Operation Lighthouse: Nexus
Chapter 18: Broken Wings
After all that happened the previous night, anyone would be tired. Even so, it had tired Aile out more than he realized. He slept soundly upon that rock for a couple of hours, only waking when he felt a strange sensation on his head. He slowly came to, and realized he was being touched by someone. The slow, steady feeling of fingers running through his haphazard hair. It was a calming sensation, but as he became more lucid, he began to remember his present situation.
The crashing waves, the smooth rock, the cold wind, and within all of this someone was stroking his hair. He opened his eyes, and despite the late hour, the dimming sunlight was still enough to momentarily blind him. He winced and closed his eyes for a moment, then more cautiously opened them a little. A blurry picture came into focus, and there above him was Lucine’s warm face. She showed a distant look of concern, and appeared to be deeply focused on what she was doing. Taking notice of Aile’s wakefulness, she started and immediately pulled her hand back and looked away. It made him feel a little guilty, but even so Aile immediately missed that feeling.
“Lucine? Wha… why…?” Aile asked confusedly, not yet fully awake.
“Well, you fell asleep here all by yourself, and… and you looked lonely, so… I… never mind that,” Lucine suddenly changed the subject with a shake of her head, “you had me worried sick! I looked all over for you for two hours! What in the world are you doing out here anyway?”
“I was thinking and I guess I dozed off,” Aile sat up and rubbed his eyes, then yawned. “Two hours? Felt more like… 4 months.”
“What?” Lucine asked, still irritated.
“Never mind,” Aile said with a shake of his head.
“Anyway, don’t make me worry like that,” Lucine said with a huff, “I thought you had run off and done something stupid.”
“Something stupid?” Aile inquired.
“You know, something rash. Like stealing one of our planes or something.”
“I wouldn’t do something like that,” Aile said with a sigh, “though the thought had crossed my mind.”
“Please don’t,” Lucine closed her eyes and sighed, “I don’t wanna have to shoot you down.”
“In any case,” Aile said, “I can’t stay here. Once my leg is well enough, I’m leaving.”
Lucine was silent a moment, then asked, “where to?”
“I don’t know,” Aile shook his head, “I guess back to Via. From there, to Isla de la Juventud.”
“You’re really thinking about doing that?” Lucine asked cautiously.
“Of course,” Aile immediately replied, “I can’t sit around while Elise is counting on me to get her out of there.”
“You plan on going alone?”
“Do I have a choice?” Aile asked.
“If you just wait, then…”
“I can’t wait,” Aile said, frustration creeping into his voice. “Every minute I wait is another minute Elise is being… toyed with in that place. I… have to get her out of there.”
“But alone…” Lucine trailed off, then swallowed back a lump that had been forming in her throat for a while, “you can’t possibly do that. Their defense system is second to none on this planet. Not even my F-15 would make it.”
“That’s why I’m taking a frame,” Aile stated, “my chances are best that way. Plus, it’s more practical for a rescue situation anyway.”
“You think that will be enough?” Lucine said dubiously, “Aile, you’re not thinking straight…”
“I don’t care,” Aile growled, “I can’t just sit around doing nothing. Not at a time like this…”
“But…” Lucine suddenly hiccuped. She stopped talking and concentrated on forcing back her tears.
“I don’t have a choice,” Aile reiterated.
“But,” Lucine said again. She tried to speak, but instead clenched her teeth and took a deep breath, trying to remain composed.
“With a frame I stand a pretty good chance,” Aile said, though his words had a somber inflection. It was clear that even he knew that his odds of surviving such an endeavor were very low. He looked like a person who had resigned himself to death. “I can engage anything they throw at me, and with some luck shoot my way into the facility. From there, I should be able to get inside and rescue Elise.”
“Aile, that plan is full of holes,” Lucine said, her voice almost pleading.
“It’s the only one I have at the moment,” Aile said. He smirked a little, “besides, this kind of plan is what I’m best at.”
“Don’t be an idiot!” Lucine suddenly said loudly, “if you do something stupid like that, you’ll be killed!”
“I don’t have a choice!” Aile said again. Lucine looked at his frustrated, but resolute face and realized that even though it sounded absurd, he really intended to go through with that. In that moment, she felt perilously close to losing him.
“Aile…” Lucine said, a sob escaping her. Aile was caught off guard and looked over at Lucine, who was looking down at the large rock they were sitting on. He noticed a few droplets fall from her face and dot the surface of the rock.
“Lucine… are you…?” Aile was interrupted by Lucine throwing herself at him. Surprised, Aile nearly fell over when Lucine pounced him. She wrapped her arms around him and pulled him so tightly it was scary.
“Selfish…” Lucine sobbed uncontrollably, unable even to finish what she was going to say. She broke down into wails, unable to contain her emotions any longer. It was a culmination of things she had been feeling for a long time now. Pain, loneliness, frustration. Everything came out all at once.
“Ah… Lucine, I…”
“You…” she sobbed, “you can’t… throw y… your life…”
Aile remained still, not sure what to do. Lucine wiped at her face with one hand, but continued crying.
“I…” Aile felt a deep pain grip his chest. He wasn’t sure if what he was feeling was worry, guilt, or some combination of the two. Lucine buried her face in his chest and wailed like a hurt child. Aile felt helpless and scared.
Seeing Lucine like this was new to him. Even as children, back when he had called her Elwyn, he had never seen her in such a state. Since her first day at Lighthouse, she had been a composed and calm beauty who seemed to stalk him like a tigress. But seeing her crying uncontrollably, her arms wrapped around him… she looked so helpless. He began to realize right then what a terrible person he had been. Up to now he had been treating her like an enemy. Like someone who meant him harm. But that wasn’t the case at all. It was opposite of that. She really loved him; she had always loved him. Even now, she was crying because she was worried about him. It hit him like a ton of bricks. He had been selfish. And if he charged headlong into the hornet’s nest in the name of rescuing Elise… that would be selfish too. Incredibly so. It was more for his own benefit than for Elise’s. If he died… that wouldn’t help anyone.
“Okay, I get it,” Aile said, trying to push Lucine off of him. She was holding fast, showing no signs of letting up, “I understand, Lucine. I… I won’t do it. I’ll wait… I’ll…”
Lucine just continued to cry. Feeling her painful sobs, hearing her whimper… it was too much for him. Aile’s own feelings were coming to the surface, and he couldn’t hold them back. As he felt tears coming to his eyes, he contemplated seriously on just what kind of man he was.
A selfish, weak man… who makes girls cry…, he thought to himself. Unable to keep from crying himself, Aile wrapped his own arms around Lucine and drew her closer. He wasn’t sure how he felt about her, but right now this didn’t seem like a bad thing. He didn’t feel like he was betraying Elise by doing this. No… this person… Lucine. Elwyn. She was like a sister to him.
So he held her. And he cried. It was all he could do at the moment.
Even though it had been a terrible day, Elise had found a ray of sunshine. Yuki talked animatedly to her for an hour without stopping. The younger girl seemed so excited to have another girl to talk to that it was contagious, and even Elise was able to forget her current circumstances for the moment. Though the dull pain in her back, as well as the cold cement floor kept reminding her. Often, she would absently wonder why she was sitting on the cold concrete floor rather than the somewhat softer looking bed a few feet to her right, but then she would immediately remember. It was embarrassing to merely think about, but the fact was that Elise was incontinent and not presently wearing a diaper. Instead, she was wearing the cotton underwear that Yuki had lent her. It was all she could do, as their keepers hadn’t provided her with any spare clothes, much less diapers. Being so helplessly incontinent, Elise had no idea when she would have an accident, nor could she feel it coming when it happened. The only choice was to sit on the floor and hope that she would be provided with some diapers soon. At the very least, she knew for sure that the people who had taken her knew very well that she needed them.
Although Elise felt uncomfortable, Yuki provided a good distraction. She hadn’t stopped talking since Elise’s shower, and showed no sighs that she would be stopping any time soon. They had run through quite a few topics, though Elise was most curious about how Yuki had arrived at her present situation. Yuki told the story quickly, as many of the details were things she didn’t even know herself.
From as far back as she could remember, Yuki had bounced from place to place, never having a stable life. She didn’t know who her parents were, or even whether they were dead or alive. From what she could gather, she was rescued from a fire by a police officer when she was a baby. She didn’t know if the fire was at her home or someplace else, but after she was rescued she was given over to foster care. For a long time that was all she knew. For eleven years she was moved around between families and facilities, not really even having time to get a very good education or make any real friends. It had been a lonely life. Then, one night, she was taken. Abducted from her then home and taken to this prison. That had happened about seven months ago.
There was much more Elise wanted to ask, but it was difficult to get Yuki to stop talking. She was much like a child, and everything excited her. Elise knew it was because she had been alone for so long, and because of the sympathy she felt for the younger girl, she just kept quiet and listened. Like it or not, Elise had the time. Her questions could wait.
As they talked, or rather Elise listened, the sunlight grew dimmer and dimmer. Elise felt hungry and tired, but tried her best to keep her mind off of her discomfort. Given the late hour they were sure to get something to eat soon. Then suddenly, without warning, she wet herself.
It was an entirely new experience to her. Normally she wore diapers, and accidents she had, even very bad ones, were contained. However, the small cotton panties she was wearing did very little. Suddenly feeling the strange sensation, Elise froze and held her breath. Yuki also stopped talking and watched in awe as a large puddle formed on the floor around her new friend. The liquid slowly began to steam in one direction, toward the drain in the concrete floor. Elise was completely astonished at the mess her accident had caused, and for a bit was just in shock. Then, a moment later, she started sobbing.
It was probably because her emotions were so wrecked already, but whatever the case the sudden accident took Elise from being content to completely devastated. She was miserable and completely at a loss for what to do. Yuki seemed scared by this sudden change in demeanor, and as she was naturally empathetic she nearly began crying herself. Seeing her new friend suffering so was unbearable to her, and she immediately offered her assistance in the only way she knew how. She crawled over and hugged Elise.
“It’s okay, Elise,” Yuki cooed, holding her friend tightly, “it’s okay… we’ll get you cleaned up and everything will be okay.”
Still crying uncontrollably, Elise contemplated the awkwardness of the situation. There she was, acting like a child while a girl much her junior comforted her in the way an adult would. The utter wrongness of the situation only served to make her even more upset.
Even so, after some time, Elise began to calm down. She managed to hug Yuki back, and was still sobbing when a sound came from the door. Both girls looked over, and while Elise rubbed her eyes she noticed something being pushed through a small compartment. It was a tray, with a duo of boxes atop it, as well as a small stack of generic-looking diapers. Elise sobbed, then looked down at Yuki. She only now noticed that Yuki had been kneeling in her puddle while hugging her.
“Oh, it’s time for dinner!” Yuki said happily, “and I think they sent you some diapers too. That’s…” she paused to look down at the large puddle Elise had created, “…good.”
Elise sobbed again, but was unable to say anything.
Aile had finally managed to calm himself down, but Lucine kept crying for a while. He held her as he watched the waves come in and out, mesmerized. The sun was setting, and the sky growing dimmer. Night would soon be upon them, and it was getting cold too.
“We should head back,” Aile said. Lucine pushed away from him and dabbed at her eyes.
“C’mon. I’m not even sure how to get back, so you have to lead the way,” Aile said with a half smile.
“Okay,” Lucine said, sobbing once more. She took a deep breath and let it out slowly, composing herself.
Aile carefully hopped down from the rock, and upon unsteady legs, began to follow Lucine into the woods. They were both quiet, both feeling a little awkward over what had just happened. And Aile was still deep in thought. He wanted badly to rush to Elise, but now that he was thinking a little more clearly, he knew that wouldn’t work. The organization that had taken her was much, much larger than he or his influence. Even if he did get Lang’s support, that wouldn’t mean much. Lang didn’t run an air force, he ran a security organization that specialized in bodyguards as well as secure package delivery. Even if he managed to convince his old boss to give him every plane and frame at his disposal, it still wouldn’t be enough to take that facility. And even if they did manage to break through, there would be heavy casualties. Aile was definitely willing to risk his own life to rescue Elise, but it was unreasonable to ask others to put theirs on the line for one person that they didn’t even know.
The young aviator sighed bitterly. He felt helpless, and that was certainly a feeling he didn’t like. In fact he despised it, which was why he always tried to be prepared for every situation. He hadn’t anticipated the need to face a small military all on his own, however.
“So,” Lucine said, breaking the silence, “you’re really not going to rush over to the island?”
“No, you’ve convinced me,” Aile said with a heavy sigh.
“Good,” Lucine said, though she didn’t sound particularly happy. While she was glad that Aile wasn’t going to go through with that foolish act, at the same time she felt bad that she was the one to convince him. She loved him, and he knew that. But he was taken, and very much in love with Elise. That she was the one to convince him that he shouldn’t be rushing to her side made her feel pretty badly for some reason, even if it was sound advice.
“I haven’t given up, though,” Aile said. “I still think with a good plan I can rescue her.”
“By yourself?” Lucine asked.
“No,” Aile shook his head, “I’m… only one person. I’ll need help. The problem is getting other people to risk their necks for someone they don’t know.”
“Well, you have me. That’s a start,” Lucine said.
“I do?” Aile asked, “you’d help me with this?”
“Of course!” Lucine replied as if Aile had blatantly denied the obvious, “who do you think it was that saved you in all those situations before?”
“I know, and I appreciate that, really…” Aile said, putting one hand up to emphasize his point, “but those times you were looking after me. This time you’d be risking your life for someone who, frankly, is your competition.”
“Wow, someone’s awfully full of himself,” Lucine said with wide eyes and a little laugh.
“Look, Flyboy, whether I decide to help rescue Elise or not isn’t based upon how much I want you. I’m gonna help because it’s the right thing to do.”
“Oh… well, that’s good,” Aile said, a little thrown off. When Lucine had referred to him as Flyboy, it brought back a strange memory. When they were kids she used to call him that whenever he did something to upset her. Why hadn’t he remembered that until now?
“Believe it or not, I have more on my mind that you,” Lucine said.
“I’m shocked and deeply hurt,” Aile replied dryly, wearing a stupid grin.
“Hmph, I’ll bet you are,” Lucine said, pouting mockingly.
“Elise,” Yuki murmured. They were laying on the small bed, very close to one another. It was the only bed in the room, and they only had one blanket so they had to share. Neither girl minded, though. Yuki was happy to have company, and Elise was afraid of the dark. As they were provided no night light, or really any light at all, once the sun set it grew very, very dark in the cell like room.
“What is it?” Elise asked.
“I… I’m sorry you have to be here, but…” Yuki paused, “'I’m glad that you are.”
Elise smiled a little.
“I’m glad I could meet you,” she replied, “and hopefully we won’t be here long. There are people who will come for me.”
“You really think they can?” Yuki asked hopefully.
“I do,” Elise said. Even she knew that it wouldn’t be easy. It didn’t take a trained eye to see that the place they were in was heavily fortified, and had a lot of soldiers. But even so, Elise held on to her hope. She had to.
“I want to meet them,” Yuki said, then yawned.
“I think they’ll like you,” Elise said. Yuki snuggled closer.
“Tell me about them,” she said.
“Okay,” Elise replied a little uncomfortably, then thought, “well, you already know about Aile.”
“Your boyfriend,” Yuki muttered.
“Yeah,” Elise nodded, “but he’s also my best friend. I love him very much, and we do everything together.”
“That’s nice,” Yuki said with a smile, then yawned again and rolled onto her side. Tiredly, she put her arm around Elise’s front and pulled herself into the older girl’s side. Elise was taken a little of guard, but at the same time another feeling threw itself upon her. Though she didn’t know this girl well, the closeness between them felt totally natural. She briefly wondered if that was what it meant to have a sister.
“But aside from Aile,” Elise continued as she reached over and started to play with the younger girl’s hair, “there’s Arnold. He’s,” Elise started, then paused when she remembered what had happened. She knew that Arnold had been hurt, but she really wasn’t sure how badly. For all she knew he could be dead. She shook off the unpleasantness of that thought. Arnold would fine. She forced herself to believe that.
“…He’s Aile’s best guy friend. They always run together, and even though Aile is fast, Arnold is even faster. He’s also very reliable, charming, and a very sweet person. When Aile’s away Arnold always keeps me company and makes sure that I’m safe. He’s just… that kind of person.”
By now Yuki seemed to be drifting to sleep, but Elise continued anyway.
“And Rachael, my roommate at school,” Elise said with a smile, even as tears came to her eyes. “She’s very quiet, and a good person to talk to. I can always tell her about what’s bothering me, and she’ll listen. She used to be very different and we didn’t get along, but after she and Aile met, she changed and became nicer toward me. Now, we’re…” Elise sobbed, “good friends.”
Yuki was sleeping soundly, which was good because Elise couldn’t talk anymore. Talking about her friends made her miss them bitterly, and she felt totally homesick. Even the smallest, dumbest things about her life at Lighthouse Academy seemed so meaningful now. She would give anything just to see her own ceiling right now.
“I…” Elise sobbed, “I just wanna go home…”
And with that final thought her fatigue caught up with her, and she fell into a deep slumber.
Aile hungrily scarfed down dinner, having not really eaten in quite some time. After that Lucine showed him to his room and he almost immediately fell asleep.
The next day unfortunately didn’t bring much promise. He contacted Lang, who was happy to hear that he was okay, but unfortunately could do little to help with the situation.
“I have my hands full over here,” Lang said with a heavy sigh, “we did just get raided out of our home, and setting up a new base is no small task.”
“Right,” Aile concurred bitterly.
“Not to mention the Vians aren’t too keen on us being here right now. They know that if word got out they were harboring us they would be labeled as terrorist sympathizers and possibly wiped off the map. In return for their hospitality I’ve offered some of our resources. They were quite interested in reverse-engineering my frame, seeing as they don’t have any of their own. Word has it they want to produce an indigenous version.”
“Sounds like you really have your work cut out for you,” Aile said, “maybe you can land a gig as an instructor for new framers.”
“Heh, that would be a nice change of pace,” Lang replied, “but I can’t imagine it would pay as much as being a criminal.”
“Nothing does,” Aile said with a small laugh. “But, going back to my situation…”
“Right. Yeah, I know all about that stronghold, although I had no idea they were doing that kind of thing there. I certainly wouldn’t mind if it went away sometime in the near future.”
“Then you’ll help?”
“I wish I could offer you something, but the fact is I’m pretty powerless. And our pilots are freelancers. I can’t order anyone to help out even if I thought it was a good idea.”
“Right… well can you at least make sure my plane is ready to go when I need it?”
“Technically she’s ready to sortie right now,” Lang said, “although I had to shoo away some Vian engineers earlier who were trying to get their hands on her. Apparently they are very interested in your airplane too.”
“Tell 'em she’s not for sale,” Aile said, “and what do you mean by ‘technically’?”
“Well, after the heavy use and crazy stunts you had to pull the other day, she needs an engine replacement. I wouldn’t be comfortable authorizing her departure until that can be taken care of.”
“Damn,” Aile cursed, “any time frame on how long that’ll take?”
“No,” Lang replied, “since we had to skip town finding replacements for American engines will be more difficult.”
“Yeah,” Aile paused a moment, “any chance they can be rebuilt?”
“With the parts and facilities we have here at our disposal it’s certainly a possibility. It will take some time, though. And it won’t be cheap.”
“I’ll pay whatever I have to,” Aile said, “just see to it she’s ready to launch as soon as possible… I mean… if you’re not too busy. I know you have a full plate over there.”
“I’ll do what I can,” Lang assured him, “and don’t worry about the charges. We totally owe you for the other day.”
“It was a rough day for all of us,” Aile dodged the praise, “I’m just glad we managed to get everyone out safely.”
“Yeah,” Lang agreed. “Well, I’d better be going. I’ll contact you when I figure out your plane.”
“Thanks,” Aile said. “Give everyone my best.”
“You got it.”
“No dice?” Lucine asked when she noticed Aile’s glum look. The pilot shook his head.
“Everyone has their own problems,” he said bitterly. “And Wraith is broke. It’ll be a while before she’s flight worthy again. That is if I don’t get plane-jacked by Vian…. Jawas.”
Lucine returned a blank look.
“Never mind,” Aile said while shaking his head.
“Well, what now?” Lucine asked. Aile sighed yet again.
“I dunno,” he looked into her eyes, “I don’t suppose you have a plane I can borrow.”
“In your condition?” Lucine smirked, “I think you should be grounded for a while.”
“That’s crazy talk,” Aile said, waving the notion off, “I’ll heal faster in the air.”
“Even if I wanted you out flying right now, there’s nothing I can offer you. Dr. Range is very protective of her planes, and I’m not sure I want you touching my baby.”
“Whatever, I don’t wanna fly your girl-plane anyway,” Aile pouted. He looked down the corridor toward the hanger area, “so what you’re telling me is that you only have special, super-planes on this base?”
“Not only, but predominately? Yeah.”
“Though, there is that place…” Lucine said, putting a finger to her chin and looking up at the ceiling.
“Yeah, there might be something there. I haven’t been there in a while, but… I wonder if Scott is still running the joint.”
“What place?” Aile asked again.
“I guess it’s worth a look. Not much else to do today since it’s raining anyway.”
“What place!?” Aile shouted.
The place in question turned out to be a decommissioned aircraft holding area. Older airframes that were taken out of active rotation were mothballed in a large storage hangar deep within the base’s bowels. When Lucine took Aile down there, it was like showing a car guy a junkyard full of rare hot-rods.
“Oh…” Aile looked around the expansive room, “…my.”
“Most of these fighters are used for their parts, but if you can find a whole jet, or cobble one together yourself, it’s pretty much all yours,” Lucine explained.
“Yeah, no one even comes down here other than Scott. He’s the guy we go to for parts and whatnot. He’s kind of eccentric, a bit obsessed with aircraft. Hey, you might like him.”
“Yeah, he sounds like quite a…. hey I am not obsessed.”
“Whatever you say,” Lucine said with a grin.
“What? I’m not!” Aile said as Lucine walked forward. He followed behind her whilst grumbling.
“Scott!” Lucine called out, “you around?”
All of a sudden there was a horrendous crash. Both Aile and Lucine were startled, and when they looked up they could see a cloud of dust rising from the far corner of the room.
“I think we found him,” Aile said.
What they found was a man covered in dust and rubbing his arm. The older looking man, wearing coveralls and a hat, was grumbling at the old fighter he was working with.
“Hey, Scott!” Lucine greeted, “Long time no see.”
“Oh, it’s you, little one,” Scott said with a smile.
“Ssscottt” Lucine said while rolling her eyes. “You know I don’t like it when you call me that.”
“Sorry, little one, but I’ve known you since you were in diapers. And old habits die hard.”
“Geez,” Lucine said, reddening a little. Aile was doing everything he could to keep from laughing.
“And who’s this?” Scott asked, squinting at Aile, “I didn’t know you had a boyfriend, little one.”
“He’s not my boyfriend,” Lucine said, though rather than being angry she said it kind of sadly.
“Aile Phoenix,” Aile said, limping forward and extending his hand.
“Scott Sylmar,” the old mechanic returned the gesture and they shook. “What brings you down to my little corner, mister Phoenix.”
“Well, sir,” Aile said, looking around, “I’m looking for a plane.”
“I see,” he said, “you a pilot young man?”
“Yessir,” Aile replied enthusiastically.
“Well, sorry to say it, but I don’t have anything down here for a pilot,” Scott replied, then looked out over his ‘collection’. “All these planes have been retired from service for one reason or another. None of them are airworthy, and are just collecting dust down here.”
“I see,” Aile said disappointedly.
“Now for a mechanic I might be of more help,” Scott said.
“Well, I am a mechanic as well,” Aile said.
“You are?” both Scott and Lucine said at the same moment.
“Sure. I’m a free lancer on a budget, and sometimes, well, you just have to make something work. I’ve spent a fair amount of my time turning a wrench.”
Stars suddenly appeared in Scott’s eyes.
“Well, that’s a breath of fresh air!” the old mechanic said happily, “a pilot who’s also a mechanic. Most pilots don’t appreciate what we grease monkeys go through just so they can have their precious wings.”
“Well, sir, this one does,” Aile said with a knowing smile, pointing to himself with his thumb.
“Then that changes everything,” Scott declared, “what can I interest you in, son?”
“Anything with an F designation,” Aile said.
“A fighter, you say?” Scott rubbed his chin thoughtfully, “well, most of these birds have been stripped for parts. This Falcon I’ve been working on, as you can see, is pretty bare.”
Aile looked the lightweight fighter over. Indeed, the F-16C was missing most of it’s important components. The rather prominent tail stabilizer was lying on the ground next to them where it had fallen a few minutes ago.
“I was trying to get to the RWR assembly. Didn’t expect the tail to fall off,” Scott explained.
“I see,” Aile said. There was a brief moment of silence between them.
“Tell ya what,” Scott said, breaking the silence, “since I like you, I’ll make you an offer.”
“Oh, yeah?” Aile’s eyes lit up, “what kind of offer?”
“I have a few prizes here that can be made airworthy in little time, including some high performers.”
“Awesome,” Aile replied, “let me see 'em and we can talk business. I can make a phone call and have funds wired in no time.”
“I’m not interested in your money, kid,” Scott said.
“Oh…” Aile replied, “then what do you want?”
“Just tell me your reason for wanting a plane. If I like your answer, you can have whichever one you want.”
“Okay then,” Aile said, “basically… a very dangerous mission to rescue an innocent girl.”
“Your girl?” Scott asked.
“Yes sir,” Aile replied.
“And you’re willing to risk everything to save her?”
“I am,” Aile nodded.
“Well, hell, that’s good enough for me,” Scott replied.
“Yeah?” Aile asked.
“It is?” Lucine replied dubiously.
“What better reason in life is there to do anything? If it’s not for a girl, then what the hell’s the point?”
“This is great,” an excited Aile said five minutes later.
“This is a wreck,” Lucine countered dryly. Before them, covered in dust was an old bird; and F-15C. The venerable fighter was similar to the one which Lucine’s was based off of, albeit an older version. While the F-15E ‘Strike Eagle’ was an attacker with a secondary, but very strong anti-air capability, the earlier F-15C ‘Eagle’ was classified purely as an air superiority fighter. It wasn’t uncommon for an F-15C pilot to progress through his entire career without dropping a single bomb. They were bred purely to kill other airplanes.
"This old bird was stolen from a US airbase during the late '90s. The pilot went rogue and sold it to us, then disappeared. The bird served with the Knights for fifteen years, but was then grounded due to faulty longerons. I replaced em with brand new ones I was able to get my hands on, but then no one ever wanted to fly it after that. It just sat here, collecting dust for the last three or so years.
“So, what needs to be done?” Aile asked.
“A complete inspection to make sure nothing else is wrong. Being stored down here is pretty safe for these jets, but even so sometimes problems crop up. Also, we’re going to need some engines.”
“Wherever I go it’s the engines,” Aile said, shaking his head.
“Anything lying around?” Lucine asked.
“I have some ideas,” the old mechanic said.
“Awesome, when can we get started?” Aile asked enthusiastically.
“In your condition?” Lucine asked incredulously.
“I’ll be fine,” Aile assured her. “Besides, I want this thing to be ready by the time my leg is.”
“As I left this bird back then it was in the middle of being upgraded. We might have to get pretty creative,” Scott said.
“I’m game if you are,” Aile replied. The mechanic just grinned as Lucine shook her head in exasperation.
Thousands of miles away, someone else was also getting ready for an operation. Bryson Tyrek wasted little time in preparing his revenge. The anger he felt was not for the loss of his men, nor for the pain in his shoulder, but rather it was at the defiance Aile Phoenix has displayed. Although Tyrek had never met the lad face to face, this wasn’t the first time he had been the cause of trouble. No, it was more like the whelp was a constant thorn in his side.
Back a few months prior, when they had planned a large, costly operation to secure the optimums for their own interests, it was none other than Aile Phoenix who had thwarted them. While the Aegis organization, and Charles Lang were primarily responsible for their difficulties, it was that single kid, their little ace in the hole, who always managed to put them over the top. And Tyrek was going to make sure that he troubled them no longer. For the first time since he had been employed, Tyrek was ordered straight from Kolman himself to dispose of the Phoenix kid, and he couldn’t be happier. An entire mission dedicated to shutting up that little brat. Tyrek knew just what he was going to do when he got his hands on him.
“Ow’s it comin’?” Tyrek asked as he walked into the expansive hanger. A man holding a clipboard and barking orders to several others looked over.
“The conversion kit is almost in place. It’ll be ready to go on time.”
“Bloody excellent,” Tyrek smiled and smashed his fist into his palm. His shoulder protested the movement, but the pain only served to remind him. “That lit’l brat is mine!”