Commander Darfeather walked down the wide hallway into the chamber ahead. He stopped as he entered the chamber, and looking around, he saw an Aerowing with the number 13 on it.
As he approached, a thin duck in a purple uniform turned around, saluting him. “Commander, your Aerowing is almost ready for its next assignment.”
“Good,” said Darfeather as he walked over, slowly moving his hand along the jet's nose. “I have a feeling the next mission is going to be a bit rough. Did you equip those extra fuel and ammo cells like I asked?”
The duck nodded. They started to go over the changes the ground crew had made to the jet.
With a loud thunk a dagger landed into a picture of Draganous pinned to a dartboard.
“Ha, I hit him! You owe me two days of leave now!” A female duck grinned as she peeked from her blindfold and looked to the other ducks groaning around the table.
“Not like we are going to get any leave.”
She laughed and sitting down in a chair, picked up a tin cup. “Yeah, best to have it saved up for when the war is over.”
A duck with an eye patch over his left eye looked at her. “It doesn't look like it's going to end anytime soon, Sharon.”
She looked at him. “You're one to talk, Roger. Even before the war you never took any leave.”
A whistle suddenly sounded over the intercom. “Attention. The following marine units will report to the debriefing rooms stated after their divisional number.”
A lanky thin duck crossed his fingers. “Let us rest, let us rest, let us rest….”
“Unit Zero Zero Niner Report to Alpha Seven launch bay.”
Another duck with a metal stick in his mouth--marked as highly explosive--jabbed the lanky one in the ribs. “Your chant got us another assignment, Lou.”
Lou groaned. “I hope it's better then that last one. That fire fight and then the explosion on the bridge of that Saurian transport was not fun.”
Sharon stood up. “Quit joking around, guys. And Pierre...” She pointed out the bottle in the center of the table. “Bring that along. I know a fly boy that'll let us watch a movie in the Aerowing on the way to deployment if we let him have some.”
When their group arrived arrived at the lauch bay, they saw that the crew had already prepped their gear into an Aerowing and lined the jet up with a launch tube. The jet had been modified to include four large tubes, one on either side and two on top. Fighter launch bays, from the looks of them.
A large wolf walked up. The group quickly came to attention.
“At ease men… ladies.” The ducks moved to a more at ease position. “Your assignment is simple. Your unit has been assigned to Aerowing Golden Skies, on what you may consider a cake walk mission.”
One duck who obviously worked out a lot muttered something under his breath.
The wolf looked in his direction and barked out, “Speak up, Corporal.”
“I don’t think it would be appropriate, given moral, Sir!” the duck replied without hesitation.
The wolf growled. “That was not a request, son. Say it out loud.”
The duck said, “I said, 'like you would know', sir. And if I may, how did you come to be second in command of this station when you were just a civilian when you first came here to help us a year ago, sir?”
The wolf walked up to him and rolled up a sleeve, showing an artificial arm. “I've been in more battles than you know about, kid. As for my rank...I believe it may have something to do with the fact that I've saved the Admiral's life on several occasions. I made a promise to do the best I can for you ducks and I do it as an honor to my ancestors. Got that?”
“Sir, yes sir!”
The wolf turned away. “Good,” he growled. Returning to his previous position he continued, “As you know, the Mechan Empire is trying to stay out of the battle, despite sending in ships to try and evacuate people off of Puckworld. As for the Raptins...they appear to have allied with the Saurians. However, intellegence has heard that there may be sympathizers in an area known as Imperial Space. Your mission is simple: travel as protection for the space forces and do not engage unless fired upon.”
Sharon spoke up. “Sir, how do we know that this isn't another trap, Sir?”
The wolf grinned. “That answer is easy, but it does not leave this flight deck." He paused. "I am from Imperial Space. Another oath I took when I served in their military was not to reveal their secrets. That will be all. Your gear and the necessary provisions have been loaded; you leave immediately. You are dismissed.”
Sharon nodded, took a step forward and turned around. “Division Dark Feather. Mount up and move out!”
With that, the group entered the Aerowing, the hatch closing behind them.
During all this, the wolf never left the flight deck. As he watched Aerowing 13 launch, he muttered to himself, “Good luck. You’re going to need it.”
On the bridge of the Aerowing, Commander Darfeather swiveled his command chair towards the navigation console. “How are the calculations coming?”
A duck --whose face was half-hidden by a helmet that all but covered his head--spoke up in a monotone voice. “Slow, commander. Aerowings were not designed for FTL travel and the navigation system for hyper launch is outdated. It doesn’t even have the outer core ward sectors fully loaded into it yet.”
Darfeather grimaced. He had known that they had received an old navcomp that would allow them to fly the hyper lanes undetected by Saurians, but this one would have to be nearly a hundred years old if it need updates like the ones the navigator was suggesting.
Behind him a hatch opened, and Darfeather looked over his shoulder. He grinned slightly and stood up. “Greetings, Natasha. How’s it going?”
A female duck in marine fatigues stood there. “It’s Master Sergeant Colfeather while on duty, Commander.”
He laughed. “My ship, my rules; so drop it. Haven’t told them to change your name to Darfeather yet, I see.”
Natasha smirked. “Actually, the request is still being processed. You know how it is--operations first, personal stuff on the back shelf.”
Darfeather nodded. “I know. Still, it’s good to see your unit assigned to us again.”
“Oh, I got wind of the assignment and made a request with a old bottle of Thunderpoint." Natasha grinned.
Darfeather laughed again, then looked back to the flight crew. “I’m going back to check in on the marines. Seriously.”
All but the navigation operator just smirked in reply.
As they walked towards the hatch that lead to the cargo and deployment bay of the Aerowing, Natasha spoke up. “So has Bobby--?”
Darfeather shook his head. “He still sounds and acts mostly like a machine. The Mechans did a good job of fixing him up, but when half your head is almost blown off then replaced with weird cybernetics to keep you alive…There’s a lot of trauma to work out.”
Natasha nodded. “At least they let him stay under your command. It should help.”
“If he doesn’t go crazy and start shooting everyone on the bridge first.”
Natasha just stopped. Darfeather looked back at her. "What?"
She glared at him. “Nice way to talk about your cousin. You keep a pistol near by just in case?”
Darfeather narrowed his eyes. “Of course I do; it's standard procedure. Look, the Mechans are still trying to get their technology to work properly in a medical situation. An eye or a limb is okay, but they've never had much luck when it came down to something considered this extreme. Four for four is the track record for ducks like Bobby going psycho. Better safe then sorry, although for the record, I hope that it never comes down to that.”
Sharon looked up from the puck rifle she was polishing and towards the hatch. “Heads up, guys. The master sergeant and the commander are just outside.”
Pierre looked down the plasma thrower he held in his hands, muttering, “I don’t think this new thing will work with the power pack they gave us…” He looked at Sharon. “You're sure, Sarge?”
Sharon grinned. “I heard them arguing again.”
The muscled duck looked over. “Why'd they get hitched, anyway?”
Sharon looked at him. “Like I know, John. And please try to behave yourself; this is a long haul mission, so please, no repeats of what happened at the briefing, okay?”
“Tell you what. I'll chill in front of that wolf when the Saurians start to running around the place preaching peace and love, and eating their own sh--”
Just then the hatch opened and they all stood up at attention.
Darfeather entered the room. “As you were. Now then. Nata--Master Sergeant Colfeather has your bunk assignments. They're a bit more roomy than you’re used to because this mission is being done with a minimum of personnel.”
He looked at Natasha. When she nodded, he continued. “Sergeant Sharon, forget the drink. We were going let you all watch a movie with us at 1900 hours anyway.”
Sharon looked at him in surprise. As he walked away, she asked Colfeather, “How did he--”
Natasha laughed. “Relax, Sharon. This is his ship; you can’t hide something like that from him.” She pointed to a camera hidden in the ceiling. “He has those in key sections, just in case something happens.”
“Why that paranoid son of a…” Sharon grumbled. She smiled at Natasha sheepishly. “No offense meant, of course.”
Natasha grinned back. “None taken. Before I forget, one of you will be assigned to the bridge at all times. Lieutenant Darfeather returned from the Mechans three weeks ago and has been assigned to us as the ship's navigation and science officer.”
Lou looked at John, pointed a finger to his head and twirled it around.
John chuckled, then coughed, looking at Natasha. “So we have a tinhead on board, eh?”
Natasha glared at him coldly. “I'll have none of that talk here. He still needs to recover, and we are going to help him get back to normal.”
Sharon rubbed her arm. “Does he--?”
Natasha shook her head. “Not as far as anyone can tell, no. But I don’t think he's aware that you’re on board. As for your next question--sorry. The last group of refugees we liberated have no information about your sister Mallory. And the so-called Resistance is still being tight-lipped when it comes to names.”
Darfeather resumed his place on the bridge and hit the communication switch as he acknowledged a nod from Bobby Darfeather. “All hands, strap in for hyper launch in t-minus 30, as of…. now.”
The computer began an audio count down. Darfeather started barking out orders.
“All green to go.”
“Hyper field formation.”
“Lockdown all unnecessary hatches and close the blast door on the windshield.”
The pilot and copilot hit a few switches and the view to the stars became obscured.
The computer intoned, “Last chance for cancellation. Does the commander wish to cancel hyper launch protocols? Audio verification needed.”
“Commander Darfeather speaking. All go for hyper launch.”
“All hands brace for launch.”
“Commander! There's a power surge in the navigation system; emergence point is floating!”
“What? Abort the launch! Abort the--”
The Aerowing glowed blue for a moment before shooting off like a comet, leaving only a blue trail of light behind.