When did loving your country mean you also need to hate another country?
Pewter skies littered with ivory clouds roll past Pam, her arms tense on the controls.
Still some time til I need to prepare.
Pam glances out the window to her right, 10 fellow jets. She glances to her left, there’s the other seven. Just as the plan was written. Pam has the precious cargo. Pam has the ultimate weapon. She needs to be protected by the others at all costs, but she can’t be dead center amongst the group. That would be a dead giveaway.
Pam glances back to her right. She feels badly for Tasha, the pilot closest to her on the right. Tasha is in the center of the group. She may be the target of the Japanese pilots if they encounter them… when they encounter them.
This war with the Japanese, it’s so difficult to remember how it all started. Hungry superpowers of the world getting hungrier and hungrier. Pam wasn’t a history buff, but she remembers that the U.S. fought with Japan over 200 years ago. An ancestor of hers was a fighter pilot in the war, stationed in Pearl Harbor. Something terrible happened there. The stories had been passed down through her family lineage. Her father told her the stories, her grandfather told her father the stories, and so on. They all originated with her great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather. Her six-times-great grandfather. Her phenomenal grandfather. A running joke in her family. The order of goodness after good goes great, awesome, fantastic, excellent, incredible, phenomenal.
Her phenomenal grandfather carried no hatred for the Japanese. The country did. Hatred faded. Centuries later it was reborn. Japan reciprocated with a hatred towards the U.S. of their very own. Hard to like someone who hates you.
Who knows how it all started?
Greedy superpowers. Consuming all of Earth’s resources. So much so, the Earth was depleted of some resources. The U.S., Japan, Russia, East Korea, and South China being the countries mainly to blame. The U.S. developed a super weapon. One to drop on Japan, force them into submission, end the war. Win the war. The problem, these greedy, hungry, superpowers ate up all the resources before even developing this super weapon. The U.S. was only able to create one.
The weapon in Pam’s possession. She’s the best pilot they got.
Therefore, the mission.
Pam flies to Japan with the group of 17 others, they protect her at all costs, she drops the superweapon.
However, the problem.
Japan, using depleted resources, developed a counter to this superweapon. Only two they were able to make. But intel tells the U.S. that Japan’s plan with this counter weapon is twofold. One, use one of the counter weapons to destroy the super weapon. Two, use the second counter weapon on the U.S., destroy a city.
The U.S.’s intel on Japan has been incredible. Scratch that, it’s been phenomenal. Just as good as phenomenal grandpa Joe. U.S. intel figured out which jet will carry this counter weapon. Unlike the U.S., Japan has identified their jets in a specific way. All the U.S. jets are identical. Everyone knows Pam’s jet is the most important, but if a dogfight breaks out over the Pacific Ocean, which is almost inevitable, then with all the swirling about, Pam could potentially get lost in the mix. It could get confusing. But that’s a risk they need to take so that Pam’s jet doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb.
The Japanese went with a system. All the jets are identical with one exception. Each has a painted tip at the very front of the jet. Many feature the same color but a few jets are the only jets with their specific color. This way, all the pilots know which one with the counter weapons. But, they’ve designated a few “lame ducks” in hopes they may “appear” to be the most precious jet. They even worked in another tactic.
See, intel tells the U.S. that the jet carrying the counter weapons is the only jet with a red tip. This was information Japan hoped and counted on remaining a secret. It didn’t. However, they also designated three jets to have deep orange tips, nearly red. It can be difficult to distinguish in the heat of the moment. They also have four jets with hot pink tips, knocking on the neighborhood door of red. At first glance, it could appear to be eight red-tipped jets. There’s also nine jets with blue tips. One with a green tip, one with a yellow tip, one with a purple tip. Clearly, they hoped that the U.S. might think it’s one of those jets that carried the precious cargo, and keep their red-tipped jet shrouded in secrecy.
But again, U.S. intel has been phenomenal.
Pam glances back at her fellow jets, briefly wishing they had beautiful colors painted on them. Just 17 boring gray jets flying through a boring gray sky with her. After their mission, after Pam is victorious, she will return to her gray home. She will be a hero amongst the gray skyscrapers reaching up to the gray skies. She’ll get a medal, bright gold. It will be a nice, flashy color in an otherwise dull, colorless existence.
Other stories passed down through her lineage from her phenomenal grandfather speak of times when there were blue skies, green grass everywhere. Even her excellent grandfather and her fantastic grandfather remember days such as that. But the world lost its color and beauty. Pam wishes the medal she’d get when she returned home would be green.
Green, gold, gray, whatever. She’ll be a hero of a war she doesn’t understand, care for, or agree. But it’s a war. War makes heroes. Heroes get rich. Rich people can lock down a boyfriend for longer than 10 months. Those people… they can be happy.
Sudden static over the radio snaps Pam out of her daydream. Someone is screaming! The Japanese pilots have snuck up on them! Pam’s in the middle of a dogfight!
Bullets whiz around. Evasive maneuvers commence… from Pam… and from everyone. Pam and the others fight back. She catches a glimpse of Tasha chasing a jet with a blue tip on the front, firing at will. Pam banks hard to the left, two jets whiz past her on the right, both with deep orange tips on the front.
Or were they pink? Maybe one was red? Damn, it is hard to tell.
More of Pam’s fellow pilots soar around, shooting at the enemy, being shot at by the enemy. Pam tries to lock in on a jet in front of her amidst the chaos, firing every time she gets a chance. The jet keeps evading her fire. At one point, the jet swerves hard in one direction and Pam catches a glimpse of the tip at the front.
I think that was red.
She pursues the jet. Chaos all around. Explosions. Fire in the iron sky. Jets sink out of her peripheral and disappear into thick, smoky clouds below. Pam assumes they’re above water, but she can’t even see that far below. She navigates the mess of jets and bullets and fire and smoke in the sky. The jet with the red tip weaves in and out of her sight. Until it’s gone. She’s lost it.
She sees a jet fly in front of her sights with a purple tip. She tries to fire but her guns are jammed! Instinctively, she reaches for her pistol on her side. A jet smashes into her side. The pistol is flung from her hand. Her jet spins in circles. She can feel the jet dropping as it spins. She’s disoriented. Pam can’t focus on anything. She looks down at her lap, focusing her eyes.
Her stomach gets queasy, limbs and body forced to one side as she spins out of control. More and more. Until she contacts something hard, shaking her violently.
Everything goes black.
An annoying ringing noise awakens Pam. She peels her eyes open to blurry surroundings. Her head is sore. She sticks her finger in her ear to eliminate the ringing, but the ringing morphs into beeping.
She’s in the cockpit of her jet, completely stopped. A blinking red light on her control panel. She smacks the button with her fist, the light and the sound cease to exist. Pam refocuses on her surroundings.
The jet lays on a pristine white sand beach with the exception of the charred, burning jets that scatter it. Off in the distance on her right side, a heavy thicket of lush green trees. To the left, cobalt blue ocean water. Sinking into the water, three jets. Two from the U.S., one Japanese jet with an orange tip. Two jets plummet from the sky, both with blue tips. They crash into the sinking jet, exploding on impact.
Pam’s jet is in decent condition. She sustained minimal damage. But she needs to scope out her surroundings, assess the situation.
I need to find survivors. I need to subdue enemies. I need to find that red-tipped jet.
On the beach, 12 jets engulfed in flames as their pilots burn inside. Five are U.S. jets. Seven are Japanese. Four more blue-tipped jets, two pink-tipped jets, and one yellow-tipped jet. Another 15 jets on the beach in decent condition. Nine of them U.S. jets, six Japanese. Two blue-tipped, two pink-tipped, two-orange tipped.
One of the cockpits to a U.S. jet opens up and one of the pilots exits. Then another. Two Japanese pilots vacate their jets… within seconds, every single pilot is vacating every one of the 15 jets. Pam reaches for her gun… not on her hip.
That’s right, I dropped it.
She searches the cockpit. The gun is wedged on the side of her seat. She tries to fish it out but she can’t wrap her fingers around it.
Bullets ring out on the beach. Two U.S. soldiers fall limp into the sand. Pam ditches the gun, pops her cockpit open, and jumps out onto the beach. She rushes to the front of her jet and peeks out into the action. All the remaining soldiers have their pistols out, firing at one another. Bullets whiz past Pam. She ducks back behind her jet.
She peeks underneath the nose of her jet. One Japanese soldier is shot and falls to the ground. Another Japanese soldier fires relentlessly, taking out two U.S. soldiers. He runs out of bullets, tosses his pistol, removes a knife from a hidden sheath and sprints at another U.S. soldier. He stabs him in the chest and then another U.S. soldier drops him with several shots.
Four Japanese soldiers standing on the beach. Four U.S. soldiers standing on the beach… and one of them is Tasha. Pam watches on as the bullets continue to fly. A Japanese soldier goes down. A U.S. soldier goes down. Tasha gets hit in the shoulder, drops her gun, and falls to the sand. A second Japanese soldier goes down. The two remaining upright U.S. soldiers are shot in the chest and fall. Tasha crawls over to her gun, leaving a bloody trail in the white sand. She drops a heavy hand on the pistol and pulls it from the sand.
The gun sounds off several times like a drumroll. The last two Japanese soldiers drop lifelessly. Tasha pulls herself up slowly. She's the last remaining soldier on the beach. Pam stands up, ready to rush to Tasha. A Japanese pilot falls from his cockpit, engulfed in flames. He screams bloody murder as he pulls his pistol out and fires at Tasha. She drops instantly to the sand. The Japanese soldier drops his pistol, he continues to burn… but silently.
And Pam is left alone on the beach… on this presumed tropical island.
No, not alone. Somewhere on this island, there’s one more U.S. soldier and four more Japanese soldiers. One blue, one purple, one green… and the red one.
This beautiful beach uglied by the wreckage. Pam walks down the beach, breathing in the salty air, studying the sun-drenched shores. It’s quite a sight. It’s a brand new sight.
Pam walks for 15 minutes down the beach before she comes across another jet. She jumps behind a shrub for cover. It’s a U.S. jet. She sprints across the sand, hoping to find a companion. She does. He’s dead in the sand, bloodied, gripping his pistol. Pam snatches the pistol. Empty. 300 feet away, at the tree line, a blue-tipped Japanese jet. The pilot lays dead next to it in the tall grass. Pam trudges over, snatches his pistol. Empty as well. She sighs.
If she were to continue down the beach, she would be obstructed by a rock jetty extending into the water. So, instead, she heads towards the trees, and enters the cover of this island forest. She’ll need to account for everyone before she attempts her escape… and continues her mission. Her mission with the super weapon. Her mission to be the hero.
The island is hot. Pam has removed her long sleeve garment and tied it around her waist, now just in a tank top. The sun beats down on her arms and it feels good.
She traverses through tall grass. Entering a clearing, she hears a twig snap. She freezes. Another twig snaps. Another.
Pam crouches down, scanning her surroundings. Nothing. A branch breaks from above and something plummets from above her. She jumps to the side and a dead body lands 10 feet from her. A Japanese pilot. Above, wedged in between the trees, another jet. Purple tip.
Still haven’t found ol’ Red. Or Green for that matter.
Pam’s been wandering for an hour, no signs of life. Except for a few frogs, lots of bugs buzzing about. She finds a river and ambles towards it. She crouches down, scooping water out and splashing it on her face. The cool water is refreshing. She savors the moment. A twig snaps behind her. She whirls around.
A Japanese pilot stands 50 feet from her, having just emerged from behind some trees. He looks at her with surprise. He holds his hands up.
“I come in peace!” He yells out in decent English.
Pam stares at him. “Are you unarmed?”
“No.” He answers honestly. “I have a gun.”
He pulls his gun out.
“Prove that it’s loaded.”
He fires once into the air. Birds screech and caw and fly away. He puts the gun away.
“I don’t want to use it.” He says, inching his way closer to Pam, his hands up. “I’m a pilot for the military. But I’m also a human. Our mission has clearly failed. You’re also a human. I have no ill-will towards you.”
Pam nods. She approaches the man, they meet under the tall trees.
“I'm most concerned with living.” The man smiles oddly and holds out his hand. “I'm Giichi.”
“Pam.” Pam shakes his hand. “Also, most concerned with living.”
She eyes his gun on his waist. She thinks about her jet, still on the beach. She thinks about getting away. She thinks… Giichi is so mild-mannered… he's willing to make a truce with “the enemy.” He must not be the pilot of the red jet. They would only pick the most ruthless. Giichi must've been flying the green jet. Giichi. Green. Giichi is Green.
“I saw some trees up this way.” Giichi points off in one direction. “A lot of fruits on them.”
He shuffles off in that direction… so Pam follows him.
Red is still out there.
Giichi and Pam locate the fruit trees. They climb up the branches and remove several of them. They’re delicious and foreign. Giichi starts a fire by the river. They find a coconut tree and crack the coconuts open. They hollow them out and use them as makeshift bowls. They boil the water in the coconut bowls so they can make sure their drinking water is clean.
That night, they sleep at the mouth of a cave by the river. Pam halfway expects she will wake up with Giichi standing over her with a gun pointed at her head… if she wakes up at all.
When Pam awakes, Giichi is bathing in the river. He returns to the shore and puts his clothes back on, but not before Pam sneaks a peek. She pretends she saw nothing. Giichi sees her.
“If you want to bathe, I can head over to the fruit trees and get us… breakfast.” He offers.
“You can stay.” Pam begins removing her clothing and heading into the river. “I’ll go with you to get breakfast.”
Giichi blushes. Pam feels her cheek grow flush but she fights it as best she can. Just in case, she wants to keep her eye on Giichi. Meanwhile, he can keep his eyes on her.
The rest of the day is spent exploring the island. They find a better place to sleep, another cave not as near the river. The river could potentially draw predators, they both agree. They find more fruit trees. Some of the same fruit, some different fruits as well. They identify shrubs and roots growing on the island sprouting edible foods.
There are plenty of food choices near their new cave. The river is near enough.
No signs of any jets. Not Giichi’s jet… and not the other jet. The last jet. And the last pilot who must be here somewhere.
Another day of the two exploring the island. Giichi and Pam talk about their lives. Truncated versions at first. But the two begin to open up to one another more. Giichi even says something that makes Pam laugh.
In the evening, they sit out under the canopy of lush green trees. The air is balmy. The sun sets and the beautiful chatter of the wildlife deep in the forest serenades them. The stars come out and they're brighter than Pam has ever seen in her life.
The next morning, Pam admits aloud to Giichi that the island is growing on her. They have their little routine. It keeps them busy. They have many stories to exchange. Since they’re strangers, all the stories are interesting. Giichi is a gifted story-teller. Giichi tells Pam he's enjoying the island as well. He finds Pam funny. She makes him laugh often. Pam is confused because she hasn’t heard him laugh once. She pays closer attention. Giichi is one of those quiet laughers. Damn near silent.
Giichi admits he misses his morning tea. Pam would have coffee every morning. She doesn't miss it as much as she thought she might. The morning air of the island is invigorating. She doesn’t need caffeine.
She does miss chocolate. She doesn’t say this out loud. She also misses wine. She wonders how she could make an escape. Get to her jet and leave. She wonders if she could get her hands on Giichi’s gun and make a run for it. Because Red is still out there. She can’t just jump in her jet and depart. Red's out there waiting for her. She’d need Giichi’s gun if she was going to make an escape. But Giichi keeps his gun close.
Later that day, they head out to explore another section of the island they haven’t made it to yet. They find an open clearing with another river. They follow the river. They walk. They tell stories. They laugh. Giichi laughs quietly. After saying something funny, Pam holds her breath so she can listen to his little chuckle. It’s adorable.
As they laugh, they follow the river… right up to another jet. The jet has crashed through some trees and is halfway buried in the dirt. The trees have collapsed onto the jet, bright orange fruits scattered all around. A Japanese pilot has his leg pinned underneath the jet. He grips his pistol in one hand and holds a half-eaten orange fruit in his other hand. He munches away on the fruit until he sees the two of them. He drops the fruit and aims his pistol at Pam.
Pam is frozen. The bullets sound off just as Giichi tackles her out of the way. He lands on her with all his body weight. Laying on top of Pam, he whips his pistol out and fires back several times. Bullets rip through the Japanese soldier. His arm falls limply by his side. His chest shudders one last breath… and then it stops moving.
Giichi helps Pam to her feet. She looks at the jet.
She looks at Giichi.
Giichi is red.
They head back to their camp… the only two on the island. Pam knows this. She’s not sure if Giichi knows this.
The next morning Pam asks Giichi if they should explore a different area. She pretends she doesn’t know the area, but she leads him back to the beach where she landed. Giichi agrees.
They reach the beach and Giichi is astonished at the sight. He hasn't seen the beach yet. He locates a pineapple tree just next to Pam’s jet. He says he'll climb up and fetch some pineapples.
Pam asks if he’d like her to hold his gun while he climbs so that it doesn’t fall. Giichi agrees all too easily. Pam holds the gun. Giichi climbs the tree. Pam checks the chamber. Two bullets left.
“Why did you shoot that guy yesterday?” Pam asks as he nears the top of the tree.
“I love my country.” Giichi calls out from above. “But that doesn’t mean I agree with every choice my country makes. I don’t agree with this war. I don’t agree with the bloodthirsty Yes Men of the Japanese Military. Our countries have decided they’re enemies. This doesn’t mean all the residents must be enemies. Above all, I want peace.”
“Well, I didn’t say thank you yet… but thank you.” Pam calls out.
“I’d like my life to be filled with beauty and purpose. Not hate.” Giichi looks out at the island from his vantage point. “This place is beautiful.”
He collects a couple pineapples. He carries them down the tree. He smiles at Pam.
She feels the cool gray steel in her hand. She glances at the gun. Gray. Like the skies she’s always known. The skies here, blue. The trees, green. This place, beautiful. Just like Giichi said.
Pam hands him his gun. She climbs into her jet to Giichi’s surprise.
“What are you doing?” Giichi asks.
Pam gets her hands on a lighter. She lights several items on fire. The flames grow and grow, jumping onto the seats and the walls of the jet. She jumps out. Pam and Giichi step back and watch the jet become consumed by the flames.
“My jet had the super weapon.” Pam says.
“My jet had the counter weapon.” Giichi responds.
“I already burned my jet down.”
“That… I didn’t know.”
The two carry their pineapples down the beach. They stroll along the beautiful white sands on their way back to their camp that they’ve made on the lovely tropical island. The camp they call home in this new paradise.
Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!
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