Disclaimer: Joss, Owns em’. I’m just playing. No money being made.
A/N: Another “I Choose You” verse prequel. Dawn joined the US Navy. Here's one snippet of her career.
Dawn patrol. That first launch of the new day. CAP. Combat Air patrol. Who knew that Xander's old nickname for her would be so literal one day.
Lieutenant Commander, Dr. Dawn Summers-O'Neill. Operations officer for US Navy Strike Fighter Squadron 137. The Kestrels. Dawn grinned slightly as she fondly remembered Xander. They had lost so many over the years in the fight against the things that went bump in the night. But what had taken some of their closest family didn't come from the depths of hell but from the blackness of space.
Xander and Buffy's husband, Eddie Mullen in Cleveland back in 2011. That damn left over G'aould snake, Set'ar. The snake had taken over a minor magic user named David Blake. But since Blake knew magic and the supernatural, so did Set'ar. The son of a bitch tried opening the Cleveland Hellmouth. And in the battle between the slayers, Set'ar's Jaffa and a response force from the SGC. Both Eddie and Xander had fallen in that fight.
Willow had fried the bastard on the spot. Killing all the Jaffa in the process. But the battle had been on live TV thanks to a couple of news helicopters and both the supernatural and extraterrestrial had been exposed to the world.
It had been a mess. Governments rose and feel in the middle east and third world. The repercussions were still being felt now. Even fifteen years after the fact. The SGC today had a budget that rivaled a stand alone branch of the US military.
And now the SWCI was a civilian agency fighting the supernatural with the blessing of not only the superpowers but the UN as well.
With the sudden expansion of the SGC, Dawn's husband, Jon O'Neill had been called to duty with the USAF. And since Dawn wanted to fly the 'good stuff'. She decided to enlist as well.
Thanks to the then wording of the UCMJ or Uniform Code of Military Justice. Dawn couldn't be a USAF officer and be married to a higher ranking military officer of the same branch.
And since Dawn wanted to fly fighters. That meant either the US Navy or Marines.
She easily could have enlisted and then attended OCS with her Doctorates but since under the UCMJ she couldn't go that route since, if even for a short time, she would have been an enlisted seaman. She had to go the service academy route.
And that meant Annapolis.
And she even managed to graduate despite another tragedy that took not only her husband but several of her closest friends.
Jon had been assigned to the USS Hammond under Sam Carter's command. It was Sam's last tour before promotion to Brigadier General and a tour as the CO of the SGC. Cam Mitchel was to be her replacement as CO of the Hammond.
But the attack by aliens, had destroyed the Hammond. Taking not just Sam who Dawn looked upon like another older sister or maybe cool aunt. But her husband of five years and a good chunk of her best friends. From Violet Beauregard to Bree Spellman and Even Vala Mal Doran. Who was a strange cross between Faith and Anya.
Now it was 2021, and of the core group, only Buffy, Faith, Willow and Dawn remained. Giles having passed away three years previous from a heart attack in his sleep at age 61. Faith's husband, Robin Wood along with Rona had been killed by the Detroit PD in a case of mistaken identity in 2014. Robin looked a great deal like a wanted drug dealer they were after who had killed three cops.
Kennedy had fallen in a fight back in '17 against a mixed troupe of demons who had led her and her small slayer team into a trap.
Only Sofia Colleti had survived. Although gravely injured. The fight had claimed three other slayers and Andrew Wells. The former mad trio member had come a long way from Sunnydale to be the Deputy Director of Magic for the SWCI.
Willow nearly went dark again after that. Loosing Kennedy so few years after Xander and Eddie and then Jon had changed her. Willow shook herself out of her rage and depression with Buffy's help and then dove into her magic. And science as well. Knowing Sam Carter had been a huge boost to the redhead. Taking Willow back to her science geek roots so to speak. Giles had then postulated that Willow with her knowledge both mundane and arcane was probably the most powerful mortal the world had ever seen.
Dawn snorted at that thought. Mortal. That was something she wasn't. Same could be said for Buffy and Faith. And now, even Willow. Dawn might look thirty four, thanks to a spell on the cross she always wore but if she were to take it off, Dawn Summers actually looked barely out of her teens.
She, as well as her sister and Faith seemed to be virtually immortal. At least in the aging sense. Buffy and Faith still got hurt slaying. But they healed incredibly quickly from it. Like vamp fast. Something that had happened after the spell to call all the potentials.
As for Dawn. She was the key after all. She had stopped aging at age twenty one... or seven if you didn't count her false memories. Willow... well. She was so powerful now that time didn't seem to affect her.
“Doc? You okay?” Lt. Celina Ramos, Dawn's wingman asked.
“I'm fine, Rammer,” Dawn replied. Using the woman's call sign like she had done for Dawn, “Just a little reminiscing.”
“Better get your head in the game, Boss,” Ramos replied, “The Indians are getting frisky.”
Dawn sighed, “I know.”
The current dust up between India and Pakistan had spilled into the Indian ocean and the Persian gulf. Iran's government had fallen after the revelation that not only the supernatural was real but the Iranian government knew it and was trying to use demons as weapons.
Also, Tehran had an incipient Hellmouth. The morons had screwed the pooch so bad that the hellmouth had begun to open. And to save the day. They had used their only nuclear weapon to try and kill whatever had come out of the hellmouth. Amazingly it had worked. Willow had done her best to place containment spells on the now highly radioactive wasteland that had been the Iranian Capital. That hellmouth was closed. And no demon wanted to go there anyway.
The Afghans had been pissed about the fallout and had moved in along with the Iraqis to take over the former Iran. They had been fairly amicable. Only a few rounds of artillery fire had been exchanged. But that Pakistanis now wanted more territory to compete and since China to the north wasn't a safe bet by any stretch of the imagination. That left India.
And since Pakistan was a nominal US ally. (Even though India was one, sort of) the Indians began making plans to do more than squabble over Kashmir like they had been for the last thirty years.
Now, the Indian government had told the UN that the Indian Ocean was named that for a reason and other nations were not welcome. Resulting in a right of navigation patrol by the second fleet. Centered around the USS Abraham Lincoln. And enforcing that right on both the sea and air fell to Dawn's squadron and their partners, VFA 151. The Vigilantes. Flying Lockheed F-35C Lightning II's. Dawn flew the Boeing F-18E Super Hornet.
While the 35's were sneaky, being stealth aircraft. She was a bit more “in your face” and preferred the Rhinos as they were known in the fleet. Even though she was qualified to fly either.
Dawn picked up her flight helmet and placed it on her head. She plugged in the oxygen mask and communication and data leads to the testing machine and began her daily diagnostic check of the helmet.
The oxygen mask worked as advertized and the small computer ran the helmet's targeting systems through it's paces.
One of the bleed overs from the F-35 program had been integrated Infrared visual sensors all over the aircraft. The on board computer then fed this data visually into the display in her visor. It mean that if Dawn could see it, she could shoot a missile at it. And with the new AIM-9Y Sidewinder missiles, originally developed for the F-302 space fighter, the targets she could shoot could even be nearly behind her.
“Ready, Boss?” Ramos asked?
“Let's hit it, Rammer,” Dawn grinned.
“No innuendo in that statement... at all.”
“Not my fault you got hung with that call sign, Cel.”
“Doc is so much better, Dawn” the Lieutenant replied as they headed for the flight deck and their aircraft.
“Sorta fits, I mean, I got two PhD's.”
“Yeah but the decal of Doc from snow white on the back of your helmet?”
“Let's go scare some airliners...” Dawn grumbled.
The sun was just poking over the horizon as big 'Abe' turned into the wind to launch aircraft.
260,000 horsepower quickly accelerated the massive carrier to her nominal thirty knot speed for launch. With the gusting fifteen knot wind today, the ship effectively had forty five knots of wind over the deck.
Upon hand signals from the yellow shirt visible outside her canopy, Dawn unfolded her Hornet's wings and she taxied forward over the launch cradle. The deck crew efficiently connected the jet to the catapult. Next to Dawn, the crew was doing the same for Lt. Ramos.
The lead yellow shirt held up the weight board. Dawn gave him a thumbs up. And inside the launch control cab, set into the deck. A sailor dialed in the takeoff weight of Dawn's plane.
Set for launch, the yellow shirt gave her the hand signal to wind up her engines. Dawn swiftly slid the throttles into afterburner. When the engine indicators had stabilized, Dawn snapped a salute at the shooter and then leaned her head back against her seat and grabbed the handles on either side of the windshield frame.
The yellow shirted shooter then stepped forward in a crouch and pointed down the deck towards the bow. And with a lurch of acceleration, Dawn's Hornet was tossed into the brightening dawn.
“Kestrel three, checking in,” Dawn said into her radio.
“Kestrel three, copy.” replied the controller in the Hawkeye radar aircraft eighty miles to her rear. Call sign Black Eagle.
The sun was now up fully. An hour into their two hour patrol and so far, nothing in her sector.
“You awake over there?” Dawn called to her wingman.
“Brought coffee this time, Doc.” Chuckled Lt. Ramos.
“Be nice if I did,” Dawn grumbled, “This is just a little too boring for me...”
“Doc! What did you always tell me about Murphy?”
“Kestrel Three, Black Eagle. Bogie. 350 degrees at two hundred miles. Angels three seven. Five hundred knots.”
“Crap!” Dawn swore, “Rammer tighten it up. Black Eagle, any idea what it is?” Dawn said as she turned her plane to intercept.
“Time is right and the return is big enough for the regular Air India Airbus 380 to Sydney. Squawking commercial but the speed is off.”
“Copy, Black Eagle. Rammer, keep em peeled.”
“Kestrel three, vectoring Shooter six your way along with Kestrel eight.”
“Copy Black Eagle,” Dawn replied.
Two hundred miles was outside her own radar's effective range but she was receiving a data stream from the Hawkeye's AEW radar on her screen and steering cues on her heads up display. If the bogie was hostile. All it's radar warning receiver would see was the Hawkeye and the air search radars from the battle group.
Dawn had upped her speed to five hundred knots. At this altitude, nearly supersonic. Dawn and her wingman were loaded strictly for air to air. Four AIM-120S Radar guided missiles and four AIM-9Y Heat seekers. Not to mention 578 rounds for the internal 20mm Gatling cannon. Additionally they both carried a pair of external fuel tanks.
Her infrared system was scanning ahead as well. Feeding imagery to her helmet display.
“Kestrel Three, Black Eagle. Getting weird back scatter reflections from the bogie.”
Dawn was about to reply when she got a single hit on her radar warning receiver. Directly ahead of her, “Spike! Air to air. Three five zero!”
“Same Doc,” Rammer replied.
“Bandit. Bandit, Bandit!” called out Rammer a minute later as her radar receiver suddenly lit up as they closed to forty miles, “Missiles inbound!”
“Chaff, flare!” Dawn called, “Stay tight.”
A new voice came on the radio. The voice of the Abraham Lincoln's Captain, “All flights. Weapons green. Authenticate foxtrot.”
“Copy, weapons green,” Dawn replied, “Rammer, lets go get em!”
Dawn had already activated her radar jammer and her own radar. What once was one large radar blip now was fifteen blips. And her radar's computer was telling her that the bandits were probably a mix of Dassault Rafales and Eurofighter Typhoons.
“We're in it deep, Doc,” Rammer called out as they continued to jink.
Dawn bit her lip under her oxygen mask, “Go offensive!”
Dawn clicked a button on the stick and locked a target on her display, “Fox three, Typhoon!”
An AIM-120 'Slammer' erupted from the launch rail below Dawn's Hornet's left wing and accelerated to mach 4.5.
Dawn's radar was now picking up the incoming missiles towards her and Rammer. A smoke trail from her wingman with another fox three call told Dawn that Rammer was in the fight as well.
Dawn popped flares and chaff again to try and spoof the incoming missiles, “Rammer, break right! Let's loose the Doppler!”
Turning side on to the incoming missiles, Dawn hoped to break their lock by decreasing the Doppler shift the radars needed for a valid target. The screaming in her headphones decreased as one by one, the radars lost lock.
Six smoke trails shot by behind Dawn's plane. Smiling, she racked her Hornet back towards the hostiles. The airframe shuddering and vapor rolling off the wing roots as she pulled six G's in the turn. Rammer right behind her.
“Fox three, Rafale!” Rammer called out
A puff of smoke and fire about ten miles ahead meant the destruction of one of the Indian fighters, “Splash Typhoon!” Dawn called out.
“Splash Rafale!” yelled out Rammer.
Suddenly they were in the middle of the now broken formation of Indian fighters.
“Kestrel three merged! Hostile Typhoons and Rafales! Kestrel eight, Shooter six, get your asses up here!”
“ETA eight minutes. Hold on girls.” said the voice of Shooter Six. The Abe's CAG.
“Fox two, Typhoon!” Rammer called out and another Indian plane went up in a flash of fire. Dawn saw the pilot eject.
Banking right, Dawn had a pair of Typhoons in front of her. She could see they were armed for air to air. A Rafale crossed her nose and Dawn swore. The French built fighter was carrying Exocet anti-ship missiles. “Rammer! Concentrate on the Rafales. They got Exocets! I'll take the Typhoons!”
Dawn continued her turn behind the pair of Typhoons. She was looking over her right shoulder. Hitting the lock stud on the stick, her helmet's display locked up both aircraft.
“Fox two, fox two!”
A Sidewinder erupted from either wingtip. Their smoke trails breaking hard away from Dawn's Hornet. The Sidewinders able to pull twenty G turns with their thrust vectoring rocket engines. Unfortunately they both tracked the same aircraft.
That Typhoon died in a huge fireball. The pilot never had a chance to eject.
Dawn's radar warning system screamed at her, “Doc! Break left! Flare! Bandit on you!” Rammer cried over the radio.
Dawn slammed the stick to the left and hauled it into her stomach. Her legs screamed in pain as the G-suit she wore tried to force the blood back into her torso.
“Over G, Over G.” called out the on board warning system or as it was known, 'Bitching Betty'.
Dawn snapped her plane level, her helmet nearly bouncing off the canopy. Sweat ran down her back and tried to sneak past the sweat band of her helmet. A glance over her shoulder, and Dawn saw the Typhoon that almost got her. She reversed her turn and pitched down nearly vertical. As the typhoon tried to hi yo-yo on her. Dawn pulled her throttles to idle and popped her speed brakes. Her Hornet shuddered as it decelerated. Rolling right, Dawn slid in behind the other fighter. The range was less than a mile and she slammed the throttles into afterburner.
The Hornet leaped forward and Dawn slid into the other pilot's six o'clock. A quick flick of Dawn's thumb and she switched from missiles to guns, “Just a little closer, asshole...” Dawn whispered to herself.
She laid the gunsight pipper on the Typhoon and squeezed the trigger. Smoke flew back across her canopy as the nose mounted 20mm cannon spit a thousand rounds a minute at the fleeing jet.
Dawn fired a three second burst. Nearly half of her rounds seemed to hit and the Typhoon was nearly cut in half. As the Indian jet's fuel ignited, Dawn saw the pilot eject, “Splash Typhoon, guns!”
“Fox three, Rafale!” Rammer called out. “Splash Rafale!”
Another Typhoon slid in front of Dawn. It was off bore sight but well within the engagement envelope for Sidewinders, “Fox two, Typhoon!”
“Splash!” Dawn crowed after a moment
“Bingo Fuel. Bingo Fuel,” Bitching Betty intoned.
“Fuck,” Dawn swore, “Rammer, out of burner now! Bingo!”
Dawn looked around. The fifteen attacking fighters were now down to eight. Six Typhoons and two Rafales. Dawn had accounted for four of them. Rammer three. Dawn's radar warning reviver squawked again and Dawn threw her jet into a snap roll and dove towards the ocean, 25,000 feet below. She went supersonic in the dive and then pulled out level, “Rammer, where are you?”
“Three miles west. Fox two, Rafale.”
Dawn saw the smoke trail shoot away from a black dot in the sky towards another black dot. Flares erupted from the second dot and the missile lost lock. Tracers shot by Dawn's canopy and she snap rolled again and cranked into a turn to the right, spitting flares and chaff in her wake. The attacking Typhoon and his wingman overshot as Dawn decelerated and turned back into them. She kept a wary eye on her fuel gauges. She had less then three thousand pounds. Barely enough to get back to the carrier without hitting a tanker. And she was still committed to the fight.
“The Rafales are heading for the deck!” Rammer shouted.
“Shit,” Dawn said. She checked her navigational display. They were less than eighty miles from the battle group. Well inside the range for an Exocet, “Rammer. Take the right guy. I got left!”
Dawn's RWR was screaming in her ears but she needed to splash the Rafale. It was more than close enough to put a pair of Exocet’s into Big Abe.
Smoke trails shot away from Rammer's Rafale. Followed a second later by Dawn's target.
“Vampire. Vampire!” Dawn called out over the radio quickly followed by, “Fox three, Rafale!”
“Fox three, Rafale!” echoed Rammer.
The pair of Rafales began to turn away but they were too late. Both planes went up in fireballs.
Suddenly, Dawn felt a big thump and then a bang. Tracers shot by her canopy and Bitching Betty started yelling about an engine fire.
A quick glance at the engine display showed the bad news. Her right engine was on fire and her hydraulics were dropping. Dawn triggered the fire extinguishers for her starboard engine. The fire bell stopped after a few seconds.
“Doc's Hit! Doc's Hit!” Dawn called out.
“Fox Two!” Rammer yelled, “Splash. I got him, Doc!”
Dawn looked over her shoulder to check damage and she saw another Typhoon lining up on her. The angle was extreme but her jet was flying like a beached whale and any heavy maneuvering would just deplete the hydraulics faster.
Locking her helmet sight, Dawn pulled the trigger, “Fox two!”
The sidewinder shot off the launch rail and about two hundred feet in front of the crippled Hornet, it did an almost ninety degree right turn and arrowed towards the Typhoon that was targeting Dawn. A second later the missile flew into the left intake of the Typhoon and the plane disappeared in a fireball.
The remaining four Typhoons made a break for home but seconds later, multiple calls of fox three on the net resulted in eight Slammers hitting four jets. Shooter six and Kestrel eight had arrived.
Dawn took a deep breath and let it out. A few moments later Rammer slid up on her right wing, “Looks bad, Doc,” Rammer said after a few seconds of looking over Dawn's crippled jet.
Another jet slid up on Dawn's left. A Lockheed F-35 belonging to the CAG. Or Commander Air Group. Captain Steven Jackson, “How you doing, Doc?” he asked over the radio.
“Still flying... sorta, CAG,” Dawn replied, “I got about another ten minutes of hydraulics left I figure. Then I guess I'm going for a swim.”
“Copy. Come left one four zero, we'll try to get as close to the helo's as we can before you have to punch out. Outstanding job, Commander. You too, Lieutenant.”
“Thank you, Sir,” Rammer replied for the both of them.
Dawn mentally went over her ejection procedures. She patted the top of her Hornet's instrument panel, “You did good girl. Gonna miss you...”
The plane replied by suddenly pitching up nearly vertically. The CAG and Rammer banking away sharply to avoid a mid air collision. The sudden pitch up combined with the plane's damage was too much and the Hornet began to break up.
Dawn's hands scrambled for the ejection handle while simultaneously being tossed around the cockpit. Her helmet bounced off the canopy hard. Even with the carbon fiber helmet. The impact nearly knocked her unconscious.
As the Jet's ruptured fuel cells began to ignite. Dawn's hands closed around the ejection handle and she pulled.
The explosive bolts fired and the canopy flew back. A quarter second later, the rocket engine in the zero-zero seat fired. Flinging her clear of the growing fireball that had been her jet.
The G forces of the ejection finished the job her head hitting the canopy did and she lost consciousness. Dawn's last sight was Rammer's wide eyes as her ejection seat missed the other F-18 by less than ten feet.
Back on the Abraham Lincoln, things were far from calm. Four Exocet anti-ship missiles were inbound. The battle group's AGEIS destroyers and cruisers were pumping out enough wattage from their radars to pop corn at fifty miles. The USS Fitzgerald. An Arleigh Burke class guided missile destroyer was closest to the incoming Exocets.
The Fitzgerald's skipper, Commander Tonya Pace, turned a key on her console in the ship's Combat Information Center. Letting the Fitzy's AGEIS radar system run the show.
Six, Block III Standard Missiles erupted from the forward vertical launch tubes. The missiles climbed to about five thousand feet before pitching over and heading for the incoming Vampires. As the anti-ship missiles were designated.
Ten seconds later, four puffs of smoke on the horizon spelled the end of the incoming Exocets. The remaining two Standard missiles self destructed.
“Ungrateful bitch,” Dawn muttered as she regained consciousness. Blinking, she looked around her. Everything was white but she could hear a roaring sound, “Am I dead?” she wondered aloud.
Dawn then realized she was hanging from a parachute and was in the middle of a cloud. A few seconds later she broke out of the bottom of the cloud. The roaring sound she heard was the CAG's F-35 flying orbits around her as she descended towards the Indian Ocean.
Shaking her head to clear it, Dawn fumbled for the survival radio in her vest. Switching it on, Dawn called out, “Doc to CAG.”
In his F-35, Captain Steven Jackson let out the breath he didn't realize he had been holding, “I read you, Doc. Status?”
“Think I got knocked out. What's my altitude?”
“Going through six thousand. Everything else okay?”
“Think so, Sir,” Dawn replied, “Rammer okay?”
“She's hitting the tanker then she'll be back to orbit you so I can get some gas. Helo's en route. ETA ten. You'll hardly have a chance to get wet.”
“How's it feel to be the first woman Ace in the US armed forces. And first ace since Vietnam?”
Dawn though she was hearing things, “Ace, Sir?”
“You got six, Doc. Rammer got five. Whoever said women couldn't fly air combat twenty years ago should be shot,” the CAG chuckled, “Going through three thousand.”
“Copy, Skipper. Got my Mae West already inflated and the raft loose from my survival pack.”
“Good girl. Fifteen hundred.”
“Signing off sir. Don't want to get the radio wet. I'll call when I'm in the raft.”
“Roger that, Doc. Good luck.”
Dawn sighed and looked at the rapidly approaching water. The seas today were about two to three feet with the occasional whitecap. At least the water would be fairly warm at something like seventy degrees. She wouldn't have to worry about hypothermia for several hours.
Just above the waves, Dawn took a deep breath and pointed her toes like she was doing a feet first high dive into a pool. She hit the water with a splash and came back to the surface immediately thanks to her inflatable vest. Quickly she hit the release buckles for her chute so it wouldn't drag her through the water. Scrambling quickly, she released her raft from the harness and pulled the inflation lanyard. In seconds, the CO2 cartridge inflated the small raft and she heaved herself in.
A roar of a jet engine could be heard approaching. About three hundred feet off the water, Dawn could see the familiar shape of an F-35. The CAG's jet passed overhead and Dawn have a big thumbs up. Knowing the optical systems on the jet would be able to let the CAG see her.
A few seconds later, she heard another jet. Even lower, Rammer passed by and slammed her Super Hornet into a turn while decelerating. Rammer dropped her flaps and slowed to just one hundred fifty knots and began flying a lazy circle around Dawn.
Dawn pulled her survival radio out and hit the transmit button, “Rammer, you copy?”
“Eaaa, what's up, Doc?” Lt. Celina Ramos said in her best Bugs Bunny imitation. Which was pretty bad.
Dawn giggled, “You've been waiting all cruise to use that line haven't you?”
“Pretty much, Doc. You okay?”
“Major headache and looking like a drowned rat but I'm intact.”
“Copy. Helo is five out. I've got an hour's gas. I can hang out in case the Indian's start sniffin around. Still got full gun ammo and a slammer and a winder left.”
“Copy. Glad you're there.”
“Another helo is goin looking for any IAF boys who bailed out.”
She nodded even though Celina couldn't see her. Dawn knew she had most assuredly killed at least three pilots today. But her other three kills had managed to eject. But that was no guarantee that they survived.
A few minutes later, Dawn heard the familiar thrum of a MH-60S Seahawk helicopter and spotted a small gray blob on the horizon as she bobbed up and down on the waves.
“Doc, this is Falcon two.”
“Copy Falcon. I'm about your two o'clock,” Dawn replied, “Popping red smoke.”
Two miles out, the Seahawk's Flight Engineer spotted Dawn and the gray painted helicopter turned towards her.
About one hundred feet away, the Seahawk began to hover twenty feet above the waves. The Helicopter's rescue swimmer jumped into the water and after giving a thumbs up, began swimming towards Dawn. The Helicopter then gained altitude and prepared to lift both the swimmer and Dawn from the water.
“Ma'am! You alright?” the swimmer called out as he got near.
“Outstanding!” Dawn replied, “Just get me the fuck outta here!”
The young sailor grinned and waved for the helicopter to move closer. The flight engineer already hanging out the side door and lowering a cable from the winch.
PO3 David Simmons crowed to himself as he clipped the lift ring first to his harness and then to Lt. Commander O’Neill's Parachute harness. He considered himself the luckiest guy in the squadron since he was got a chance to, for all intents and purposes, have the hottest woman pilot on the boat in his arms.
As the winch pulled them clear of the water, Dawn pecked the sailor on the cheek and then admonished him, “Keep those hands where they belong, Petty Officer... and thanks.”
“Welcome Ma'am,” the twenty year old rescue swimmer grinned. In the Seahawk's pilot seat, Lt. Mark Jameson just shook his head and grinned.
The Seahawk alighted on the Abraham Lincoln's deck with a slight thump. A group of brown shirts ran up to chain it down while several other crew members stood just outside the rotor disk.
As soon as the helo was secure, the flight engineer threw open the side door and hopped out, followed by PO3 Simmons. He held out his hand gallantly and yelled over the engine noise, “A hand, Milady?”
Dawn grinned and shook her head and jumped to the deck. Immediately she was swarmed by A pair of medical corpsmen, the Abe's Captain, Willard Coughenour and her immediate boss, Commander Ray Knox. The CO of the Kestrels.
Wrapped in a blanket over her sopping wet flight and G suit, Dawn tried to come to attention, “Sir!”
Captain Willard Coughenour was a quiet commander. His orders spoken in a conversational tone of voice. He seemed unflappable but with an dry wit, “How are you feeling, Commander?” he asked Dawn.
“Like a drowned rat, Sir,” Dawn replied.
The Captain and her CO chuckled, “Get down to sick bay, Dawn,” Commander Knox ordered, “And get checked out. We'll do the after action review as soon as we know you're okay.”
“Aye, Sir,” Dawn replied with a minimal roll of her eyes. All she wanted right now was a hot shower and a dry flight suit. And maybe a big plate of sliders. Dawn suddenly realized that not only Slayers got the H&H's after a fight. Dawn had been a widow for six years. And hadn't sex in that long either. Yeah. A big helping of US Navy issue, greasy cheeseburgers would hit the spot right about now.
Dripping water on the deck, Dawn followed the corpsmen into the superstructure.
Dawn blew her hair away from her face. A refreshingly hot “Hollywood” shower later. She was beginning to feel human again.
Currently she was dressed in surgical scrubs. The Flight Surgeon had sent Rammer to get her a new uniform. Dawn was going to meet with the Admiral.
Rear Admiral Andrew Jackson (I'm not that guy from the TV show) Chegwidden was a career Naval Aviator. He had cut his teeth over Baghdad in a Hornet in the first Gulf War as a Lieutenant JG fresh out of Pensacola. Now he was in charge of CBG-2 enforcing the UN sanctioned Freedom of Navigation operations in the Indian Ocean.
He had two Carriers, two Carrier air wings, a full Marine expeditionary force with it's embedded F-35B VSTOL strike fighters MV-22 Ospreys and a bunch of other rotary wing assets. He also had two Los Angeles Class and two Virginia class attack submarines and nearly twenty assorted Cruisers, Destroyers and Frigates forming up his Battlegroup.
He was a very busy man. But that didn't mean he didn't have time to meet with a pair of officers from VFA-137. Especially two female officers who were now not only the first US Navy air to air aces since Vietnam. But the first women aces anywhere that he knew of.
His aide knocked on the open hatch, “Lt. Commander O'Neill and Lt. Ramos, Sir.”
“Send them in.”
Dawn and Celina stepped stiffly into the Admiral’s office and snapped to attention, “ Lt. Commander O'Neill and Lt. Ramos reporting as ordered.” Dawn said formally. Standing stiffly before Admiral’s desk.
“At ease, ladies.”
Dawn and Celina relaxed slightly. The Admiral continued, “You both upheld the greatest traditions of Naval Aviation today.”
“Thank you, Sir,” Dawn replied.
“I've read the after action report. Did you know one of the Indian aircraft was targeting you, Commander O'Neill?”
“I was spiked, Sir. But I felt that taking out the Rafales was the priority.”
The admiral frowned slightly, “Costing the US Navy a seventy million dollar aircraft in the process. And for nothing. Both aircraft got missiles off before they were destroyed.”
Dawn gulped, “Yes sir...”
The Admiral sighed and then smiled slightly, “I would have made the same decision. You had no idea when the two aircraft were going to launch. You made the right call. And your record will reflect that. Full Commander, O'Neill.”
Dawn blinked, “Sir?”
“By order of the President. Dawn Marie Summers-O'Neill is hereby promoted to the rank of Commander.” The admiral slid a small box across his desk, “Those were my Commander's oak leaves. And hand yours, to the no longer, Lieutenant Ramos.”
“Sir?” Celina squeaked.
“You both deserve it. Fifteen to two? They don't even throw that scenario at you in Top Gun. You both should have been splashed in the first five minutes. Especially against Typhoons.”
“I know, Sir” Dawn stated, “I have forty hours in the type.”
“You do?” the Admiral asked, intrigued.
“Yes sir. I did an exchange rotation with the RAF three years ago.”
“Interesting. I didn't see that in your jacket.”
“Ahh” the Admiral nodded, “That would explain that omission.”
“SGC?” Celina asked.
“Later,” Dawn replied.
“Well... on to the heart of the matter. I have put you, Commander O'Neill, up for the Navy Cross. Ramos, you're up for the silver star. O'Neill. Since you were knocked out. You're also getting a Purple Heart.”
“Sir?” Dawn squeaked.
The Admiral smiled, “If it were up to me, you both would be up for a notch higher on the medal board. But I couldn't quite swing a MOH for you, Doc.”
Dawn's eyes bugged out, “Medal of Honor, Sir?”
“Oh well. A Navy Cross is pretty damn close. I know your late husband got the Air Force Cross. And your brother in law got a posthumous Presidential Medal of Freedom?”
Dawn nodded, “I have Jon's cross at home sir. My sister has Eddies PMF.”
“Seems heroism runs in the family, Commander. Since I know what your sister does for a living.”
“When does the sawbones think you'll be ready to fly again?”
“Two days. As long as I'm symptom free, sir.”
“Good. As long as you pass the checkup, I want you and Commander Ramos to take an F model Hornet to Diego Garcia. There a Navy C-20 will fly you home with a stop in Pearl for the medal presentations. I'd go with you but I've got to go kick a little Indian ass over that dust up today.”
“Aye, Sir!” Dawn and Celina said simultaneously.
“You're both off duty for the next forty eight hours. Get some rest. Dismissed.”
Dawn and Celina snapped to attention, “Aye aye, sir!”
“You've worked at the SGC?” Celina asked as she and Dawn headed for the Air Department's Wardroom.
Dawn shrugged, “Can't say much about it. I was XO for an SG team between deployments. I just came back to the fleet this spring.”
“You've been in space? On other worlds?” Celina asked bouncing like an exited five year old.
Dawn giggled, “Yes and yes. I've even got a few hours in an F-302.”
Celina lightly slugged Dawn's arm, “Bitch. Space or atmosphere?”
“I'll say it again. Bitch. A 302 is the holy grail for a fighter pilot.”
Dawn grinned, “They are a sweet ride. The new D models are the cats ass. But I got to backseat in one even before I enlisted.”
“How the hell did you manage that?” Celina asked as they rounded a corner.
“My late husband... he was with the SGC and Colonel Carter was kinda like a big sister to me. She set it up.”
All further conversation ended when they entered the Wardroom. To a standing ovation.
Dawn and Celina stumbled back to their shared quarters. While US Navy ships were officially dry. Thanks to the Chief of the Boat. Both Dawn and Celina had something more in their plastic cups than the usual iced tea, Coke or bug juice.
The party that the CAG had arranged went into the wee hours. At least for the two heroines of the hour. Commander Sylvia Reynolds, the XO for VFA-151 had led them back to their racks.
Dawn collapsed across her bunk, “Wooo that was some party...”
Celina giggled, “Sure wash.... was.”
“You... are drunk,” Dawn proclaimed.
“So are you,” Celina said as she fumbled with her uniform shirt buttons.
Dawn gulped when Celina's shirt came off. She had seen her roommate naked before. But for some reason, she looked hot tonight. Dawn shook her head to clear it. She knew Celina was probably gay. She had checked Dawn out plenty of times. But Dawn was the widow of a famous, killed in the line of duty, Air Force officer. And straight as an arrow.
Well. Maybe she was a little bent. Hanging out with Willow and Tara. And then Willow and Kennedy? Dawn wasn't strictly against being with a woman. But the regs... well the regs were different now. Primarily due to her and Jon and later, Jess Cavendish and Rona Williams. And don't ask, don't tell had gone by the wayside back in 2012.
Celina slid her pants down. Revealing a sexy pink thong. Dawn gulped hard. Celina had a figure like Cordelia Chase. Actually, Dawn had told Buffy. Her roommate reminded her of a nicer, Hispanic Cordy.
Dawn knew she was drunk. But not that drunk. And neither was Celina.
“Fuckit,” Dawn muttered under her breath. Followed by a few words in Latin and a hand gesture. The quick spell Dawn cast eliminated any sound from exiting their cabin. But allowed outside noise to come in.
Dawn stood quickly and as Celina's bra came off, Dawn slammed her against the bulkhead.
“Dawn?” Celina asked, seeing the fire in Dawn's eyes.
“Yes or no?” Dawn asked.
Celina knew what Dawn was asking. They would just have to be discrete, “Yes!”
That was a word, both women called out during their night together.