"UCAC: United Cybernetic Air Core" - Chapter 2

Most of my life, I’ve been alone. The day I realized I was truly alone was a day like no other! I was only nine years old, my mother, father and I were on an ocean barge coming from the Americas to France. They never told me why at the time but I learned it had something to do with the UCAC and I was recruited from a very, very young age.
So my parents did everything in their power to take me to France where I could then be sent to Finland. Things were going great until we reached the English Channel. It was a place where pirates were known to loot ships. Indeed, we got looted. That night, my parents fought with all they had to protect me, not knowing the looters only came for their rations.
My mother and Father were both very hardened people. Having grown up in Post War America made them hardened to nonsensical behaviors and always about their business. That night, their toughness was to their detriment, feeling forced to fight with no questions asked. They were gunned down before their only son, not knowing how this would inevitably leave me scarred. It didn’t dawn on me that they were dead until the ship crashed on the British shore. I crawled over to my parents, lying on the cold wet tarmac.
“Mom..” I said, trying to shake her awake. She was as hard as a rock. I ended up flipping her over, mortified by her face. She had been stabbed in the temple and beaten so badly I didn’t even recognize her. She was blue, having changed color due all the blood rushing to her face after lying there for so long.
I fell back, screaming to the top of my lungs wondering what monster was this because it was certainly not my mother. I could see the corpse of my father hanging by a rail as the ship had capsized upon running ashore. I crawled over to him, he too was stiff, mangled so badly I couldn’t recognize him.
I cried, and cried, not able to believe this was him. I waited inside that ship for hours, hoping they’d all come back somehow, not able to grasp the fact that they were dead. I didn’t realize they were dead until, from hunger, I began exploring the ship.  I crawled up to the cabin, reaching the cockpit. There the ship’s Captain lay dead, bludgeoned to death, in equally bad shape as my parents. The more I searched, the more dead bodies I began to find.
I’d go up to someone, thinking they were sleeping.
“Hey!” I’d call out, but upon looking at their face, would realize there was something wrong with them. They simply didn’t look human to me. Their faces were so mangled, I couldn’t come to believing these slaughtered, dead people were humans. It was so disconcerting and frustrating to see what my mind perceived as sentient beings but not humans everywhere I turned. I cried so much.
“I want my momma,” I’d repeat.
I was so hungry, eventually reaching the pantry deep within the ship. Upon opening the door, a dead body fell on me. I screamed and squirmed, thinking I was being attacked. I pushed the the cook off of me and scrambled out of the ship. I hit the stony shore, scraping myself up badly. I looked back, seeing how it was riddled with so many dead folk...people that weren’t responsive to the world around them… just gone. I couldn’t quite grasp the concept of death then, but I knew these people were not themselves anymore… including my parents.
I may was nine years old, but from the time I could walk and talk, my parents taught me everything they knew about survival. If I wanted food, I’d have to hunt and forage for it. If I wanted water, I’d have to dig and distill it. If I wanted to survive, I’d have to build shelters. But still, for a nine year old, that was too much.
I eventually was picked up by some roving bandits, probably the same bandits that killed my parents. From then on out, I made my little niche amongst them and stuck with them until I was about eighteen. That is when the UCAC raided our stronghold and said I was one of theirs. Then I was forced to be a product of their military regime only to learn that it was for my greater good. Still though, I was a delinquent… Very, very hard-headed and was a lot more trouble than I was worth. I got beaten and shouted at so much, I was used to it. It all changed when I met Raul in the final stages of basics.
He was a young Frenchman, the same age as I. He probably would have been my best friend throughout most of my life if events would have taken a right turn, but still I was grateful for him. He was a gorgeous, little something. He had striking blue eyes, fiery auburn hair and the greatest smile you’d ever see. He tended to be my voice of reason in this place, keeping me out of harm’s way when I had a calling for some excitement.
In turn, I provided him with grand thrills, he and I exploring the depths of his sexuality. To me it was no big deal to take Raul’s virginity. Not only that, but I persisted to whore around while Raul only wanted to have one person and that was me. I often was sent on hit and run mission that carried me across hundreds of miles and back. Along the way, I’d fuck any and everything that was attractive and would go back and tell Raul about my adventures. He’d always smile and nod but deep down, it hurt so much.
Then came the long a gruelling Italy runs. We had received a tip that the Revivalists had a major head of operations in Old Venice. We Long Wingers were tasked with opening the door for the job and did so as planned. However it became quite evident that this was  trap, to lure all of the UCAC into one area and lay waste to them. This was not a Revivalist nest but bait and lure from a massive Cobalt Clan attack. The only one to figure that out was Tinnu as he saw insurgents surrounding the empty building we were in. However, he did not figure it out in time.
Our second wing, Laggar, was shot by a high posted sniper and many of the Broad Wingers were gunned down too. We were left pretty much in an air versus ground battle that dragged out over the course of weeks as we were pretty much pinned down. What we needed were forces on the ground because us light weights in the air only were built to provide air support. But with the death of professor Aheem, we had to pull extra weight.
The Air Core was known for it’s hard work but the Marine Core, the ones with the firepower to stop this within a matter of hours held back, watching many of us die at the hands of the Cobalt Insurgents. It was so frustrating when they were the ones with the numbers, the weaponry and the intelligence. Maybe it was because they were the first team to be designed but didn’t like that there was an Air Core? Who knows, but the man in charge of the Marine Core, General Harman was as twisted as a Chinese willow.
What ever his end game was, he wanted to come out on top and quite frankly, we did not need someone like him in charge. He wanted death, especially if it could get him his way. Our General, General Aquil, often had to pull miracles out of his ass and this was no exception. He had to bring in a special team of Broad Wingers, the Roc Class.
Basically it was a team of eight men, each over seven feet tall and over two hundred seventy five pounds, in cybernetic wing suits based upon eagles. The Roc Class all had wingspans well over twenty eight feet, each being platforms for powerful explosive weapons. His arrival turned the tides of this battle and we all fought our way out.
The battle lasted two more weeks as insurgents kept pouring in, but under General Aquil’s fist, no more Winger’s lives’ were lost and it truly was the first time General Harman’s authority had been questioned. Of course, when all the bloodshed had fell, General Harman sent the clean up recovery crew to take care of the wreckage and the locals.
The battle that lasted two months had an aftermath that lasted four more months. We couldn’t leave until General Harman’s work was done which was tough because, we didn’t use the same resources as the Marine Core. Our rations were running low and we had dozens of mouths to feed.
All I could think about was getting out of this hell hole and getting home to Raul, telling him about this shit! Upon doing so, I learned some very tough things. He had gotten over what we had, or what we didn’t have. He was tired of the heartbreak and cut ties with me all together. We weren’t even friends at this point and it felt like the little bit of life I did have was crumbling in my hands...it’s particles being whisked away by the slightest breeze.
I just wasn’t my loud, brash and carefree self anymore. I just wanted that void in my life filled again and no one soul could replaster it except Raul. I loved him more than he could ever know. I just sat in my bed, thinking about him non stop.
“DENVER!” A superior shouted. I sprung up to my feet, standing at parade rest.
“SIR!” I shouted back unsure who it was.
It was Captain Wallace, Lead Wing of the Long Wingers.
“Everyone’s looking for you! Go to the locker room and give your team a prep talk.” He said, unsure why I was still in my barracks.
“Will do sir.” I said, making my way to the stairs.
“And one more thing…” Cap began, “Don’t come back here for the rest of the day...That’s an order.”
“Captain…” I sighed, begging him.
“What happened?” Captain asked.
“Things are dead between Raul and I… I just don’t know…” I sighed.
“You’re twenty four years old...take your mind off of love and think about the people who depend on you! Now, get down there and show them some love!” Captain said. He always could put a smile on my face. I nodded and headed down to the locker room. I walked past the Broad Wingers, the Roc Class and met my squad, all stretching for the long day of flying ahead. Marcell was the first to lay eyes on me.
“Oh my God, why the fuck weren’t you here already?” He asked.
“I guess I was a little bit more beat than thought I was.” I laughed.
“Wait,” Milan began, “You’re not flying with us?”
“Not this time…” I said with a faint smile.
“We won’t need him…” Jarvis chimed in, not bothering to make eye contact. Milan turned to him, ready to give Jarvis a thorough tongue lashing.
“Yeah you all won’t,” I began, “You have Everette and he’s very, capable.”  Everette turned to me as he stretched.
“You think so?” Everette asked.
“Of course!” I smiled, “Just don’t hold back kid! Not many Wingers your age can fly like that! You’re a rare force!”
Jarvis gave a quick glance at me, the brief eye contact speaking volumes. He was not enthused with what I was saying but again, held his silence. Everette too was surprised by my kind tongue, obviously hearing from Jarvis that I was not the nicest person.
“Thank you and will heed…” Everette responded.
Everyone was chattering, all except Liam who sat silently on the floor, stretching. I almost didn’t notice him, there.
“You alright back there?” I asked.
“Yeah, I just want to get this over with…” Liam sighed.
“Oh god, he sounds like you…” Jarvis murmured.
“Well Liam, this right here will officially break you into the team. Don’t sweat it. It’s all fun and games, at the end of the day.” Milan sighed.
“We’ll see when I get out there. I mean I am the smallest thing on two wings… If I get bumped out of the sky, I just get bumped out of the sky…” Liam said, sounding truly unenthused.
“You realise you are the most agile flying Wingers of us all right? If you don’t want to be touched, no one can touch you. You also seem caught up on the fact that you’re small. Well let me tell you something, us small guys pack the biggest punch! We can get into places bigger blokes cannot and get the fuck out just as easy. A bit of advice...don’t be so linear when it comes to flying. Any and everything can work to your possible advantage out there. You just gotta keep that mind of yours open and learn to listen to Marcell! He won’t lead you wrong… He’s our intel for a reason!”  I said.
“Will heed…” Liam said.
Jarvis looked at the little munchkin, spread out on the floor. He meticulously scanned him from head to toe with almost predatory intent.
“Hmp,” He said with a brief nod, before returning to being a douchebag. Something about Jarvis just made my skin crawl. He was the Starscream to Captain Wallace’s Megatron, I swear!!!! I just hated that sleaze….
“Ok,” Marcell began, “At least be in radio contact with us!”
“Nope.” I laughed.
“WHY NOT!” Marcell asked, growing frustrated.
“I’m telling you, put a little faith in Liam and Everette. It could be kinda like how you and Milan have a big-little structure and use it well! The two are really young but I can promise you this! When they learn to work together the way you two do, they’ll be a force unlike anything we’ve seen here at UCAC.” I said. Marcell sighed, my words giving him something to think about.
Jarvis eyed me threateningly, the statement obviously going against everything he was instilling in Everette. Everette turned to Liam who continued to stretch on the floor, giving him a brief nod and a smile.
“Ok yeah, you have a point…” Milan chimed in, he too thinking about it.
“In order for this to work, the two will at least have to have the same build mechanics and they simply do not. Subbu is built for aerial...meandering while Lanner is built for high speed coursing...much like Saker and I.” Jarvis chimed in. This dude was simply nasty. How he was attempting to wedge barriers between the team made it clear he was here for his own agenda.
“That’s all science talk when I’m talking strategy. Milan and Marcell have very different builds but I can assure you that the two work together like butter on scones! What I’m saying is that teamwork is key to the success of anything we do, and that Milan and Marcell are testaments to that.” I said back.
“They also have seven years of experience together while Lanner went on his first real mission yesterday and Subbu has been attempting to be successful on these missions for the past eleven months.” Jarvis said, throwing his nimble insults.
“What you lack in agility in mid air, you surely know you make up for it with your smart as tongue…” Milan said, coming to Liam’s defense.
“Look,” I said sitting between Everette and Liam, “Neither of you are going to get working together as a team right on the first try. But I can assure you that if you do try, you will grow as a team! Nothing is ever easy and nothing is ever concrete. But I’d recommend you pay attention to Milan and Marcell because they work in a way that keeps each other alive. Even on this team exercise, you will learn that there is no such thing as every man for himself. You are dependent on the man next to you and vice versa.”
“Yeah, I remember when Milan swooped down a flipped that boat when it was shooting at Marcell…” Everette recalled, warranting a snide look from Jarvis.
“Not only that, but Marcell is our most valuable man on the field. If he’s down, we’re all at a disadvantage.” I added.
“Oh really?” Everette asked.
“Yeah.” I responded.
“He’s our intel. Without him, we know nothing, can do nothing and are fighting blind. I learned that the hard way yesterday…” Liam chuckled.
“Yeah and mistakes are fine. As long as you recover swiftly and learn from them, it’s all the matter. I know we can be a little tough on you but so is this world. We can’t go easy on you and you get out there and ruin yourself… It has happened before…” I sighed.
“What?” Everette responded.
“You know the Broad Wing team is the biggest team… Well their training is a little lenient and they don’t work on extreme variables. You were in basics at the time but this became all too evident when we have the Venice mission. Over half the Broad Wingers were out of commission over the course of the mission. We lost a man too...codenamed, Laggar. You are here to replace him…” I responded.
“Well damn…” Everette said, taken aback.
“I don’t mean to scare you. And just so you know, you have no shoes to fill but your own. Laggar left a legacy behind but you must forge your own. Let this training exercise be the start!” I said, extending out my hand. He shook it, taking great interest in the words I said. I looked over to Liam, giving him a swift brow furl.
I did the boy a grand favor, reducing the gap between him and Everette by a huge margin. Now, it was time for them to build a friendship that would stay with them for their entire military career. I did have my concerns though. Jarvis may have been defeated this once, but he truly had a gameplan. I bet it had something to do about concerns of losing his spot as Second Wing. All and all, Everette could rob him of it because Everette was a better flyer than Jarvis.
Yeah I said it and will say it again! Everette was better on the wing than Jarvis and Jarvis knew this. Jarvis, though, had nearly a decade of experience over Everette which gave him the skill to combat Everette’s talent. It was why Jarvis was attempting to get close to Everette. He wanted to get inside this boy’s head, fuck around with him and eventually send him into ruin. Essentially, Jarvis was eliminating the competition.
It was time for the team to be off. They stood up, all heading towards the hangar. As they left, I stopped Everette, grabbing him by his arm. He looked surprised, unsure what this would be about.
“Hey…” I said.
“Yeah?” He responded, full of uncertainty.
“I want you to be careful around Jarvis. He’s not a good guy at all and if you’re not careful, you’ll end up like Chance.” I said.
“Who’s Chance?” The boy asked.
“Laggar… Laggar died because of Jarvis. I’m warning you...steer clear of him.” I said sternly.
“That’s funny…” Everette said.
“What?” I responded.
“He said you’d say something like this.”
“Look, if you don’t believe me then fine. Jarvis will boil you so slow you won’t even know the water’s scalding until you’re cooking! I’m not here to scare you Everette but I do wish for you to heed my warnings. Stay away from Jarvis…” I responded.
“He said that you only care about yourself,” Everette said, snatching his arm away from me, “That you’re not a team player, and that you’ll do anything to get your way…”
“He seems to have that mixed up with himself. Well as I said you were warned… Find out on your own, dammit and when you end up with talons in your back because you thought it was someone you can trust, I won’t be there with an I told you so because you’ll likely be dead...and guess who’s gonna be responsible… Jarvis. The closer you get to him, the less likely you are to see it coming and quite frankly, he’s clawing at your shins…” I sighed.
“Well,” He said looming over me with his chest puffed out, “Seems you’re the one clawing at my shins. Jarvis was so right about you. He called you out so well…” The boy chuckled, walking away.
“I’m sorry for you kid… You haven’t even had a good run yet.” I said, sitting down on the bench.
“So now you’re preying on the new grunts…” Someone said from behind. I turned, startled. It was Raul.
“What? No…” I refuted.
“Well it seems you just got shot down and took it up the ass…” He sighed.
“Raul, that battle in Italy was no joke. We lost our second best flyer and it was no one’s fault but Jarvis’s. You weren’t there! You didn’t see what we saw.” I said to him.
“Wow…” He said full of skepticism.
“Have I ever lied to you?” I asked, unsure where this lack of trust was coming from, “Have I ever told you anything that wasn’t true?” He thought on it long and hard.
“So why is this so hard for you to believe?” I asked, truly growing frustrated.   
“I don’t know, maybe because you’re a slut. All you do is sleep around with any and everything… It’s easy to see you saying things to get your way.” He said. His words were bludgeoning.
“You know damn well I’d never lie…” I said through the grit of my teeth.
“I wouldn’t put it past you at this point...six months? Six months you’ve been gone and you expect me to believe you haven’t slept with anyone?” Raul asked, truly struggling to believe me. I hadn’t been this frustrated since I couldn’t wrap my head around the death of my parents. The same feeling of helplessness returned. I couldn’t help it. Tears rolled down my cheeks as I stood here, pleading with someone so exhausted over me.
“If I can bring you the live feeds we had from the six months we stayed there and show you proof that I didn’t do anything…”
“Six months worth of footage? I’m supposed to watch six months worth of footage? Are you out your damn mind?” Raul asked.
“Raul…” I begged.
“No, I told you. I’ve moved past you…” He said, walking back to the row of lockers. I was left pursuing him.
“Past me? As in you’ve found someone else?” I asked, hoping this wasn’t the case.
“I’m sorry it happened, Denver. I didn’t intend on falling for someone else but...you can’t help who you fall in love with…” He said, not even bothering to look at me.
“Who!” I demanded.
He reached his lockers, where his tiny team of three were getting ready for the tournament. They all seemed very, very, very unhappy with my presence.
“Just tell me…” I demanded, growing beyond anxious. Ghost, I still didn’t know his name, turned to me. He was a gigantic wall of a muscle, one that loomed over me like an impenetrable structure for war.
“Get...lost…” He demanded. It was then it hit me, he and Raul were a thing. I could say nothing more, only losing all hope of ever getting him back. This Ghost fellow was tall, dense and very well muscled. He had thick blonde hair, chiseled features and the most alarming grey eyes you could ever bear witness too. They could look through you, it seemed and that is what he did to me. He was just a gorgeous, tower of strength and impenetrability and truthfully… I knew I lost.
There was nothing left to do but dry my pitiful tears and leave. It definitely hurt, but most things in this world did. I was down, but not defeated and things certainly would change. I had nothing to do but spectate the tournament, it being a raw blast of fun. It pretty much was a big ariel brawl: Long Wingers versus the Broad Wingers. The Long Winger’s just dominated this match, despite there being twelve against five. I blamed it on the Broad Winger’s lazy training.
Then came the Long Wingers versus the Roc Class and it was an out of this world match. Speed unlike anything I’ve ever seen versus unparalleled agility. It was a close match but the Roc Class was defeated as well, just not able to keep a bead on the much smaller and more nimble Long Wingers. Even Gyr had an agility boost over the Roc Class. The thing with the Roc Class was that they were designed for land targets. Their massive bulk and ability to carry extreme loads made sure of this. It just didn’t serve them well in a spiraling match.
Then came the thirty minute break. The teams deserved it, having exhausted themselves on the wing. I ran down to the field to greet them.
“Man ya’ll did great!” I smiled.
“I’m sticking out like a sore thumb out there. Everyone keeps trying to pick me off because I have no one to cover me…” Liam said. I looked at Everette who simply recalibrated his head’s up display.
“Cover him!” I said. He gave no reply, only a smug grin from under his helmet.
“We are spread a little thin out here…” Marcell said.
“And I’m not at all fast. Those Roc wingers easily caught up to me…” Liam sighed.
“Me too….” Marcell sighed, sharing the same sentiments.
“Yeah, the difference is that you have Saker covering you. I don’t have shit!” Liam said, truly frustrated, “I got grazed…”
“Really?” I asked, concerned.
“Yeah my back is about to have it…” Liam said.
“I’ll be back.” I said. Marcell knew precisely what was about to happen. I ran all the way to the hangar, quick to suit-up.
“OPEN THE GATE!” I demanded. The main hangar gate opened and I was off. I flew over to the field, landing with the Long Wingers.
“Looks like they have a last minute edition to the team. Now it’s six against three. The odds look slim for the Forest Wingers…” The radioman said. I then realized how bad this was going to make me look! I suddenly join in the fray to play against the opposing team that happens to have the person I loved and was at odds with, playing for it. Yeah, it made me look like a fool but Liam was injured and he needed some support.
“This should be a breeze...three Forest Wingers?” Milan said.
“Aye man, they got some crazy as tricks up their sleeves. What ever you do, don’t count them out…” I advised.
“Really like what?” Jarvis asked, obviously prodding at how I acquired this information.
“Cloaking fields…” I said.
“Bullshit….” Jarvis refuted. Subbu looked at me, knowing I was telling the absolute truth. He too saw Levant disappear from sight that evening and was just as amazed as I was.
“You sure?” Marcell asked.
“I’m most certainly sure but I understand why you all are being skeptical. Just stay on your toes…” I warned.
“How’d you even come across high confidence information such as this?” Jarvis  asked. I didn’t bother to respond. This was his attempt to villainize me.
“You know what I’m lying… They will be easy to pick off. Don’t mind a word I’m saying. I’m fucking insane!” I sighed, truly not wanting to engage with Jarvis. He said nothing, only sitting on the bench. Everette stared at me for a long while, before his depth of field wondered off. Liam eyed him with so much want and desire, I felt sorry for the boy.
“Subbu, this is the plan of action,” I said going over to him, “Forest wingers have the most explosive flight performance of us all. They are not faster than us but they are quicker than us and just as agile! They have great burst performance but lack power over long range. The…”
“Can you speak up!” Marcell interrupted walking over to me, “Why are you talking so soft? You scared we’re gonna get mopped?”
“Man…” I laughed.
“Oh shit, you seriously think we’re gonna get mopped!” Marcell said, full of worry.
“We’ve been winning this whole time. If we lose, it’ll be his fault…” Jarvis said.
“Wow man…” I sighed, not wanting to address him more.
“They can’t be that tough…” Milan said, walking his way over to us.
“You see that big one right there?” I asked, pointing to him.
“Damn he’s massive…” Milan said, biting his tongue.
“I um…” I began, “He’s completely crash proof… He can take a beating and probably give one too…”
“He’s slow…” Marcell inferred.
“Not at all, two hundred fifty mile an hour top speed and can get to it in a single burst.” I responded.
“Well can he turn?” Milan asked.
“Yeah, he’s agile...more agile than his size leads on but I’m not quite sure how agile. I also don’t know his vertical but Sparrow and Levant both have mediocre verticals but considering his size… I mean his stamina is top notch too! He flew a forty second burst at top speed.” I added.
“What?” Milan asked, not being able to believe me.
“He did…” Liam added.
“What about Levant and Sparrow?” Marcell asked.
“Their flight performance is in between that of a Long Winger and a Broad Winger: great agility at top speed and very low stall speed. What they lack though is a good climb rate due to how high a wing loading they have. But Ghost, the big one….I have my concerns. He’s a fucking one man army.” I responded.
“Then I’ll be sure to take him out first.” Jarvis said, so sure of himself. I looked at him, hoping he knew what he’d be getting himself into.
“Tinnu, don’t waste no time in getting scans. First thing you do when the match starts is go to a high altitude and scan. If not, we won’t have a leg up on them.” I advised.
“Wait… they can cloak can they?” Marcell asked. He knew I wouldn’t be this concerned if they couldn’t. All I could do was nod.
“All I got to say is that this will be...fun.” Milan said.
The Fog horn blew. It was time for the match to start. I was beyond terrified but I knew very well, if we followed through with the plan, this would work. We walked out to the center of the field where the official stood. I could tell even through Raul’s mask, he eyed me with nothing but rage. We got into starting positions.
“Hey big guy,” Jarvis said, “You and me will dance…”
“I’m sorry I don’t dance...just crush toes.” Ghost responded.
“You just couldn’t simply let it die peacefully could you?” Raul asked me. It was quite clear he figured I entered this match simply because he did. I gave no response, only waiting for the match to start. He had me nervous! The Levant wingsuit he wore had acceleration out of this world!
The Fog horn blew for a second time. Now the match was on. Immediately Levant came for me, his short broad wings allowing for a very rapid take off, faster than I could get airborne! I ducked down as he came forward with those heavy duty talons. He overshot but came back for another pass. I wasted no time in getting into the air, Levant already gaining on me. His current speed allowed him to nearly catch me but somehow I managed to roll out the way.
My flight wasn’t quite as stable as it usually was and I was nearly sent to the ground. Still, Levant close on my tail. Marcell powered up vertically, Sparrow on his tail.
“Someone get this thing off my ass!” Marcell screamed.
“I got em…” Milan said, swooping in to his brother’s rescue. Now he and Sparrow entered a spiraling match, surprised by the little winger’s ability to navigate these tight turns.
Gyr went after Ghost, chasing the giant down with relentless aggression. He may have had a speed advantage over Ghost but Ghost could out turn him so easily. The two looked superficially similar as they banked and weaved at two hundred plus miles an hour over the field.
“Subbu, get that Forest winger off of Merlin’s tail. Lanner you’ll stand a better chance at staying in those turns compared to Gyr. Go after the big one!” Marcell said.
“Alright,” The two boys said, swooping down to join the fray.
It was what Marcell needed, as he kited above the ground. He began the long grueling process of scanning the broad spectrum array. He locked onto two of the targets, detecting a strange light bending particle.
“I locked onto the two targets...sending data now!” Marcell said.
“There were three!” I said.
“What?” Marcell said, reviewing his scans.
Suddenly an impact warning blared in his head’s up display. Before Marcell could react, Ghost appeared from a shallow angle dive, feet outstretched. He careened into fragile little Tinnu wingsuit, sending Marcell in a spiral towards the ground.
“NO!!!!” Milan screamed, rushing over to his fallen brother. Before Marcell could hit the ground, Saker caught him in his talons, both skidding to a halt on the ground. Marcell was unconscious.
“Forest wingers one, long wingers zero!” The official shouted.
Saker got back on the wing, scanning the sky for the winger that downed his brother. The boy was angry. Suddenly, Ghost appeared again, grabbing Saker in his talons and hurling him like a ragdoll. Saker tumbled across the sodd, coming to a halt lying on his back. He had no idea what had hit him.
Ghost disappeared again. I didn’t know who he was going to target next, but I had to make sure I wasn’t it. So I began ascending in loose circuits, making sure I reached my three hundred mile an hour top speed. I looked around, seeing the other two Forest Wingers had vanished too. Gyr, Lanner and Subbu hovered trying to figure out how on earth the forest team could have dissapeared.
“NO!” I shouted, “Don’t stand still!!! They’ll pick you off!”
It was too late, Ghost appeared out of nowhere, grappling with Gyr. The two were almost of equal size but Ghost overpowered him, sending him skidding across the ground.
“Told you, I step on toes…” Ghost said before vanishing again. This time I saw him. He wasn’t totally invisible, only bending the light around him. As long as I stayed above him, I could see him clearly as well as a faint shadow of his scurrying along on the ground.
Still though, within that same time frame, Sparrow grabbed Lanner by his mask and chest plate sending him in a dive towards the ground. I quickly flew over to him as he fell.
“SUBBU, KEEP UP YOUR PACE AND LOOK FOR FAINT SHADOWS ON THE GROUND!” I shouted, grabbing Lanner in my talons before he hit the ground. I released him in a gentle tumble across the plush sod.
Then, my sensors warned me of a collision, blaring to my left. I was really low to the ground, but still inverted to evade the oncoming attack. Suddenly, Sparrow appeared over my head, shocked he missed me. I reached out, locking talons with him and inverting again. I slammed him into the sod, having only two attackers to worry about now.
“Forest Wingers four, long wingers one.” The official shouted.
“Computer, scan for area optical distortions and bring stereoscopic radar to my optics.” I said. The head’s up display began to change my surroundings until my optics began to display Ghost and Levant, both still cloaked.
“Ok, update Subbu’s!” I commanded.
“Hey my computer’s fritzing up!” Subbu said, breaking pace as a result.
“Don’t slow down!!!!! It’ll clear up!” I said, but it was too late. Ghost slammed into the frail boy, sending him in a spiral towards the ground. It truly pissed me off.  
Fortunately, Saker was unscathed from his crash and was well enough to catch Subbu before he hit the ground. Subbu was rendered unconscious from such a debilitating blow. Saker landed on the ground with Subbu, careful not to injure the boy any further. A field aid came with a gurney, picking the boy up and wheeling him to the infirmary.
It was now Ghost and I. He surely was keen on using excessive force and I would be too! He knocked two of my friends unconscious and stole my man! I had a bone to pick with him even if that meant I had to break everyone in his body! This meant it was time to do what I do best...stoop.
Ghost had no idea I could see him. He struggled to keep pace with me as I flew up and up and up as fast as my wings could carry. I eventually placed a considerable amount of distance between us. When he was far enough away, I quickly rolled into a stoop, my three hundred mile an hour speed going to four hundred, four fifty, five hundred, five fifty!
Ghost then realized something wasn’t right. I could see him! He reversed and began to flee in the other direction. His dive was fast too but I started mine sooner, thus having the advantage. I gained on him easily. The nimble winger turned sharply, hoping to out flank me, but I kept my wings close to my body and held them in a slight anhedral. It gave me the leverage to barely stay in the stomach tossing turn.
My speed was so great I couldn’t help but maintain flight instability. He turned again this time entering a hammerhead bank. He expected me to be under his tail, so when he turned around, I’d have a face full of talons. It was evident by his constant looking over his shoulder prior to initiating the turn. But no, I shot right beneath his underbelly, inverting and powering down right onto the unsuspecting winger.
I plowed into him as hard as I could, sending him into freefall. He was unconscious from that impact alone. I circled back again, plowing into the giant one hit after the other. I wanted him down and out for the count! It was so invigorating watching him tumble through the sky. But still, I couldn’t just let him crash into the ground. It would mean certain injury, possibly even death for him. I swooped down, grabbing him in my talons and spreading my wings. I slowed down his descent to a handful of miles an hour before releasing him to the ground.
Suddenly, I was hit from the side, crashing to the ground, something locking talons with me! When we stopped rolling across the sod, I was the one standing. Underneath the grasp of my talons was Levant, pinned.
“Forest wingers five, long wingers three…” The official said, unsure who to label the winner. I was the last man standing on my team and managed to have downed the entire forest winger team but the forest wingers got the most points. I got off of Levant, disconnecting my wing and extending out my hand to help him up.
“Congrats on winning.” I said. He simply looked up at me, not bothering to take my hand. He got to his feet and dusted himself off. He walked away, leaving me with one of the most hollow feelings I ever felt.
“We declare the winning team,” The Official began, “The Long Wingers for having a man still standing at the end of the match!”
The concessions roared out, adding to this very hollow victory. I walked back over to my team’s side of the field. Everyone was there, treating their wounds.
“You all ok?” I asked.
“Yeah, we’ll be alright. That Ghost fellow hits hard. He showed no restraint…” Milan said.
“Yeah he does… But I hit him harder!” I smiled.
“Are you alright?” Milan asked.
“Yeah...I’m fine.” I said, looking over to Jarvis. His pride was definitely wounded from his defeat. However, he sat there as though nothing had happened. I wasn’t one to prod or ridicule when it wasn’t called for and this situation was no exception.
“You were right! Them some tough sonsabitches!” Milan said, thinking back on it.
“You know, I’m gonna go check on Tinnu and Subbu. They got hit the hardest…” I said. I walked off, the hollow feeling in my chest really being too much to bear. Where was my completion? It certainly was not here.
“Hey!” I heard someone say. I turned, seeing it was Everette running after me.
“You kept me from crashing back there…” He said, sounding surprised. Truthfully, it sickened me to my stomach. He had this preconceived notion that I was some terrible person and quite frankly, I felt like he was an idiot. If he wanted to be under Jarvis’s wing, so be it. I just refused to bail him out when Jarvis’s treachery decides to bare its head. All I could do was walk away, not bothering to acknowledge him.
I took wing, heading back to the hangar. I hung up my suit and walked to the infirmary. There, Marcell and Lay lay in hospital beds, finally coming to their senses after being clocked from the sky.
“What happened?” Liam asked.
“You got knocked out the sky.” I laughed.
“Shit, did we lose?” Marcell asked.
“No…” I smiled.
“Oh my God, Denver what kind of miracle did you pull out your ass!” Marcell said, shocked.
“I crossed my suits passive radar scans with optical aliasing scans and pinpointed the Forest Wingers while they were cloaked. I tried to update Subbu’s systems to it but I should have told you ahead of time. You getting hit was my fault.” I sighed.
“Oh that makes sense…” Liam laughed.
“Whoa dude...I was trying to do the same thing but then I got hit.” Marcell gasped, still shocked.
“But you’re both ok though?” I asked.
“Yeah, I’m fine.” Liam said.
“Yeah! Let’s get back out there!” Marcell said, leaning up.
“No, no!” A practitioner said, “You have injuries! Both of you have mild concussions! No more flying for the day…”
“Shit…” Marcell sighed.
“Don’t be so down...you won three matches out of the entire tournament.” I smiled.
“Yeah, but I really wanted to participate in the race… Eh, I guess there’s always next quarter. And by then we’ll have new wingers coming in.” Marcell sighed, trying to find the positive.
“I wish you could have seen Jarvis go down. It was so damn funny. And his flunky was hit too…” I laughed.
“Damn, all that bragging and he didn’t do shit…” Marcell laughed.
“What about Everette?” Liam asked.
“Man fuck that little dumbass! I say we let Jarvis brainwash him… I don’t have time for anyone who doesn’t think for themselves…” I sighed.
“You sure you wanna do that?” Marcell asked.
“I bailed him out once due to Jarvis’s disregard and I’m not doing it again. By the time he realizes how fucking twisted Jarvis is, he’ll be one second away from dying.” I said.
“Yeah, I can’t ever come to forgive Jarvis for what he did to Chance… Chance was a good man, arguably the best flyer amongst us...and now… gone! Don’t curse Everette like that, Denver. I don’t wish that type  of deceit upon him… upon no one.” Marcell, reflected shaking his head.
“You’re right...but still though, I’m not helping him...not after what he said to me.” I sighed.
“Wait, when?” Marcell asked.
“I stopped him before he left for the hangar and told him to be weary of Jarvis and he said Jarvis warned him I’d say this to him. He then said something stupid and condescending along the lines of, I’m riding his shins and at that point I was like bitch fuck you...when Jarvis kills your ass, I would tell you I told you so but you’ll be dead so fuck you! So...I left it at that…” I sighed.
“Aw man, he’s already in the boy’s head. Denver, you can’t let anything happen to him.” Marcell said. I looked over to Liam. A silent plea was written all over his eyes.
“Ok, but if he doesn’t get the bigger picture next time shit goes south for him, he’s on his own.” I said.
“What are you lot talking about?” Someone in the doorway said. I turned, seeing it was Captain Wallace.
“Nothing…” I sighed.
“Well, General Aquil is pleased with your flying and quick thinking out there to score the win. He thinks you should be my Second Wing.” The captain smiled.
“No…” I quickly refused. Captain was shocked.
“No?” He asked.
“See, I’m not trying to compete with Gyr… Not after...I just am not a good fit, sir.” I sighed. He looked at me intently.
“Not after what?” He asked, arms folded.
“He killed Chance or…  his lack of action got Chance killed! I was there, I saw it with my own eyes and I refuse to be Gyr’s next target.” I sighed.
“You know you can’t say that to the General, right? He’s adamant about you being my Second Wing…” Captain sighed, wanting this for me as well.
“So, he wants me signed up for suicide...I see…” I sighed, truly frustrated.
“No...Denver… If you don’t want to be Second Wing, just tell me. You don’t have to blame it on something else…” Captain said.
“I would happily be Second Wing but you think Gyr will take kindly to someone half his size pulling rank over him?” I asked.
“You’re overreacting. I know it’s a big responsibility and all…”
“Ok, I’ll do it… When I die in battle, just know it was at the hands of Gyr… Tired of this fucking hellish life anyway. Maybe it is my time…” I sighed.
“DENVER!” The Captain snarled.
Liam and Marcell sat in utter shock.
“My office now…” He demanded. We walked back to his office, he slamming the door behind us. I didn’t bother to sit because I knew I was going to get an earful. I just looked at the floor.
“This is a major step for you, for anyone! You’d be a fool not to take it.” He said.
“Well, I’m a fool.” I sighed.
“Did something happen?” Captain asked.
“Of course something happened! Raul and that Ghost person are now a thing and I just destroyed them both in a tournament! I wasn’t even going to compete until Liam got injured and I was afraid they team was gonna be down a man! And he just so happened to get injured. Right. When. The. Forest. Wingers. Time. To. Compete. CAME!!!!! The whole time I just felt Raul’s hate! Like it was sticky!!!! You know how devastating it was to win, to defeat the person who always felt defeated by you? He came for me like a freight train during this whole tournament yet I still came out on top! He...hates...me!” I said back.
“The general also was pleased by how eager you were to not only save your teammates from crashing into the sod, but the opposing team as well.” Captain added.
“What? The sod is not very soft! Someone would have done the same for me if I got hit.” I said.
“No they wouldn’t!” Captain laughed before getting serious again, “You got the makings of a leader and one day you will be in my seat. I’m promising you that! Now, if you say you’re not ready to lead, I believe you but General Aquil is...how you say...he doesn’t take no for an answer, especially with us cut so short lately.”
“Well lets see how well I can spruce up this no!” I said.
“Eh, I wish you well boy. He’s in his office…” Captain sighed.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t terrified. General Aquil was seven foot, two inches of three hundred pounds of brick wall. He meant business and was accustomed to getting his way. I entered his office, standing at parade rest, not bothering to sit.
“Take a seat…” He smiled. I reluctantly did so, “So you participate in only one match, dominate and vanish?”
“I um, my mates were struggling a bit after having to take on the Roc Class and one of them simply didn’t have anyone to cover him so I had to step up.” I said.
“So you felt the need to step in at that time?”
“I mean I have faith in my boys, it’s just they don’t work together as a team unless someone hammers them. Marcell and Milan are the only two that work together proficiently… The rest of them, I can’t speak for as well.” I sighed.
“You seem to be a team player, taking care of your own as well as the ones who aren’t. That is what we need here.” He smiled.
“I don’t think I’m cut out for taking on a leadership role.” I said.
“Why not?” The General asked, not pleased with my response.
“Well,” I said trying to think of something swiftly, “I just have issues… I don’t want to be a leader when I’m struggling putting my past behind me.”
“To me these are excuses. Everyone on your team looks up to you…” The General said.
“That’s not true. Jarvis and I don’t see eye to eye over any matter and he often is the root cause of all the poor teamwork that occurs on missions.” I refuted.
“I’ve had my eye on Jarvis… and he is a complicated fellow. It’s why I want him to step down as Second Wing.” The General said.
“It’s not going to happen. He won’t take this lightly. The scary part about Jarvis is that he won’t utter a word. He’ll put a smile on his face but in his mind, formulate ways to take you out. Today was a prime example of this when he let Everette get plucked out of the sky. He knew better than to stay in one spot… I just don’t trust him…”
“So the reason you don’t want to be Second Wing is because of Jarvis?” The General asked.
“What else?”
“Every time I go out on a mission, I hope it completes me, hope it makes me feel like I’m alive… By the time the mission is over, I’m left with this hollow feeling like I have more questions than answers…” I sighed.
“That’s not good, kid.” The General said, sounding disappointed, “That’s basically telling me you’re out for the thrills and not for the success.”
“I mean, I take care of mine… I’m first to take the plunge and the last one to leave. I do care about the success…” I said in my defense.
“Yeah but sounds like you don’t care about you! That is both a good and bad trait… Are you out there to kill yourself?” He asked.
“At this point, I don’t know. I’m just tired of the same old formula, with the same old results, with the same function. I want something that’ll make me feel alive!” I said, unsure what part was honesty and what part was me trying to squirm out of this.
“My bullshit meter is going off the scale, so I’ll just say it. It saddens me to hear this from someone so great on the battle field. I’ll tell you what...I’m sending you west for six months… or however long you need since you want to feel alive. I got something for you! When you come back here, you’ll wish you never left.” The General said.
“Ok, sir.” I shrugged, unsure how this was going to be challenging.
“But before that, your team will be heading to Spain… There’s a mission that only your team can handle since we’re short on men. However, considering the way the Venice mission went, I’m taking extra precautions and sending the Roc Class for added support if needed. Details will be given tomorrow. Also, don’t tell anyone you’re leaving! This is something between, you, me and your Captain.” He said.
“Yes sir.” I said. It made me realize that Captain was going to chew me a new asshole. My mouth got me into something I definitely couldn’t squirm out of, now! I feared for the disappointment I would bring Captain Wallace….    


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