller, but rather it was Lang himself. Something was up.
“Ah, this is wolf one oh seven requesting landing clearance,” Aileron said, his eyes narrowing at the strange situation.
“Negative Wolf one oh seven,” Lang said, his voice very professional, “push seven.”
Aileron’s eyebrows raised in surprise. ‘Push seven’ was their code for LOSCOMM, which stood for Line Of Sight COMMunications. Lang wanted him to establish a secure link via laser.
“Button seven,” Aileron replied, pulling back on the stick gently. As he climbed for altitude, he switched on the LOSCOMM system. He had to get a good position to ensure a good link, so he went vertical, rolled around, and reversed direction. After flying away from the airfield for a few seconds, he turned back around and pointed the nose at the control tower a few miles away.
“You reading me, control?” Aileron asked over the LOSCOMM system. A very clear voice replied.
“Affirm, Wolf,” Lang said, “we have a problem.”
“What sorta problem?” Aileron asked, a feeling of anxiousness welling up from within him. This had never happened before.
“Somebody outed the operation. I’m not sure when they got the info, but the GC is going to raid this place.”
Aileron felt his blood run cold. The Global Coalition was going to attack his home away from home.
“In fact,” Lang continued, “they already have a contingent of land frames standing by in the woods to the south of base. We suspect they have air cover en route, but so far the skies are clear. We need to evacuate the base before their air cover gets here, but those frames will bring down any aircraft we try to launch.”
“Hold on… are you serious?” Aileron asked incredulously. This was extremely heavy news.
“Dead serious,” Lang replied in earnest. “The jig’s up, and we’re going to be hit… hard. Getting everyone to safety is our top priority. We have a working plan, but we’re going to need your help.”
Aileron jumped at the opportunity. The last time this happened to him nearly everyone died. However, this time he could do something to prevent that.
“Just tell me what to do,” Aileron replied.
“I figured you’d say that,” Lang said, “what’s your fuel and ammo state?” Aileron checked his fuel and armament panel.
“Fuel’s okay, I can still fly for an hour or so if I conserve it… full 750 round drum of ammo too.”
“Good,” Lang replied, “here’s the plan.”
Aileron’s eyebrows gradually rose as Lang explained his plan to him.
“This is Wolf, I’m in posit,” Aileron radioed several minutes later. He rechecked his fuel level, armament panel and master arm switch as he waited for a reply.
“Roger that, Wolf,” the tower replied. Rather than Lang, this time it was a young women. Aileron knew her. Her name was Sandra, and she was 22. He felt a knot of apprehension growing in his stomach. Her life, as well as everyone else’s down there, was in his hands. “Stand by.”
A few moments passed, and the controller replied. “Knight one oh one is on stand by. Prepare to commence operation, Wolf.”
“Roger that,” Aileron said as he simultaneously turned the nimble Fulcrum toward the base. After what felt like hours, the controller radioed him again.
“Copy that. Wolf one oh seven is rolling in!” Aileron said. He took a deep breath and forced himself to keep his adrenaline under control.
Approaching from the North, Wraith lowered itself into a shallow dive, coming down the chute from ten thousand feet. There were a total of three land frames waiting to wreak havoc on the base. Aileron knew the type, M-115 ‘Caldwell’, the main battle frame of the US Army. They were well armored, and even the 25mm cannon on Wraith could do little to damage them. However, it wasn’t his mission to destroy them. All he had to do was be the bait.
As he came out of the low clouds, Aileron quickly searched the green of the forest affront him. Standing roughly fourty feet in height, the Caldwells could do little to hide in the forest from someone coming in from above. It was winter, and the evergreens couldn’t obscure them completely. Centering the gunsight on the lead frame, Aileron clicked the push to talk button.
“Contact,” he said as he simultaneously squeezed the trigger. The aircraft shuddered, a cloud of gray smoke billowed out from the left wing root, and several hundred tracers were spewed from the GAU-22/A multi barrel cannon as it produced an unearthly howl. The frames were taken completely by surprise. True to the mark, the bullets hit the lead frame, exploding in a hail of sparks and black smoke on impact. Aileron gently raised the nose, stepping on the right rudder and walking the stream of bullets into the second and third frames. He pulled up, bottomed out at tree-top level, and screamed over the surprised land frames. Immediately they turned around and began firing their 40mm cannons at him, but Aileron was already climbing into the heavens in full after burner, barrel rolling his fighter out of harm’s way. He craned his neck and looked over his shoulder in time to see the hangar doors being blown open.
From the depths of the hangar came the deep roar of four jet engines. Raising up like a beast from the netherworld, Chuck Lang’s MiG-42 ascended out of the secret hangar. As soon as he was ground level he went into afterburner, blasting forward out of the open hangar at increasing speed.
“This is Knight one oh one, engaging!” Lang radioed excitedly as he thundered across the tarmac toward the unsuspecting land frames.
One of the frame pilots must have heard something, or perhaps he was radioed from his compatriots, but in any case he began to turn around. However, for him it was much too late. Lang kicked the frame’s legs forward and rapidly decelerated, then sideways, strafing around the back of the slow land frame. From the lower back of the MiG-42 he produced a Mk.3 anti-armor dagger, which he quickly plunged into the back of the Caldwell. There was a flash, and sparks, then an explosion as the Caldwell, now spewing fire and smoke, fell on its face. The other two frames turned around in time to see their comrade go down, Lang’s -42 standing behind the charred and smoking remains of the enemy frame. They paused a moment, then raised their weapons toward the MiG-42, which was already blasting straight into the air. Lang spun around and pointed both arms at the land frames. Methodically, he aimed at the one on the right and pulled the triggers. A 25mm and 40mm concerto filled the air as the two weapons laid devastation upon the unfortunate Caldwell. The 25mm rounds produced quite the lightshow, but the 40mm Bofors cannon turned the armor into swiss cheese. One of the legs was blown off, and the frame fell on its side, unmoving. Changing his attention to the second frame, Lang was not surprised to see that it was now firing at him. Executing a quick mid-air cartwheel, Lang avoided the fire and used the momentum in combination with ground effect to glide laterally over the ground at over two hundred knots. The land frame was unable to keep up, and in a moment Lang flanked him, firing both cannons into his side and back. There was another explosion, and the remains of the Caldwell fell backward, hitting the ground and blowing apart a moment thereafter. Lang landed the -42 on its feet, checking the area around him for threats.
“This is Knight one oh one, three enemy frames down. Aile, proceed with phase two,” Lang said.
“Understood, I’m coming in hot,” Aileron replied. He descended toward the airfield rapidly, simultaneously turning inbound and lowering his landing gear. It was going to be a risky operation, but in order for him to escape and bring his fighter with him he needed to get refueled. Luckily, it would only take a few minutes. However, he couldn’t do it that quickly alone. Sandra had assured him that someone was standing by to help him out.
Popping the speed brake, Aileron felt his MiG begin to lose lift as it rapidly decelerated. He proceeded down the glide path to the main runway, flaring the fighter just before the main mounts touched down. As soon as he was on the ground he deployed the speed-control parachute, which spread out behind the aircraft immediately. The nose gear touched down, and Aileron eased onto the wheel brakes. Before long he was nearly stopped and he turned toward the refueling pit. He stopped the plane next to the numerous fuel tanks and equipment, detached the parachute and shut down the engines for safety purposes. He wouldn’t have shut them off, however he would have to dismount to help out whoever was waiting for him. It wasn’t safe to operate around running jet engines, especially when one was in a hurry. As the engines spooled down he opened the canopy and took off his helmet.
“Come on, we don’t have all day!” a startlingly familiar voice called up to him. Aileron looked over and his eyes met with his help.
“What are you doing here?” Aileron said, wide eyed.
“Helping you out, of course!” said none other than Katrina Malia.
“But… since when do you know anything about fighter jets? I thought you hated flying!”
“Hey, just because I hate it doesn’t mean I can’t do it, now get your butt down here so we can get this baby fueled up and ready to go!”
“Ah… right,” Aileron said, trying to get up. He forgot that he was still strapped into the seat. Rolling his eyes, he took off the straps, disarmed the ejection seat and dismounted his plane.
“Come on, help me get this hose connected,” Katrina said, hoisting a heavy duty hose over one shoulder. Aileron took up the slack. Surprisingly, Katrina really did know her stuff. She took the hose directly to the correct access panel, and within seconds it was connected. She jogged over and started the fuel pump.
“Okay, now lets get the ‘slugger’ connected,” Katrina said, rushing over to a preprepared cart.
“The what?” Aileron asked as he hopped over the fuel hose. When he laid eyes on the cart, he comprehended, “oh…”
It was, in fact, a cannon. And not just any cannon, but a large bore 57mm gunpod that was of custom design. To put things in perspective, this was a weapon commonly used as the bow gun on battleships. It wasn’t common to a fighter jet.
“This is… huge,” Aileron said in awe.
“Don’t go all mushy on me, it’s the only armament that was set up with the quick release system your jet uses.”
“But… isn’t it a little much? This is only a fighter!”
“Lang said that the strengthened internal frame could handle it, so come on, let’s get it mounted!”
“Right!” Aileron said, feeling dizzy. This was absolutely nuts, but to be honest, what wasn’t? They wheeled the cart underneath Wraith’s air intakes and positioned it under the centerline between the two engine nacelles. Normally, this wouldn’t be so easy, but Wraith was equipped with a quick-release mounting system common to aerial frames. It was like a USB for weaponry and equipment, and all it needed was to be plugged in. They used the hydraulic lift on the cart to raise the weapon into place, and it connected to the dual mounts with a satisfying click-clunk. Once it was mounted, they moved the cart out of the way and checked on the fuel status. All the tanks, even the drop tanks, were filled. Katrina shut down the pump, and Aileron disconnected the hose and closed the access panel. In all, it only took a few minutes.
“Let’s roll!” Katrina said, shouldering a small backpack.
“Wait… you’re coming with me?” Aileron asked.
“Yeah, I have to. The transport planes are all ready to go. Once Lang gives the okay, they’re going to launch under our cover.”
“Oh…” Aileron said. It really made sense. While Katrina was helping him the rest of the personnel were getting ready to evacuate. There wasn’t time for Katrina to run back and mount one of the other transports, as they were already prepared to take off. Katrina climbed atop Wraith’s right wing with some difficulty, made her way across the thin LERX in a very girlish fashion, then plopped down in the back ejection seat. Aileron jumped up and showed his skill by climbing quickly into the front seat. As soon as he was aboard the plane he began starting the engines. The combat computer immediately recognized the new armament, and it was already calibrated. A new gunsight symbology was uploaded to Wraith, and it was displayed on the HUD.
“Get strapped in and don’t forget to arm the ejection seat,” Aileron said as he did just that on his own seat.
“I know I know, it’s not my first barbecue” Katrina said. She took out the flagged pin and put it in the left storage under the arm rest. The engines, powered by a special fuel cell driven APU, spooled to life and before long they were roaring in full idle. Aileron closed the canopy, then disengaged the wheel brakes. He added a little power, then proceeded to head back toward the front of the runway. He didn’t bother calling the tower, as there was no one left in it. They had already left in preparation for the evacuation. Katrina cinched her restraints tighter, then relaxed as best she could in the uncomfortably hard ejection seat.
“Just remember, Aile. I really don’t like flying much, so go easy on me, okay?”
“You got it,” Aileron said, tossing a thumbs-up over his right shoulder. He lined up with the runway, then keyed the mic.
“Knight one oh one, what’s the haps?”
“I’m dealing with two attack helicopters about two miles from the base,” Lang said, his voice strained under a high G load. “Go ahead and get airborne, then cover the transports as they take off.”
“Wilco,” Aileron said. He began to advanced the throttles, when suddenly Katrina yelled.
“Aile!” she shouted with such urgency that Aileron’s heart skipped a beat. Instinctively, he looked to his right, toward the forest. One of the frames, sans a leg, was propping itself up on one arm and pointing its cannon directly toward them.
“Oh, great,” Aileron said sarcastically, shoving the throttles to their stops. The engine nozzles contracted, then expanded when the afterburners ignited, two blazing cones of fire erupting from the rear of the MiG. Wraith accelerated rapidly, but it just wasn’t enough. The enemy frame fired. In an act of desperation, Aileron pulled back on the stick for all it was worth. They had only accelerated to about fifty miles an hour, about a third the speed they needed to fly. However, Wraith gave him all she had. The thrust vectoring nozzles pivoted, and the power of the twin engines kicked the nose up into the air. The enemy frame’s shots missed low by scant inches. Aileron centered the stick and used nothing but engine power to climb away from the ground and threatening frame. At the same moment, he noticed something out of the corner of his left eye.
Over by the hanger another aircraft was taxing out. It was Skylar’s Su-34, and it was wide open for attack. A quick glance over confirmed it, the enemy frame was already training it’s weapon on Skylar’s plane. Feeling a surge of adrenaline, then a burning feeling flash through his stomach, Aileron screamed in desperation and rage as he simultaneously worked the stick and rudder pedals. The scenery of the ground behind them became a horizontal blur. Katrina found herself pushed against the right side of the cockpit as Wraith did an unthinkable maneuver. An extremely low speed yawing reversal.
“Aile!” she cried in fear as three separate alarms filled her headset. One for altitude, one for angle of attack, and one for the terrain avoidance system; even Wraith herself was trying to tell Aile that this was a bad idea. However, the venerable fighter performed with all she had. Wraith reversed direction and began to fall out of the sky as Aileron raised the nose, centering the gunsight on the offending frame. He pushed the pickle button, and felt a terrible shudder as the 57mm gunpod discharged. Once, twice, three times, he fired. The rounds hit the enemy frame with devastating effect, and the powerful sabots blew right threw it, utterly annihilating the Caldwell in a brilliant succession of flashes.
The valiant effort no doubt saved Skylar’s life, but it had also put Aileron and Katrina in a terribly dangerous situation: plummeting toward the ground belly first. Had it been a regular aircraft there would have been no possible way they could’ve survived. However, Wraith was different. Aileron maxed the throttle, then used thrust vectoring to point the nose straight up. He held the engines in after burner, coming to a hover a precarious twenty feet over the tarmac. Hovering over the ground and looking very much like a steel angel, Wraith was completely still a moment, then began to move slowly across the flight line.
“Are you… okay?” Aileron asked Katrina. Rapid breathing responded to him as she keyed the ICS. In a tearful voice, Katrina choked out a reply.
“Let’s just say… I’m really glad I’m wearing a diaper…” she said, sobbing.
“Sorry, Kat, but it’s not over yet,” Aileron said as Wraith powered upward. He accelerated to two hundred knots and righted their attitude, flying wings level.
“Good thing I brought extras…” Katrina said with a little laugh. Aileron smiled at her bravery.
“Aile,” a voice came over the radio. It was Skylar.
“You okay, buddy?” Aileron asked as he watched Skylar’s Su-34 thunder down a taxiway, forgoing the runway altogether.
“Yeah, thanks to you and your crazy ass flying,” Skylar said with a laugh, “looks like I owe you another one.”
“I’ll add it to your tab. Now get up here and help me cover our hasty retreat.”
“You got it,” Skylar said as the Su-34 lifted into the air. He snapped the landing gear up immediately, then began a climbing turn to meet up with Aileron and Katrina.
“Everything okay over there?” Lang asked as he rejoined them. The MiG-42 was still pristine, but it was missing a pair of it’s air-to-air missiles.
“Yeah, it is now,” Aileron said.
“You missed one of the frames,” Katrina said, trying to sound composed but utterly failing, “it almost had us for breakfast.”
“Oh, sorry about that,” Lang replied.
“We took care of it,” Aileron replied. “Still, I’ve never seen such bold frame tactics… who’d of thought you’d use an anti-armor dagger in an aerial frame.”
“I like to keep my options open,” Lang replied with a shrug. Aileron shook his head, marveling at the skills of his boss and friend Chuck Lang. There was a lot he could learn from that man.
“The first transport is taking off,” Skylar radioed. Indeed, a C-27 was proceeding down the runway. The plane lifted gracefully into the air, activating it’s PSS immediately to avoid detection. Even so, there were a couple of air-to-air radars searching the skies. Their radar warning receivers informed them of that.
“Looks like our work isn’t quite over yet,” Lang said, joining up on Aileron’s right wing. Aileron sighed.
“It never is,” he said, fastening his oxygen mask. Skylar joined up on Aileron’s left wing, giving him a thumbs up. Aileron returned the gesture, then narrowed his eyes. It wouldn’t be an easy egress, but he felt confident that nothing could stand in their way. An image of Elise’s smiling face flashed in his memory. He would return to her, no matter what.
“Looks like their air cover is here. Two F-22As inbound. They haven’t detected us yet, but I have them on IR. They’re coming down from twenty thousand at our two o’clock.”
“Hang on tight, Kat,” Aileron said. “We’re about to have ourselves a dogfight.”
“Great,” Katrina replied disdainfully.
Op. Lighthouse: Nexus (Chapter 11-12)
Chapter 11: Chapter 11 was kind of an inbetween chapter that I really didn’t plan from the onset of this project. However, as I neared this part of the story, I found that for what was happening I would have to dedicate a whole (albeit short) chapter to the events. I bolstered it with some more development and fanservice (wink), and I think it came out okay. Also, a major plot element was revealed in this chapter, only without any sort of explanation. It will be revealed in later chapters. It’s also where this story gets it’s name ^^
Chapter 12: Hot damn, I’ve been waiting to write this for…like… ever. At least it feels like forever. The majority of the actiony parts of this chapter was imagined while walking home from work back in like… May of LAST YEAR. My car was being repaired at the time and I was working at a temp agency (sucky job, I gotta say). It was like 9AM and I had just been kicked out of the office because there was no work for me. I began the arduous, several hour journy home on foot. I stopped at a 7-11 and got some drinks, set my earbuds and motoslvr with some inspirational music, and continued on the journey. With little else to do I listened to the music and let my imagination take me away. It was around the time I completed Moonlight, and was already planning a sequal, so everything was fresh in my mind. I focused on Lighthouse, and formed this scene. In honesty I would’ve liked to spend a great deal more time writing this, but I’ve been making you guys wait so long. As somewhat of a perfectionist, I could spend forever perfecting a chapter like this. Realizing this flaw, I just went ahead and posted it.
A major musical inspiration for this chapter was a background song from Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny, called ‘Hajimari ga Yue’. If you’ve had the pleasure of hearing this piece, imagine Wraith turning inbound for a hasty landing at the very beginning of the song. Also, as with much of Lighthouse’s action scenes, a major inspiration was Nightwish’s ‘Ghost Love Score’. It’s practically become the theme song for the action scenes in all of Lighthouse.
Well, I guess that’s enough for now. Thanks for reading this and I really hope you find it worth your while. Please post your thoughts, even if it’s just redundant praise, or even malicious criticism… I wanna know what you all think. Peace!
Op. Lighthouse: Nexus (Chapter 11-12)
About frigging time………….
Another great chapter and a half. Sorry I can’t call chapter 11 whole.
I will be looking forward to chapter 13 NEXT week.
I know you will have already mostly thought it out, and re-worked it multiple times in your head, so it won’t take you that long.
Just remember that the chains are very lonely……
Op. Lighthouse: Nexus (Chapter 11-12)
Great scott, RT, where have you been!! Nice to see that you are back & writing again!! Please don’t be gone so long!!
Op. Lighthouse: Nexus (Chapter 11-12)
That was a good lot to take in, but well worth the wait. Not to say I’ve gotten used to waiting though.
Op. Lighthouse: Nexus (Chapter 11-12)
RT DO NOT WAIT SO LONG FOR CH 13
Op. Lighthouse: Nexus (Chapter 11-12)
You really are my god when it comes to stories like this.
cool stuff mang.
Man, truly, your aircraft knowledge and execution of that knowledge in your writing dwarfs my own… I love the visual i got from skylar launching off from the taxi section that was an awesome read man.
Op. Lighthouse: Nexus (Chapter 11-12)
I think that this chunk is nicely engaging and certainly readable, but ultimately - as you hint - lacking finesse.
I think that what you could really benefit from is a post release rewrite of your stories. I know that this may not be worth it for you, as you are struggling to get stuff out on time and then presumably feeling that they are out there (and there is nothing else to it). Nonetheless, I think that taking the time to re-read and re-release after a month or so could be great for you.
You have clumsy sentences to cull and stylistic variances to flatten. Nonetheless, I think you’re headed in the right kind of direction.
Remember, make sure that it’s not obvious and keep it indirect.