• Published 4th May 2021
  • 2,257 Views, 81 Comments

Protocol 4 - MoonWoah

Being a Pilot is a difficult job, and an even more difficult life. This is the story about the unluckiest Pilot ever being thrown into a series of truly unfortunate events.

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2. Saddle Up

It was turning nightfall as his slow pace and haggard exhausted demeanor slugged through the loose sand under his heavy boots. He had struggled through the heat of this damned desert dutifully to reach the only visible structure in his radius, what he assumed to be the wrecked hull of the Orwell. His initial assumption of roughly ten kilometers seemed to be accurate, and at a nice walking pace he managed to get to the wreck at around two hours time.

He’d left his communications link to AK open the whole time, hoping that as he’d approached the site the hulking Titan would respond. To his chagrin, no such luck. To his further detriment, his vision seemed to be either permanently altered or taking it’s sweet ass time to return to normalcy. It wouldn’t pose him too much trouble as long as he kept the helmet on, but it would need to be taken off at some point.

He just sighed as he slung the now sandlogged Longbow back around his shoulder, activating his jump kit and starting to ascend to the top of the wrecked ship’s hull as best he could. It was trivial for a pilot as long in the service as he was to climb structures like this, he did it all the time out in the field where terrain varied heavily. Hanging off a particularly dinged panel of metal, he managed to make out stamped markings in a language he didn’t know.

“That's.. Odd.” From what he remembered from primary education, the universal language that the entire human empire used as their standard was derived from old English, a really odd combination of a large amount of odd tongues, and eventually turned into modern day Terran. It perplexed him that not only he couldn’t recognize the strange writing, but his helmet couldn’t either.

He snapped a picture of the odd writing and continued scaling the vessel, right up to the top as he had a nice vantage point to inspect the large piece of wreckage. It seemed this was some kind of exterior hull section that was ripped right off from the vessel.. It just didn’t look all too correct. Support pillars weren’t in the correct places and some engineering facets didn’t seem to make sense at all.

His further confusion continued as he spied an unfamiliar symbol on the side of the outer hull, what looked like a.. Saddle? It was a bizarre minimalistic saddle design, with that same unfamiliar writing on it in somewhat faded red paint, although still somewhat legible to people who could actually read it. “That isn’t.. Anything on the Orwell.. Where the hell am I?”

He groaned and pulled a small device from the interior of his bandoleer, fiddling with it before raising a small thin antenna and turning on the device, theoretically allowing anyone listening to emergency frequencies the ability to locate his position via this beacon alone. He reminded himself the range on the communications link should have been extended from the height of the wreck he found himself on, and tried it again. “AK, you there buddy? C’mon you hunk of junk, lemme hear you.”

A low staticky buzz chimed right back in his ears, and he sighed deeply. Finding a decent enough position to lay on atop the heavy metal structure, he brought the light pack on his back down and started to rifle through it. “Damnation and hellfire you metal beast, where the hell are you?”

Eventually he found the target of his rifling, he’d found the tightly rolled bundle of fabric that served as his campaign cloak and make-shift cover in a pinch. The fabric was weaved with integral cloaking threads, so it basically was just an invisibility blanket. He unwound it and thought of the best way to set it up, deciding something akin to a simple lean-to would do fine for the night, though he’d have to find something more permanent if he couldn’t reach his partner.. Or figure out where he was.

Finishing his terrible under-the-stars lean-to was easy, spare metal poles were abundant enough to prop up the invisibility blanket, heh, easily. He sat down under the tarp right on his haunches as he looked up to where he’d left the distress beacon at the highest point on the wreck. ‘Someone’ll hear it.’ He started removing the light armor surrounding his torso, the bandoleer of ammo and various supplies coming with it.

He looked out to the setting sun through the helmet, deciding to take it off and look with his unaided vision at the would-be beautiful visage. Treading carefully, he removed the somewhat heavy metal-polymer alloy helmet from his head and blinking away the discomfort, he opened his eyes and looked on at the horizon. It was blurry, and still rather dark. He could make out the thickest paths of light, from things like the sun, and he could vaguely make out colors.. But nothing like he could see with the assisted vision in the helmet.

He scoffed at himself, letting it turn naturally into a sad chuckle and then a laugh as he sat in the sheer ridiculousness of this entire situation. Hell, from his perspective just 12 hours ago he was Titan deep in enemy territory performing subversive sabotage and demolition. SERE wasn’t even anywhere near his mind, especially not in the godforsaken desert. Oh and lest he forget, half blind! He really hoped that wasn’t going to be permanent, but with the current sample size of roughly three hours with his proverbial lights turned off, it didn’t inspire much hope in him.

He laid his back down against the sand buffeted metal surface of the wreck’s outer hull, resting his head against his ‘good’ arm, holding the metal one up into the air as he stared at it. “Operation’s gone belly up, bro. What would you do if you were here instead? Hah, probably scream and try to find your squad.”

Bad memories and blood, that’s all that damned arm reminded him of. Unfortunately for him it was grafted straight into the stump of his shoulder, connected to his nervous system, and fully controlled by his one and only brain. He let it fall to his chest, still mildly surprised that for something made out of titanium and various alloys, it weighed nearly the exact same as his biological arm. Was necessary though, exact balance for a pilot could mean life or death.

He closed his dark eyes and tried to drift to sleep in the soft blue light of his helmet, hoping that if nothing else, the beacon would lead someone to his location for some more information. He was up the proverbial creek without a paddle, and eventually his thoughts drew to a close, and he was out like a snuffed light.

It was one of the most boring nights of her entire career. She lightly slumped over against the desk she was at in the darkly lit room she and a plethora of other griffins sat and worked in. Her eyes started to flutter closed before she caught herself, silently squawking awake and turning her head to make sure the multitude of personnel didn’t see her mistake… coast looks clear.

She sighed and resumed the boring task of monitoring various high and low band frequencies via the luminescent blue screens just before her. Sure there were interesting periods where her job was incredibly beneficial to the corps, but they were few and quite far in-between. Tartarus, the last time she remembered actually being useful was during the battle to retake the Griffish Isles.
She was almost about to slump over her post again before a broadband frequency monitoring screen let off a small beep, and alerted her to a literal blip on the radar. A small light appeared in a rough location out in the Saddle Arabian desert, which was odd because the range of frequencies they should be allowed to use was well outside what this one was operating under. She brought out a manual hidden in the small shelf below her desk, flipping it open with a claw to briefly check what range of frequency they’d actually be allowed to use in that region of occupied territory.

After a moment of scanning, and then double checking that scanning, she determined that not only was it outside the acceptable range for military frequencies, it was outside of the range of her manual period. Which shouldn't have been possible, let alone in the middle of nowhere. She turned her head to face the commanding officer in the room, beckoning him over with a claw, “Cap’n, radar pinged outside the known ranges. I checked the handbook and it doesn’t say anything about it, what do you-”

Her sentence was cut short by another small alert beep and a blip to the radar, roughly 23 kilometers away from the original but it’s trajectory seemingly moving towards it at a steady pace. The officer she called over leaning into the monitor displaying the anomaly and then back to her, “Ja, good work Minth, send a copy of the data to my station and keep monitoring this. I’ll bring it up to the Kommander.”

She did a little salute with her wing as the Captain walked back to his desk, receiving a copy of the data and walking out of the radar center to speak with the commander of the overall section. She leaned back in her seat a bit as she watched him go, exhaling a breath she didn’t know she was holding in as her attention was brought back to the two blips on the screen. “Just what are you, little dots?”

The cool night desert air circled around the wreck of the ship, it wouldn’t be long until the sun rose across the area again. That same cool breeze wafted across his face and dried his fatigues during the restless night, his body naturally starting to wake up before the crack of dawn as it was trained to do. His eyes opened and the world was black, save for the distant and vague light of what he figured was a moon, and the barely perceivable glow of his helmet. His arm moved towards the blue light, smacking against it with a metallic clang as he basically slapped it. He groaned, this was gonna take some serious adjusting to.

He grabbed it by the bottom edge of the chin and sat up straight, slipping the tin-can-cover over his head and letting his vision adjust to it’s display. He briefly shut his eyes as the rush of vision flooded over him, still not completely back to what it could’ve been, but at least letting him see more. During low-light conditions like this though, he wouldn’t be able to make out fine details like writing… this was becoming truly bothersome.

He got up to his feet slowly as he took in his surroundings, the dark terrain of the sand dunes winding on as far as his assisted vision could see. He shook his head and reached down to grab the Longbow rifle he’d left leaning against a particularly mangled sheet of steel, his hands naturally finding themselves in comfortable positions on the weapon as he just simply stood and took in the view of the area. It felt like a calm chaos, like the feeling when you knew a windstorm was about to blow through.

His helmet allowed him to see the pitch black of the night sky slowly turn to a shade of dark purple, signalling the sun was approaching and day was about to break. He slung the rifle and slipped on his body armor, taking down his camouflaged lean-to and repacking it into his bag, putting everything neatly back onto himself and preparing for the day ahead. Reading through the mental checklist in his head of the gear he should have with him, he moved to recollect the beacon from the peak of the wreck, only to find the steady green light replaced by a flashing red one.

“Hah, you big metal bastard.” He shook his head and just looked up to the sky as the communications link was opened again, the same staticky buzz greeting his ears, before a quiet click replaced the white-noise.

Hello, Pilot. The ambient temperature is 43 degrees Fahrenheit and rising. I am 1.3 kilometers away from your position and approaching quickly.

“Haha fuck! AK where the hell have you been? I’ve been trying to reach you since I woke up here!”

I have been 73 kilometers to the South-West of your current position. Charged Jump particles seem to have sent us to a random position within 350,000,000 kilometers from the initial detonation.

“Right, okay. That should put us somewhere in the system we Jumped into, right? Do you have any idea where we are?”

Triangulating the position of celestial bodies such as the sun appears ineffective, anomalous movement from it’s expected trajectory makes it unreliable as a navigation tool. The moon also exhibits the same behavior.

His shoulders went slack as he looked out towards the South-West and released a held breath, now able to barely make out the shape of something moving towards him from the direction. “Never easy. Try your luck with contacting the Third Fleet? Or anyone?”

Communications unresponsive. Friendly presence in the system seems to be ignoring us or non-existent.

He cracked a smile through the helmet, “Was that a joke, AK?”

Eyes up, Pilot. I will be on your position within 5 minutes.

He chuckled openly and patiently waited for the arrival of his partner, the massive Titan signalling his position by the heavy footfalls that could be heard from far away as he moved like the slick war machine he was designed to be. Johannsen climbed down to a lower position on the wreck to be relatively on the same level as the Atlas class titan, and gave him a thumbs up.

“Took you long enough buddy. Why dont’cha make yourself useful and tell me some good news?”

A deep range sonar pulse revealed a river 354 kilometers to the West. We will be able to make it by nightfall if we leave now, Ethan.

“Copy, lemme update the beacon and we’ll head off, aye?” He nodded as AK gave him a simple thumbs up, moving back up the cleaved wreck easily as he scaled back to the top. It really was trivial for Pilots to climb and move, it was so drilled into their skulls that movement is your last lifeline, it was second nature to do so at any given time. In less than 20 seconds, he was back to the beacon as he reset it, changing it from a simple locational beacon to one that relaid a specific message.

Setting the now looping distress beacon onto the highest perch he could find, then using his sparse supply of tape to firmly secure it to the position, he left it behind to hopefully catch the ear of a friendly Militia team tracking him down. It’s all he could do, and eventually him and AK left the mysterious desolate carcass of a once beautiful ship behind. Beginning the long march Westward as the message played out for anyone to catch.

And only mere hours after two strange blips on radar were detected, a new monitoring station found itself captivated by a strange distress call.

“Vat do you MEAN ‘may day’!? Ze damned Arabiansz are under Griffonian control! Alert Kommander Hurtzel and make SZURE to elaborate the importance! Augh, idiocy!”

The piercing voice of the Captain monitoring the station had every griffon under his command straight at attention, the Lieutenant ordered to alert the Commander running off straight away, presumably to do just that as the station moved back to their positions, manning their stations and paying a close eye to the roughly 200 square kilometer area the pulses had ever been recorded.

Minth was no longer having a boring night, her job as radar and radio monitoring technician only being occasionally interesting, such as times like these. Ever since the appearance of the bizarre transmission from the original anomaly’s position, the Captain ordered her glued to his hip as he parsed the information and chose to move it up the chain of command.

Only after the Lieutenant had returned out of breath and wings visibly drooping, did the call over radio come that a joint Griffonian and Arabian response and reconnaissance team were heading to the location. The station would be responsible for relaying their communications to the proper department, but they all really just wanted to know what was out there to cause such a commotion in the first place.

She frowned as she wrote a transcript of the distress beacon, unfamiliar with the absolutely bizarre accent on traditional Equish. Nevertheless, her claw-writing was the best from everyone in the room, so on she wrote.

‘May day May day May day. This is Pilot/Sargeant Johnson (Johnsan? Johonsen) on emergency frequency 6-5-5.6. Declaring emergency situation. Stranded with A-K-5-8-2-3. Transport attacked during jump cool down (?). Unknown hostels. Unknown position. This message will repeat.’

She was utterly confused. She tried her best to write what she heard, but it was still disbelievingly hard to understand. But nonetheless, she sighed and handed the paper to the Captain, seemingly pleased with her work. She kept an ear out towards the radar monitors though, hoping maybe something else would come through to shed more light, that or the ‘R and R’ team’s analysis of the scene.

It wouldn’t take long for the Team to get to the wrecked ship buried in the sand, the team of Griffons and Arabian horses converging on the target in just under an hour’s time. The sun was scorchingly hot overhead, always hottest just after dawn, the Team finding the beacon quickly as they searched through the highest points on the scarred ship.

An Arabian on the ground grabbed the attention of a few of his comrades, pointing towards the faded red symbol of their country on the hull of the ship, it’s name even still legible. “SAS Striped Fury. Looks like an older model Fyrefly cruiser, doesn’t it?”

The others seemed to look on the ship with a bit of patriotism as the Griffons did most of the actual work, taking the device taped to a steel rod that was seemingly emitting the distress call right off and studying it while an officer searched the nearby area around the wreck, seeing gargantuan and heavy footprints leading far off into the desert. “Alright chicksz, mount up and letsz follow the trail. Tell ze Kommander we may have found szomething here.”