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Across the North Atlantic
4th June 2009

Xenia swore when she reached Quebec, she was going to drop to her knees and kiss the ground like an old lover.

At this rate, if she never got on a plane again, it would be too soon. It wasn't as if she was a nervous flyer.
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B52

Certainly not. In her life time, she couldn't even count the number of times she had gone from competition to competition, always exchanging one plane seat for another. It was just another aspect of competitive sports. However, there was only one word she could use to describe her latest trip across the Atlantic.

Harrowing.

As it was, the nausea she experienced during her first trimesters of pregnancy did not hold a candle to the stomach turning hell she was enduring this moment in the seat of B25 - converted with a Rolls Royce Dart turbo for Trans-Atlantic travel. The journey from Glasgow to Quebec, should have only taken them six or seven hours but thanks to the lack of modern planes in operation after the Pulse, she was making the trip in a relic that was old forty years ago. The route had seen the plane skirting the edge of Greenland, relying on the artic temperatures and high velocity winds to keep out of reach of any Visitor patrols.

Now nearly ten hours later, the plane was approaching the Straits of Belle Isle and Xenia promised herself that if necessary, she drive across Canada to avoid air travel again.

****

Things had moved with surprising speed after Xenia agreed to act as a WLF courier to deliver documents to their offices in Quebec. Two days after the initial conversation with Keller, Xenia found herself travelling by train from Eschau to England, making a ferry crossing at Amsterdam which landed her in Newcastle before making the road journey to Glasgow, where the B25 awaited. Travel anywhere these days, was a laborious affair thanks to the Visitors and Xenia felt like she was a gypsy in another century, struggling to reach a destination that seemed almost a world, not an ocean away.

While the state of art European rail system, the Eurostar, was no longer in operation, the track still remained in place for use by older trains that made the journey twice as long. The World Liberation Front had provided her with all the resources she needed to make it to England and thanks to what remained of the US government and the Swiss banking institutions, Xenia was still left something of her earnings from competition and endorsements. The value of currency had dropped considerably but at least it was enough to get her supplied when she finally began the journey to San Francisco.

She knew nothing of the papers she had to deliver in the leather attaché case and frankly, she had no desire to know. Keller had said it was best that she remained in the dark and frankly, Xenia agreed. She was only interested in reaching Daniel. Especially so after learning of her father's fate. Vasily had died the day of the Pulse. The news had come to her when Xenia had tried to reach Father Frank via the church in the hopes of getting some clue to Daniel's whereabouts. While Frank had no news of Daniel other than he was alive, the old priest was able to tell her about her father.

Xenia had taken the news stoically. She disappeared into her room and sobbed silently, knowing that the real tears would come when she faced Daniel, where they could both mourn their father. Right now, her sorrow for Vasily was placed in the same place as Lukas, compartmentalized until she was ready to deal with it.

If she survived that is.

****

"Come on you Yank fuckers, how bloody long is it going to get your arses in gear. I'd get more fucking response if I got out and pissed at them!" Commander Jerry Butler growled as the B25, dodging the blasts from the skyfighter that was in hot pursuit. The B25 was long past the time when it was capable of fending off attacks from Japanese zeroes or German Messerschmitt and was certainly no match for Visitor skyfighters.

The Visitor skyfighters had come out of nowhere when they were skirting the Labrador Coast. From what Xenia had been led to understand, it was a common practise for the Visitors to carry out raids on planes attempting to reach Safe Zone from Europe. While the Visitors were limited by the red dust. However, their ships, with its pressurized cabins keeping out atmosphere, they were still able to cause much destruction. As Xenia was now learning.

Her fingers digging into the arm rests of her seat, she tried not to show her terror as the B25 banked hard, veering to the left. Xenia had been clamping her eyes shut, trying not to see what was happening even though she could feel it by the way her stomach was lurching, the revving of the plane's engines and propeller and the way she was struggling to remain in her seat, despite efforts by the Visitors and the pilots to ensure otherwise.

If this baby was born with seat belt marks across his skull, she was going to be really pissed.

The large plane banked hard, the fuselage heaving in protest as the plane tilted at an almost 45 degree angle as it baked hard to avoid the blasts from the skyfighter's lasers. She saw the bluish bolts of energy streaking up the length of the plane, the manoeuvre allowing the plane to narrowly avoid having one of its wings sheared off by the deadly beams. However, in avoiding the shot, the plane was now veering dangerously towards the sea with Commander Butler cussing everyone including his own mother for the fact that air support had yet to arrive.

Looking through the window, she could see one of the fighters surge ahead and if she had thought seeing them from the ground had been daunting, it was nothing compared to seeing the things in flight. They were highly manoeuvrable and seemed to fly circles around the bigger plane. As it was, Xenia considered it a minor miracle that they weren't already dead. The B25 was no match for the speed of the skyfighters and somewhat belatedly, Xenia came to the sickening conclusion that they were being toyed with, that whoever the pilots were of those enemy ships, they were putting her and the occupants of the B25 though this torture for the hell of it.

Bastards.

Suddenly the plane jolted violently to the other side, sending anything that wasn't bolted down flying through the cabin. Xenia could see bags and glasses tumbling across the aisle. Equipment and packages that made up the cargo of the plane. Xenia grabbed hold of her backpack, holding it tightly to herself so that it wouldn't end up with the rest of the objects gathering on the right side of the plane, piling up against windows.

"What's happening?" She demanded, even though she had a good idea.

They were hit.

The remaining engine was screaming wildly in its attempt to keep the plane aloft despite the loss of the right wing that was tumbling towards the sea, taking its mate with it. Through one of the windows, Xenia's eyes widened in horror upon seeing the ripped wing and smoking engine, still whirring impotently, disappearing out of sight, bound for a watery death, not unlike occupants of the plane it seemed. The B25 was now tilting to its left, the nose of the large craft angled downwards to the ocean.

Paralysed with fear, she wondered if this was how it was going to end up for her. To escape Tuscany, to make it across Europe, only to die just short of reaching the Canadian coast. She supposed if there was some consolation to be had, she would be going to meet Lukas and her father if Daniel's heaven really existed. Trying not to panic or descend into despair at what could be her last moments, Xenia thought of the child slumbering in her womb, the one who would never be born because they were both going to die...

"Come on luv!" A voice snapped her out of her thoughts. "We're leaving."

"Leaving?" She stammered as she looked up and saw Lieutenant Commander Jace Statler standing over her, reaching for the duffle bag she was holding, while he himself carried what looked like a parachute pack.

"Well we're not staying here are we?" He said looking at her incredulously as he helped her out of the seat. "The bloody bastards have taken out our right engine. We don't leave now, we're not going at all and I assume you wanted to get to Quebec?"

Xenia nodded dumbfounded as the man quickly put on the parachute on his back and ran through the explanations on what was going to happen. She received the most abridged set of instructions any new skydiver ever received which under circumstances, was better than nothing she supposed. In a near dazed, she clung to her duffle bag because she had presence of mind to remember that should she survive this, she still had papers to deliver to WLF and frankly, the notion of failing to complete that small bit of service was something she was going to deny the Visitors.

Once the two pilots had hastily completed the duty of putting the craft on auto-pilot, as best as that feature could still function, clearing bomb bays of any bombs by releasing the emergency release handle to send it into the sea and carrying any other procedure they could while the skyfighters continued to take shots at them, once again, toying with them as they carved the plane up piece by piece.

"Bastards!" Jace shouted as he and Xenia stood at the rear door. He was standing behind her, holding her close to his body, making the jump with her. "Come on Jerry! Move your arse!"

The wind rushing at her, Xenia saw the sea rushing up at them perilously fast. She could see the waves rippling through the water, the small shadow of the plane against the water, getting larger and larger. The skyfighters were still bearing down on them, making another pass, trying to see how much the plane could take before they moved in for the kill.

"Alright luv," he said in her ear, "just hang on tight. We'll do alright!" She barely heard him through the wail of the wind and the roar of engines sputtering its last.

Xenia didn't speak; she was too frightened to do anything else. He had slipped on a harness over her shoulders and latched it to his own as they stood poised at the door. Securing his arms over her body, she wondered if this was going to harm the baby. She was convinced most mothers to be didn't try extreme sports for a good reason.

"Here we go!" Jace said to her and then jumped.

Xenia screamed all the way down.


*******

The sea swallowed up the plane as reinforcements arrived.

Xenia climbed into the inflatable raft, breathing hard, grateful that she had survived and sensing nothing that indicated that the baby was harmed. As she scrambled into the centre of the raft, she saw the plane hit the water with a loud splash in the distance, a column of white spraying into the air as it impacted. In the sky, the Visitor skyfighters were making a pass, preparing to finish them off on the water, having seen the parachutes on the way down. She and Jace had landed first. However, Jerry was still in the air, floating through the air like a sitting duck.

"JERRY!" Jace was screaming frantically as the Visitor skyfighter close in on the parachute.

Xenia could only watch as helplessly as her companion as Jerry's days looked numbered. She clutched his arm, feeling his horror but having done all this before, being forced to watch as innocents were killed, she knew how this was going to play out.

Suddenly a new sound was heard, loud and fast. Xenia spun around and saw the appearance of two fighter jets. It took her a moment to recognise the colours. They were American. The skyfighters immediately broke off their pursuit of the parachute, turning their attention to the new arrivals.

"F-22s!" Jace exclaimed. "Raptors!"

"Can they take those skyfighters?" Xenia asked watching the combatants rushing to engage each other.

"You bet they can luv," Jace grinned, his smile not only for the timely arrival of the Raptors but also for the fact that Jerry had landed safely in the drink and the man was swimming towards them. Jace was moving across the raft, getting one of the oars and rowing them over to him. Prompted by his action, Xenia did the same, her gaze shifting from the ocean to the fight above.

"The F-22s were designed with Visitor technology in mind," he explained as the Raptors split up, drawing a skyfighter each away from the occupants of the downed craft. "Not to mention, they don't have to destroy the buggers' ship to kill them," Jace explained. "All they have to is do crack the cockpit and the lizards will have their oxygen tainted."

Xenia nodded in understanding. If that happened, the red dust would contaminate their oxygen supply and the lizards would be dead in two minutes.

Good.

As it was, the Raptor pilots didn't waste their time with that. Instead they chose to use their complement of stinger missiles to defeat the enemy quickly rather than engage in some prolonged aerial battle where the possibility of being overwhelmed by superior aeronautics was a very real possibility. Visitors relied on their formidable laser weapons to defeat Earth fighter jets. A single bolt of energy was enough to fry a fighter's electronics and cut through their hulls like paper. Nothing was able to withstanding the cutting power of the energy weapons. However, while the jets did not use laser, their weapons had proven to possess greater accuracy owing to a combination of manual and automated firing solutions. Bullets could cut through Visitor cockpits windows, letting in poisonous air while stinger missiles once a lock had been made could chase a skyfighter like the Furies in pursuit of Orestes unless destroyed first.

Xenia watched as the two Raptor pilots launched their stinger missiles simultaneously, the projectiles escaping the planes in a loud burst of sound. As they went ahead in their search and destroy mission, the Raptors moved to engage, unleashing a deadly barrage of artillery. The conventional projectile ammunition strafed the nose of one skyfighter, riddling the plexiglass window with bullet holes, shattering it. It took no more than thirty seconds for the full effect of the breach to reveal itself as the skyfighter spiralled out of control, moments before one of the stingers met their mark, causing it to explode in a fiery blast that send shards of metal and wreckage in all directions.

The second skyfighter broke off from the engagement, realising the tactic being employed but it was too late. The strategy the Raptors used to distract the skyfighters from destroying the stingers worked as the second missile struck the hull of the alien ship, causing its demise in a similar conflagration to its sister ship. Flaming debris from both ships tumbled into the sea, amidst the cheering from Xenia, Jace and Jerry who had finally climbed into the raft. The Labrador Coast was in sight and the Raptors they had signalled for help would send the coast guard for them soon enough.

For now at least, they were safe.

****

"Fuck me," Jace declared staring across the raft at Xenia, shortly after she'd let them in on the fact that she was more than three months pregnant. "You've been travelling all the way from bloody Switzerland while up the duff?" He stared at her in surprise.

Gerard Butler and Jason Statham

Jerry and Jace

"I'm not that huge yet you know," Xenia laughed, trying not to notice two much that Jace and Jerry were snuggling together, sharing body heat as only two lovers could do in a life raft in the middle of the ocean, while waiting for rescue. Apparently the restrictions on sexual orientation in the RAF had relaxed in recent years.

“Besides,” she added, “I need to find my brother."

"Well," Jace looked at Jerry, "we can’t let this bump in the trip stop you now can we? Least we can do for a mum to be. We were meant to be flying a C-130 across the country to Vancouver. Delivering supplies and such. We can get you that far at least, saves you having to get across Canada in a car or a train."

Xenia wasn't so certain that she wanted another flight after this but supposed that shaving what could potentially be weeks off her journey was a good thing. Another thing she would adapt to, she sighed to herself, hugging her arms closer to her chest.

"Come on luv," Jace patted the space next to him. "You're soaked through and there a bit of a chill in the air."

"Oh it’s okay," Xenia said assuring them she was fine.

"Don't be shy dear," Jerry declared. "Nothing safer than snuggling up with two fairies on the high seas."

Shaking her head, Xenia conceded defeat. "Yeah I suppose you guys aren't known for groping women."

"Only each other but never in straight company," Jace winked at Jerry. "You know me and Jerry were thinking about adopting."

"Yeah," Jerry chuckled. "But he objected to the 19 year old Chippendale dancer I picked...."


To be continued...

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