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The Battle of the Emerald Coast

by Captain Cardboard

Captain Cardboard Hey! It's been a very, very, very very very long time since I've uploaded something to the Creative Corner. This year I took a creative writing class, so this was the story I wrote and revised for said class. Any critiques and suggestions are welcome!
“You can ease up there on the throttle, son. It’s a review, not a race. You’ll get points off for being reckless.” The instructor, an older man with graying hair said over the roar of the engine. The triplane soared through the air, dancing across the sky like a bird on a breeze.

“Is it really reckless if I know what I’m doing?” The young man called back, wind whipping through his hair. The instructor sighed and shook his head, marking something down on his report. The youth grinned as he maneuvered the brown triplane for another run. The young man followed every instruction given to a T. Aerial maneuvers? Check. Enemy on your tail? Check. Getting in and out of a tailspin? Check. For the final act, the boy lined up for an attack run on a ground target. Opening fire, brightly colored paintballs shot out of the machine guns in perfect synchronization. The dummies were splattered with a barrage of colors as the young pilot flew over it with a laugh.


“There! How’s that for flying?!” The young man called back to the instructor.
“Yes, yes, Mr. Lexington. Very impressive. Your review will be completed once you, ahem, land the plane.” The instructor said. The young man glanced back at the older instructor. What a boring old man. The young man thought. Let’s see if we can get that old heart of yours racing. With a quick twist of the wheel, the young man spun the plane in a corkscrew. He let out a small whoop as he completed the maneuver and listened carefully for the surprised yelp of the instructor. Or perhaps the frightened whimper. But as the world leveled out, no exclamation of any sort came.

“Now that you’ve had your fun, Mr. Lexington, the landing. If you please.” The instructor hadn’t even flinched! With a disgruntled sigh, the youth gently put down the training triplane. Mechanics and runway hands quickly approached the triplane to guide it back to a hangar. The plane hadn’t even made it into the building before a pair of winged women landed on top of it, opening up the engine and make fine adjustment.
“Mr. Lexington.” Lex unstrapped from the pilot’s seat before he looked back on the instructor. Clearing his throat, the old man continued. “Aside from that stunt you pulled, your marks are quite high. Consider yourself fit to fly again. Congratulations.”

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Lexington had only just entered the hanger when he was approached from either side by his friends.
“Well, well, well. It looks like the pup managed to earn his wings again!” The man on the left said. That was John Grayson. A man with long blonde hair, he made sure to keep it perfectly maintained when it wasn’t hidden under his aviator’s cap. He had quite a striking figure, and a triplane to match. Nickname: The Golden Hawk. Grayson’s triplane had the same royal red base color that every Erovian fighter plane was required to have. A stylized golden hawk had been painted onto the triplane, with the machine guns poking out through its eyes and the symbol of the Erovian Empire on its tail. The “Eyes of the Hawk” as he called it, was the last thing sky pirates saw streaking towards them. That was, until he had been assigned to the Emerald Coast airbase.

“Recovering from a broken leg and Blackspot. Pretty tough, pup.” The second man said. That was Barret LeFranx. And while John took much pride and care in his long, golden hair, LeFranx spent his time grooming his fine, dark mustache. He enjoyed bragging of his upper-class background, often complaining about the poor quality of tea in these parts of the mountains and smoking his pipe. LeFranx had a tendency to regale the other pilots with tales of his glorious hunting trips, usually accompanied with quite a bit of hyperbole to compliment his story. His triplane, which he called The Hunter’s Eagle, was a rather unusual one. It’s base color, instead of red, was a light green. Grey spots decorated the triplane at random places, and where the symbol of the Erovian Empire should have been, the painting of an eagle’s head could be found. The differences were because, as he was so willing to state, LeFranx was not actually an Erovian citizen. Instead, he was a volunteer from Anum, a country bordering the Erovian Empire. He had decided to volunteer in Erovia’s Air Force for the sole purpose of the glory and thrill of going toe to toe with the infamous sky pirates of the Erovian mountains. Unfortunately for him, he ended up stuck in the Emerald Coast Airbase as well, far from the reach of any willing sky pirate.

For some reason, LeFranx and Grayson seemed to enjoy the company of Lexington more than the other pilots. Perhaps it was because, like them, Lexington was not pleased at his posting at the Emerald Coast Airbase. To nearly every other airman, this base was a dream come true. Far from the patrol duties and skirmishes of the inner mountains, where sky pirates raided merchant airships. Far from the dry, dusty desert of the Tasmiatar border where savages were unafraid to raid nearby outposts. The Emerald Coast was far enough north that even ocean-faring pirates didn’t bother making the trip. It was a quiet, peaceful, and calm place. But these three men did not join the Air Force for peace and calm. They had joined for adventure.


“I saw the stunt you pulled today. I’ve just got to say, I’m disappointed. You’ve got to work a lot harder if you want to make McGregor flinch.” Grayson said, teasing Lex by scuffing up his hair. “It’ll take more than a plain barrel roll to freak him out.”
“Well, I can see that now.” Lexington said, returning Grayson’s smile. “But what the heck should I try next time? The guy’s probably seen everything from stall-outs to engine fires.”
“Come now, this is cause for celebration!” LeFranx said, slapping Lexington on the back. “It is not every day where a pilot gets their wings! Even if it is for a second time.”
The mustachioed man sat down on a crate, pulling a pipe from the inner pocket of his jacket. Grayson reached into his own jacket as well, pulling out a flask instead of a pipe.

“Attention! Attention!” The voice of the officer rang out in the hangar, halting the trio’s celebration before it could begin. “The Emerald Coast is under attack! Have the Second Squadron’s triplanes prepped, and the pilots report to me, now!”
The three men exchanged confused glances for only a moment before quickly following the officer’s commands.

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“We’ve received a telegram from the Natori Village. Evidently, they’re under attack from the sea. A ship sailed in, and began attacking the village via cannons from offshore. It could be pirates.” The officer paused a moment before continuing. “We also have reason to believe that this ship is made of… well, is made of metal.”
At this, the group of pilots broke up into whispers. A boat made of metal? Was that even possible?
“There’s no time, and if you lot hurry you should be able to drive them off! Those people need our help! Now move!” The officer yelled.

The pilots of the Second Squadron sprinted to the hangar just as their planes were being wheeled out. Each pilot scrambled to their respective triplane, harpies making last minute adjustments and running through the checklist with the mechanics. Lexington ran to his own triplane. He called it The Flaming Sparrow, a triplane with a bright red, yellow, and orange paintjob. The name had come to be respected by his fellow airmen. During training exercises, Lexington maneuvered his craft with such precision and agility that it darted around like sparrow in the wind.

“She good to go, Melina?” Lex called to the harpy working on the Flaming Sparrow’s engine. The woman looked up, using a claw on her wing to shift her goggles to her forehead. Harpies were quite similar to humans, with a couple major differences. Where humans had arms, harpies had wings. Melina’s wings in particular had brown striped feathers with black tips, similar to that of grouses. Harpies were shorter and lighter, usually only coming up to around 5 feet in height at the max. They also had amazing vision, able to pick out small details that normal people couldn’t detect. This, paired with their steady grips, made them incredible mechanics. The Air Force made sure to take advantage of this, hiring plenty of harpies to assist with the maintenance and upkeep of the various machines of war they used.
“There isn’t much for me to do that already hasn’t been done weeks ago! I’ve barely had to touch her since you went and caught the Blackspot. She’s been waiting for ya.” The harpy shot back to Lex. Melina slid off the triplane, giving the propeller a good spin on her way down.

One by one, the men of the Second Squadron took off. The flight was not long from the Airbase, and in a few minutes Lexington could see Natori Village in the distance. Large plumes of black smoke rose up from the village, and just outside the bay… There really did appear to be some sort of ship made of metal! It was huge, looking bigger than some airships Lexington had seen! On its deck it had three huge cannons, pointed at the village. As Lexington watched, the cannons each emitted a puff of smoke, and moments later there was the distant, muffled sound of the cannon firing.

The 8 members of the Second Squadron descended on the battleship. Lexington himself flew in close to the water, his wings nearly touching the ocean’s surface as he flew towards the metal ship. Lexington could see the crew members on deck scrambling about, ducking for cover as he and the other planes opened fire. The young man looked back as he flew over, gaining some altitude. This was rather unusual. Usually even ocean-faring pirates were smart enough to have some anti-aircraft measures ready. But it seemed like these guys weren’t ready at all. Not even a single machine gun. Who attacked an Erovian place and didn’t expect a reply from the air force? It was what Erovia was known for! As Lexington turned to make a second run on the ship, he tried to get a look at some of the flags this ship was flying. They certainly weren’t any flags that he recognized. Not the West Sea Raiders, not Anum’s flag. Who were these guys?

The bullets whizzing by snapped Lexington from his thoughts, and he veered away his triplane just in time to avoid fire from a machine gun that was mounted on the metal ship’s deck. The pilot of the triplane next to him wasn’t so lucky. The deck gun ripped through the wood and cloth aircraft, and dark smoke began to emit as it went into a nosedive directly towards the ocean. It seemed like these guys did have some cdeqountermeasures in place after all. Seemingly getting over the surprise of the triplanes, the crew on the metal ship had begun to man their deck guns to shoot the triplanes out of the sky. Lexington looked over the edge of his plane, flying out of the gun’s range. He rubbed his head, feeling puzzled. How were they supposed to take this ship down? From a safe distance, Lexington watched as Grayson’s Golden Hawk dove down on the ship, opening fire. A deck gun fell silent as the gold and red triplane flew away.

Lexington prepared for another run when he saw something unusual happening on the ships deck. A large, black object suddenly darted out running across the ship’s deck before jumping into the air and… spreading wings?! Lexington couldn’t believe his eyes. A large lizardlike creature covered in black scales had emerged from the metal ship. Silver armor covered its underside and its legs, coming up in plates on its neck. On its back, a rider rode dressed in similar armor. Was that… a dragon?! But those were only supposed to be myths! The dragon flew with unusual speed, quickly catching up to a pilot who was no doubt gawking at the beast. A ball of fire burst from the creature’s maw, striking the back of the triplane and instantly igniting it. The fireball made short work of the plane, causing it to go into a tailspin as the pilot bailed out. Another pilot attempted to attack the dragon head on, only to be struck down by a fireball straight to the engine.

Lex slapped himself, making sure that what he was seeing was for real. The young man shook his head and faced the dragon and it’s rider. Come on. It’s just one guy. The rider turned his attention towards Grayson’s Golden Hawk, and Lex urged his triplane on. He opened fire at the creature and rider, but they noticed him too early. The rider pulled up on his dragon, exposing a heavily armored underbelly. Where the bullets should have struck the rider and dragon’s head, they now harmlessly ricocheted off heavy plate armor. Lex managed to just dart around the dragon as it shot a fireball, and time seemed to slow as Lex made eye contact with the rider. Through their helmet, their blue eyes seemed aflame. Burning with fury for their lost comrades. Then the moment had passed, and the two shot past each other. Working together, Grayson’s Golden Hawk and LeFranx’s Hunters Eagle took down yet another deck gunner. A small, black object was dropped from LeFranx’s triplane onto the deck of the ship, causing a large explosion. The three large cannons on deck, however, seemed vastly unaffected.

Once again the dragon and it’s rider attempted to have a go at Grayson’s Golden Hawk, and once again Lexington stopped them. The two began their dance in the sky, and Lexington began to lead the dragon and its rider on a merry chase. Whoever this dragon rider was… they were good. No matter how many tricks Lex pulled, no matter how many maneuvers he attempted, he just couldn’t shake this guy. He was only barely staying out of the fireballs! Running out of options, Lex quickly flew in low, darting around the back of the metal ship and corkscrewing right over the deck. His wings almost ended up hitting the cannon, but when he looked behind him the dragon was no where in sight.

The smell of smoke and a flash of shadow made Lex look up, and he watched as the tail Grayson’s Golden Hawk went up in flames. It crashed into the ocean, and Lex was unable to tell from this distance if Grayson had made it out in time. This was getting dicy. It was down to LeFranx and Lexington. The rest of the second squadron had either retreated or been shot down. But the metal ship wasn’t looking too great either. Fires had started on the deck from LeFranx’s bombing, and nearly every deck gun had been taken out. For now, the main threat was the dragon and its rider. It began to close in on LeFranx. No way was Lex about to let another one of his friends get shot down. LeFranx began to turn left and right, the panic becoming noticeable in his maneuvers as he tried to shake the beast on his tail.

Letting out a cry that was lost to the wind, Lex joined into the dance. The young man flew down out of the sun behind the dragon and Lex opened fire. While the dragon’s armor was certainly enough to defend it from the bullets, the rider’s armor certainly wasn’t. The rider went limp, immediately sliding off the dragon. The dragon stopped and turned back to Lex, and he could see the rage burning in the lizard’s eyes. The same rage Lex had seen earlier in the fight, in the eyes of the dragon’s rider. But Lex was already flying past the dragon before it could do anything about it. The dragon lunged out, managing to score a hit with its claws across the side of Lex’s triplane. The dragon let out an angry roar before it changed course and began to pursue Lexington. LeFranx flew alongside Lex, and the two shared a look. LeFranx pointed at his head, then at the metal ship, before veering off. Lex dodged yet another fireball and dropped in altitude before he cut his engine. The dragon screeched past Lex as his triplane stalled, and once again the hunter became the hunted.

Realizing its mistake, Lex could see the look of panic in the creature’s eyes as it tried to correct itself, turning to face Lex’s triplane.
“I have you now…” Lexington muttered, starting his engine again and putting the dragon’s head in his crosshairs. The dragon opened its mouth to attack with another fireball, but Lexington was faster. The young pilot squeezed the trigger, and the machine guns opened fire on the only place on the dragon with the least amount of armor. The bullets ripped through the dragon’s skull, and without a noise it fell to the ocean.

Lex watched as the beast plunged into the sea, only letting out a breath once the dragon had disappeared from his vision. The pilot turned his triplane to see the metal ship beginning to turn course and retreat. Its bridge was ridden with bullet holes, its deck was burning, its cannons were damaged. It was in no condition to fight. Lex made one final sweep of the area as LeFranx’s Hunters Eagle joined up with Lex’s Flaming Sparrow. The two shared a salute, aviator to aviator, and made their way back to base. The battle had ended.
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