The steps on the metal floor echoes on the empty hallways as one, LT Wade "Drips" Duncan walks towards the hangar deck. He is wearing his Pilot suit, and is holding his helmet under his right arm. His attention drifts to other people as they cross paths with him and he offers a silent nod, saying absolutely nothing and immediately forgetting that they were even there. He can feel his heart beating and he needs to take a deep breath to calm himself down, there is a task to be done. As he approaches the his destination, the ambient sound grows louder in his ears, there's the usual yelling, the typical sounds you would hear on a car shop, there's definitely a lot of movement there today.
Stepping into the larger area causes a change in lightning and this makes Wade narrow his eyes, trying to protect them as they adjust. His heart starts racing faster, he scans the crowd and sees many different Air-Wingers, Marines and Deck personnel. There's a line of Raptors already being boarded, everyone is getting ready for the Gemenon visit. The man looks down at his helmet nodding to himself and whispering "I'm going to find her…" Just saying those words make his hear race even harder and with a curt nod, he moves his helmet above his head and lowers it, finding the sound outside being muffled by the padding. He secures the locks and takes a deep breath, testing the oxygen system.
Looking towards the launch tubes, Wade finds the Vipers that are about to go out, among them, number 662. There is no time to waste, and he immediately steps towards his bird, only hearing the sounds of his own breathing, with the now faint sound of the deck in the background. The deck people working on his bird, look at him as he approaches and stop. Two girls and one man, they all offer a quick salute and a smile, doing the thumbs up sign after this. Wade returns the smile to them, even if very faint; he also offers a quick salute and then, he reaches the stairs leading to the cockpit. Both hands take the metal bars and he looks up for a second. He looks down at the first step and places his left foot on it, pushing himself upwards, moving his right to the second step. When he reaches the cockpit, he takes a seat and extends his leg, placing his feet on the pedals and shifting his upper torso the get more comfortable. He looks ahead at the now opening launch bay.
The stair is unhooked from the Viper and moved away, and he starts to canopy lock sequence. With an abrupt shake, the Viper is now being pushed towards the lock rails and he finally finds the familiar face of the launch officer. Inside the cockpit, Wade turns on the wireless and immediately hears the voice of the launch officer. "Drips, let's start with the checkups." To this, Wade turns his head to look at the officer and offers a nod "You got it." His attention turns to all the different systems on the Viper and after tweaking a few settings, the Viper pilot nods to himself and says "All systems on Green…" There's a pause from him, he moves his right hand to one of his chest pockets, patting there. He unzips the pocket and takes something from it. It's small, it's something very small and the first thing seeing is apparently, the back. The white piece of paper is flipped over and there, a woman appears. It's a picture, and and redheaded woman is there, smiling at him. Wade smiles softly after seeing this picture and gently caresses the woman's cheek with a gloved thumb. He swallows and extends his hand with the picture, sliding one of the edges between the DRADIS cover and the metal behind it, securing it there. "All systems on Green, ready to launch" says Wade now, taking a deep, somewhat shaky breath as he looks at the picture.
"All systems green" says the launch officer "Launching in 5…4…3…2" Wade looks at the launch officer and makes a thumbs up sign to him. After this, the Viper is violently pushed forward, engines firing up reaching the desired speed. While traveling through the launch tube, the Viper shakes more than normal, but his attention is placed on that picture. Lines and lines of endless metal travel past the Viper, right outside. His gaze looks forward and then, open space, and the sight of Gemenon. Wade looks outside, finding the advance group. The Raptors are already out there, patiently waiting. Wade pushes the thrusters just a little bit and pulls the stick, his left foot presses just a little on the pedal and just after a few seconds, he is positioning himself close to the Raptors, along with the other Vipers.
"Raptors will jump directly into atmosphere, Vipers will have to do planetary entry. When the Vipers are in place, a call will be made to the Raptors and they'll jump in, resuming formation." says the voice of the person in charge. "Copy that" says Wade, having his eyes completely focused on Gemenon. He swallows and then looks down at the picture, his eyes filling with hope, hope to see that smile again, but in person. He tilts his Viper now, pushing on the thrusters. The engines flare as the bird starts moving forward towards Gemenon. The planet grows larger in front of him and soon, his cockpit starts shacking abruptly, the entry has just started. The entire Viper starts to heat up, it's body going from the regular metal grey, to light orange and then to a very strong, very bright orange. Flames cover the Viper like a mantle, raging right outside, making the entry a very violent experience. Wade keeps a firm grip on the controls and presses his lips together, narrowing his eyes since it's so very bright outside at this moment.
That violent moment ends as fast as it started, and now, Wade finds himself surrounded by a blue sky. The shaking stops, the Viper soon takes back that metal grey color but there are definitely damage marks made by the harsh entry. All the other Vipers are still close to him, and they all flight to the designated spot. Aside from required communications, Wade is pretty quiet, just looking a head, mind clouded with memories of a happy past. His gaze moves to the picture again, and immediately, he experiences a flashback, it is a very brief sequence. He sees himself as a young boy, he's on a tree, climbing after a young girl that is speaking about talking to the Gods. The girl slips and falls, and Wade quickly extends his hand, saving her. Their eyes meet and then the image fades back to the reality in front of Lieutenant Duncan, open skies, Vipers around him and a horrible image below, the massive destruction that Gemenon suffered.
The group of Viper pilots reach the meeting spot, and after relaying details to the Raptors above, only a few seconds go by before they see different flashes of light, followed by the clear image of the Raptors, with all their passengers inside. Here, the group splits. Wade and his wingmate pair up with one of the Raptors. They turn their birds and head east, lowering the altitude, getting closer to the floor. Wade checks his DRADIS for enemy contacts but finds nothing. He is unable to stop himself from looking at that picture, and every time he does, an even more vivid image of that woman is drawn in his mind. The ground bellow is getting closer and closer, and they soon find themselves a couple miles above a river, a very long river that is protected by lines of thick trees on each side. Wade has never been here, but he knows it's close to another place and he grows anxious. He licks his lips and takes a deep breath. His gaze moves towards the stick and he lightly pushes it forward, adjusting engine power just a little to give himself a little more speed. He gets closer to the water, and he is followed by the Raptor and the other Viper.
From here, it is certainly a different view. Wade finds himself flying fast, only a few feet above the water. The trees move past him, fast enough for him not to get clear details of what's there. His mind is invaded by another scene, finding himself as a young man, driving a car at full speed down a highway. Next to him, a girl smiles and seems to be having a great time. They both look at eachother and smile, and Wade stomps on the gas pedal. The sequence fades, Wade finds himself a little too close to the water, the wings make contact with the surface and splash water underneath the Viper, forming small waves that will travel to each side of the shore. He pulls up, just a little, not even abruptly. The wings leave the water and he finds himself at safe altitude. "Drips…are you ok?" asks his wingmate. Wade doesn't respond anything at the moment, he is looking at what's ahead of him. The falls, the falls that he has seen in dreams. He looks at them in silence, and then looks at the picture. "I'm fine…" finally says Wade, but soon, he adds "Stay in formation with the Raptor, complete the assignment, I'll be back soon." And without explaining further, Wade shuts down his wireless and abruptly pulls up, pushing the thrusters to max. The engines flare, making the calm river shake underneath. Steam goes up as the heat generated by the engines sends the water in the area beyond boiling temperatures.
Wade pushes his Viper to max speed, as fast as his own racing heart now that he is going where he is supposed to. The scenario below him becomes disturbing, building after building, completely destroyed. He pulls the thrusters back, slowing his bird down. He takes another deep breath, shaky. His chest already hurts, just by seeing what happened here. He sees the place, or…he sees where the place used to be, and now, ruins. "No…" says the man, and another flashback invades his mind. He finds himself standing in a Hallway. A redhead bumps into him, she falls back to the floor. "Firebolt" says the man with a soft smile. Everything happens in slow motion. He extends his hand to her, she takes it and as she stands, they are already smiling at eachother, peering into eachother's eyes. The image fades. He finds himself right above where he was going, the temple of Pallas Athena.
The place is destroyed, utterly destroyed. Just ruins remain, just ruins of what once was, a glorious temple that he had seen only in pictures. Wade finds a place to land, and he gently lowers the Viper, not being able to, not look around, hopeful, wanting to find her. He sees nobody there, but he doesn't give up. As soon as the bird touches ground, he starts the engine shutdown process. His attention looks outside again, taking a deep breath. The man looks at the picture again and he extends his right hand, taking it. He unlocks the canopy and while it opens, he just looks at the picture and smiles, how can he not smile when there's so much beauty in that picture. How can he not smile when he sees her. There is another sequence that takes over, this time, he finds himself sitting on the sand. He's on a beach, it's nighttime. Next to him, the same girl, they are talking, just enjoying being there, together. Behind them, a party is taking place but they don't care. He moves his left hand over hers, gently caressing her fingers with his. The woman smiles and so does he. The image fades, and he finds that the cockpit is already open.
Wade looks around one more time, but before doing anything, he moves one hand to the straps securing him to the seat. He unhooks himself, placing the picture on his lap afterwards. Both hands move to the locks of his helmet, and when it's done, he tilts his head forward and pushes it, taking it off. A deep breath is taken and he sits back, taking a moment. Finally, he takes the picture again, moving it into his pocket. Both hands are placed on the side of the cockpit and he pushes himself up. One foot goes right where his hand was and then the other. Wade jumps down, hitting the ground and already getting a feel of the destruction around him. What once used to be clean floors, now show a different image, completely covered with dirt and pieces of rock here and there.
The Viper pilot takes a few steps away from the bird, taking off his gloves while doing so. There is already sadness drawing in his features, he presses his lips together as he takes in the view. Only parts of the side walls are up, what once used to be a somewhat dark place, now enjoys the fullness of the sunlight, but at what cost, at what heavy cost. There are piles of rocks everywhere, parts of the ceiling, shattered glass, dirt. There are candles scattered everywhere, wooden benches smashed to pieces. He walks forward, feeling the sound of the dirt underneath his feet. He narrows his eyes, walking towards a place that calls for his attention. It is surrounded by rocks, so he has to climb them to get there. With some effort, he balances himself as he travels through somewhat shaky grounds. Desperation grows on his face, he has another picture of here, standing around that area. As soon as he stands in that very spot, another flashback. He is wearing his officer blue uniform, he finds himself in his own house in Picon, there is a party going on. He is gently pushing people to the sides, walking, moving forward. A redhead is moving towards him, he smiles at her, he takes her hands and gently rubs her knuckles with his thumbs. They smile at eachother, and the image fades.
He finds himself looking around, lips pressed shut. He turns around, looks up and then looks ahead again. His right hand goes to his pocket again, and he just rests it over it. He takes another deep breath and still feels his own heart, going faster, beating stronger. Something catches his attention, an old altar, a part of it still stands, but most of it is scattered through the floors. He stakes a few steps forward, slow, getting closer, looking at what's there. It seems that the statue of Athena fell on top of it, and they are now just pieces of rock that keep certain degree of a familiar form. Wade keeps walking, keeps getting closer. His attention moves to the floor, his desperation grows as he looks around. There is something that gets his attention, a piece of fabric. He walks faster, and when he gets there, he immediately leans down, extending his hand to take that piece of fabric. He pulls, but a part is stuck between the rocks. He lets go and moves both hands to the heavy rock, pushing it to the side. The man takes the fabric again, it's dirty, it used to be white, or cream colored. It's part of a dress, Wade takes it in both hands. He looks at it, running his fingers there. There is another flash, another image. It's the same redhead, she is standing in his house, a glass in her hand and she looks as if she is looking for someone. She is wearing that dress. The image fades and he finds himself looking at that piece of fabric, it was part of her dress. He closes his fist around it and he shakes his head "Please…" whispers the man, pleading. He takes another deep breath, gently placing the piece of fabric on top of a rock nearby.
His attention goes back to the rocks, he licks his lips and shakes his head "Please…" repeats the man and starts pushing pieces of rocks away "Please, no…". His heart keeps pushing harder and harder, and as he works on moving the rocks away, the pain grows. He stops abruptly, after moving one rock that was directly over the floor. He stares at something with wide eyes and his hands start to shake. He swallows hard and extends both hands, retrieving something. A chain, with two small medallions. He looks at them "No…no no…" mutters the man running his fingers through them. The have burn marks, and dry blood. There is an inscription, and he gets to read 'WADE DUNCAN', the blood makes it hard to read. There is another flashback, they are both back at Wade's house in Picon. Wade and the redheaded girl are standing together, facing each other. He is placing something in her hand. She looks at it and smiles, he gave her his dogtags. She says his name, her voice breaking a little with emotion. She hugs him, and the image fades.
Wade just stares at the those dogtags, pressing his lips hard. His eyes water up and tears start to roll down "No…" he takes the dogtags to his lips and he kisses them, immediately falling to his knees leaning forward, pressing his forehead to the ground as he presses the dogtags to his chest. "Please….please…" repeats the man trying to convince himself but breaks into a strong cry. His entire body is shaking and he pulls himself straight. He looks up and closes his eyes, the sunlight now hitting his swollen face. It's covered with tears and dirt. He cries without control and places both hands on the floor, and feels the defeat invade him. One hand moves to his pocket again, taking the picture of that smiling redhead. Teardrops fall on her image as it is being held by shaky hands. He lifts the picture to his lips and kisses it softly "I'm sorry, I'm sorry….please forgive me" whispers the man.
In his defeat, he continues to move his eyes around the floor, this time teardrops wetting the surface, making the dirt adopt a darker color. He finds something else, it’s…pink, yes, he sees pink. His lower lip shakes understanding what it is “No…” just says the man again and pushes a rock away to further reveal that thing. It’s a broken pacifier, it’s pink and like the rest, is covered in dirt. He closes his eyes, already too weak, already too lost. One last flashback takes over and he finds himself in a park, possibly in Picon. The redheaded woman is sitting next to him, smiling. She is wearing robes, she’s a Priestess. “Wade…” whispers the woman as they look at each other. She bites on her lower lip , smiles softly and leans in, lightly whispering against his ear “I’m pregnant” The images fades, the hard reality hits him again.
"Wade…" hears the man deep inside his mind. He looks up and about, standing up immediately and starting to walk around, erratically. "Faith?…" asks the man, looking around, trying to find her. She's not there. He goes back to the piece of fabric and picks it up. In his hands, the picture, the fabric and the dogtags rest. "Faith…" whispers the man, crying hard again, feeling defeated, his world crumbling around him. He closes his eyes and screams "FAITH!" he falls to his knees once again and he is now, covered by darkness.
Wade abruptly opens his eyes "NO!" screams the man and extends his hand as if trying to reach for something. His hand hits metal hard, and he finds himself inside his bunk. His other hand extends to the side and he finds the curtain, he pushes it open and rolls himself off his bunk, falling to the floor. "No…no no no…." mutters the man as he pushes himself up again. He touches his face and finds himself crying. The couple pilots woke up due to his scream "Drips…" they ask. He doesn't respond, he just unlocks the door of the berths and walks outside, moving towards the Head. He finds himself only wearing his boxers, nothing more. Bare feet step fast on the cold metal floor. He moves inside the Head, there's nobody there. He hurries to one of the basins and lets the water run. Both hands take as much water as he can and he dives his face against them, rubbing them furiously over his face. He breathes heavily, trying to calm himself down. Both hands grab the sides of the basin as he takes deep breaths. He looks at himself in the mirror and finds that redhead, standing behind him. He opens his eyes wide and turns around, finding nothing, he is alone. He moves his hand to his chest, heart racing…he swallows and says "Faith…"