"UCAC: United Cybernetic Air Core" - Chapter 4

Not just our team stood to be debriefed this early morning. The Roc Class stood with us, eager to learn their role in today’s mission. We stood at parade rest as General Aquil took his stance at the podium. He looked at us proudly.
“This will be a swift mission. You are to be shipped to the western coast of the British Isles. There, you both will fly to the rendezvous point, grouping up outside of the Spain Botanical Facility. The Roc Class will set up a perimeter and secure the area around the facility for three square cliques. Your job is to make sure this isn’t an insurgent trap and to focus on ground threats. Once you can confirm that the area is secure, the Long Wingers will enter the facility and retrieve this,” The General said as graphic came up of a rectangular computer being displayed, “A machine called a Mallet. It houses some important secrets about biological engineering that will allow us to take the next steps in producing the second generation of cybernetic humans. Your role in this mission is for the future of mankind!!! Each and everyone of your actions will dictate the success of this mission. This will be our most important mission to date. Any questions?”
No one raised the hands, all except Liam.
“What if this mission is somehow an insurgent trap, like what happened in Italy?” Liam asked. Everyone looked at the boy in certain rage. Of course he would be the one to ask such a ‘dumb’ question but the question was a blatant concern of mine.
“It is precisely why the Roc Class is here. I have taken into consideration that this could be a trap which is why the Recon Wingers have been surveying the region for any suspicious activity. The Roc Class will secure the area and maintain area security. They will provide air support if needed. They will be ordered to fly around the area of action for the entire duration of the mission. Is that all?” The General responded. No one else had anything to say, “Since no, grab your packs and head out to the hangar for transport…”
We did so, swiftly rushing to the Hangar. There, an airship was ready to be boarded. We wasted no time in entering the ship’s bay, sitting in the designated areas. Liam looked at me with a smile, sitting just before me.
“You sure this mission will be dangerous?” Liam asked.
“I don’t know. I was told it would be… I just don’t know.” I said, truly perplexed.
“Well I’m keeping my fingers crossed,” Marcell chimed in, “My stomach is jittering like a motherfucker, man…”
“Mine too…” Milan added.
“Yeah, as of lately none of these missions have been going according to plan…” Marcell sighed.
“It’s not my concern… My main concern is that this is a mission without Lead Wing…” I said. The four of us looked at each other, knowing we were in Jarvis’s hands. It sent shivers down own spine.
The bay doors began to close as the ship’s engines powered on.
“OK, I was looking at the ordinance for this mission and they were packing some serious incendiary drop offs. Why do we have bombs if we’re simply going to be patrolling?” A Roc Class Winger asked.
“Hell if I know… What’s this, our second mission? Let’s try not trying to go in expecting anything other than the success of the mission.” Another Roc Winger sighed.
A huge dude, about six foot eight sat next to me. He was at least two hundred eighty pounds, nothing but raw muscle. Like me, he was multiracial and covered in character rich freckles. If I recalled right, he went by the name of Malcolm. He had the most perplexed look on his face.
“So you only have one intel dude on your team?” He asked.
“Yeah but we have another coming…” Marcell said, turning to face the young man.
“It’s just crazy to me how you all are able to turn out such a success rate being the smallest functioning team of us all.” Malcolm said.
“It’s all about communication and quick thinking.” I smiled.
“Well, hopefully on this mission we won’t be put to too big of a test.” Malcolm smiled, extending out his hand, “I’m Malcolm, by the way.”
“I know,” I said shaking his hand, “All the girls were screaming your name last night...figured it was you. I’m Denver… What part of the Caribbean ya from?”
“I’m from Trinidad but I haven’t been in so long I just about forgot what it’s like… What about you? You seem to know how to move…” He smiled.
“I’m not really from the Caribbean but it was the last place I lived before I moved here. I used to live in the Virgin Islands.” I clarified.
“Eh, small world.” He laughed.
“Got any extra details on the mission?” I asked.
“I um, apart from seeing the incendiary ordinance, no.” He said, sounding disappointed, “You?”
“I heard it’d be dangerous but I can’t put my finger on why. It seems like there’d be nothing to cause a threat on this mission but my source is very, very trustworthy… My issue is that this will be a tight quarters mission and we know damn well we’re not built for that. That was how we got fucked over in Italy…” I sighed.
“Yeah that Italy mission was no joke. I hate it for those you lost but this time I’m going to make sure there are no loses…” Malcolm said.
“Are you Second Wing for the Roc Class?” I asked.
“No, I’m Steppe… I do recon, practically a supersized version of Tinnu.” Malcolm corrected.
“Boots and I are recon. Empire is Second Wing.  The Gold Triplets, VV, King, Spots, Shortie, and White are pretty much heavy duty.” Malcolm continued.
“I thought you were a team of nine…” Marcell pondered.
“We have three Golden Wingers… We’re more than likely to bench one or two.” Malcolm laughed.
“I really hate the naming system. It makes having multiple wingers of the same type of Cyber Winger very difficult.” I said.
“Yeah. You’ll find a way to get around it… we did.” Malcolm smiled.
“How?” Marcell asked.
“Numbers…” Malcolm chuckled.
“Welp….” Marcell said, feeling he should have suspected the answer. He then turned to me, “How precisely did you get details on the mission?”
“I was in the Hangar getting some diagnostics ran on my suit. Got into a conversation with Dr. Helm. He’s the one who told me it was dangerous but he didn’t give me any details.” I explained.
“Wait, how long have you know about this mission?” Liam asked.
“Not long, about three days…” I responded.
“So Dr. Helm was the one who told you about the mission?” Marcell asked.
“No… How I acquired the information can’t be disclosed. Sorry guys.” I smiled.
“AH…” Marcell growled, hating when he couldn’t learn something, “You know how I hate being in the blind.”
“Well we’re all in the blind, guys…” I sighed.
“I um,” Malcolm began looking around, “Trevor!”
“Yeah!” Another dude about six foot nine said back. Malcolm waved him over.
“You think you can link yours, mine and Marcell’s spectrum array and adaptive tech?” Malcolm asked. Trevor looked at us tiny folk.
“Sure…” Trevor said back, “Let me guess, you’re intel?”
“Yep…” Marcell smiled confidently.
“Alright, come with me. I wanna see what you’re working with…” Trevor said, ascending to the upper levels of the air ship. Marcell stood up, being completely dwarfed by Trevor. Trevor was nearly a foot taller than Marcell. It was funny because Malcolm and Trevor were the only two team members under seven feet yet still were huge. I watched the two disappear up the stairs.
The airship began to take off. Liam rushed over to the window seat, looking down as the ship slowly rose off the ground. Everette watched him, looking at the tiny boy from head to toe. He gave an eye roll and sighed. It was not a good sign at all. The boy seemed to be very torn and after the events of last night, I’m not surprised. Jarvis had succeeded in getting inside the boy’s head and for the sanctity of this mission, this was… discouraging.
“Ya know,” Liam began, “I remember my first time inside one of these things. I used to be so afraid of heights… can you believe that?”
“Yeah we can believe it…” I teased. It made Liam laughed.
“I don’t know what happened. I just woke up one day and was like, hey, it’s not so bad…  and loved it.” Liam responded.
“Truthfully, it’s a surprise to me because you’re the most agile flier period…” Milan chimed in.
“Yeah, he has the highest G-force resistance of any Cyber Winger in the force.” I smiled.
“Yet I don’t fly like it… I hold back so much on the wing it’s not even funny.” Liam sighed. I sat next to him, looking out a neighboring window.
“Well, don’t hold back this mission… Slay us!” I smiled.
“Ya know,” Liam began, “Everette…”
“What?” The boy asked, sounding aggravated. Liam looked at him surprised, unsure where this angst was coming from.
“We don’t know much about you… I just have a few questions.” Liam smiled, looking innocently adorable and cute and shit. God, how could anyone ever be irritated by someone that sweet? It truly made me want to throttle Everette for being such a douchebag.
Everette simply, shrugged not really caring to hear from Liam. Not discouraged, brave little Liam geared to ask him some questions.
“Ok,” Liam started, “Like...where are you from?”
“Burgundy…” Everette said, being as vague as possible. It now became evident to Liam that Everette was not in the best of moods. Still though, the boy wanted to try his luck. I tried to hint at him by shaking my head but it was too late.
“Cool, I used to go to France when I was younger,” Liam smiled, though sounding less enthused, “So, what do you do in your free time? It’s like you disappear…” Everette stared at the boy, his cold blue eyes penetrating deep. Liam knew now to backoff. He threw up both hands, vacating the area.
“Thank you…” Everette said, very frustrated, “...bugging the shit out of me.”   
Everette had me boiling in my skin. I gave him the most scalding look I could muster. He looked at me, growing cautious. It was the first time I or anyone here for the matter had gotten angry with him. But being angry was a very clear understatement. Everette was being childish and a poor team player and I for one didn’t condone it.
Jarvis sat back, the evermost faintest smirk on his face, steadily silent. I had enough… for the sanctity of this mission, I got to my feet, embedding my gaze forever in Everette’s mind. I marched up the stairs where the cybernetic suits were. I looked out the window, watching as the ship flew out of the sunrise. The silence was pure bliss but the thing was, it wasn’t quite as quiet as I thought. There was some choppy and disconnected breathing coming from one of the tuckaways.
Curious, I went to investigate, walking stealthily towards the sound. Homing in on the noise, I realized it was two people panting. Reaching for the tuckaway, I opened it surprised by the sight. Trevor had Marcell hoisted up on his hips, pounding away at him. The two stopped at the sight of me, freezing in fear.
“Guys…” I said, truly astounded. Both boys looked terrified.
“Denver, please…” Marcell begged.
“Look,” I began with a smile, “Your secret, is my secret…. finish up.” I closed the door behind them. I resumed staring out of the window. It was truly a shock that Marcell was gay… or what ever he’d call it. He hid his urges so well, I never would have guessed. However, I’m glad I found out and not someone else. It could have been the start of endless persecution from fellow wingsuit pilots. Considering how easily I stumbled across the two in the act, I had to stand lookout or something. If Marcell knew as much about me as I did him, he’d definitely do the same… I think. Hell, I didn’t care. I just wished him for him to be safe.
Two powerful arms planted on the windowsill around me. Startled, I turned swiftly, coming nose to nose with… Jarvis.
“Hi…” He smiled biting his lip. He leaned in to kiss me. I ducked down, crawling from under the huge man. This was so out of the blue and completely random, I couldn’t even do anything except retaliate with volatility.  
“You’ve officially lost your fucking mind…” I said in complete shock. Jarvis slowly walked over to me, seductive as ever.
“What? I want to get to know you, Denver…” Jarvis smiled.
“No,” I said, “You’re up to something and I’m gonna find out what! The stunt you pulled last night, the way you have Everette wrapped around your finger...how you got this team divided… you’re up to something, I know. I will tell you this though. Let someone else on this team get hurt and you just stand idly by like you’re oblivious to it and I will come for you...HARD!!!!” Jarvis pressed up against me, pinning me to the wall.
“I want you to come for me…” He said, his voice tingeing with lust.
“Trust me,” I said, climbing up, digging my toes into him deeply. I grabbed him by his shoulders, getting eye to eye with him. He was now very top heavy, making it very easy to redirect his mass. I now had him pinned to the wall, “You don’t want me come for you…”
“Oh but I do…” He said, grabbing my thighs, spreading them, pulling me even closer to him. He pinned me to the wall yet again, planting his lips on my neck. I almost sucumbed to his seductive power but held resistance. I knew what he was trying to do. He knew he couldn’t speak his way into my head so he tried to sex his way into it. Quite frankly, it wouldn’t work.
I pried him off of me, going back to the window. Now that I knew what Jarvis tasted like, I didn’t want it. It was something about being a diabolical, malevolent sociopath that made the eel shrivel up.
“You failed, Javis…” I said not bothering to acknowledge his pompous stance behind me, “I’m not Everette, easy to succumb to some gentle touches, caresses and brainwashing. I’ve known you for seven years… He’s known you for about two weeks.”
“That’s where you’ve mistaken,” Jarvis said, warranting a look from me, “You don’t know me at all…” He disappeared down the steps. He knew he could send chills down my spine. He was just one terrifying dude but I am not one you want to terrify. I respond in the most volatile when you try to strike fear in me. Jarvis had just better hoped no one got hurt because I’d end him…
The furthest tuckaway slowly opened, Marcell sticking his head out.
“Is he gone?” He asked me. I nodded. He and Trevor left the tuckaway, both looking frumpy and embarrassed.
“Next time though,” I began, leaning on the railing, arms folded, “Play it safer and do not fuck on an airship. Neither of you knew I was even here!”
“Thanks for looking out for us, man…” Marcell sighed, relieved to know I had his back. I looked at Trevor, another giant wall of meat. I pointed to the stairs.
“Get your ass down there!” I snarled. The giant did as was told, leaving me and Marcell alone. I grabbed Marcell by the hand, so he’d stand next to me, “Wow dude…”
“You’re not pissed right?” He asked.
“No, no!” I said, “Not at all! I just never expected it.”
“Eh...I feel so guilty. I shouldn’t have let him…”
“You feel guilty? Boy it’s your natural right to be sexually attracted to who ever makes your dick swell up! Don’t even give me that…” I snarled.
“I come from a really conservative Italian household…” He said.
“And, your point is?” I asked.
“I mean… I don’t want my father to be disappointed with me.”
“I’m gonna tell you this much! You’re going to have to start being honest with yourself and acknowledge the way you feel about things and that will bring disappointment to many! Your sexuality is one of those things and it should be embraced. You’re twenty five years old! This is not a way to live your life… in denial.” I said. Marcell’s eyes began to well over, overwrought with a mix of emotions.
“You’re gay to?” He asked. I nodded.
“It’s been a struggle unlike anything you know but I had someone to talk sense to me from a young age. I can atleast do the same for you, ya know...stick my neck out.” I smiled.
“Jesus, man you don’t know how much that means...to me!” He said, reaching to hug me. I squirmed away.
“NO!!!! If you don’t stop with the eye faucets!” I demanded. Marcell laughed, wiping his tears.
“OK, OK…” Marcell smiled before getting serious, “But what the fuck just happened between you and Jarvis… I heard the entire thing!”
“Man… He’s been trying to get inside my head for a while now but failed...so now he’s trying to get within my pants in an effort to work his way in my head. I don’t know his end game…” I said, laughing nervously.
“Sounds like he’s getting desperate. We got to keep three eyes open.” Marcell said.
“It’s our best bet…” I said walking over to the stairs.
We headed back to the personnel bay, Liam glued to a window on the other side of the ship. I looked at Marcell, pointing to Liam.
“He’s?” Marcell asked. I nodded, heading over to the boy.
“You alright?” I asked quietly.
“I fucking blew it…” He responded, Marcell sitting next to me.
“Man, if I were you I wouldn’t sweat it! Just please have your head on your shoulders when this mission starts…” I begged. Liam looked at me, unsure why I was emphasizing this so much.
“I will.” He said, realizing something must have happened, “Wait…” He spun around looking at Jarvis, shrugging in confusion.
“He took it to a whole nother level…” I whispered to Liam, “And Everette is caught in the middle. It’ll be best if you keep your relationship with Everette on a completely duty basis only… He could be a danger to us all.” Liam shook his head beginning to sigh.
“OK…” He said with no counter at all, continuing to look out the window. I felt so bad for the kid, knowing he had some pretty strong feelings for Everette. But if it was one thing Everette was good at was sticking with the plan. I just hated seeing him so down.
About two hours of flying later, we reached Eastern England. Liam steadily looked out the window, not uttering a word. Liam was known around the base as a chatterbox, but for him to be silent...even Jarvis was unsettled.
“Attention,” An automated voice said, “Wingsuit pilots suit up… ejection in five minutes…” Everyone got up, Liam steadily sitting for some odd reason. He was deep in his mind. I snapped my fingers in his face.
“Hey!” I said, “Come on kid…” He snapped back into reality, getting to his feet. We walked up the stairs, getting into our docking stations.
“Eeeew, there’s gunk all in here…” Everette said, in the same Tuckaway that Marcell and Trevor had sex in. I couldn’t help but quietly laugh to myself. I entered my tuckaway, the actuating arms suiting me up swiftly.
“Subbu deployed…” The automated voice said.
“What?” I said, being caught off guard. I hit the bailout switch, being transferred from the tuckaway into a cylindrical drop. The door opened and I was in freefall.
Diving above the Atlantic Ocean, I spread my wings, heading towards land.
“Computers, locate Subbu!” I said.
“Homing…” The computer responded.
“Subbu!” I said out, hoping to make radio contact. He didn’t respond.
“Location found.” The computer said, his location being homed in on my HUD. I began to power towards the location, reaching landfall swiftly.
Liam was soaring above a huge settlement on the southern tip of England. It was a very lavished region, a massive palace sitting in the center with scattered villages here and there. A massive grape orchard sat to the north and a moor to the south. This was his home...  
“Subbu…” I said, powering over to him. Spreading my wings and tail, I caught a ride on the same thermal he rode.   
“I had to at least see it before I go on this mission… like, what if I don’t return or something?” Liam asked.
“You’re coming back, Subbu! Like we promised each other, we’ll be looking out for one another!” I said, hoping to reassure him. He didn’t respond, seeing someone walking out of the palace. He chuckled a bit.
“That’s my mother.” He said. She was a tall woman, taller than Subbu, with raven hair. She had a very chiseled face, high cheekbones and a thin nose. She wore a gorgeous mink coat that draped down to her feet. I don’t blame her for wearing it either. It was very cold out here. She got into a SUV, heading out into town.
“I bet you miss her…” I said.
“I do but… It’s just strange. This mission takes place forty miles north of my home… Like, my family won’t even know I’m here.” Liam chuckled.
“Yeah, I see why it bothered you. I don’t know how I’d deal if I were in your situation.” I said.
“Bothered me?” He asked.
“Dude, it obviously did if you left the ship early to come see your family.” I laughed.
“Yeah, you’re right…” Liam also laughed.
“Come in Merlin and Subbu.” Marcell said on the Radio.
“Here.” I said.
“Where are you guys?” Marcell asked.
“About thirty, forty miles out… Heading to objective now.” I said.
“Hurry.” Marcell said.
I looked over to Liam. He was steadily soaring on low held wings, circling on the thermal.
“Race you!” I said.
“Sure!” He responded. The two of us got parallel to each other, descending into a glide. Once we were gliding at the same speed it was on.
“On your mark...get said...go!” I said.
We both accelerated from our shallow, forty mile an hour glide to one hundred miles an hour, one fifty, two hundred, two fifty, to pushing three hundred. We were neck and neck not really wanting to push our top speed until the final few miles. It took about seven minutes to reach the thirty five mile mark. With about five miles to go, we pushed ourselves to our top speed. I began to marginally outpace Liam, having a top speed of three hundred twelve miles an hour. Liam’s top speed in the Subbu suit was about three hundred five miles an hour.
Liam did not take my gradual lead lightly. The boy stooped down, swiftly darting to four hundred miles an hour. There was a bit of a head wind coming from the sea to the north and Liam was going to use this to his advantage. Not wanting to lose this race, I dove too. I powered along my speed increasing drastically. I eventually began to catch up to Liam. The boy began to ascend again veering northwest. As we came side by side, he banked northeast, descending again. He was catapulted by the wind, whipping past me for the second time.
This was a surprise! Liam knew how to use these winds and he was placing considerable distance between us. This style of flight was known as dynamic flight, cutting through wind by rising with the head wind and descending rapidly when the wind conditions would change due to rapid ascension. In actuality, it could boost a top flat speed significantly.
It didn’t take long for me to catch up to Liam. Despite being faster than him on paper, we whipped past each other constantly, there not being a definitive winner.
“You guys are coming in hot…” Marcell noted, “Problem?”
“Yeah,” I responded, “Subbu is winning!”
“HAHAHAHA!!!!!” Liam squawked.
We came into visual contact with the other Wingsuit Pilots soaring above the hills. Nestled in the hills, connected to the cliffs of the coast was a network of giant greenhouses, overrun with plants. I mean they were huge, each one the size of a hangar! They were a frickin’ labyrinth, connected by long glass corridors and bridges. All of them seemed to connect to a massive dome, standing about three hundred feet at its highest. It made me grateful for the new advancements on my suits, particularly the mapping sonar. It would reduce the time we were in this place. However, we couldn’t enter just yet.
“Patrolling the perimeter now. Broad sweeping scans…” Malcolm said. His position as well as other Roc Wingers became visible on the HUD. Us Long Wingers circled above, waiting for a go ahead. There weren’t any blatant giveaways that this mission would be dangerous. Marcell looked down at the huge dome.
“I can feel the signature of electronics down in there but I can’t see due to that overgrowth…” Marcell said.
“Ground Penetrating Radar scans,” Trevor said, sweeping low over the grounds at high speed. His search came up with nothing in particular, “Nothing suspicious…”
“Well that’s strange…” I said, “What about you, Steppe?”
“Nothing so far,” Malcolm responded, “I don’t think there are any threats… Nothing escapes our radar detection, even bone matter…”
“Strange,” Marcell said, hovering over the dome, “Boots, sweep the facility… I got a bad feeling about this place…”
“Sure…” He responded. He flew over, using his ground penetrating radar to perform meticulous scans. The dense radio waves picked up nothing suspicious at all. The only thing odd that it picked up were dead bodies long decomposed, but all things considered, it was not worth mentioning. The humans that died here most likely were botanists and this was part of the written briefing that Trevor had read.
“Nothing…” He said.
“Well what makes this place dangerous?” Marcell asked, perplexed.
“Yeah, I’m at a loss too.” I sighed, unsure why Dr. Helm said that this mission would be extremely dangerous. It seemed it’d be very straight forward. What was he not telling us?
“You have the go ahead…” Empire, Second Wing of the Rock Wingers said.
“Alright.” Jarvis said, heading towards the ground.
We followed him, landing firmly on the ground at the old entrance of the Spain Botanical Facility. Still though, I couldn’t help but feel that this mission would get grim.
“Let’s get this over with…” Marcell sighed, the first to walk into the building. We followed, the facility being incredibly dilapidated on the inside. Plant vines were everywhere, growing from the walls, the plant shafts reaching back hundreds of feet if not thousands. The tiled floors were shattered and the walls were molding. All and all, this place was incredibly erie.
This was just an entry though, one of many, this being the closest to the core. As we descended further into the facility, the foliage became more and more thick. Broad leaves great for gathering light, did their job. They made it hard for anything beneath the canopy to see and it was getting dark fast. We all froze, daunted by the path ahead.
“How are we supposed to navigate through here?” Marcell asked.
“I um…” I began, “My suit has some new hardware. Tinnu set up a link between my visual feeds to you all, and I can map out the path ahead for you….”
“Wait, when did you get new stuff?” Milan asked.
“Now’s not the time to ask… It’s experimental stuff and I’m supposed to report if it works or not…” I said.
“Sure thing…” Marcell said, navigating his holowatch. He linked us all together, looking perplexed, “What now?”
I navigated my Helm’s HUD activating both pulse sonar and the ultra spectrum visual feed. It was then I recieved caution alerts.
“Whoa…” Marcell said, caught off guard, “What are these alerts?”
“I’m not sure… I think my suit is acting up. It’s getting countless motion readings but nothing is moving around us…” I said.
“Is it mistaking us for the motion?” Liam asked.
“No… It’s too many… The suit already is programed to ignore your telemetric feeds especially since we’re not synced… Hang on…” I said, truly confused. I began to take detailed sonar scans of the place. It captured a radius of three hundred feet, rendering a map. As I did another scan, I noticed something strange. The giant vines were in a slightly different location than they were just seconds ago. Unsure what to make of this, I did another scan.
The giant vines were creeping along the floor of the facility.
“Why do you keep scanning?” Marcell asked.
“The vines are moving…” I said, “Look…” I pulled up a comparison of the three scans.
“Whoa…” Marcell said, taken aback.
“Tinnu, have it set up that the IPUs and shaders render a live 3D map responsive to your movements...I’ll be sending live updates as we progress through here.” I said.
“Will do.” Marcell responded.
“We got to make this standard on our suits…” Milan said, looking around at his environment as Marcell punched in the updates. Not only could they see the world around them, they could see through obstacles. In addition to this, a map took up the lower left corner of their HUD. It made navigating this dark environment very easy.
“You take the lead…” Marcell said, “I got to write an auto patch so this shit will automatically know what the fuck to process when in close quarters, low light situations…”
“Eh…” I sighed, knowing his efforts would be in vain. I was going to leave, probably tonight considering how things were run here.
Still though, I took the lead, everyone marching through the labyrinths of halls and greenhouses as quickly as possible. We turned into one of the more massive greenhouses, edging closer to the heart of the facility. The plant activity increased dramatically as we did. It was so fucking creepy. It’s one thing to feel watched but it was another thing entirely to feel watched by plants! We didn’t know if these things could sense us or not, but the way they slithered about made my skin crawl.
Liam walked right into something dreadful! A long decayed human body was suspended half-way in the air with a vine growing through the back of his skull, coming out of the socket of the eye. Liam was face to face with this, scared shitless.
“Man what the FUCK!” He shouted, stepping back. We all turned to see what had him so riled. Jarvis walked over, shining his light on the carcass.
“That’s not pretty…” He said, not unnerved at all.
“How the hell?” Liam asked, looking at the strange sight. I was at a loss for words, this being one of the most bizarre things I’ve seen.
“So,” Milan began, “Was he dead before of after the vine pierced through the back of his skull?” I circled the site.
“I”m guessing before because he was still standing and technically still is…” I said.
“What the fuck does this mean then?” Marcell asked.
“Just,” I began, “Be on your toes…”
“Keep moving…” Jarvis commanded. It warranted a very concerned look from us all, “Let’s get what we came for...and get out.”
Was I the only one that felt like this was a warning from these plants? It showed us that it has killed before and that we should turn back. Now that I paid closer attention, this entire greenhouse was riddled with dead humans.
“Guys…” I said, highlighting all the dead bodies on the map. Each one had a vine running through the corps, a quill launched through a skull or the bones were partially dissolved, some even crushed. One giant vine lay atop a human carcass, obviously falling upon the person. It went from a bit unsettling to completely unnerving.
“Man, what happened here?” Marcell asked, looking around.
“Let’s not stick around to find out.” I advised, making my way towards the upper bridge. We were edging closer to the heart of this facility.
As we made it to the upper bridge, a giant vine darted before us, blocking the way. It startled us so bad we all jumped.
“Shit, these things don’t want us to go any further…” I noted.
“We got to.” Jarvis said. Of course this homicidal maniac would say bullshit along those lines.
“How the fuck are we going to get past this damn thing…?” Milan asked.
“Stand back guys…” I said.
They all looked at me, unsure what I had up my sleeve. They stepped back, stepping back even more as the dual pulse beams charged up on my helm. I fired a blast of concentrated light at the vine, singeing straight through it. We walked through.
“Whoa man…” Marcell said, impressed.
“Let’s hurry the fuck up…” I said, a strange feeling of regret coming over me. It was not because of remorse of destroying the giant vine, but because I felt these vines were being kind… They weren’t going to hurt us unless we hurt them. Maybe it was what they were waiting for.
We all marched through the upper bridge ready to get to the main dome. I took the lead, scanning the path ahead. Everette, who kept quiet, was right behind me...to my left. Marcell and Milan stayed together on my right, Liam walking behind them. Taking up the rear, just behind Liam, was Jarvis.
“Um,” Marcell said over the air, “Long Wingers to Roc Class Wingers… It appears that the vegetation in this facility is able to move under it’s own will and is possibly dangerous. Several of the dead humans in this place seemed to have succumbed to injuries caused by the plants themselves.”
“You sure?” Empire asked, not liking the way this sounded.
“A giant vine suddenly blocked our path and we had to cut through it… I’m most definitely sure. Please stand by and be ready to provide support air support…” Marcell said back.
“Heeded…” Empire replied.  
The motion alerts now turned into warnings but I figured it was due to the extra activity of the plants around us. I had no idea that a vine was creeping in from a broken window… stalking us. But guess who knew and didn’t utter a word… Jarvis. He stepped back, giving the vine a wide girth, wanting this thing to take one of us out! It continued to follow us, he watched the monstrosity as it slithered along. It crept closer and closer, it’s pace picking up as we neared the end of the upper bridge.
Liam, feeling something wasn’t right saw the vine creeping along. It had picked out Everette as its target since he was relatively isolated, walking alone. The plant launched a vicious attack, Jarvis watching in delight as the botanical beast went for Everette. However, Subbu sprung forward. He stretched out his feet, knocking Everette to the floor of the bridge as the vine enwrapped him. The boy screamed loudly, the vine bashing him into the glass and metal frame of the the bridge. Not even Jarvis was expecting this twist of fate!
Unsure what was going on, everyone ducked covering their heads as debris began to fall. Upon realizing what was going on, I was horrified.
“SUBBU!!!!” I screamed. The vine yanked the boy out of the tiny hole it came in from, knocking off a considerable amount of his armor. I ran after them, trying to see where the vine was dragging him off to. Wasting no time, I shattered the dense glass with my talons, slipping out of the bridge.
Powering through the sky after the vine, I was almost paralyzed from horror seeing him yanked through a tiny hole in the base of the dome. Again, more of his armor was knocked off, including his Helm. I entered, not prepared for what I was going to see next. A giant botanical oral cavity, filled with giant hooked spikes was grinding Liam up. They were piercing his armor...piercing his flesh…. His screams made me feel so helpless as the massive plant continued to chew him alive. The boy reached out to me, as though I could help him. It was so heart breaking having to stand there to witness this. I screamed...
“LIAM!!!! LIAM!!!!!” I shrieked and shrieked until the boy stopped moving…  
Blood trickled down through his armor, to his frail fingertips. He was dead. The giant plant had killed this innocent little being and there was nothing I could do.
The killer plant’s focus shifted to me. Several vines rose up, ready to strike me down. Concentrating on this opposition was damn near impossible. Everything grew into a silent roar, the air around me becoming still. A giant vine came down ready to pulverize me. As it did, dozens of quills embedded into it’s fibers, exploding on impact. The boom rang in my ears...
“NOOO!!!!” Marcell said, landing next to me. He trembled at the site of Liam. He turned to me, grabbing me in his arms.
“Merlin!!!!” He said, shaking me, “MERLIN!!!!” I was still in shock…  More of the murderous vines came down to strike, “SHIT!”
Marcell fired instant explosion quills to buy is both a tiny window of time. Milan and Everette arrived, floored by the sight of Liam dead in the jaws of this giant plant. Wasting no time, both of them began firing a barrage of explosive quills. I began to come out of my daze, having to gather my focus. Liam’s death could not be in vain, it simply couldn’t...
“Guys… ” I said, “I’m going for the Mallet! Cover me!”
“Ok…” Marcell said.
I took off, shooting high energy beams at vines as I went by. It just didn’t gratify me though. I dove in, firing several pulse beams at the jaws of the plants, causing seriously searing damage. The plant roared out, angered… a plant...angered!!! The giant botanical beast spat Liam out on a new quest. It wanted me in it’s jaws, this time. The creature erupted from it’s basin revealing a monstrous body.
It was several dozens of feet long if not several hundred feet. It’s body was covered in dense moss. It had six insect-like limbs that looked like tree trunks. On it’s back were four massive leafy structures. From it’s tail came several hundred vines, each one able to think independently as they still faced off with the rest of the Long Wingers. It looked like a giant wasp, a wasp made of plants…    
Still though, I was not fazed. I flew towards the control room suspended high above the facility. Crashing through the window, I landed on the control panel. The Mallet was connected to to the control panel by several wires. The Mallet itself being a tiny computer, could be folded and carried like a suitcase. I disconnected the machine from its ports and closed it. As I did, a vine came crashing into the control room. It knocked me down, coming back to wrap me up with constricting force. I grabbed the Mallet in my talons as I was dragged out of the control room.
The vine blew up, sending me falling to the dome floor.
“THIS IS TINNU! WE’RE REQUESTING SUPPORT!!!!” Marcell said over the air. Swooping down to my rescue was, Milan. He picked me up in his arms as a vine circled us. I was close to blacking out, the fall being that brutal.
Just when it looked grim for us, Empire came crashing through the top of the dome, firing a barrage of rocket propelled explosive quills at the monster plant. It remembered in glimpses, the massive plant fighting back hard but fearing the flames. I temporarily blacked out. Coming to briefly again, the giant creature burst through the facility, the four leafy structures on it’s back, actually wings. Again, I blacked out. I woke up in a gurney several minutes later, inside the ship. I didn’t know what the hell was going on. My team surrounded me, looking on in somber shock.
“That thing took off and headed across the ocean. We were told not to engage… But still thought, you got the Mallet!” Marcell said, proud. I could care less…
“Where’s Liam!” I asked.
“He’s gone…” Marcell said, his eyes beginning to well over.
“He’s gone?” I asked, struggling to believe this.
“The Roc Class had to bomb that place to get us out.” Milan sighed, shielding his face as he sat. I leaned up, looking around. Something wasn’t right.
“Denver,” Someone called from upstairs, “You may want to look at this.” I got up, very sore from the nearly three hundred foot fall. Thank God we had these suits because I couldn’t have survived without it. Milan helped me ease up the stairs.
“Over here…” Trevor said, looking very serious. I walked over to the computer terminal where a live feed of the footage our suits recorded was taken.
“What?” I asked. Trevor, Malcolm and many other Roc Winger’s looked at me concerned with how I’d react. Trevor hit the spacebar.
This was the feed right when the vine initially attacked. It showed that Jarvis was well aware of this vine twenty six seconds before it even attacked.
“He knew…” I snarled.
“I can’t believe…” Marcell said, shielding his face. I continued to watch, watching as the feed showed Liam being bashed so brutally, the scutes on his wings came loose, flying about in every direction. All I could do was get angry. I marched down the stairs to find Jarvis. He was sitting in rear near the bay doors, no concerns at all.   
“You saw that GODDAMN VINE BEFORE ANY OF US AND DID NOT UTTER A DAMN WORD!!!!!!!!!” I screamed ready to strike him with all my might. Before I could, I was hoisted off the ground.
“Whoa dude…” Milan said, carrying me over his shoulder.
“This was your fault! You SAW THAT DAMN VINE!!!!” I screamed as I was carried away, “I told you that if anyone got hurt, I was coming for you! Now, LIAM’S DEAD!!!!!! YOU BETTER HOPE AND PRAY THAT THEY KEEP ME AWAY FROM YOU!!!! BECAUSE YOU’RE DEAD!!!! YOU’RE FUCKING DEAD!!!!”
“Denver!” Milan said as he took me to the upper levels.
“He killed Liam, man he killed Liam…” I cried, “This is the FUCKING second time...SOMEONE HAS DIED...because of THAT BASTARD!!!!!”
“He’ll pay Denver...He’ll pay.” Milan sighed, “Right now, we’re going to have to restrain you for your and everyone else’s safety… Do you understand?”
“I understand…” I said, despite being irrate. This was a grim day, the grimmest day since I lost my parents. I can’t say I ever cared for a soul the way I cared for Liam. He was a special kid, one whose friendship was very dear to me. He was beginning to wedge his way into being an important part of my life and now he was...gone.
It was hard for Milan to handcuff me and strap me to the railing but he had to. If not, I would have ran off to try my hardest to fuck Jarvis up. Marcell walked to the upper level, angry too.
“That fucking snake… It was going after Everette! Liam jumped in the fucking way to save that little douchebag… I bet Jarvis wasn’t expecting it… ” Marcell said, furious.
“What the fuck are we going to do man?” Milan asked.
“Ya know, I was ordered to take care of Liam,” I said, “He was my responsibility...and now I have to answer to Captain Wallace when we get back...and it’s all...Jarvis’s...fault.” The hatred radiated off of me. Milan was left clenching his head, this being all too distressing.
“I’m so sorry, Denver…” Marcell said, fully sympathizing with me. He knew why Captain Wallace told me to look out for Liam and to lose Liam like this was devastating.
“Why couldn’t it have been Everette instead…” I said.
“Dude…” Milan said, surprised I’d say something so cold.
“I’m not going to sit here and act like I like the dude! He’s fucking stupid and Liam did NOT have to sacrifice himself for that dumbass…  no, not after the way Everette treated him. Now look where it got Liam...DEAD! And you know the funny thing…? Liam and I went to see his home before this mission started. He said it felt so strange doing a mission so close to home and that he felt he needed to see it before we began the mission. I didn’t think nothing of it and now...” I said, “I shouldn’t have blasted that first vine…”
“Dude, we had to proceed… Don’t do that to yourself…” Milan said.
“I just… FUCK EVERYTHING, MAN!!!!” I screamed, beyond frustrated. I don’t think he could understand just how much I lost. This was just sombering, a blow I wasn’t expecting.
This wouldn’t be the end though. I was going to fuck Jarvis up the first chance I got. I didn’t care about the consequences. I didn’t care if he was a superior and the grueling punishment I’d face after the fact. I just wanted to ruin him for destroying an innocent being who was just getting started in this world. I wanted to make him feel the amount of suffering Liam endured, to know how helpless he was, to have no one to help him! I wanted to get inside his head like he got inside of mine, fuck him over mentally, and physically. I wanted him dead!
“This mission better had been worth it…” Marcell said. At this point, I had fell silent… unable to find words to reply to Marcell. I just wanted to channel this destructive energy, God I did…
“I hope so too.” Milan said back.
“I got to go make my report…” Marcell sighed.
He came back an hour later, still looking full of drear.
“Denver, since you’re the one who got the Mallet, they want you to walk off with it first…” He sighed.
“That’s fine…” I said still full of angst.
“Just,” Marcell began, losing his train of thought. He shrugged, heading towards the stairs. Instead of going down to the lower levels, he sat on the steps, “Don’t do anything stupid when we get back to the base…”
“I am.” I said, being truthful. He had no response, only a saddened head shake. He got up, going down the stairs.
It didn’t take long before the airship was lowering into the hangar. Milan took the handcuffs off my wrists, handing me the Mallet. He pat me on the shoulder, wishing me the best. The hurt was there in his eyes just along with everyone else. I walked down the stairs, everyone watching me tensely. The bay door opened, a crowd gathered around us. It was the entire fucking base. I walked out, seeing Raul and his boys standing in the crowd.
They cheered as I stepped off the platform to the tarmac. They didn’t know what we lost, or what I was about to do. I stood in the middle of the crowd, waiting for Jarvis to walk by. Seeing him out the corner of my eye, I struck him in the face with the metal casing of the Mallet as hard as I could. Jarvis fell, clenching his face. A loud gasp came from the crowd but I didn’t care. I drew my hand back, striking him again with the Mallet.
“DENVER!!!!” Marcell screamed, rushing over to me. I tossed the Mallet aside, grabbing Jarvis by his hair. I repeatedly struck him with a closed fist, trying to inflict as much pain as possible. Milan and Marcell tried to pry me off of Jarvis but I wrapped my thighs around his head, clenching tightly. I hammered him on the top of his head with fist after fist! They couldn’t get me off of him.
It took half of the Roc Class, seven foot tall men, each weighing three hundred pounds, to pry me off of Jarvis. Still though, I landed one last kick to his head as I was dragged away.
“ROT IN HELL!!!!!! YOU SICK BASTARD ROT IN HELL!!!” I screamed. They toted me off to the base disciplinary ward, tossing me into a cell.   
You’d think a violent outburst like that would fix the pain but no… It did nothing! I still was aching from the loss of Liam, probably now more than ever. The part that frustrated me the most was how little a difference it would have made assaulting Jarvis. Liam still would be dead and my chest still would be caving in.  It was so frustrating!
I began punching the wall, screaming, kicking, crying, none of it bringing Liam back. I was beginning to inflict harm on myself, my knuckles beginning to bloody. Guards entered the cell, restraining me. All I could do was scream as they put me in a straight jacket. It was for my own good, though. I was just out of control… General Aquil stood, looking in the cell as I cried...trembling in rage on the floor.
“Ya know,” He began, “I opted this mission for you simply because I saw so much potential in you. I wanted to scare you, make you think that you’d be going so maybe you’d come to your senses and realize how great a leader you are. But now...I’m afraid I have no choice but to send you across the pond. Jarvis is insisting that you’re punished for violating a superior…”
“Great...He killed two birds with one stone, now. At this point, send me. I’ve lost too much to care.” I said.
“No he didn’t… Denver, you are an extraordinary talent and I refuse to let you ruin yourself…” General Aquil said, growing upset. I had no reply, truly broken. I hoped he could understand this because at this point, I felt no point in living. The last person I knew worth trusting was gone.
General sighed, leaving me to my thoughts. It was the worst thing he could have ever done. All I could think about was how big a failure I was, how much I lost and how lost I felt. I leaned up against the wall, wishing that it was me instead of Liam who was dead. Truly, with all I’ve lost what point was there to live?
Captain Wallace came to pay me a visit. The sorrow and disappointment on his face made me break down. I shook my head, crying hysterically in the tight cell.
“I’m so sorry…” I pled, “I failed...I fucked up...I did.”
“Denver, you pulled off miracle after miracle today. Don’t sit here and fester on what you lost…” He said.
“What am I fighting for?” I asked, “Because, I know damn well I’m not fighting for myself. Will I reap the benefits of any of this, any of the shit I’ve lost? All of what’s been put on the line, is it really worth it? Because, I’ve been losing, and losing, and losing and you all keep telling me I’m making triumphs when I can’t even tell. The line between tragedy and triumph has become so blurred now… ”
“You’re strong… stronger than I am, Denver. I know you’ve lost a great deal but one day, you’re going to look back at all of this and say this made you… you. You’re going to have one hell of a story to tell and be an inspiration for those who’ll go through equally rough waters. You may be down, Denver but you are NOT out!” He said. I couldn’t even come to responding. He looked at me with so much sorrow, so much hurt.
“I just want the kid back…” I sighed.
“I’m sorry he’s gone. I saw you two were becoming inseparable… I hate seeing you locked up like this, man.” Captain sighed, “Well, you’re about to be a Captain soon enough. Just come back to us, man. We’re going to run some tests on you, check your for signs of PTSD and keep it rolling. We got a tight schedule. I’m working on your itinerary now. We’ll be in contact…”
I had nothing else to say. I just wanted to feel like the piece of shit I was. Captain left, leaving me sitting on the floor for the next few hours. It wasn’t long before a guard opened the cell, releasing me from the straight jacket. They directed me to a medical office.
Blood work was pulled, as well as a full physical. A doctor sat before me with a clipboard. She wrote vigorously before looking up at me.
“Have you been reliving any traumatic events from the past?” She asked.
“No…” I said. She wrote down my response.
“Have you had any dreams relating to a past traumatic event?” She continued.
“No.” I sighed, hating these questions. Again, she wrote down my response.
“Do you have flashbacks at random of past traumatic experiences?”
“I thought you couldn’t have PTSD with a brain implant…” I said, tiring of this.
“It reduces chances but it is still very much possible. You’ve been through a lot, Denver so this is mandatory.” She said back, “Do you receive severe emotional distress or any physical symptoms if something reminds you of a past trauma?”
“Do you find yourself avoiding things that remind you of a past traumatic event?”
“I attack it head on…” I sighed.
“Do you lose interest in activities you used to enjoy and feel a detachment from family and friends?” She asked. I leaned in, looking her boldly in the eyes.
“I have no family!” I said through the grit of my teeth. She sighed, writing down my results. She paused, reading ahead. She marked down other things too, leaving me a bit concerned.
“Do you feel emotionally inept and often get moody or angered by random triggers?” She asked. It made me think.
“No…” I said. She looked at me, not believing it one bit.
“Do you feel emotionally inept and often get moody or angered by random triggers?” She asked again, a bit of spice in her tone. I sighed.
“Do you feel alone, like no one else ever hears your cry for help, like you have to be an additional level of alertness?” She asked. The question brought me to tears.
“Yes…” I said.
She left the room, returning shortly.
“Denver…” She said softly.
“Yeah?” I responded.
“You do show signs of PTSD, engaging in destructive behaviors, feeling alone and misunderstood and having unbalanced emotional problems… With the recent string of events, we’re going to keep you under observation to make sure there are no more symptoms to occur. If there aren’t then you’ll be prescribed anti-depression meds and will be good to go. If more do come, you will have to undergo traumatic shock therapy. Please, Denver, be honest with the medical team that’ll be working with you… They are here to help, afterall so let them do their job, please…” She said. I was left speechless.
I often considered myself strong, stronger than my past! Never did I think I could succumb to PTSD. After all I’ve been through, the things I’ve seen and now I’m diagnosed with shell shock? I guess I wasn’t as invincible as I once, thought I was...  
Captain returned, a grim look on his face. He was accompanied by General Aquil who was equally upset.
“I’ve heard news, kid.” Captain sighed.
“You’ve got a serious, serious limit on you. Most people would have been cracked. We’re going to send you to your captain training but keep you under medical observation the entire while. I don’t think you have severe PTSD but I don’t want you around this death and destruction to truly find out. We’re gonna give you some old fashion boot camp...therapy.” General said.
“That’s fine.” I said, not really caring.
“We have plans, Denver. Don’t think for one second we’re not getting through this.” Captain said. I lost all will to respond. I sighed, staring at the wall, waiting for them to leave.
They did so, leaving me to this horrendous mind. All it did was conjure up ways Liam’s death could have went differently and the boy would have been saved. There was no escaping it. I truly was bothered by his death. The way he held out his hand for me as though I could just reach out, grab him and save him…
Guards came into the medical room. They had stun batons in their holsters, looking at me with indifference. I was even relieved to see them, anything to take my mind off of those ludacris thoughts. One sighed, getting ready to speak.  
“You’re to go up the stairs and gather your stuff. If anyone asks you where you’re going, you’re saying to the Telc Asylum in Brussels.” The Guard said. I nodded, getting to my feet. He and several other armed men led me up to the barracks.
It was torture seeing the Wingers who cheered me on, look on in confusion as to why I attacked Jarvis. Probably the most debilitating judgement of the all was from Raul. He watched silently as I was marched up the stairs to the Long Winger stretch. He wanted to know so badly but there was little I could say to him at this point. It was not like I wanted to anyway.
I reached the Long Winger stretch, Marcell, Milan and Everette simply sitting, the events of today fully sinking in. Everette was the first to see me as I walked over to my bed. I looked at the neighboring bed, it being Liam’s and almost lost it again. I sighed, clenching my head, trying to keep the little composure I had scraped together.
“Whoa, they let you go?” Marcell asked. I didn’t have a response. I just packed up my trunk, gearing for the grueling flight across the ocean.
“I can’t believe he sacrificed himself for me…” Everette said. It really pricked me.
“You know what,” I said slamming my trunk to the floor, “You’re a fucking dumbass Everette! You let Jarvis get inside your head and now you see for yourself how fucked up he is! He didn’t utter a word when that thing tried to take you out… And you can see it on his face, he wasn’t expecting Liam to be the one to die, he was expecting you! And you treated Liam like shit, today! He’s the nicest person you’d ever meet and you treated him like utter SHIT!”
The guards grabbed their shock n’ drops, ready to immobilize me. I looked at them unfazed, giving them a disdainful eye roll. I picked back up the trunk, rolling it towards the stairs.
“Wait you’re leaving?” Marcell asked, eyes tearing up. He grew frantic, feeling the losses of today were too substantial. I sighed, not bothering to utter a word. If I did, I’d break down right there…
“No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no….” Marcell cried clenching his head, pacing back and forth. This was beyond heartbreaking to see him so distraught. I couldn’t bother to look back. Tears rolled down my cheeks but that was the only thing that escaped. Everything else was pressed down deep… I stopped.
“Marcell… Milan… Everette. You’ll be a team with or without me. I can’t express it enough! Never, ever, EVER let someone get between us and divide us the way they did. You boys stick together like family and remember that you are! I’m going to be going away now, but just know that I love you guys… What we’ve been through together made us all brothers and you should band together from this point on, no matter the cost.” I said, having to give a departure speech. There was no response.
I was led back down the stairs, where the other Wingsuit pilots could see me. They were left to assume that I was discharged from the military. Even Raul’s eyes lit up in horror, unsure what this meant for me. His eyes darted around frantically, thoughts wizing through his mind! We continued on, through the facility back into the Hangar. Another airship was waiting on me. I boarded it, sitting down with the trunk beside the seat. At this point it was what it was…  The wait was particularly long, the bay still being opened. I was beginning to lose my patience wondering what the fuck was taking so god damn long!
Thundering footsteps on the walkway startled me. It was Malcolm, dragging a trunk behind him up the ramp to a seat across from me. He sighed, giving me a quick wave before his eyes veered off. He too was coming to America which was big news! What would someone with his stature be doing there? This was all so odd but vaguely exciting. Then the bay doors closed and I knew there was no returning… The ship began to hover and we were off.


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