Kaerri's Man. =)
"Love on a Real Train" (State Azure Cover) by Tangerine Dream
"Awaken... or you are going to die."
* * *
(Prelude 1 of 2)
Somewhere in the grip of a relentless dream, Ricky heard his beloved mother calling him. He was in his bed, much younger, and looking out through his bedroom window into a wintry Maine forest blanketed in fresh drapes of white snow. His limbs felt like stone. He was having the hardest time getting out of bed.
"C'mon, my little daredevil. Hop up. Time to get ready for school. I need your help to shovel the car out. Remember our deal?" His mother's smile was warm and wishful, but something felt strange to Ricky. She recounted, "You get good grades and work around the house and your grandpa and I help you with flight school."
Ricky's mind swam with confusion. Why were his limbs so heavy? Why was he in such a daze?
"C'mon, Evel Knievel. I made your favorite breakfast. You do want to fly, don't you?" Her voice seemed now to echo her question over and over.
She leaned over, looked him calmly in his eyes and said something that sounded completely inhuman but altogether true - "Awaken... or you are going to die."
* * *
(Prelude 2 of 2)
The last thing Ricky remembered before he fell unconscious was sliding into the Milo's bay at breakneck speed, his heavily-damaged Valkyrie "Jezebel" in jet-mode screeching across the shuttle floor causing sparks to fly in every direction. Warning lights flashed from his HUD and alerts blared from all over his cockpit. If it sounded like all Hell was breaking loose... perhaps it was because it may as well have been.
He remembered the Milo's bay doors sealing in behind him. He had remembered before landing in the airborne shuttle his jettisoning the Jezebel's FASTPack (which in turn had saved the Jezebel from destruction via incoming Malcontent missile volleys).
He recalled her right engine blowing. There was a heck of a lot of smoke. But most of all he recalled being the last remaining member of his squadron, the Blue Hares. He was alone now. This was it. The Blue Hares, his twisted, daring gang of fellow Valkyrie pilots... were dead as dead could be - all to save some VIP ASC military scientist who had seen too much of something. All Ricky knew was the VIP's name and rank on her nametag - Lt. Ylva Sveadotter.
The mission was all to save her, or rather, whatever was in her head. Something in there was quite possibly a real game-changer as far as the military was concerned. The Malcontents had captured her in Florida. The Blue Hares had rescued her in Brazil. Where in heck they were now was beyond him. All he knew was his Blue Hares... were dead! One by one, Ricky suffered through each one of them dying at the hands of the Malcontents as the base they had rescued her from had thrown everything it had at his dying squadron. But he and the VIP should be safe now in the Milo, something in him argued.
They had finally made it onboard the Milo - an ASC shuttle piloted by micronized Zentraedi loyal to Earth and capable of housing four Valkyrie-sized veritechs. There was a dogfight happening outside... way, way up here - a dogfight! But against what? his training asked. What did the Malcontents in Brazil have that could reach them some 60,000 feet - over 12 miles - above Earth's sea level? Not to mention keep up with a Valkyrie! Nothing Ricky knew and he had done his homework on Zentraedi war machines.
In the soft, illusory land of dreams, unconscious Ricky Rolland's mind traveled. It was an uneasy travel with smoke and fire but soon the mind-scene changed until he saw something more familiar, more comfortable. Definitely more comfortable. He saw his squadmates drinking together with him. Raising some kind of toast to him. But he had no idea why.
He saw all of them. Lucy, Harold, Rupps, Alice, and Capt. Reinfeld. They were smiling and carrying on in some beautiful pub somewhere with real-wood bar, full cold mugs, good lighting, energetic music, and great atmosphere. Where it was, Ricky could hardly guess, but they were raising copper mugs to him.
"Here's to you, Ricky-boy! Here's to the last of the Hellraisers! The lone Blue Hare himself, Ricky!" Lucy had raised her pint to him.
"Ya made it, ya sorry ass! Can ya believe it?" Harold teased, looking like he'd had a few. They all looked that way.
Rupps poked him. "I told you we were all gonna die! You'd better make the best of your life now, man! "
Alice winked. "And you'd best do it soon, babe. Your clock? It's ticking like a damned timebomb."
"She's right, Rolland." Captain Reinfeld filled Ricky's vision. The recently-deceased squadron leader of the Blue Hares grabbed Ricky by his shoulders. He shook Ricky a bit as if trying to rouse him. Still smiling, staring him straight in the eyes, Captain Reinfeld spoke the words slowly.
"Awaken... or you are going to die."
That phrase kept repeating itself inside of Ricky's mind. It made no sense. The voice didn't even sound like Captain Reinfeld's. But if it wasn't him, then who in God's name was it?
* * *
(Prologue begins - present time for Ricky)
"Enter Sandman" by Metallica
Ricky couldn't open his eyes. He wasn't quite conscious, but he heard a nearby voice. A guy's voice. Maybe a Londoner. He had no idea, but the guy sure as heck sounded awfully happy in a way that made Ricky feel terribly uneasy.
"Blimey! Fucking gor blimey! It's Christmas! It's bloody Christmas! An' you Rotten Rolland are goddamned Santa Claus!" Ricky could not identify the guy. He had no idea who he was. "The blasted aliens are out there killin' each other! I've got a free ride! And you! Look what you did! You brought home the princess for me! The goddamn VIP herself!"
Ricky felt something being lifted off of his body. Ricky's battered body was helpless to stop it.
"Saved me all the trouble! All for the nice price of yer whole bleedin' squadron! All dead! No open caskets fer any of them, are there ye stupid son of a bitch!" Without warning, Ricky felt something nail him right straight in the mouth. His head reeled and it helped to wake him up a little. He tasted something strange. Maybe boot-leather. Then he tasted something else in his mouth. Blood. His blood. Then he heard clicking sounds from all around his body. "Now yer about ta crash an' burn like all the other alien-lovers out there! Well, I'll tell ya, bloke! Ya ain't gettin' this one! We need her... but we sure as hell don't need you! Ha ha ha! Yer gonna die now, Rotten Rolland!" Ricky heard his voice as if he were making his way away. "Good riddance to you, ye beautiful fucking failure!"
Something inside Ricky was on fire. The fellow martial artists of his past would have called this a 'rising of spirit' or 'an unleashing of the dragon within you.' Whatever it was, Ricky found himself with every reason in the world to live and his body was slowly, oh-so-slowly, attempting to respond.
Suddenly, he heard the words, not with his ears, but straight inside of his mind! All this time he knew - it was somehow Jezebel!
"...or you are going to die."
There was movement and sound all around Ricky. The whole world was shifting. He smelled smoke. Not nice Maine-firewood during winter smoke but ugly, black burning of something synthetic toasting dangerously. He fought and fought to rise, to awaken. There was a shower of strange lights all around him. Finally, he was able to open his eyes - and what he saw was chaos incarnate! He was still inside Jezebel, his helmet off and now in his otherwise-empty lap, her HUD was going nightmare-crazy with alerts. Then Ricky realized - he was still onboard the Milo! He saw the burning bay, the blaring alert sirens and lights! The bay doors suddenly opened and another aircraft, a Logan in jet-mode took off and burst out into the sunny sky.
Quite possibly the second-most frightening moment of Ricky's life (at least while alone inside of a Valkyrie) was right now! The Milo was being destroyed. Inside the bay, there was smoke everywhere and when the shuttle tilted, it titled in such a way as to make the Jezebel start to slide down the floor and toward the edge of the bay. The shrieking sound of the savaged Valkyrie's frame sparking against the shuttle-bay floor filled Ricky's mind to fully wakening! His Jezebel, all 15 tons of her, was sliding across the floor like a chess-piece on a board. The bay filled with sunlight and the Milo continued to tilt threatening to sending Ricky and Jezebel outside!
This frightening moment was only eclipsed by the sensation of the Jezebel leaving the bay and falling out into Earth's open sky.!
Not only did Ricky feel his feet leave the Jezebel's pedals, he also saw for certain that the jet-fighter's canopy was left wide open. Then Ricky felt his legs and rear end begin to lift up and off from the pilot's seat - and then he realized - the scumbag who had absconded with the VIP had also unlocked Ricky's harness! He was about to fall out of Jezebel! Ricky had about 3 seconds to act before he left the Jezebel, plummeted some 10+ miles to his death, joined the Blue Hares, and left the VIP they had all died for in the hands of a madman.
But... if anyone could make it out of a mess like this, it was a Valkyrie Test Pilot!
There were a number of things Ricky could consider...
1. Attempt to transform the battered Valkyrie
2. Close the cockpit
3. Attempt to punch out (eject).
4. Try to put his helmet on.
5. Anything else Ricky could think of.
What does Ricky do?