It was four o' clock in the morning and Alex lay watching the ceiling. She had been able to get some sleep, but with Diana lying next to her as well as her upcoming test flight, sleep hadn't come easily. Diana had fallen asleep quickly, though her sleep wasn't peaceful. The blonde nurse kept twisting and turning in the bed.
All that the older woman had told her made Alex think about her own life. All sorts of questions arose as Diana's words finally sunk in. Have I ever felt something that strong for someone? Have I ever experienced the feeling of loving someone? Or being loved?
No, not even from my parents. From Andrew, maybe. But not as of late.
The closest thing to love she could come up with was her relationship with Toby. Even though they lost sight of each other for years, the bond they'd formed as children had still been there the minute they'd met again. But Alex also realized that her relationship with Toby didn't mirror that of Diana and her friend, Kate.
Her train of thoughts was put to a halt as she felt Diana shift next to her. Sleep-filled green eyes looked up at her as Alex rested her head on her hand.
"Morning," the dark-haired woman said.
"Did you sleep okay?" Alex inquired against better judgment.
"No," Diana replied as she shifted against the headboard. "But that was to be expected," she added as she tried to wipe the sleep out of her eyes.
Alex got out of bed, standing up and stretching out to her full height. She looked down at her new jumpsuit, already completely wrinkled without being used in training. She straightened the leg of her dark green jumpsuit as the blonde spoke up.
"Alex?" Diana started as she also got out of bed, pulling on her shoes.
"Thanks again for last night."
"No problem. I'm glad I could help," the younger woman replied sincerely.
"Well," Diana said as she walked over to the door. "I guess this is goodbye."
"Right," Alex nodded as she headed after the blonde nurse. "I'll see you at the other end of the ocean."
Diana's lips curled into a small smile. She reached out her hand for the younger woman to shake. Alex stepped closer, ignoring Diana's hand, and pulled her in for a hug. "You'll do great. They should be darned happy for having you come all the way over to Belgium."
"I hope I'll see you again some day," Diana whispered as she pulled back.
"You will. You can count on that," Alex said.
"Good luck with your flight lesson today," the nurse said as she softly squeezed the taller woman's upper arms.
"Well…bye," Diana said as she stepped out of Alex' embrace and out of her room.
"See you later!" Alex quipped.
It was four forty-five am and Alex was already waiting outside the training hangar for Sergeant Greenaway to arrive. After Diana had left she'd rushed through washing, didn't have time for breakfast and almost ran to the hangar. While she'd been on her way over to the hangar she'd noticed one of the larger cargo planes taking off from the runway -their heading: Belgium.
Diana was on her way…
The dark-haired woman started to pace up and down in front of the hangar's entrance. Her mind filled with thoughts and hopes on what was to come. If Greenaway trusted Toby's word then maybe he would really send her abroad. Her mind was set; she'd have to give this morning her best, show the sergeant what she was made of.
At five to, Greenaway arrived, not the least surprised to find Alex already there.
"LaFleche was right," he said to the young woman who hadn't spotted him yet.
Startled, Alex turned towards the sergeant, immediately taking the stance that was expected of a cadet.
"You really are eager to fly," the short man said sternly, though the twinkling in his eyes betrayed the smile that was hidden from his lips.
"Yes, Sir," Alex replied.
The bull-necked man opened the hangar and flipped on the lights as the entered -the same way her and Toby had walked in just a few days ago.
"So, miss Savage. You said you knew the pre-flight checks?" the man inquired.
"Yes, Sir. As well as flight procedures, emergency procedures, radio communication-"
"Alright," Greenaway interrupted, holding his hand up in the air. "The only thing you haven't done yet is sit in a plane and fly."
"Well," Alex started. "Cadet LaFleche did let me sit in the cockpit and have a look."
"Really?" the short man asked, one eyebrow raised.
Alex, realizing she might have been a bit too forward, looked down at her shiny black army boots. "Yes, Sir." You must not screw up this chance, Alex, she chided herself mentally.
"Good. Then today you are going to make your first flight," Greenaway said as he walked over to one of the planes that were used for training.
"Let's take this one here," he said as he patted on one of the Spitfires' bows.
They both headed over to the large doors, each pushing one open, letting the early rays of sunlight fill the large hall. A fresh morning breeze stroked across Alex’ face as she took a deep breath and smiled to herself.
Today would be the day she’d finally fly.
Looking up into the clear blue morning sky she whispered softly, “Thank you, Toby.” Then she walked back to where Sergeant Greenaway was waiting for her at the Spitfire.
After working trough the pre-flight checks, Alex finally climbed into the plane, taking the seat in front of Sergeant Greenaway.
“When you’re ready start the engine and taxi us to the runway,” the man ordered as they both were securing their seatbelts.
“Yes, Sir.” Alex took a deep breath, looking at all the instruments right in front of her. As she revved up the engine the young woman had to smile. She’d made it. She was about to fly an airplane.
The Spitfire got her full attention as they started to roll out of the hangar, Greenaway’s comment about this being his first flight with a female pilot not even reaching her ears. Alex managed to get the aircraft perfectly lined up for the runway.
“Good,” the Sergeant started. “Now proceed as you’ve learned. If need be, I’ll take over control. Show me Cadet LaFleche was right about you.”
Alex merely nodded as she was already thinking over all that needed to be done to get the plane up on the air. After getting permission to take off, she put the plane in motion again, gaining more and more speed while rolling down the runway.
When the plane had accelerated enough Alex carefully pulled the joystick towards her, the nose of the plane following in the same direction. Only seconds later all wheels had left the ground and they were airborne.
“Well done,” the Sergeant said as they were ascending, leaving the military air force base behind.
“Thank you, Sir,” Alex replied, a smile now permanently fixed on her face. She marveled at the way the Spitfire responded to her actions. Though she’d learned a lot about flying from the books Toby got her, she’d been no way near prepared for the feeling it stirred in her to be in control of the machine.
After half an hour of practicing different turns and maneuvers, Sergeant Greenaway took over the controls. “I want you to try one more thing,” he said as they started to climb higher, the plane flying almost vertically.
Alex wondered what the Sergeant had in mind. All the other orders he’d given her during their flight she’d been more than able to perform. Just as she was about to ask her superior about his intentions he sent the plane into a dive, its position again almost vertically, though now with the nose pointing downwards.
“Take over control, get us out of this stall and land her.”
“But Sir,” the dark-haired woman started. “I’ve-“
“Just do it, Savage,” the Sergeant interrupted sternly.
Alex noticed they were flying perpendicular with regard to the runway, and, while reducing their speed, started to turn the plane. Despite that they were now aligned with the runway, their speed was still too high and the Spitfire’s nose was still too far down. She read on the airspeed indicator that they were going too fast to be able to land.
“Reduce the speed by pulling up the nose a bit,” Greenaway said.
Alex tried, but the plane didn’t seem to respond to her immediately.
“Fix the angle, Savage,” the Sergeant said again.
“I’m trying, Sir, but the plane doesn’t-“ Alex started as she realized that despite her steering the plane kept descending too quickly.
“I’m taking over,” Sergeant Greenaway replied.
“No, Sir. Let me do this,” Alex asked.
“Savage, this is not the time to-“
“Starting emergency landing procedures,” the young woman stated, completely ignoring her superior’s words.
The Sergeant was about to snap at her, ordering her to let him handle this situation as he was surprised by how calm and in control Alex seemed to be. The way she had flown the Spitfire was as if she’d never done anything else in her whole life. And even now she was the epitome of calm, completely focused on getting them safely back on the ground.
Alex reduced the engine power even further and was finally able to pull the nose back up. But, because of the strange angle with which they’d approached the runway they now only had half the length left of what they needed to land safely on the tarmac.
The landing was anything but smooth, especially when they hit the grass behind the runway, the plane still rolling onwards. Using all of her might, Alex pumped the brake, hoping the plane would stop before they’d hit the ditch that separated the runway from the road with lead to the main buildings of the air force base.
Alex let out a soft sigh as the Spitfire came to a complete halt, only a few feet left between them and the ditch.
The Sergeant hadn’t spoken since she’d ignored his orders and now Alex prepared herself for his wrath as she unbuckled and got out of the plane. She watched the bull-necked man carefully as he got out of the Spitfire as well. As she caught the look on his face she realized she’d probably blown her chance of ever flying again.
She looked at the ground, her arms folded behind her back, as the man stopped in front of her.
“Cadet Savage. You will never ignore my orders ever again. Next time you do not listen to a superior’s order’s you’ll be sent home. Do I make myself clear?”
“Yes, Sir,” Alex almost whispered. She could understand why the man was angry at her for not obeying him, but still she felt she’d done right by showing him she really knew how to handle, even in tough situations and felt anger building up inside her because he couldn’t see her capabilities.
“Get Bourassa, Sautier, and Vaughn to get her back in the hangar,” the man spit as he pointed over his shoulder towards the Spitfire. “Then you will wash her. By yourself,” he finished before walking of.
“Yes, Sir,” Alex grumped, feeling that she didn’t deserve this reprimand.
It was around noon when Alex finally finished cleaning the entire plane from front to back. All frustration that had pent up inside because of the Sergeant’s response had vanished as she’d worked on the Spitfire. Now, she was admiring the plane as she walked around it, her hand sliding across the wing’s cold surface.
“You did good.” The Sergeant’s voice seemed to suddenly appear out of nowhere, and Alex jumped when she noticed the man standing mere feet away from her.
“I’ll see you tomorrow. Same time,” Greenaway said, not once looking at the young woman. Then he turned and walked out of the hangar’s opened doors again, leaving a befuddled Alex behind.
“Thanks, Sir,” Alex called after him.
“Thank LaFleche,” he quipped over his shoulder before vanishing out of sight.
And so Alex did as she walked out the hangar as well, the sun warming her face as she watched the sky.
From that day onwards, Alex spent all of her time learning everything there was on aircrafts and aviation, fight and flight tactics. And each day she spent several hours flying the Spitfires.
The way she made progress surprised everyone, even herself. And now, after having made enough training hours, the dark-haired woman was ordered to come to Sergeant Greenaway’s office after that afternoon’s tactics training.
Alex was walking towards the Sergeant’s office, wondering what the man had to tell her. The last week she had often thought about the front. About Diana who was already there. About her own future.
Would he tell her she wouldn’t be allowed to fly after all and send her back home? Or would she be sent across the Atlantic?
Before knocking on the door, Alex checked her reflection in a mirror that hung next to the office’s door. She looked good. Her dark eyes had a certain twinkle in them and her entire posture oozed confidence. Her hand went up to the emblem on her jumpsuit, her fingertips tracing the base’s logo.
She felt good. She felt ready. And now her hopes were set on Greenaway giving her permission to go overseas. After giving herself a last once-over, she finally knocked on the door.
“Enter,” she heard the stern voice of the man.
As she walked into the office she watched the bull-necked man sitting at his desk, writing busily in a report. Stopping in front of the desk, Alex stretched to her full height, arms folded behind her back, her new-found confidence flowing through her body.
Sergeant Greenaway looked up from his paperwork, putting down his pen as he spoke, “Take a seat, Cadet Savage.”
The young woman sat down in the chair the man indicated and looked at him expectantly.
“I ordered you to come here because I had to make some decisions,” Greenaway started as he rested his elbows on the desk, folding his hands. “You probably already heard about the need for new squadrons.”
Alex nodded. During the last few days there had hardly been talk about anything else but that.
Before the Sergeant could continue there was a knock at the door. In a similar way as Alex had heard only a few minutes ago he ordered the person to enter.
The door opened and Jacques Sautier walked in. The broad-shouldered man was a remarkable sight. His striking, friendly-looking blue eyes gave the impression he was a kind and amicable person, but this couldn’t be farther from the truth.
On the air force base he was known as a distant, cold person who didn’t care about others. All other Cadets had learned to leave him alone most of the time, only interacting with him during trainings.
“Ah, good, you’re here already. Take a seat, Sautier,” the Sergeant said.
Sautier sat down in the chair next to Alex. With his thirty-seven years he was one of the oldest Cadets at the air force base, though also one of the best pilots. He glanced over at Alex. Though he hardly ever spoke to anyone, she knew he was one of those against her being allowed to fly –the dark, angry look he gave clearly showing his opinion.
As the Sergeant cleared his throat, both of the Cadets turned to face him. “As I just told Cadet Savage, you both may have heard about the need for new squadrons at the front.”
The two Cadets nodded, waiting for the Sergeant to continue.
“We will send two squadrons to London, to be sent to Germany from there on,” Greenaway explained as he looked from one to the other. “These two squadrons need Captains, and I have chosen the two of you to each become a leader of one of these squads.”
“I am?” Alex asked, surprised by the Sergeant’s words. Though she’d hoped to be sent off she never expected this. She was happily surprised by the confidence the Sergeant apparently had in her.
“She is?” Sautier spit out as he stood up, almost knocking over his chair in the process.
“The two of you are by far the best pilots here, you both know that,” Greenaway stated. “The squads need Captains who know what they’re talking about, who know how to handle certain situations.”
Alex smiled ruefully as she remembered the day of her first flight and how she’d handled that situation.
“I am not going to work alongside her,” Sautier said, pointing towards Alex as he threateningly took a step towards Greenaway’s desk.
“You either take the position or go home!” the bull-necked man replied as he got out of his chair and stood up, standing face-to-face with the blonde Cadet.
“That woman-“ Sautier started again, but was interrupted by the Sergeant.
“That Cadet is more than apt to lead the squad,” he started. “If it wasn’t for your impressive skills as pilot you’d never be a Captain, you sure as hell don’t know how to socially interact, your people-skills are non-existent. Now, sit down and shut up.”
The Sergeant continued, completely ignoring the still muttering Sautier as he reached for a folder and opened it. “Bourassa, McKenzie, Thomas, Meloche, Rawn, and Vaughn will be under your charge,” Sergeant Greenaway said before he handed Alex the folder containing information about their operation.
Alex zoned out when the Sergeant started to name the men who’d be on Sautier’s squadron. Tomorrow. They’d be leaving tomorrow.
To be continued.
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