Disclaimer: I know jack about piloting, but I did my best. Also, this oneshot has a higher rating than my other works due to the presence of the F-word.
Disclaimer 2: This is set in between the early/ mid-Golden Age. Some things may not line up with the canon timeline, but this is a fanfiction
"You can be my wingman anytime."
Harley leaned his head back against the tree and closed his eyes. It was nice to stop every once in a while and relax. Peace and quiet, he thought to himself, You can never have enough. As though to prove his point, he suddenly found his serenity shattered by an overly cheerful voice.
"Ace! I was wondering where you got off to."
Harley opened his eyes with a groan and glared at the person in front of him. "I thought I heard a major annoyance," he teased, "What do you want Miles? I don't have any classes or training. All I wanted to do was have some time to myself."
"Sorry buddy," said Miles, not sounding sorry at all, "Bossman's calling an assembly."
"In about five minutes."
"Aghhhhhh. What for?"
Miles shrugged. "I dunno. Probably to inspire us peons to 'reach greater heights.'" His voice deepened in a ridiculous impersonation of their CO. "'Forwards and Upwards, that is the motto of the bright students of United Fuck All.'" Harley snorted and Miles chuckled. "Seriously, though. We gotta be there."
Harley got up with a sigh and fell into step beside his friend. "I take it you haven't been studying?"
"Nah. I already know everything I need to. Only thing that really matters is the practical exam. We pass that, we get our wings."
"And you're not worried?"
Miles scoffed. "Hell no! If anyone's got anything to worry about, it's you what with all the delta sierra you pull."
Harley rolled his eyes. "I'm not stupid enough to try anything during an exam. Shouldn't you be on the watchlist? Wouldn't be the first time you pulled something on an exam, Jink."
Miles shrugged. "I earned that nickname fair and square. Anyway, they already held me back once. I'd rather not find out what happens next."
Harley nodded. "Who else is scheduled tomorrow anyway?"
Miles snorted. "Wilson."
Harley echoed the noise of disgust. "Well, at least we've got an edge over him."
"You're telling me. He's such a no-load, I don't even know why he's here in the first place."
Harley shrugged. "Bragging rights?"
"Yeah, sure. If that was it, why'd he pick the United Flight Academy and not some hoity-toity preppy school that gets internships at Ishtar?"
"Beats me." They walked on in silence for a few moments before Harley spoke up again. "Do you know if we're leaving atmo during the exam?"
"I don't see why we wouldn't. Gotta get used to flying in space."
"They didn't say much about punching out in oh-grav…"
"Probably saving that bit for everyone who makes it through the test alive," Miles joked. "My advice is to cross your fingers and hope everything doesn't go tango uniform while you're up there."
"Why thank you," said Harley sarcastically, "I will cherish your sage advice, oh wise elder."
"Shuddap. Just keep your head on a swivel and you'll be fine."
Harley rolled his eyes. "I'm not about to forget everything we learned in training," he said.
"Good. UFA'll be happy to know their education and expensive equipment wasn't wasted on Harley Hayden. Real weight off their shoulders."
"...Bite me, Jink."
One day later...
Harley staggered out of the Hangar on shaky legs, blinking in disbelief. Miles ran up, grabbing him by the arms and hollering excitedly. "You did it, Ace! You did it! You're about to become part of UFA's graduating class!" Harley was yanked roughly into an enthusiastic hug. "We finally made it man!" Miles let go only to sling an arm around Harley's shoulders and begin leading him toward their dorm. "Alright. We gotta get you outta that bag and into some proper clothes. We're going booming tonight my friend!"
Harley nodded, still slightly in shock. "...I can't believe I made it."
Miles snorted. "I can. You're one of the best pilots in our class! They'd be stupid not to take you."
"Really? I seem to remember you telling a very different story yesterday. Something about me pulling a lot of 'delta sierra?'"
Miles nodded. "I was right about that."
Harley shot him an unamused glance. "You know radio speak is for when we're actually in flight, right? You don't sound cooler by using it here."
"You keep telling me that, Ace, but I'm not gonna listen. You may've passed muster, but you're still just a rookie with barely any experience in oh-grav."
Harley scoffed. "Please. You've only got one year on me. I bet you don't have any more experience in oh-grav than I do."
"Oh really? Would you care to place a wager on that?"
Harley narrowed his eyes. "What kind of wager?"
"Let's get some real experience. We'll come back at Oh-Dark-Thirty and take one of the Gryphons up. If at any point either one of us chickens out, whoever did preps gear for the winner for two months."
Harley bit his lip. He'd had his eye on the 2-22 Gryphons since day one. The idea of actually going up in one was too enticing to pass up. "Deal," he said, shaking Miles' hand.
Harley let out a breath of anxiety as he zipped into his flight suit. He couldn't believe he was really going through with it. He grabbed his helmet and made his way out to the runway where a shiny-plated Gryphon was taxiing into position.
Once it stopped, Miles leaned out of the open cockpit. "You coming Ace? Or are you backing out?"
Harley's jaw set determinedly as he approached the bird. "No one's backing out here, Jink. Unless you want to."
Miles laughed. "Yeah right. I've dreamed of this moment since I was a toddler." He gestured to the back seat. "Get in."
Harley clambered in. "How'd you even manage to get it out of the Hangar?"
Miles shrugged. "Bribed an old friend… You strapped in?"
Harley took a moment to buckle himself in. "All set." Miles nodded, then pressed a couple buttons on the dash, closing the cockpit and prepping the ship for launch. All of a sudden an angry voice rang out over the radio.
"There are no active flights scheduled at this hour! Pilot, ident or state your squawk now!"
Harley went cold as he recognized the voice of Jaxon, their CO himself. "Miles, I don't think this is a good idea..."
"Relax, Ace. It'll be fine."
"It will not be fine!" Harley hissed, grabbing at the radio. Miles batted his hand away, picking it up himself. "Stop it! Miles!"
Miles turned, shoving a hand over Harley's mouth while holding the receiver up with his other hand. "Roger that Ground Control. This is your mother, requesting permission to launch."
"Permission not granted! This is insubordination! Turn off your engine at once!"
"Ah, I'm sorry, say again?"
"Turn off your engine and exit the ship immediately!"
Miles put the receiver down and took his hand off Harley's mouth to continue preparing for launch. "Miles this is the stupidest idea you've ever had! Did you hear that?! That was Jaxon! We'll be kicked out of here before you can say Charlie foxtrot!"
Miles turned to smile at him, hand hovering over the throttle. "Forwards and Upwards, Ace."
Miles pushed forward on the throttle and Harley heard the engine roar as the ship began to move down the runway, gathering speed and momentum. He grabbed his helmet and hastily put it on as they hurtled toward the end of the runway. "Pilot, abort launch at once!"
Miles grabbed the radio. "With all due respect, alpha mike foxtrot!"
Harley felt the ship leave the asphalt and turned his head to look down at the swiftly shrinking air base below them. Eventually, he felt it give a slight shudder as they passed out of the atmosphere and entered deep space. He leaned his head back against the seat and groaned. "We are so dead Miles… I never should've listened to you. We were about to graduate for christssake. My mom was going to be there!"
Miles sounded surprised. "No shit? She's coming?"
Harley sighed. "She would have, yeah."
"I thought she didn't like you flying."
"Not really, no. Ever since dad left, she's been worried that I'd leave her too. Joining UFA just kinda cemented that for her."
"No offense, but didn't your dad leave when you were, like, six or something? Seventeen years is a long time to hold on."
"I guess… Doesn't matter anyway, seeing as we'll be kicked out as soon as we get back."
"Oh, come on. You gotta look on the bright side, Ace… Here. Has UFA ever shown you this?" His fingers flew over the console before he threw a small switch. The ship lurched and Harley gasped as they were suddenly surrounded by a shining array of colors. Miles sat back in his seat, sounding satisfied. "Only graduates get taken into warp space."
"This- this is incredible!" said Harley.
"You betcha. Lets you get to almost any planet in only a few minutes."
"Which planet are we going to?"
"I've set a course for Mercury. Supposed to be one of the best vacation spots in the system."
"I've never been to another planet," said Harley.
Miles snorted. "Most people haven't. Gotta have money for that sorta thing. Money or brains. Either way, we're broke."
"That's why I joined UFA, you know," said Harley, "I wanted to see other planets..."
A sudden beeping caused Miles to sit up in his seat. "Well, you're about to." As Miles took them out of warp space, Harley was greeted with the sight of Mercury, its surface a golden yellow with patches of magenta. "Brace yourself," said Miles, "We're about to enter atmo."
Harley tensed as the ship dipped down towards the planet. The telltale shudder began, signaling their entrance into the atmosphere. When they broke through, Harley took in the landscape below them in awe. Most of Mercury seemed to be a savanna of yellow grass and twisting trees with dark pink leaves. To their left, Harley saw a sparkling, crystal clear ocean that stretched on out of sight. "This is amazing…" Then the ship lurched and Harley turned away from the view. "What was that?"
"Not sure…" said Miles. He leaned forward to examine the equipment. "Shit," he muttered.
"We must have hit something on entrance!"
The ship began to shudder more audibly and Harley thought he could hear a hissing sound. "Will we be able to land?"
"I don't know! The ILS isn't responding and our approach speed's on the wrong side of risky!" He paused for a moment. "I could try a deadstick but first I need to get us over the ocean."
Harley felt the ship tilt as Miles angled it toward the water he'd seen. His heart was in his throat and his hands were locked in a white-knuckled grip on his seat as the alarms rang loud in his ears and their ship hurtled toward the planet's surface. Suddenly, there was a screeching tearing sound as the entire top of the cockpit was ripped away, leaving them exposed to the open air. Harley let out a strangled yell and squeezed his eyes shut against the wind that tore at his face where the helmet left it exposed.
"We're coming in too hot!" yelled Miles, "The odds aren't looking good, Ace!"
"What about punching out?!"
"Won't work at this altitude buddy!"
Harley squeezed his eyes even tighter. So this is it. Sorry, mom. Guess I left you after all.
"Ace!" Harley heard his friend shouting but said nothing in reply. "Ace goddamnit answer!" Harley forced his eyes open and saw Miles looking back at him. Tears were streaming from his friend's eyes, but Harley couldn't tell if it was the emotion or the force of the wind causing them.
"What is it Jink!"
"Ace, I'm sorry! This was all my fault! If it wasn't for me we could've been back on Earth graduating UFA together!"
"I know!" yelled Harley over the wind, "I forgive you!"
Miles sounded surprised. "You do?!"
"Of course I do! You're my best friend! Nothing changes that!" Harley reached a hand forward to clasp Miles'. "...Forwards and Upwards Jink?"
Miles grinned. "Forwards and Upwards Acey!"
Harley saw the clear blue water rushing up to meet them and the last sound he registered was the sound of rending metal as their ship collided with the water. Then his senses went dark and he knew no more.
A/N: What was promised hath been delivered! The first of them anyway. The others will follow whenever I find time to write them. I'm going in chronological order and since Harley lived during the early Golden Age, he's going first. I know it's not very long and I'm not sure how long the others will be, but I hope you enjoyed!
Also, a quick key:
Alpha Mike Foxtrot = adios motherfucker
Bag = flight suit
Booming = partying/drinking
Charlie Foxtrot = clusterfuck
CO = Commanding Officer
Deadstick = forced landing
Delta Sierra = dumb shit
ILS = Instrument Landing System
No-load = underachiever
Oh-grav = zero gravity
Punch out = eject
Roger = I understand
Say again = Could you repeat that?
Squawk = a transponder setting
Tango Uniform = tits up
UFA = United Flight Academy
Zero-Dark-Thirty/Oh-Dark-Thirty = before dawn