It is surprising how gently a large battleship moves through the ocean. Looking at a docked battleship, one is often drawn to the conclusion that it would make a lot of noise as it traveled. At least, that was what Hayden Wesson had thought when he first looked upon the USS Iowa. It had been a hulking beast of steel, ready to lumber along after any enemy who had incurred the wrath of the United States Navy.
Being on board a ship like the Iowa, however, showed him that these battleships didn't move like lumbering beast. Sure, it was no supersonic jet or Blackhawk helicopter, but the USS Solomon certainly wasn't a giant wooden horse either. From his view on the edges of the ship's runway, it was, to repeat a common phrase, smooth sailing.
Hayden himself wasn't used to smooth sailing. His own life had been anything but, right from when he was seven years old. His father had been killed in a robbery gone wrong, and his mother needed to put food on the table for herself, him, and his older brother. Dane had always been a little strange, at least from that point on. Probably because he had been at the scene when his father was killed. His mother had been required to take a lot of jobs that gave her a lot of shit, just so they could survive. Dane had helped her from when he was 13, lying that he was 15 so he could get a job with a restaurant. Hayden had been looking forward to the day when he could get his own job. He had always wanted to be like his older brother.
Until Dane actually was 15, that is. 12-year-old Hayden stopped looking up to his brother for… personal reasons. Dane had stopped caring about life. He had no goals, no ambition. Looking back, it wasn't really fair for Hayden to judge his older brother. That was something he hadn't figured out until much later, when Hayden was 17. Dane had done a lot more for him than Hayden had realized, right up until the end. In fact, Hayden had joined the Navy because Dane told him to "make sure his life wasn't nothing."
So Hayden had shipped out, enlisting shortly after graduating from high school. His plan had been to serve just long enough to get money for college. That was eight years ago, and if things kept going the way they were going, he was going to be a soldier for life. Oddly enough, he loved life in the Navy. The first couple of years had been hell, of course, but he was used to some hell. And once he got into airman school and became a pilot, Sailor life had gotten a lot better. The old Hayden Wesson, 18 years ago, would never have imagined what his life could become.
A sharp, clear voice interrupted his reflections. "Petty Officer, get moving. Your chariot awaits you."
Hayden turned to see Ensign Rockers, his commanding officer. "Right away, sir," he managed to say before the man turned to bark orders at somebody else. He then started walking in the direction of his own plane.
The F/A-18C Hornet is a sharp, intense speed demon of a fighter jet. It is slick and streamlined, yet it still manages to produce an air of upfront, in-your-face brutality. The plane looks hungry. It looks like a metallic demon, summoned from the depths to pass judgment on all who have decided to stand against the might of the United State's naval power. For the art of passing said judgment, it was armed to the bladed teeth with rockets, air-to-air missiles and a devastating warhead designed to destroy entire ships. This monstrosity was clearly a force to be reckoned with. Hayden knew he would hate to be on the receiving end of this firestorm.
He climbed up the ladder and into the cockpit of his own Hornet, which he had taken the liberty of nicknaming Roc, after the legendary giant eagle that could lift an elephant and carry it away. He slid easily into the seat, strapped himself in, and ran his hand along the controls, resting them on the control stick. This was nothing but a test run – he wasn't going to contact any enemy forces today – but in the Navy, every run was treated like the real thing. Especially when you were manning a multimillion dollar war machine.
So he waited for the signal from Control to get his bird moving. When the order was given, he drove it out to the end of the runway and then lifted it off, taking to the bright blue sky above the Atlantic Ocean. The familiar feeling of the pressure greeted him, forcing him back into his seat like a hug from an overeager relative he hadn't seen in a while. Maybe his brother. He always thought of it as his father, though.
Back at Control, Ensign Rockers was watching Hayden's progress through the air. He hadn't been told a lot about this specific training run, but he knew it was important – very important. It was vital enough that Hayden didn't even know it was their, and in fact Rockers was barely on the need-to-know enough to be aware that something was on board.
As he continued to monitor the young hotshot pilot's skill with the Hornet, a small blip on the radar screen caught his attention. He glanced over and saw the ovular dot that represented another aircraft. He wasn't aware of any other flight scheduled; a quick look at the runway confirmed that there weren't any planes missing from the ship's runaway, except, of course, for Hayden's. And as he glanced back at the radar screen, the mysterious second blip was gone, if it had, in fact, even been there.
Hayden wasn't sure how long he zoomed around at 40,000 feet. Maybe five minutes, maybe an hour, who knew. But all of a sudden he saw a small, blue speck on the horizon. He craned his neck to get a better view of it, but it was gone. Huh. Wondering just what the hell was going on, he subconsciously registered the order from Control to return to the Solomon. Hayden started to turn the control stick when he caught sight of the blue speck again. It was glowing, like an aqua ball of electricity, sparkling. It was absolutely mesmerizing. As he watched, it changed from blue to bright violet, then to green. It was some sort of fireworks display or something… no, it couldn't be. This was something far more mysterious.
As he watched it, a spell seemed to cast itself over him. His eyes closed slowly. His head leaned back onto his chair. His body slumped in its seat, and he was gone. Not dead, but gone. But this was no simple unconsciousness. One thing was different.
Ensign Rockers, back in Control, was just shy of yelling into the radio link. "Petty Officer Wesson, return immediately to the Solomon. Repeat, return to the ship immediately." No response from the pilot. The Hornet was still flying away from the carrier, despite Rockers' constant stream of orders. "Wesson, get your ass over here now!" Again, nothing. Rockers sighed at this insubordination, and as he did so he glanced down at the radar screen. There were two ovular blips on the screen; one, the Navy's jet, was moving towards the other; that other blip wasn't moving. He looked up and saw… nothing. Nothing except the Hornet flying off into space. The Ensign looked over at a Control worker, who from his expression had seen the radar screen as well. That worker looked up and asked, "Sir, what the hell is going on?"
Ensign Rockers had no answer as he stared out the window after the fleeing Hornet. With his best pilot and an unknown package inside.
Somehow, Hayden's arm kept steady. It steered the aircraft toward the lightning ball, which had now turned a dark crimson-black mixture. The repeated orders from a pissed-off Control operator were fading into the distance. The fighter jet, its pilot, and its cargo – more precious and dangerous than could be realized at this point – flew off into the sunset and far out of sight.