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"Let's call it a Damned SSC 31: 'Enemy at one O'clock' and see if you reply"

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Fri 09/09/05 at 20:40
Regular
"A Paladin with a PH"
Posts: 684
If a mod finds this they can delete the original. What is it with you people?

*********** *********** ************

My name’s Lambet, not that it’s important. I’ve noticed things like that before now, things like that not being important, and I suppose you could say something like that about this story, it’s about what’s important and what isn’t. Anyway, back to me. I grew up in a Christian family, in a nice, suburban area, where people smiled cheerily as they went into the baker’s to buy a loaf to bring back to their happy, well-fed families. Some were poor, but most were happy, and so was I. I had one brother, Paul was his name, and we sang in the church choir together.

We always went to church, every Sunday, and prayed, and listened to the sermon, and learned the Ten Commandments. It was hammered so firmly into my brain that I’ve never forgotten a single word of them, to this day.

Well, straight after I got out of school I joined the air force; it seemed so righteous and romantic at the time, although I can’t even recall why I thought that now. Once I was out of training I joined my squadron, and that’s where I remained, ready to step forward when dark tyrants threatened world peace, and fight for my nation. It was a happy illusion at the time.

When I was called to war I wasn’t ready for it, young and naïve as I was, I began by looking forward to my baptism of fire, and prayed at church to be able to go to the front as soon as possible. It was all so simple and direct - the briefings, maps, plan, counter plans and everything that we had to know. That was the preparation for my first mission.

It was as I stood on the landing strip watching the loading crew strap bombs to the wings of my aircraft and strapped my helmet on, after I’d said a passionate farewell to my fiancée. Why were we fighting these people? They disagree with our morals, so I’m told, and by morals I assumed that the men in the suits meant something similar to the basic rules of the Christian faith. How did they disagree? We were the ones attacking them now anyway, that weren’t in accordance with the Christian faith.

My musings were interrupted by my wing leader gesturing for me to get moving, which I did, mainly to evade his wrath, and soon enough we were climbing through the wispy clouds, just him and I in this group, other pairs fanning out on either side of us, a long way apart. We glided peacefully across the waters for a time, and when we reached land we encountered no resistance, no anti-aircraft fire or fighters scrambling to meet us, it was deathly calm, and the sun burnt down mercilessly through the hazy sky.

While I was up there, nearer to heaven, I would say, I hardly had time to think, I’m not a very good pilot, you see, so I had to keep on rearranging my position in the formation (if two planes can have a formation) in response to the increasingly irritable orders of my officer. I couldn’t take my mind off what I had realised earlier, the questions that had sprung into my head. Thou Shallt Not Kill. There were no two ways about it, no loopholes, nothing. What was I doing up here? I wondered, what was anyone doing up here, why were we even in this war in the first place? It was because of them, because they wanted to kill us as well, all of us. If we didn’t do something then they would kill many people, most likely, we were enforcing God’s Law by breaking it. Then the shout came through the radio “Adjust your wing angle you imbecile!” and I returned to my controls.

Our objective was a city, I’ve forgotten what the name was, but apparently there were many enemy soldiers lodged there, defying our armoured platoons and artillery because of the thin, winding streets. Anyway, we were about seven miles away when we were finally intercepted, me and my wing leader, by a single enemy fighter, who attacked from above, the one o’clock position, at the same time as more struck against the aircraft on our flanks.

“Enemy at one o’clock, combat formation!” my superior shouted excitedly, as if I wasn’t moving already. That formation had been drilled into my head almost as much as the Ten Commandments. In seconds we were racing across the skies, engines to max, targeting our weapons frantically, and all was chaos, combat formation didn’t matter any more. The enemy pilot was good, although he was in a slower plane, he manoeuvred like lightning, and was soon behind Officer Rane, cannons blazing away, while I was climbing behind the enemy pilot, almost on his tail.

Rane was screaming down the radio, garbled, unintelligible abuse and curses, shouting for me to get his attacker off. Morals shouldn’t come into fighting like this; it should be simply ‘Bang! Dead!’ but they did. I suppose, in this case, that morals cost the army a pretty penny in scratch removal and wing repair because of my delay, but nothing more. The enemy plane was in my gun sights, I could simply pull the trigger and he would be gone.

It is at moments like this when one is meant to experience crystal clarity of thought, a moment that lasts a lifetime. For me it lasted about five seconds, but it was enough. It was up to me to kill this one man, up there so close to heaven. If I didn’t, officer Rane, and possibly myself would be dead. Officer Rane was not a good man, he never went to church or prayed, and instead he went out drinking on Saturday nights, got into a few fights and rolled out of bed on Sunday in the late afternoon. I didn’t even know the other man, he could have been anyone, of any religion or culture, and he could be a fellow Christian for all I knew, drawn into this war just like me. I can’t prioritise in situations like this, it all just goes out of my head, and it’s anathema to me, deciding how important something or someone is, over another person. For my country though, and my family, if not for my religion then for that, and all that I held dear, it was surely the lesser of two evils… I panicked, and just for that split second reverted to my old instincts, human, with no real morality, just life and death. I pulled the trigger.

I couldn’t watch the impact, but out of the corner of my eye I saw the single gun’s muzzle flare, and when I looked up I caught a glimpse of the obliterated shell of the aircraft falling to the ground far below, flaming and twisted, almost like a metal wicker man of the skies. I couldn’t bring myself to speak, apart from an almost whispered, “Kill confirmed” down the radio, just as I’d been taught. I was too shocked to do anything else. I had killed my fellow man, and somewhere there was a mother who’d lost a child, a man who’d lost a friend, maybe a child who’d lost his father. All of this hurt me, but also the fact that I knew I had lost a brother.

After a few minutes, and waves of verbal backslapping from Rane, we were in the drop zone, flying low over houses and empty streets. My fingers were still numb on the joystick, and Rane was too incensed with battle-lust to correct my angle of flight. There were people down there, just like my people, family and friends. I had killed the man to save lives, which is what I had told myself, it was the lesser of two evils, his death, or many more deaths. But now…here I was, wingman to the man who was already picking targets for his missiles, among the homes and factories of normal people, and he expected me to do the same. Was it really the lesser of two evils? I couldn’t do it, I had already done enough.

At this point in the story many people expect a dramatic event to take place, at the moment the most popular and outrageous one is that I shot down Rane before he could attack and then fled the battle. Instead of this, a thought which had never crossed my mind, I pulled up, turned tail and went home, shutting off my radio as I did it. I didn’t looked back to see what damage my officer did, I just kept flying, and when I landed, payload still firmly on my wings, and was crowded by the ground crew who were eager to receive news I told them nothing, I just ran away, and never returned.

******* ********** *************

The spontaneous creative process was disrupted by supper, so the 2nd half may not be that good.
Sun 11/09/05 at 09:51
Regular
"not dead"
Posts: 11,145
Good story, and funny, because it's something I've been thinking about lately, what it takes to kill. It was the Brazilian chap that was shot in London, someone made a choice (incorrectly, as it turns out) that he was a danger, so someone had to pull the trigger, and essentially become a killer. You capture this feeling well here - perhaps you need a little more on why he joined the air-force without thinking about the potential for war, as it would strengthen his predicament when he's pulled into it. Enjoyable story though, well written.
Sat 10/09/05 at 17:08
"period drama"
Posts: 19,792
Yup, if it's not SSC, people won't usually read it.
And even if it is, you've still got a struggle on your hands ... but them's the breaks.

Nice story, though, well told.
Fri 09/09/05 at 22:29
Regular
"Laughingstock"
Posts: 3,522
Hmm, I'm not sure you'll get away with this 'plucked from the ethers' metaphor... Still, doesn't alter the fact that I liked it a lot.
Fri 09/09/05 at 22:14
Regular
"A Paladin with a PH"
Posts: 684
It's a metaphor. Simply put, his mind is the snow, clear and spotless, pure you could say, and the blood is the act that he's commited, I guess you could say that it's staining him as a person.
Fri 09/09/05 at 21:18
Regular
"Laughingstock"
Posts: 3,522
Good stuff. Clean and crisp. The "metal wicker man" line sticks in my mind. But where's the flippin' snow, huh?!?! ;-/
Fri 09/09/05 at 20:40
Regular
"A Paladin with a PH"
Posts: 684
If a mod finds this they can delete the original. What is it with you people?

*********** *********** ************

My name’s Lambet, not that it’s important. I’ve noticed things like that before now, things like that not being important, and I suppose you could say something like that about this story, it’s about what’s important and what isn’t. Anyway, back to me. I grew up in a Christian family, in a nice, suburban area, where people smiled cheerily as they went into the baker’s to buy a loaf to bring back to their happy, well-fed families. Some were poor, but most were happy, and so was I. I had one brother, Paul was his name, and we sang in the church choir together.

We always went to church, every Sunday, and prayed, and listened to the sermon, and learned the Ten Commandments. It was hammered so firmly into my brain that I’ve never forgotten a single word of them, to this day.

Well, straight after I got out of school I joined the air force; it seemed so righteous and romantic at the time, although I can’t even recall why I thought that now. Once I was out of training I joined my squadron, and that’s where I remained, ready to step forward when dark tyrants threatened world peace, and fight for my nation. It was a happy illusion at the time.

When I was called to war I wasn’t ready for it, young and naïve as I was, I began by looking forward to my baptism of fire, and prayed at church to be able to go to the front as soon as possible. It was all so simple and direct - the briefings, maps, plan, counter plans and everything that we had to know. That was the preparation for my first mission.

It was as I stood on the landing strip watching the loading crew strap bombs to the wings of my aircraft and strapped my helmet on, after I’d said a passionate farewell to my fiancée. Why were we fighting these people? They disagree with our morals, so I’m told, and by morals I assumed that the men in the suits meant something similar to the basic rules of the Christian faith. How did they disagree? We were the ones attacking them now anyway, that weren’t in accordance with the Christian faith.

My musings were interrupted by my wing leader gesturing for me to get moving, which I did, mainly to evade his wrath, and soon enough we were climbing through the wispy clouds, just him and I in this group, other pairs fanning out on either side of us, a long way apart. We glided peacefully across the waters for a time, and when we reached land we encountered no resistance, no anti-aircraft fire or fighters scrambling to meet us, it was deathly calm, and the sun burnt down mercilessly through the hazy sky.

While I was up there, nearer to heaven, I would say, I hardly had time to think, I’m not a very good pilot, you see, so I had to keep on rearranging my position in the formation (if two planes can have a formation) in response to the increasingly irritable orders of my officer. I couldn’t take my mind off what I had realised earlier, the questions that had sprung into my head. Thou Shallt Not Kill. There were no two ways about it, no loopholes, nothing. What was I doing up here? I wondered, what was anyone doing up here, why were we even in this war in the first place? It was because of them, because they wanted to kill us as well, all of us. If we didn’t do something then they would kill many people, most likely, we were enforcing God’s Law by breaking it. Then the shout came through the radio “Adjust your wing angle you imbecile!” and I returned to my controls.

Our objective was a city, I’ve forgotten what the name was, but apparently there were many enemy soldiers lodged there, defying our armoured platoons and artillery because of the thin, winding streets. Anyway, we were about seven miles away when we were finally intercepted, me and my wing leader, by a single enemy fighter, who attacked from above, the one o’clock position, at the same time as more struck against the aircraft on our flanks.

“Enemy at one o’clock, combat formation!” my superior shouted excitedly, as if I wasn’t moving already. That formation had been drilled into my head almost as much as the Ten Commandments. In seconds we were racing across the skies, engines to max, targeting our weapons frantically, and all was chaos, combat formation didn’t matter any more. The enemy pilot was good, although he was in a slower plane, he manoeuvred like lightning, and was soon behind Officer Rane, cannons blazing away, while I was climbing behind the enemy pilot, almost on his tail.

Rane was screaming down the radio, garbled, unintelligible abuse and curses, shouting for me to get his attacker off. Morals shouldn’t come into fighting like this; it should be simply ‘Bang! Dead!’ but they did. I suppose, in this case, that morals cost the army a pretty penny in scratch removal and wing repair because of my delay, but nothing more. The enemy plane was in my gun sights, I could simply pull the trigger and he would be gone.

It is at moments like this when one is meant to experience crystal clarity of thought, a moment that lasts a lifetime. For me it lasted about five seconds, but it was enough. It was up to me to kill this one man, up there so close to heaven. If I didn’t, officer Rane, and possibly myself would be dead. Officer Rane was not a good man, he never went to church or prayed, and instead he went out drinking on Saturday nights, got into a few fights and rolled out of bed on Sunday in the late afternoon. I didn’t even know the other man, he could have been anyone, of any religion or culture, and he could be a fellow Christian for all I knew, drawn into this war just like me. I can’t prioritise in situations like this, it all just goes out of my head, and it’s anathema to me, deciding how important something or someone is, over another person. For my country though, and my family, if not for my religion then for that, and all that I held dear, it was surely the lesser of two evils… I panicked, and just for that split second reverted to my old instincts, human, with no real morality, just life and death. I pulled the trigger.

I couldn’t watch the impact, but out of the corner of my eye I saw the single gun’s muzzle flare, and when I looked up I caught a glimpse of the obliterated shell of the aircraft falling to the ground far below, flaming and twisted, almost like a metal wicker man of the skies. I couldn’t bring myself to speak, apart from an almost whispered, “Kill confirmed” down the radio, just as I’d been taught. I was too shocked to do anything else. I had killed my fellow man, and somewhere there was a mother who’d lost a child, a man who’d lost a friend, maybe a child who’d lost his father. All of this hurt me, but also the fact that I knew I had lost a brother.

After a few minutes, and waves of verbal backslapping from Rane, we were in the drop zone, flying low over houses and empty streets. My fingers were still numb on the joystick, and Rane was too incensed with battle-lust to correct my angle of flight. There were people down there, just like my people, family and friends. I had killed the man to save lives, which is what I had told myself, it was the lesser of two evils, his death, or many more deaths. But now…here I was, wingman to the man who was already picking targets for his missiles, among the homes and factories of normal people, and he expected me to do the same. Was it really the lesser of two evils? I couldn’t do it, I had already done enough.

At this point in the story many people expect a dramatic event to take place, at the moment the most popular and outrageous one is that I shot down Rane before he could attack and then fled the battle. Instead of this, a thought which had never crossed my mind, I pulled up, turned tail and went home, shutting off my radio as I did it. I didn’t looked back to see what damage my officer did, I just kept flying, and when I landed, payload still firmly on my wings, and was crowded by the ground crew who were eager to receive news I told them nothing, I just ran away, and never returned.

******* ********** *************

The spontaneous creative process was disrupted by supper, so the 2nd half may not be that good.

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