For King and Country by: Pent Ghelsburg
Disclaimer: All characters in this story are rightful property of their owners. They are used with respect and with careful consideration of their creator. Please don't use them without permission.
“Protocol 51-A Initiated” A machine churns out a long string of code.
“Bio-molecular Evaluation Engaged” Green lasers shoot out in a single stream atop a metallic table surface.
On the exterior lay a single relaxed body. A male Golden Collie filling out most of the flat grid-like front that slightly tilted against a reflecting light from the machine.
“Normal life signs detected. Beginning Body Mass Indexing.” The machine shifted once, from a diagonal angle to a horizontal one.
“Diagnostic complete: All reports positive. Analyzing identification, securing photocells.” A single flash of light was elicited.
“Identity confirmed. Joey Barker. Age 15. Operation Complete.” The machine buzzed a soft whir before turning off.
A whiff of air sounded, as a silvery door shifted open. Walking in a burly looking German Shepard wearing a military uniform. A dark navy blue, long sleeved blazer with matching pants. The canine made his way in looking over the teen on the examining table. Decorated with plenty of medals and ribbons strewn over the right side of his upper chest. It seemed he had been enlisted for some time.
“Barker, I've heard you an Ace pilot. Even managed to score a few bogies on your mock mission.” The dog crossed his paws behind his back.
The teen felt a bit under-dressed, in but his boxers and nothing else. Modesty got the better of him, covering himself with his own paws.
“Yes, sir. It was quite exciting.” The teen sat himself up straight to get a better look at the officer.
“Exciting, huh? Typical for a pup your age. Brash and arrogant.” The dog seemed confident in his scrutiny of the young teen.
“Excuse me, sir?” The smaller canine wasn't sure what the older one was getting at.
“How'd you like a challenge? A chance to be in the Skydog Squadron.” The military man stood tapping his paw on the tile floor.
“Really?Are you for serious?” Joey had heard about the fabled battalion but thought it a tale of mere legend.
“Yes, but you must first pass a test.” The older dog smirked a bit watching the piqued interest of the teen.
“A test? What do I have to do?” The boys tail wag slowly behind him in excitement.
“You must beat 3 out of 5 recruit pilots in a race through an obstacle course.” The officer paused his speech for a moment.
“If you win that round, then you must beat a certified grade F pilot on an accuracy range.” The officer looked at the boy to ascertain any concern.
“Finally you must survive a dog fight with in a mock simulation.” The older man didn't reveal the few tricks he had up his sleeves.
“That doesn't sound bad. When do I start?” The teen stood up expecting it to be soon.
“Tomorrow 0800 hours. Meet me at Flight Deck C. I will assign you a plane there. Don't be late.” The taller man turned around exiting the room.
Joey couldn't help but be excited. He felt that he'd been let in on an opportunity that many of his friends could only dream about.
“I gotta go home and tell Ronny.” The teen told himself.
But he needed to get dressed first. Making quick work of the pile he'd stashed in the corner before his examination. He didn't want to go around in a near nude state. Especially since his home was on the other side of the base.
Once he was full dressed, the teen carried on his way back home. Joey's family lived on a military base in Glendale Arizona. The base was fairly modest and mostly reserves occupied it's perimeter. His parents were often out and about doing different things as they were both fairly active. This often meant that he and his younger brother were often left home alone.
As he was the older of the two, Joey often was tasked with more than his fair share of tasks. From daily chores to making food, the teen enjoyed the sense of responsibility he was given by his parents. He knew full well that this opportunity would be fully supported by his parents even if they weren't home to hear about it. The teen trekked across the base on his bicycle. He wasn't yet old enough to drive a car, yet had managed to dust crops in a biplane.
The teen pedaled extra hard, his excitement was getting to him. Once he arrived home, he stumbled over himself trying to get off the transport. Looking down it seemed he'd scraped his knee through his pants. It didn't bother him though as he was home and he wanted nothing more than to gloat to his younger brother about his day. Huffing and puffing in a sense of a hurry the teen brushed himself off, trying to fiddle out the keys from his pocket.
As he entered into the doorway, shutting the door behind him the teen looked around searching for his younger brother. Not surprised he found the younger boy playing on his favorite game. Busying himself attached to the modestly sized screen in front of him, much closer than the cub should have been.
“Dude, why are you so close to the television?Shouldn't you be doing homework?” The teen canine closed the door behind him locking it tightly.
The younger boy didn't take any time time to respond, he was much to enthralled by his game. Joey taking it upon himself to step in front of his younger brother. The boy thrashing back from left to right to see past his brother. But it was too late, he had died and the game was over.
“Aw...your not fun.” Ronny said underneath a whine.
“You need to do your homework. I bet you haven't done it yet.” The teen said in a commanding tone.
“But it's the weekend...and it's hard.” The younger cub continued to pout.
“Tell you what play against me. If I win you do your homework. If you win then it can wait until Sunday. But I get to pick the game.” Joey was not quite as strict as his older brother was on Ronny.
“Okay! What game?” Ronny's tail wagged behind him gently, even if it was restricted by him sitting down.
“Ace Combat 6” Joey figured he'd have the upper hand in Aerial Combat since it was his forte.
“Your on!” Ronny swelled with audacity.
The teen worked his way back away from the console, picking up a spare controller. Sitting on the couch which overlooked his brother, he allowed Ronny to switch the CD in the console. Once it powered on the younger cub set the rules.
“First to 3 bogies wins. No power-ups or handicaps.” Joey suggested as he knew both were keen on the idea of realism.
The game exited out of the menu before kicking into the actual match. Random planes were selected for the two of them, limited to only propeller based planes. Ronny ended up with a Wolverine AT-6 while the teen being given an Iomax Archangel. Both fairly modern planes with typical builds of a lower grade of velocity engine.
Joey held his controller tightly before increasing his speed, allowing the game to take him to the main arena. It was simpler than reality with auto-pacing in place that led the two to each other . Red sirens went off as the sensors detected each other. Breaking opposite the two planes went horizontally before diving in a full circle. Joey's turn was tighter, his nose breaking in earlier allowing a barrage of bullets to spatter out from his cowel. Several shots hitting the younger cubs stabilizer.
The back wing torn asunder, Ronny cried out as his plane was sent to the abyss below into a fiery blaze. His plane re-spawned a few seconds later, this time breaking up to use the glare of the sun to his advantage. Making use of old kamikaze strategies he'd seen in old war films. But Joey wasn't about to fall for this, holding his vantage heading straight under the cubs belly and wheels.
Inclining up his planes nose, the teen began to fire again from beneath. The younger boys landing gear being torn off but suffering no other damage. Trying to re-stabilize the cub spinned his plane around in a barrel, allowing himself to circle around back of the teen. Able to shoot off a few rounds picking a piece off the back fin of Joey's plane. But quickly the teen rebounded, able cut sharply to the left over the top of the boys smaller plane.
Joey entered back around, shooting several more rounds from behind. This time sundering the rudder causing the cub to enter into a nigh recoverable tail spin. Again the boy crashed to his doom. Re-spawning a third time, Ronny had to act fast. He didn't want to go out in smoke again. Pushing full throttle towards the other plane he accelerated as fast as it would let him. Joey dove towards the water, jets of liquid spat up.
Several strings of moisture covering over the cock pit of both of their planes. Ronny finally managing to reach behind the other plane, trying to fire a single barrage of bullets but the teen pulled up. Ronny looked ahead, there was a mountain. Pulling left, it was too late. The plane plummeted forward before singing into a pit of fire. The match was over and Joey had one. After all he was the Ace pilot and had been training for some time.
“Nice game, bro.” Ronny reached out his paw in a gesture of good will.
Joey returned his own hand with a shake.
“Homework, now.” Joey said firmly watching as the younger cub made his exit.
The teen sat contemplating another round but decided instead to cease his playful mood. He had forgotten all about sharing his fortune with the younger boy. Soon following after the smaller boy who had already shuffled himself into a desk, seeming to have followed directions all to well. The cub looking back seeming a bit surprised that he'd been followed.
“What? Didn't you trust me?” Ronny seemed a bit concerned by his brothers presence.
“Yeah, I did. That's not why I'm here.” Joey crossed his arms casually.
“So, why are you here then?” The younger cub couldn't help his curiosity.
“I was asked to try out for the Skydog Squadron.” Joey spoke confident feeling sure of himself.
“You what? Are you pulling my leg?” The younger boy wanted to believe his brother but this seemed unreal.
“Nope, want to come watch me take my test tomorrow?” Joey smiled widely at his brother, clearly pleased.
“You want me to watch you take a test?” Ronny had a very different idea of what test he was referring to.
“Sure. It should be fun. They want me to an obstacle course and some other stuff.” Joey relaxed his stance, wagging his tail softly behind him.
“Really? That sounds awesome! Can I be join you in the cockpit?” Ronny very much wanted to join his brother in the fray.
“Maybe? I'm not sure but probably not.” Joey scratched his head thinking about it.
“Aw...but can you at least ask?” Ronny was a bit naive to the ways the military generally handled things.
“Sure, maybe you can be my wing-man.” The teen said trying to further spark his brothers interest.
“That would be cool. Thanks, bro!” The cub couldn't contain his own excitement, obviously distracted from his homework again.
“But only if you do your homework.” The older boy remained firm in his conviction.
That was all the convincing the younger one needed. Joey didn't actually think the military would allow his 12 year old brother to participate. But there didn't seem any harm in asking. Not actually believing the younger boy would hinder his chances as they shared much of the same interest in aviation. Joey just had more experience and training than the younger cub. Figuring that it would be a chance for the two to outshine the oldest brother who had already been deployed in the field.
Ronny began working diligently on his homework. A minor math assignment that was due the following week along with a reading assignment. He decided to focus on the math first since he believed it would take less time. Joey meanwhile turned to make food for the two for that night. It was still mid afternoon but he needed to make sure that there was something to be made. The teen made his way to the kitchen to gauge their needs.
The canine decided he could relax for the day and shuffled off his shoes before entering into the kitchen. The smooth tiles allowed his socked paws to glide against the surface. Even mimicking the moves he'd seen in the film “Risky Business”. Figuring that he'd been gimmicky enough for today, he peered into the cabinets and looked through the fridge. Sure enough it seemed that there was plenty of food to be shared between the two brothers. The oldest one had made sure to store up and even left money before his deployment.
Regardless the oldest brother, Jaden, wouldn't be gone for long. As the military knew about their family situation and allowed him shorter tours of duty. Especially since he was only 21 and fresh out of basic training. Joey had taken up the mantle as the man of the house. Feeling more than up to the task to take care of both himself and his younger brother. He didn't want to disappoint the oldest brother. They were all fairly close and often spent time together.
Pulling a modest container of leftovers that was stored on one of the side shelves. Inside the plastic was a fairly full container of what seemed to be pork chop. It was as fine as a meal as any, Joey supposed, picking this as the nights dining choice. Slapping it into the oven for 25 minutes at a moderate temperature allowed the teen some free time to do some other things. He'd need to return before it finished to make vegetables and beverages.
It allowed him to check in on Ronny. Making his way back into the younger cubs room, the boy seemed much more relaxed now. Even his bare paws were perched on the table in front of him. Still diligently working on his homework despite the awkward position he was sitting in. Joey decided the boy would get a reward for his hard work, figuring there must have been some desert items stored in the kitchen.
No longer worried about his younger brother, Joey refocused his attention on making the meal.
He knew a few ways to make the meal special, using some old tricks Jaden had taught him in the past. Back in the kitchen he found some spices, which he peppered onto the slab of meat. The smell of it only becoming more appetizing once the herbs had been spread relatively evenly. The teen couldn't help but sniff at it, tantalizing his senses.
It was a nice start for sure, but there was one extra thing he knew the younger boy was keen on. Inside the freezer he knew there was a cake had yet to have been open. It was only purchased a few days ago and it was composed of ice cream and some fudge. Though Joey wasn't much one for sweets he knew that the younger boy had a thing for confectionery. It would have to do, making sure to set it to the side partially hidden in order to allow it to thaw.
The timer showed 15 minutes still remained on heating up the provision. Propping up the controller, the teen turned the TV on surfing through the channels to the local new-station. Mostly interested in the weather for tomorrow. Several reports showed during his observance of the screen. Mostly political though one about a young woman who'd recently discovered a long lost relative. It made the teen sore for the return of his older brother.
Though his own consolation was interrupted by the beeping of the oven. It seemed he'd spent too much time watching the telly. Quickly he acted hoping to save the foodstuff from burning. Using an oven-mitt to deliver it out on a plate. The last step was to make vegetables and that didn't take nearly as long, since they were frozen as well as pre-cooked. The microwave was set to 3 minutes.
“Ronny, dinner is ready!” Joey shouted to his brother to join him.
“Coming!” Ronny responded, eager to break away from his homework.
Ronny arrived several seconds later, darting past the wall into the kitchen. First sitting down with his tongue hanging out, as if he hadn't eaten in ages.
“Help me set the table. I made the food.” Joey considered this a reasonable compromise.
The younger cub wasn't selfish, rather he was more impulsive.
“Sorry!” The boy picked himself up to begin helping the older teen.
The smaller canine crept over to reach some plates, allowing himself to make quick work of setting the table. Doing the same with the silverware meanwhile the teen was serving up drinks. It seemed everything was ready and finally the two retired to the table. Both tucked in their chairs, equally famished they began dining together.
“So are you nervous?” Ronny couldn't help but ask the obvious question.
“Nah.” Joey wouldn't let the younger boy know it, but he was secretly anxious about the ordeal.
“I bet you are. You sure you don't wanna talk about it?” The cub knew his brother all too well.
“I'll be fine, thanks.” The teen buried his face in his meal avoiding the topic.
“Whatever. You'll crack before the end of the night.” The younger boy returned to his meal.
The rest of the dining experience remained rather mute. No other words were exchanged. It was rather an awkward sense of silence. The thought of screwing up on his big day whirled around in Joey's mind. Before the end, he was coming around to his brothers realization.
“Do you think I'll do alright?” The teens often portrayed a hardened personality but harbored more insecurities than he let on.
“Huh? Oh yeah, you'll do great don't worry.” The boy smirked a bit that his own prophecy came true.
“But what if I make a mistake?” The teen ground two of his fingers together against each his paws.
“No one is perfect, I don't think they are expecting that.” Ronny tried to re-instill confidence in his brother.
“I guess your right.” Joey scratched his had, the boy's reasoning didn't seem all that unlikely.
“Stop stressing or you'll just make it worse.” The cub carried himself to the the other side of the table in an effort to relax his brother.
Joey tried to rest himself against the back of the wooden furniture. Ronny was no expert at massages but still tried his best to rub his paws against the tense shoulders
“Thanks bro. You always know how to make me feel better.” The older boy closed his eyes softly.
The cub didn't focus his attention long as he didn't want it to get weird.
“I'll be there for you tomorrow, even if they don't let me on the plane.” Ronny stopped away to show his confidence in his older brother.
“Alright, cool bro. Guess I should turn in early huh?” Joey returned the affection of his brother with a quick huh.
“Yeah, we can relax a bit though and watch TV some.” Ronny suggested calmly.
The younger canine made his way to the couch before plopping up his socked foot-paws on the coffee table. Joey rolled his eyes, grunting since the other boy had carelessly forgot to clean up. Taking it upon himself, deciding that it wasn't worth giving him grief over. Busying himself with the task, emptying the dishes into the sink. Watching the TV as he watched everything by paw.
Finishing he was able to join his brother on the sofa. Already the younger boy was quite relaxed, even fixated on the show. The larger dog jumping over the back of the sofa, landing with soft thump. Reverberating the smaller cub but causing no distress otherwise. Ronny had already decided on a channel, a rather dated show with run of the mill action littered with rather pathetic attempts at what some would consider to be drama.
The teen didn't seem to be find it to be overly interesting. However since Ronny seemed into it, Joey didn't bother to chime in. Especially since the boy had done his homework. Now remembering the ice-cream cake he'd set aside for the occasion. Hoping it hadn't yet melted he darted back towards the kitchen. Looking at his safe spot proved the dessert was only just starting to sweat along the sides. It looked ready to cut.
Slicing two small pieces onto paper plates, Joey clandestinely continued his planned reward for the pup. Luckily for him the younger brother suspected nothing and was overly entertained by the idiot box. Returning the treat to it's place in it's freezer, Joey delivered the pair their frozen course, making sure to bring a set of plastic forks with him. Rebounding back into this seat, the teen passed his brother a plate. The younger cub lurching over to lick the older teen, a bit surprised since normally they weren't allowed treats until the weekend.
Ronny not waiting for invitation began to dig in quite eagerly. Making a quick mess of himself slobbering all over himself and licking his snout in an effort to keep clean. But the gesture was misplaced, instead making slobber splatter all over Joey.
“Hey, watch it!” The teen couldn't help but laugh, even if it was disgusting.
“S-sorry...” Ronny licked a final time for good measure.
“Haha...very funny..” Joey believing he did it on purpose.
“What?” Ronny looked over innocently.
“Never mind...forget it.” Joey refocused on his snack.
Once he had finished he stared back towards the cub.
“Your turn to clean up.” Handing the younger boy the garbage since Joey had cleaned earlier.
Ronny didn't mind helping and quickly fetched the trash from both boys making a quick sprint into the kitchen to dispose of it.
The rest of the night they spent together. An hour lazing about on the couch before they both finally decided to retire. They had after all agreed that it was in their best interest to go to bed early since both planned on arriving before schedule to the air field. After all tardiness was not tolerated, especially not in a military setting. They didn't want to make a bad impression. Joey made sure to set 2 alarms for himself before going to tuck in Ronny for the night.
Knocking on the wooden door first, he made his way in. Ronny was already under the covers so Joey took it upon himself to kiss the boy on the forehead.
“Hey, I'm not 5. You don't have to tuck me in.” Ronny stuck out his tongue playfully.
“Haha...just trying to show some affection.” Joey was not trying to embarrass the boy.
“Thanks...good night” The cub leaned in to kiss the older brother.
“Good night bro.” Joey returned the kiss before turning the lights off the lights and exiting the room.
All that was left was settling himself down for the night. He could only hope he was relaxed enough to allow slumber. Making his way towards his own room, he tried to busy his mind with things other than his trial. Joey yawned and stretched. At least his body was ready for rest....he thought to himself.
Fortunately for the canine his body was tired enough to allow for slumber. Kicking off his shoes and not bothering to change into bed-wear, Joey made himself ready for bed. Even if his mind was restless, his overtaxed form was fatigued enough to fall asleep. After some tossing and turning the teen drifted off into sleep before long. Luckily no dreams visited him that night.
Several hours later the teen roused himself without need of an alarm. The anxiety of his date with destiny weighed heavily on his mind. Joey saw easily enough that it wasn't yet 3 AM. Battling with himself in bed, quite restless from his nerves. Eventually his fatigue caught back up with him but Joey only conquered the sand man after a short fit of insomnia.
The rest of the night he was able to rest without interruption. A loud knock on the door was sounded as Ronny broke into the room.
“Get up, now!” The younger cub seemed rather distraught.
“Am I late?” The teen began to rush believing this to be the case.
“No, we're under attack!” The smaller canine was trying to contain his own sense of fear.
“By who?” Joey rushed to slide back on his shoes, deciding a shower could wait.
“The Feline Federation, let's go!” Ronny darted outside of the room, already full dressed himself.
Before they could even manage to get outside there was a loud explosion. It rocked the home and sent tremors through the building. Jostling the teen, he lost his footing. Trying to regain his composure he picked himself up, trying to keep fear from overtaking him.
“You alright?” Joey looked over at the younger cub who clung to a nearby wall.
“Yeah, I'm fine.” Ronny picked himself up while Joey did the same.
The two began to run together. Once outside the stakes were realized. Pillars of fire and explosions had erupted across the base. Planes scored over smoke filled skies as jet engines could be flying overheard. The boys separated onto their own bikes beginning to pedal over towards the air strip,
Rather naively they wanted in on the fray. Keen on nothing more than serving the interest of canine-kind everywhere. Day had not actually broke and it was hard to see straight among the still early morning. Bombs continuing to drop all around them but the brothers kept steady. Their goal in site as the twos speed was expedient yet overly cautious of debris.
Even the airfield was half blown open. The hanger bay door had been torn asunder, as the two could make out a group of dogs inside. It seemed the commander had yet survived, directing the other volunteers to take to the sky. One of them seemed rather familiar, Joey could have swore it was Jaden but the fit dog left before he could be certain.
“Barker, right on time.” The officer realized the two dog boys had arrived to help.
“Apparently so, sir.” Joey tried to remain calm in an otherwise fervent moment of panic.
“Plane 6 is ready, we need every able bodied canine we can.” The military fur wasn't in a position to turn down help.
“Yes, sir!” The teen was a bit nervous but knew this was his time to shine.
The two brothers made their way to the right side side of the hanger. Some fires were being extinguished around it but the plane seemed otherwise un-damaged. Looking at it was rather intimidating. It was most certainly a jet, after all it was designed for combat. Rather clean for a fighter, the lightning II already had it's cockpit open with a ladder settled on the side of it for boarding.
Joey didn't waste any time beginning to climb up the rungs of the metallic ladder. The canine fit himself in the front chair. Ronny joined him in the back. Normally a fighter would have guidance but the situation was much to tense for formalities. The two put on their oxygen masks before Joey slid down the glass snapping it in place. The inside was much different than he was used to, a lot of different devices adorn the panels.
After some trouble shooting, the teen was able to get the engine going. The fire spit out of the jet near the wings. It began to pick up speed as the boy tried to maintain control, directing it outside the smoke encased hanger bay. Shifting forward the throttle sent the two back into their chairs slightly, the lever being pressed a little too forcefully. The power of the jet was unreal, quickly powering forward as it began to take flight.
Sure enough they managed to get airborne quite quickly. Once the teen fixed elevation, he was able to get a much better view of just what was going on. Fighters both allies and enemies alike littered the sky. The tail designs of each plane was really the only thing that delineated their allegiance. Joey began piloting towards the ongoing battle but before he even could, he got a warning message. The red light flickering near his console.
Behind him sure enough an enemy pilot circled in on him. Having centered it's sights on the felines jet was already firing rapid strings of machine gun fire on his own jet. This sent the dog into a panic, it was the first time he'd ever seen action. Ronny tried to calm his brother down, managing to take control of the back guns, enough to get the plane off their tail. Joey finally managed to relax breaking his plane back towards the assault.
Soon the teens plane had the feline in his line of fire. Joey didn't wait a single missile off that the plane broke away from as it flew past and eventually down on the runway below. The teen knew he couldn't let the enemy get away. Following close behind, he picked up his throttle and rolled to the left meeting his target in a dogfight. But before even letting the other react, Joey let off a second rocket. This time scoring a hit with the plane catching fire and spiraling to the ground below.
Joey felt good about himself but this sense of triumph didn't last long. There were still enemies about even know the battle seemed to be going his way. The dog found his next target, a darker plane that was trailing one that seemed to be on his side. This one didn't seem to be aware of his tracking the felines plane. A single rocket fired off with a flaming trail as it met the enemy plane that spiraled into the ground below with a thunderous explosion.
It seemed the battle was just about over. Joey traced his glance over the sky seeing that the feverish dogfights of the day had ended. It seemed it was time to return to base. Only verified by a shout over a megaphone.
“The day is ours, you can return home.” The commanders voice was overheard.
Joey managed to land without a problem. It was something he was rather good at, that he's practiced over time and time again in his head. He didn't understand why so many had problems with the procedure.
Once they landed the pair was greeted by a cheering crowd of other canines. The commander and the mysterious dog from earlier were standing side by side as the young brothers descended the ladder once the plane cockpit had opened. After getting on the floor, it was very clear who the other dog was. It was Jaden. The brothers couldn't help but leap in joy, greeting the oldest brother.
“You did great, bro.” The oldest canine congratulated the other two.
“You sure did, Barker and we'd be glad to have you aboard.” The commanded resounded the compliment
“Me too?” Ronny couldn't help but foolishly request.
“Maybe in a few years...” The commander couldn't have rationalized such a request.
Their homecoming was rather joyous. The brothers for the first time in months were home together. Joey had gotten his wish and Ronny had a promising future. Jaden would get some leave time for his service. Meanwhile the base set on recovery. It would take some time but war was never easy. But it was all together the start of something new for all of them. Only time would tell how it all turned out.