The White Lily

The White Lily

5

The date was May 2nd 1945. The Soviets had just marched into Berlin with their iron horses and finally took control over the city. For many, this marked the end of the war. However, this was not the victory RAVAAF soldiers had long waited for. Pockets of resistance still remain in between the mountains and the last technologies along with the various unthinkable wonder weapons of GARD had all but found. Despite this, everyone on-base was given leisure for the night—courtesy of the Colonel.

Lydia had just completed her sortie for the day, shooting down at least 2 Messerschmitts, with several more unconfirmed kills. GARD fighters or not, it did not matter; she had always yearned the thrill of the battle. Her issued Yakovlev fighter had taken several scratches and punctures during her time flying since 1941—it had also been given upgrades throughout the war. However, it would take more than hot lead raining down from the heavens to shoot her down; the fighter was built tough… and so was the aircraft. When Lydia heard her squadron leader gave the order to RTB, she was more than relieved; the heat from the piston engine had boiled the interior of the claustrophobic cockpit. Condensation was starting to form around the edges of her flight goggles.

The airbase was not too far off from the engagement. It was a simple patrol mission that turned out calamitous for the squadron and quite well for Lydia. The fuel gauge screamed for rest, begging her to land—15 minutes’ worth of fuel was all that is left in the tanks. Lydia put her throttle at half stick; conserving a little bit of fuel with the cost of slower airspeed.

The squadron leader ordered Lydia to land first, following his timeless chivalry code of “ladies first”. Two of the other surviving squadron members were already queuing up behind her while the squadron leader flew high, looking around for additional threats. Lydia lined up her war machine on the tarmac—the wind was blowing against her favor, steady and calm as the hot summer evening. She deployed both the landing gear and flaps while keeping a close eye on the altimeter and the Indicated Airspeed gauge. The Yakovlev series of fighters were known to be built like trainer aircraft, so controls weren’t as flimsy as other dedicated fighters. As soon as the rubber tires touched the Earth, she raised the flaps and pressed the brake gently; making sure the rotational force doesn’t cause the nose to pitch forward and destroy the propellers.

When she landed, she wasn’t aware of the Soviet victory, so the scene of dozens of men getting drunk and dancing on the base raised her eyebrows. She immediately brought her war machine to a halt on the tarmac, braking just a little too hard for the tail to raise slightly. A large group of her ground crew comrades marched onto her aircraft with bottles of vodka on their hands and told her everything about it. If anything, she wasn’t happy about the victory, she knew that ending the war would put an end to her career. When Lydia agreed to join the RAVAAF, she was promised a better life, accommodations by the west and her very own personal war machine—no more shared aircraft and no more replacing the white lily on her cockpit. As much as she loved her motherland, she does not want to go back.

Lydia tried not to think much of it now, she was exhausted and wanted to share her comrade’s joy. She took off her flight cap, revealing her bright blonde hair, fluttering on the gentle evening wind. The sun was low and the constant stream of cold air stripped off the sweat dripping from her eyebrows. She was handed a bottle of vodka and two cigarettes by her mechanic. Lydia was standing on her aircraft’s wings and she swore she saw every single staff of the base gathered around her. She joined in on the excitement, however, she saw the squadron leader’s plane taxiing further into the base. She figured that he had to report the mission results to the commanding officer. Someone at the back of the crowd had shouted “Za Rodinu!”. There weren’t a lot of Russians on the base, so Lydia shouted back “For the Motherland!” for her English and American comrades. They all chanted in unison.

The base was filled with laughter, songs and drunken stupor all the way until sundown and what feels into midnight. The Americans had played swing music on the base’s PA system and the Russians sang their own folk songs. Pockets of ground crew and pilots alike playing soccer on the poorly lit tarmac, with several others practicing and trying out each other’s dance moves. The English, American and Russian staff sang their anthems one after another, often accompanied with trombones and trumpets some had carried over. Lydia was overjoyed when her comrades started singing Katyusha; her favorite wartime folk song—she thought that song was incredibly romantic.

Lydia had been drinking and chatting with her flight mechanic in one of the main hangars, just beside of her aircraft. Observing his behavior these past few weeks, Lydia could clearly tell he had a thing going on with her. He was also a Russian just like her, so they were already culturally connected. He was fun to talk to and periodically tells awkward jokes but not to the point that it’s creepy. However, he never made a move on her. Lydia was ready to settle down, especially after the death of her former wingman when she was still serving under the Red Air Force. She figured she’d poke and tease him time to time just to see his reaction. The sight of him squirming was entertaining for her to watch. Maybe the fact that she could emerge victorious in one-on-one dogfights demotivated him from making an official move.

The vodka bottle Lydia had in her hand was already half empty just a few hours into the night. She tried not to drink too much as she was still assigned several sorties tomorrow. Veering off of her peaceful mind, Lydia noticed that she hadn’t seen her squadron leader ever since he went to the Colonel’s office—might be best if she checked up on him… and maybe back him up if the Colonel was giving him hell. She flicked her half-smoked cigarette and parted her mechanic goodbye. She picked up an unopened bottle from an unguarded crate with her on the way to the Colonel’s office. Benny Goodman’s On the Sunny Side of the Street was playing ever so loud; she could barely hear her thoughts.

The Colonel’s office was just next to the Air Traffic Controller tower. This part of the base was thinly manned as everyone was out on the hangars and the tarmac, even the ATC officers. As she walked out of the festivities, the cheers and laughter were slowly dissipating. The cold night atmosphere was brushing against her arms due to the absence the body heat from the partying personnel. It was quiet but not dark.

As she opened the door to the office, she saw the Colonel, lying in a puddle of his own blood with what seems like a fountain pen jammed to his upper vertebrae. Lydia was frozen, almost losing her grip on the bottle. The pure shock had given her a tunnel vision and she saw nothing but a corpse lying in front of her against a pitch-black background. After what felt like a century, she regained control over her body and glanced over a figure rummaging a filing cabinet just behind the Colonel’s desk. The figure was her squadron leader—his bright brown flight suit was a dead giveaway. He wasn’t aware of Lydia’s presence; the blaring song must have drowned out the sound of her opening the door.

Wanting to take action, Lydia took a deep breath and shouted “McCarthy!”

He stopped rummaging and after a brief pause—without turning his head—replied “Litvyak.”

“What did you do?!”

McCarthy turned around and met her stare “Do you ever wonder why the Authority sent us up there?”

Puzzled, Lydia asked “What are you talking about?”

“We were told we are the ones acting as the barrier between the world and oblivion; stopping the infection of which they call GARD. And you know something? It’s all bullshit.” McCarthy threw a folder right in front of Lydia's feet.

“GARD has their own agenda and so does the Authority. The wonder weapons… we’re not destroying them, we’re seizing them.” McCarthy added. “You’ve seen for yourself what they can do. You know it’s too much power even for them.”

Lydia saw the documents laid out in front of her. Plans of various weapons, blueprints for a gigantic tank codenamed “Ratte”. She crouched and placed the vodka bottle beside her and turned the documents. Most of the content was alien to her, things such as intercontinental missiles and jet propulsion escaped her mind. The document even said where these projects are built and kept. Some pages even detail that the remains of the wonder weapons Lydia and her squadron had intercepted in the past were being restored.

Lydia stood up; head still locked on the folder. The song finally stopped and the office fell into a dead silence. Lydia saw a flash of light just outside the windows, followed by thundering explosions—the base staff had launched fireworks. She had visibly jolted, thinking the explosions were gunshots.

McCarthy walked around the desk, eyes watering, stood in front of her and said “I came here to fight a tyrant. When I heard there are more than just three, I made an oath to never return until they’re all dead. I had no plans on living under one. For Colonel Wright here… Well, he’s a start.”

His lack of remorse enraged Lydia. She took him by his collars and pinned him against the wall. “Mat' vashu, you didn’t have to kill him, there are peaceful options!”

“Peaceful?” McCarthy scoffed “Lydia, we are the living proof that peace was never an option. What do you think will happen if you stood up to them? If you really think you had a chance against them, then you should crawl back to that grave we had dug three years ago and switch places with your wingman!”

Lydia was conflicted. On one hand, she felt as betrayed as he did—she fought the Germans ever since the war broke out, trying to keep their weapons away from her Motherland. The thought of having such weapons existing just beyond these very hills dismayed her. On the other, she was against the very idea of killing a comrade. Sensing Lydia’s grip was weakening, McCarthy took her arms off of his collar.

Her heartbeats began to slow down, her breaths were labored and she felt pressure building up on her eyes.

“It’s up to you to decide. However, if you’re staying, I can’t let you leave.” McCarthy reached for his survival knife holstered on his belt. “What will it be, Lydia? Would you live under a tyrant?”


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