Have an update. Enjoy.
Chapter 7: Wings of Greater Good
One large seaplane was flying over the blue lake, surrounded on either side by a total of four fighter crafts.
The fighters maintained a certain distance from the seaplane, almost like they were escorting it.
Meanwhile, inside the seaplane’s passenger cabin:
“This is so cool! Fighter planes!”
“I wanna fly one!”
“No one ever said anything about fighter planes. I bet the Master wanted to surprise us!”
“The Master is awesome!”
“Are we gonna keep flying like this?”
The children seemed completely unconcerned.
Meanwhile, in the fighter planes:
“Dammit. No one would know if we shot them down anyway.”
“I don’t know who they are, but they’re idiots if they don’t get out of there.”
The pilots were muttering dangerous words.
Meanwhile, in the seaplane’s cockpit:
“What? Did you think of something, Treize?”
Lillia was grilling Treize, who sat in the pilot’s seat to her left.
“I figured out a way to turn this whole situation around.” He replied, meeting her gaze.
“Well… just to warn you, it’s going to be really dangerous. And risky to boot.”
“Okay, so tell me. That won’t cost you anything.”
“All right. …We ram into them with this seaplane.”
Lillia’s brow furrowed as she stared in silence. Several seconds passed.
“Are you out of your mind?”
“No. If possible, we’ll have to hit them with the tip of our wings—this seaplane has pretty wide wings, you know. We’ll hit their propellers. Not even a fighter plane could withstand that.”
“I guess we could take down one if we got ‘em while they’re distracted. But what about the rest of them?” Lillia said, pointing out the obvious.
“It’s simple.” Treize replied. “We’ll get that downed craft to send out a rescue request for us.”
“Hmm… I see.”
Lillia thought for several seconds but eventually nodded firmly, impressed.
“I get what you’re saying. Once the pilot ejects with a parachute, the plane will automatically send out a distress signal.”
“Yeah. As long as he doesn’t override it before he ejects.”
“Once the signal goes off, someone will pick it up and come to rescue us. Then they won’t be able to shoot us down, either.”
“Yeah. But there are a few holes in the plan. First, there’s no guarantee that we’ll manage to take down one of them. If they evade or we take critical damage, it’s over. Second, we don’t know for certain that the downed pilot will eject or that his distress signal will go off. He might even pull into a glide and make a landing somehow. Third, even if the distress signal goes off, our friends here might get impatient and shoot us down anyway. Fourth, even if they turn out to be amazingly patient people, we might not get any help at all—or worse, more of their friends might show up.”
“That’s… a lot of holes.”
“‘A few’ was kind of pushing it, I guess.”
“Anyway, there’s nothing else we can do, right?”
“Not at the moment. What do you think? Is it worth a shot? It’s up to you, Lillia.”
“Just out of curiosity, what happens if we don’t do this?”
“We either take a very optimistic stance and take the parachutes, hoping these people will be merciful, or we somehow outfly those planes with this heavy craft.”
“Then what are the chances of survival? For everyone on board.”
“Close to zero—no, maybe not even.” Treize replied, convinced. Lillia nodded and, with a glare, smiled.
“Let’s do this. We’ll wipe their smug grins off their faces.”
“There’s going to be some worse turbulence soon, so tell the kids to put on their seatbelts.”
Lillia and Carlo were next to the cargo hold. Because the seaplane was shaking slightly, they were both holding onto the handrails.
“And make sure to tell them that the fighter planes might give them a cool air show, too.”
“Got it. Don’t worry, I’m not gonna charge for this stuff.”
“You’re a good kid. I’m counting on you.” Lillia said, and bent down to give Carlo a light kiss on the forehead.
He did not seem particularly happy.
“Save your kisses for big bro. I’m sure he’d be happy to get one.”
“Hah hah. Maybe if I feel like it.”
“You have to, okay?”
They parted, laughing. When Lillia returned to the cockpit, Treize was intentionally making the plane shake while spouting lies into the radio.
<I’ve never flown a plane before, damn it! I’m just going through the motions with common sense! This thing’s been unstable for a while now—what am I supposed to do?>
Lillia held up her thumb as she returned to her seat, approving of Treize’s performance. When she put on her headset, she could hear the captain.
<Like I said, you can escape without the children. Your plane is going to crash into the lake no matter what you do. You can still get out alive. Once we abandon you, even that chance will be lost. Think carefully.>
“You think they’re buying it?”
“I don’t know. But I’ll keep acting like I’m desperate.” Treize replied, hard at work shaking up the plane.
Lillia strapped herself in. Then, she checked that Treize was also secure.
“Then we’re set.”
Lillia said, leaning back and placing her arms over the armrests. When she glanced over, Treize was looking at her. She had never seen such a serious look on his face.
“I just want to tell you something in case this doesn’t work out. Sorry. I’m really sorry.”
Lillia burst out laughing.
“Pfft! C’mon, you can tell me that after you fail. We won’t know how things turn out until we try. …Oh, that’s right. If things work out and we get out of this in one piece…”
“I’ll give you a kiss.”
“Wha?” Treize gaped, looking more surprised than ever. Lillia grinned.
“On the forehead. I gave one to Carlo earlier, and he says you’d be happy if I kissed you too.”
“Hah hah… Hah. Right. The forehead.”
“All right, let’s do this! Right? Left? Have you decided?”
“I’ll go for the right. That way they won’t try to shoot immediately because we’ll be turning northward.”
“Great! Get started, Treize. This is an order!”
“Yes, ma’am!” Treize replied with a smile and closed his eyes.
When he opened them, exhaling softly, a grave look had risen to his face. He glared at the instruments, the windshield, and the sky.
With his right hand he grabbed a throttle lever overhead. And he pulled all four of them in turn.
The engines sped up. A moment later, the massive seaplane slipped past the fighter crafts.
<Whoa! What’s happening?> He cried into the microphone, putting on the most convincing act of his life. <The engines! There’s something wrong with the engines! Damn it!>
With a cry, he confirmed the position of the closest plane to their right. Lillia ducked.
The seaplane began to fly further away.
Seconds later, all four fighter planes also accelerated—even faster than the seaplane. There were only about three seconds before they caught up. Then,
Treize pulled the yoke to the right and slammed down on the right pedal. The seaplane banked heavily to the right, and the sky outside seemed to tilt. The fighter planes also tilted, drawing closer.
The warning came from the furthest plane to their right. It quickly swerved to the right and changed course, but the other pilot was delayed as he followed his comrade’s movements.
The moment he looked forward again,
He could see the seaplane’s right wing over the windshield. The long, thick wing gleamed silver as it bore down on his plane.
“Take this!” Treize cried, and the tip of the wing hit the fighter plane. The latter’s propeller dug into the wing, and they could hear a faint metallic screech from the cockpit.
“All right!” Lillia cheered. Treize immediately pulled the yoke away. The seaplane was back to level position.
The fighter plane they rammed was left without a propeller. The shards flew past in the air. The plane continued to follow the seaplane for about three seconds as though nothing had happened. Then,
It tilted forward and began to plummet, the pilot’s scream following it. From the engine came a trail of white smoke.
<Captain! A collision! 03 has collided!>
<Damn it! The bastard did this on purpose!>
<Calm down! I’ll take care of this. You two, maintain formation.>
Tense voices filled the radio as Treize slipped into the conversation.
<Argh! What’s happening?! The plane is going out of control!>
Lillia snorted, unable to hold back her laughter.
The seaplane had come out of the turn, and was now flying placidly northward. The tip of the right wing had a dent about two meters down the tip, but the wings were long enough for them to continue unhindered.
Below, a fighter plane plunged toward the lake in a trail of smoke.
The children in the cabin saw it clearly.
“Wow! Something’s falling!”
“Let me see!”
Taking off their seatbelts, the children crowded on the right side.
“It really is crashing! Cool!”
They were having the time of their lives, their faces plastered against the windows.
“Wonder if that fighter plane’s gonna be okay.”
“Of course it’s gonna be fine. I told you, it’s all one big show. Cool, right?” Carlo said as the children trilled in excitement
“Yeah!” They replied.
Though the cabin was in a frenzy, the voices on the radio seemed even louder.
<Captain! He took out my propeller! The engine lamp! There’s smoke everywhere!> Cried the panicked pilot inside the falling plane.
<Calm down. You’re going to be fine—your floats are still intact. Glide into a landing. It’s going to be all right.>
Keeping the falling plane within sight, the captain calmly tried to pacify the pilot as he slid into an inverted flight.
<But sir! The warning—the smoke—it’s over! It’s finished! I’m ditching the plane!>
<Calm down. You are not finished. When is your birthday? Answer the question.>
<None! I can’t find my birthday! The smoke!>
<Take a deep breath, then think. You still have enough altitude.>
<I can’t find it! I’m losing altitude! The warning signal! Argh! I can’t, sir! I have to escape!>
<Shut off your engine. Your plane is tilting sixty degrees to the right. Return to level position. Keep your eyes on the instruments. Try it. You can do this.>
“C’mon, ditch it! Ditch it already!”
The captain remained perfectly calm, while Lillia prayed desperately in the seaplane cockpit for the pilot to escape. And about ten seconds after the impact,
With that, the pilot’s signal cut off.
“I wonder what happened?”
Inside the cockpit. It had been about thirty seconds since the last communication. Around the seaplane flew three fighter crafts still, including the captain’s.
“I guess I should take the moment to apologize.” Treize said, pressing the call button.
<This is the seaplane. What happened? Did we collide?>
<Shut your trap!>
First came angry swearing.
<Who told you you could turn, damn it?!>
<I-I’m sorry! The plane was just flying out of control… What happened?>
<I don’t buy that. I know you did that on purpose! …Damn it, I’ll shoot you down this instant!>
<Hey, stop this. Wait for the captain’s orders.> The other pilot cut in, calming down his friend.
“This is getting interesting. Wanna join in, Lillia?” Treize offered. Lillia pointed at herself, surprised.
“I’m sure hearing a woman’s voice is going to catch them off-guard. Now we just have to stall for time like our lives depend on it. Try your nicest, most proper lady voice.”
“That’s a tall order.”
Lillia pressed the call button.
<Save me! I don’t want to die!>
It was a surprisingly lovely voice.
“What do you think?” Lillia asked, quickly turning to Treize.
“Not bad.” He replied.
<Hey… who was that just now? Answer me!>
<Look, there’s another chaperone onboard with us! Please, don’t hurt her.> Treize pleaded, returning to his incredible act. “A few more lines please, Lillia. Like you’re losing it.” He did not forget to direct Lillia’s performance, either.
<Help! I don’t want to be here anymore!>
<What the… hey. Why’s the woman onboard?>
<I-I came along to make sure the children wouldn’t be frightened. Please, don’t shoot me!>
“Wow, you’re sounding pretty cute.” Treize said, stifling his laughter. Lillia’s left arm shot out and punched him in the shoulder.
<We’ve been saying all this time—you have the parachutes. Jump out of the plane, and you’ll live! Decide quick! We’re going to blow your plane to smithereens!>
The incensed pilot flew ahead of the seaplane and moved the fighter craft’s flaps in a show of hostility.
“Man, if we were on a fighter plane I’d have shot him down by now.” Lillia muttered.
“It’s going well for now. We’ve cleared the first hurdle.”
<Jump outta there, dammit!> The pilot cried, but he was cut off by the captain.
<Enough. Return to formation.>
<Captain, what about 03?> Asked the other pilot. Lillia and Treize gulped.
<Do not worry. He managed to escape with a parachute. We’ll pick him up on the lake later.>
The pilots cheered.
“That’s the second hurdle!”
But Lillia and Treize were even more ecstatic about the news. They cheered and hugged each other.
“Now we just keep stalling.” Treize said, pressing the call button.
<How’s the pilot down there? Is he safe?> He asked, honestly concerned.
<Yes. Although that has nothing to do with you bastards.> The captain replied. Treize breathed a sigh of relief.
“Hear that?” Lillia pointed out. “He’s gone from ‘you’ to ‘you bastards’.”
“You think we’re becoming friends?”
“You should ask him.”
“Heh. Never mind. What if he asks me out to tea?”
As Lillia and Treize joked, the other pilots spoke up.
<Captain. There’s a woman on the seaplane.>
<I heard. You, respond.>
“What the heck.” Lillia groaned. <Why… why would you do something so awful?!>
She was only half acting.
“Seriously. Are they out of their minds?”
<I’m sorry to say this, but that seaplane must crash.> The captain replied.
<Why? I don’t understand.>
<You wouldn’t understand, even if we told you.> The captain replied immediately.
“All right. Keep the questions going.” Treize encouraged Lillia.
<You can’t say for sure until you’ve told us!>
There was no response.
<Why would you do this? Why? Do you want to bring tragedy to your beloved country?>
Five seconds passed in silence. Lillia reached for the call button again—
<…No. The very opposite.>
The captain finally spoke.
“The opposite?” Treize frowned.
<What do you mean by that? The opposite?>
<Those children on the seaplane…> The captain replied, his voice endlessly calm. <…they are going to die for our country’s future.>
Lillia and Treize exchanged quizzical glances.
“What’s he saying?”
“We’ll hear him out. We’ve still got fuel left, right?”
“Yeah. Go on and keep up the native Tolcasian act.”
Lillia pressed the call button. At that point, Treize spotted the captain’s plane overhead on the left side.
<I don’t understand. These poor, unfortunate children just received a chance for a new life under the Master’s care. So why do they have to die for our future?>
Lillia was barely acting at this point. Treize glanced at her profiled face, hands still firm on the controls.
<Their deaths will be a noble sacrifice.> The captain replied. <They will change Tolcasia’s fortunes.>
“Huh? What’s he mean?” Treize wondered out loud. Lillia repeated his sentiments on the radio.
The captain did not reply, for a time. But several seconds later, as Lillia and Treize exchanged glances again—
<Once the seaplane crashes and the children die, the tragic and shocking news will be the talk of the Confederation.> The captain said.
“True.” Treize nodded. “Roxche’s in a state of peace, so it’ll definitely be newsworthy—cameramen from TV stations are going to flock to the country instantly.”
<Once that happens, those who do not know of our pitiful state—and those who knew but chose to ignore us—will turn their attention to his place. All of Roxche will know what is happening here. That is why the children will die.>
“Seriously?” Treize gasped, looking over at the plane to his right and the pilot inside.
<…What… did you say?> Lillia stammered, also unable to believe her ears. She was almost out of character at this point.
<Those children will become the centerpiece of a tragedy. The tragedy will unite Tolcasia and bring us aid from the Capital District. They will be the foundation of our livelihood. Now that our tourism industry is floundering and our portion of the budget has been cut, this is the only way left to us.>
<Wait… so… you’re going to murder a bunch of children and make it look like an accident, just to get some pity from the Capital District? Are you insane?>
<We debated long and hard to get to this point. There is no turning back. We must move forward.> The captain said firmly. Lillia cut off their conversation and turned to Treize.
“…They really are out of their minds. The only thing sane about this guy is his voice.”
Treize said nothing, meeting Lillia’s gaze.
“They’re crazy. There’s just no other—”
Treize put on a half-smile.
“Their plan might actually work.”
“What the—Treize! How could you even think that way?!” Lillia cried.
“Calm down. …Lillia. When you first came to Lartika and saw how tough things were for the locals, it made you think, didn’t it? You felt guilty that you didn’t know anything about how hard they had it here, right?”
“Huh? Er… well, yeah.”
“Exactly. The people in the Capital District just don’t know. They’re living their peaceful and plentiful lives, completely ignorant of what’s happening here. They’re practically bored, even. And suppose that’s when this hits the news—dozens of dead orphans, weeping matrons, and the destitute lives in the background of it all. Playing every day on television and radio. How would people react?”
“I think they’d get angry and sad, just like you did yesterday. Right? I mean, I don’t think this plan of theirs is going to solve all their problems, like poverty. But it’ll be a start.”
“Urgh… but still! You can’t seriously agree with this plan!” Lillia snapped, but Treize almost looked amused.
“A plane crashes and kills two dozen children in a tragic accident. Could anyone imagine that it wasn’t an accident after all? That Tolcasia’s very own military had planned it? Suppose we never came on this trip. You’re bored in the Capital District when you turn on the television, and happen to see the news. Would anyone possibly think that their own military was responsible?”
Lillia was silent.
“I hate to say this, but this plan is incredible. It’s so outrageous and reckless. Whoever thought of this is either a genius tactician or a madman. Or both.” Treize said, amazed. Lillia was furious.
“This is no time to be impressed!”
“Well, no. But it’s astonishing to see this is the answer to all the mysteries.”
“You idiot!” She roared, glaring. “That’d better not mean you’re fine with us and all the kids getting killed!”
“Of course not.”
“Well, I’m glad you haven’t gone crazy.”
Treize chuckled bitterly and pressed the call button.
<Let me ask you one thing. Who thought of this plan? Was it you, Captain?>
<A pointless question.> The captain replied promptly.
“So I guess it wasn’t him.” Treize mumbled.
<I don’t believe this!> Lillia cried into the microphone, her rage mounting. <Soldiers are supposed to be protecting their countrymen! Sacrificing these children to save the country? What a joke! There’s a limit to how backwards you can get! It’s not too late; you better realize how idiotic this plan is, right now!>
“Scary.” Whispered Treize, shrinking slightly. Lillia was not even bothering to put on a performance anymore.
<For the future of Tolcasia? As if! These kids you’re trying to kill are the future of Tolcasia! You idiots can bash those twisted heads of yours into a wall or something!> Lillia bellowed.
<I suppose trying to reason with you was pointless after all. This conversation is over. You may be a good person, but being good won’t save our country. Power will. Tolcasia is fading from Roxche’s memory as we speak. We must turn the eyes of the lazy and rich in the Capital District to this land. We carry out this mission in the name of the greater good. We will lead Tolcasia to a bright future.>
Wide-eyed and lost for words, Lillia trembled. She could not hold back her anger.
“That’s why you’re going so far…? These children’s lives… Mr. Morseau’s kindness… do they mean nothing to you…?”
His hands still on the yoke, Treize cast a sidelong glance at Lillia.
<This is my final warning. You two can still escape. Once we pick up our fellow pilot, we will come back for you. I swear it on my honor. We may limit your actions, but we will spare your lives. I will let you see how this country changes through this sacrifice.>
There was something both threatening but kind about the captain’s tone. Lillia pressed the call button.
She took her finger off the button; then, she took a deep breath and pressed it again.
<…are awful! There’s no way we’ll do what you say!>
Her cry rode the airwaves, echoing kilometers through the sky.
<You people are villains! You shouldn’t be allowed to call yourselves soldiers, pilots, or even humans! I guarantee you’re not going to die peaceful deaths! ‘Tolcasia’s future’? ‘Noble sacrifice’? Letting innocent people die for any reason is nothing but terrorism! It’s a crime!>
“They might really shoot us down at this rate…” Treize whispered to himself.
The other pilots did not reply. But over the radio they could hear the captain coldly issuing orders.
<I’ll shoot them down. You cover the sides, but make sure to keep a distance. We don’t want any more collisions.>
Treize glanced out the left windshield. One of the two fighter planes had disappeared behind them, and the other began to bank away.
He tightened his grip on the yoke, and checked the throttle levers overhead.
<You two, on the seaplane. I am behind you now. This conversation is finished. Any last words?>
The death sentence.
“Well, I’d prefer not to leave my last words yet…” Treize muttered without pressing the call button.
But not Lillia.
<Yeah! A whole lot of them! You people are insane! You’re not some bringers of greater good, and you’re not leading Tolcasia to the future! You’re just fanatics! Criminals! Acknowledging even one person like you is going to make innocent people suffer! I will never forgive you! You’re the ones who should be jumping out that plane and cooling off in the lake, you bastards!>
Lillia’s shoulders rose and fell as she panted. Treize turned to her.
“Hah… hah… what?”
Treize took a breath, ready to say, ‘Well said’. At that moment—
Treize yelped at the sudden voice. Lillia also reached up to her headphones, shocked.
The voice belonged to a woman.
“What was that?”
Five meters behind the seaplane, the pilot muttered in shock at the sudden voice. A second later—
A dark shadow fell from overhead, before his eyes and the sights, crossing in front of the seaplane. The pilot reflexively pulled back.
<Well said! Really, that was great. Yep!>
An amused female voice filled the airwaves across the planes.
Lillia and Treize quickly recognized the voice.
A lone fighter craft rose before their eyes.
The plane was pitch-black, both the fuselage and the wings a plain matte. There were no markings, numbers, or words that indicated its affiliation; only the warnings ‘Do not step on’ and ‘Fuel cap here’ were visible.
The new craft was a large model, with a wingspan of about 10 meters. It was twice the size of the Tolcasian planes, and the landing gear was completely stowed to reduce air resistance. A three-bladed propeller spun at the nose, and the wings spread out from the bottom of the fuselage.
The fighter craft tilted left, moving over to the right side of the seaplane’s cockpit. The pilot in the cockpit, which was domed in glass and stuck out, glanced at Lillia and Treize. With the plane still tilted the pilot raised their goggles with their left hand. A pair of eyes as blue as the sky in the distance winked at the two.
<Hey there. Having a good time?>
<M-Mom…?> Lillia gaped from her seat.
Allison Whittington Schultz grinned and did a half barrel-roll, bearing down on the amphibious fighter craft on the right.
The bewildered pilot yelled and tried to flee. But instead of chasing it down, Allison’s plane accelerated in the blink of an eye. She banked easily to the right and made a hard left, crossing the seaplane from right to left.
“Yeah. It’s Allison.”
And in one elegant motion, the black fighter craft bore down on the amphibious unit from the front.
<Hey, you there! Ratatatatatatatatatat!> Allison mimicked the sound of gunfire, charging toward the craft.
The pilot was too shocked to scream, let alone evade.
Allison cheered like a child and passed before his eyes.
A second later.
The amphibious craft finally dodged left.
Having chased off three fighter crafts from the seaplane in a matter of seconds, Allison flew along the seaplane’s left side and did a barrel roll, then moved her wings back and forth.
<Sorry to keep you waiting! It looks like you’re holding up all right.>
<Mom! How’d you get here?>
<You called me, didn’t you? I heard the SOS and flew straight over. Then I heard all the shouting. I bet they’re listening to us as we speak.>
<Thank you, Allison. But how did you get here so quickly?> Asked Treize.
<That’s a secret. I’ll tell you later.> Allison replied, moving from the upper left to the flank of the seaplane. At the same time, she spoke into the radio.
<Attention, pilots of the Tolcasian Air Force crafts. Can you hear me? Respond if you can’t.>
There was no answer. Allison continued.
<From this point on, I forbid any approach on this seaplane. Return to your base and surrender to the Confederation MPs waiting there. Let me put that another way—stop bothering the children and go let your mothers tell you off.>
“That’s Allison for you…” Treize whispered, slowly and gently banking to the left. The compass needle went from west to west-southwest to southwest.
The black fighter craft was behind the seaplane. Allison scanned every direction from her cockpit.
Then, as the seaplane turned southward—
Her blue eyes spotted three fighter planes flying in formation toward her.
<Seaplane: three enemy crafts spotted in the six o’clock direction. Maintain course.>
<Understood.> Treize replied immediately.
<This is a message for the Tolcasian Air Force fighter crafts. If you get any closer, things will get ugly. This is a warning, even if doesn’t sound like one.>
<Is this a joke? Don’t interfere.> The captain replied.
<I’d hate to say this, but my craft is much more powerful than your units. You have no chance of victory. Surrender immediately. Do you understand? I don’t want to be a bully.> Allison said. There was no response.
Instead, the captain issued orders to his men.
<02. 04. You two tie up the black unit. I’ll take care of the seaplane.>
<But her plane’s too—>
<Calm down. I’ve never seen an aeroplane like this in the Confederation’s forces. It’s likely unarmed—if it were, it would have launched a surprise attack from the start.>
<I see… yes, sir.>
“Seriously? Man… I warned them.” Allison mumbled from her seat, and lowered her goggles again. The sunlight glinted off the surface and hid her eyes from view.
“What do we do?”
“Exactly as we’re told.” Treize answered Lillia’s question, and gave the throttle lever a slight pull. The seaplane began to accelerate.
“Will the kids be all right?” Lillia wondered, suddenly remembering the passenger cabin.
“We’ll just have to trust in Carlo.” Replied Treize.
Meanwhile, in the cabin.
Carlo looked down the aisle, astonished.
All twenty-two children in the warm cabin were lying asleep on the large, squashy seats.
“I’m still on the clock. Can’t go to sleep yet.” He muttered. “But I’m sleepy.”
Of the three fighter crafts after the seaplane, 02 and 04 made for Allison’s plane. The captain turned toward the seaplane.
Allison pulled the throttle lever to accelerate. Her aeroplane shook as it charged toward the two enemy crafts.
The pilot of 02 watched in horror as the black craft grew larger and larger in his sights at an alarming rate.
The voice of 04’s pilot spurred him to quickly turn left. Allison’s craft passed between them in a flash in a steep climb. As it slowed to a crawl in the midst of the perpendicular climb, the black plane swerved suddenly, headed straight for 02, which had turned left. At the same time, it accelerated as it fell.
<02! Behind you!>
<I see it. Shit, it’s too fast!>
As quickly as it could, 02 banked at a right angle. Allison’s aeroplane was at its heels. No amount of banking could shake her off.
<Keep going! I’ll take care of it.>
The pilot of 04 desperately chased after them. Pushed to its limit, the engine screamed and the plane seemed to rattle.
Approximately three seconds after closing in behind 02 and Allison’s plane—
“So it comes to this.” Allison mumbled in her tilted seat. She pulled the trigger on the control stick to her right, opening fire.
Light spewed from the black fighter plane.
A pair of lights shot out of the nose. The two 20mm machine guns mounted atop the fuselage, in front of the cockpit, had fired. The shots flew between the spinning propellers and were sucked into the plane ahead.
The barrage was over in an instant, but the 02’s fin and its saw-shaped mark were vaporized. The rest of the tail also scattered.
With nothing to stabilize it, 02 was left uncontrollable and spiraled to the left.
<You’d better get out of there.> Allison warned over the radio, and glanced back.
“Damn you!” The pilot of 04 cried, putting his finger on the trigger. The black craft was in his sights.
Shots flew from either side of the amphibious plane. But the rounds disappeared into the air, leaving nothing but faint smoke in their trail.
The black fighter craft had disappeared from his sights.
“Where are you?”
The moment he raised his head, the black fuselage materialized upside-down overhead. Like a raven, or perhaps the shadow of death, it blocked out the sun and cast darkness into the cockpit. He could see the pilot of the unit staring back at him. Her goggles reflected nothing, like the sockets of a skull. There was a smile playing at the woman’s lips.
But that was for only an instant. The shadow disappeared behind him.
A second later, the 04’s engine began spewing white smoke. The long, thin afterimages of the machine gun’s tracer shots looked almost like arrows of light, slamming into the engine.
Pitch-black oil spurted from the engine and instantly smudged the windshield.
“Damn it… Shit! Shit!” The pilot cried. The oil continued to spread over the glass, and the white smoke knew no end. The rumbling of the engine became more and more pronounced.
<You’d better escape, too. Invert the craft and make sure your feet don’t get caught on the way.> Advised the woman who shot him down.
With one final howl, the pilot of 04 pulled the emergency lever to open the canopy. The window was blasted backwards, frame and all. Wind assaulted his face.
A pilot plummeted from the upside-down amphibious craft as it flew in a trail of smoke. Several seconds after the drop, a round parachute activated over the lake. Further in the distance was another parachute, floating in the water.
Allison looked over at where she expected to find the seaplane. And there it was. It was small in the distance as it descended. The last of the amphibious fighter crafts was on its tail.
Allison changed heading, and with her left hand pulled the throttle lever.
Six vents unfolded on either side of the front of the fuselage, where the engine was. Flames began spewing from them.
The rotation intensified dramatically. And with the roar of the engine before it, the black fighter craft accelerated as though it had been kicked forward.
“Just a little more… make sure only the engine is damaged… leave no hint of a deliberate attack…”
The seaplane was in the amphibious craft’s sights. The captain fixed the crosshairs on one of the engines atop the seaplane’s wings.
Though the seaplane was flying away as fast as it could, there were only a few meters between it at the captain’s plane. The captain focused solely on the sights and lightly adjusted the control stick and the pedals. Then he took aim at the leftmost engine on the seaplane.
His right index finger touched the trigger.
“Please. Let this work…”
But a moment later, the seaplane vanished from his sights. It sped to the bottom right at unthinkable speed.
He did not comprehend. As the captain stared, bewildered, the sparkling lake came into view.
He took his eyes off the crosshairs and looked up. Only then did he realize that his craft was tilted. Quickly, he pulled the control stick to right himself—that was when the voice came over the radio.
<Oh, I’m sorry. I must have bumped into you.>
The captain rapidly scanned his surroundings, and finally spotted the black fighter craft above him to the right.
<I just couldn’t leave you to do something so awful.> Allison said.
Several seconds earlier, she had swiftly caught up with the captain’s craft as he was distracted by the seaplane, slipping under his right side and pushing up the amphibious fighter’s wing with her left wing. That was how the captain’s plane suddenly flipped to the side against his will.
<Your two friends made their escape. You’re the only one left. That’s enough struggling, don’t you think? You did your best, and now it’s time for you to go home.> Allison said amicably and slowly approached the amphibious plane. Immense mental pressure came over the captain.
<Don’t mess with me!> He cried, heaving the throttle lever and the control stick.
Allison’s plane overtook the amphibious craft as the latter stalled.
Now the tables were turned. The captain was the one after Allison. Abandoning the seaplane, they began to accelerate.
And soon, they entered Lillia and Treize’s sights.
“Hey, he’s going after Mom!”
Treize, who had been glaring at the instrument panel with his hands on the yoke for some time, finally looked up and slightly pushed back the throttle lever.
Outside, they could see the black fighter craft and the amphibious plane engaged in a twisted game of tag.
“He’s gaining on her—he’s opening fire!”
Lights spewed from the amphibious plane, flashing between the two fighters. Allison continued to flee.
Soon, Treize turned his attention from them to the anxious Lillia.
“It’s okay. She’s doing that on purpose to lure him in.”
“See how she always waits until the last second to evade? Allison’s craft is much faster than his. She could outfly him easily if she wanted to.”
As Lillia trailed off, the captain howled into the radio.
<Stop running away, woman!>
Even the sound of his machine gun fire came over the airwaves.
“See? The captain’s losing his composure. At this rate he’ll run out of rounds, and Allison will win without having to shoot him down.” Treize stated.
<That’s enough of your futile resistance.> Said Allison, as though scolding the captain. <Surrender peacefully, and I guarantee that you will be treated with all due respect. Obviously you’ll be imprisoned and courtmartialed, but I’ll butter up the guards and have ice cream delivered to everyone in prison.>
<Hey, mint ice cream is great if you’ve never tried it.>
<Oh, you missed. Then how about chocolate? You know, my daughter loves both flavors.>
<She never listens to me, even when I tell her she’ll gain weight. Apparently she’s got a separate stomach for dessert or something…>
<Stop moving, damn it! Hah… hah…>
The game of tag went on for what seemed to be an eternity. Missed rounds and empty shell casings scattered across the lake.
<Missed again. You could really use some target practice. Are you getting enough training? I expected more from the commander here—your subordinates were much more interesting to fight.>
<Enough! Shit! Shit!>
As the captain roared into the microphone, Treize mumbled to himself.
“I’m almost starting to feel sorry for him.”
“He deserves that much, if nothing else.” Lillia declared.
“I’m sure he’s a good person on the inside. He just struck out like this because he was so passionate about helping his country.”
“That doesn’t mean you should sympathize. Him and the guy who shot Mr. Mateo—they can say whatever they want in court.”
“Court, huh.” Treize mumbled.
<You just keep missing and missing.>
Allison’s voice came over the radio again. The two fighter crafts were circling the air before the seaplane. There were more flashes of light, and the sound of gunfire came to an end.
<See? That’s what happens when you open fire so recklessly. You run out of ammo. That’s enough now. I can even give you some time to go back for your friends.>
<I don’t need your sympathy.> The captain replied.
<Surrender, please. Your plan was a failure. Go back and rescue your subordinates.> Allison said gently.
Silently, Treize glanced at Lillia.
<Hah hah hah… no. It’s not over. It’s not over yet!> The captain cried with a howl of laughter.
“Huh?” Treize gasped. Lillia asked him why.
“He threw away his floats…”
Lillia looked around and quickly spotted the amphibious plane. Just as Treize said, the large floats underneath it were gone. She could see them spinning to the water below.
“What’s he up to? Now he won’t be able to land.”
<It’s not over yet!>
<You idiot! Stop!> Allison cried.
And as Lillia and Treize listened in horror—
The captain’s plane charged the seaplane.
The tiny craft in the distance seemed to balloon into their sight.
“He’s going to ram us!”
“Get out of the way!” Lillia cried. But Treize did not more the yoke.
“It’s no use. Besides—”
<Your Highness!> Allison cried. At the same time, the black fighter craft broke out of its turn and chased after the amphibious plane.
<Maintain course! You’ll be in the safe zone if you continue that way! Maintain course at all costs!>
Treize firmly gripped the yoke.
<Glory to Tolcasia!>
There was an ear-splitting cry of madness and euphoria.
The black fighter craft followed just behind it.
Powerful 30mm machine gun rounds shot out the front of the craft. The strands of light pierced the captain’s plane.
There was a metal plate on the back of his cockpit to protect him, but the armor-piercing rounds shattered through and went off in the captain’s head, turning it to fine red mist. Death came so quickly he had no time to feel pain. It was instant.
Even after death, his right hand was fixed on the control stick. The masterless craft continued to rush toward the seaplane.
Allison tilted her right hand slightly, taking aim at the right side of the craft’s main wing. Her shots all made contact, breaking the wing itself.
With a flurry of sparks and fire, the right wing fell off the fuselage. The lift from the remaining wing forced the plane into a violent right turn.
The fighter plane with a corpse inside spun like a top as it plummeted to the right side of the seaplane.
Treize was watching the approaching fighter plane to the end.
The face of the man as he cried out behind the windshield. The black plane looming behind him like the reaper. The light spewing from Allison’s plane, swooping down like a scythe. And the red mist.
The two planes converged for a single second before diverging—the amphibious plane covered in black smoke to the lower left, and the jet-black fighter craft disappearing to the upper right.
The seaplane continued to fly over the lake as though nothing had ever happened.
Several seconds later.
“Did we make it…?”
Asked the person on the right.
“Yeah. We did, anyway.” Treize replied.
Meanwhile, in the passenger cabin—
Carlo was leaning against the window in a seat at the very back, his mouth gaping open as he slept.