by the Junkyard Warrior
The Junkyard Warrior is jolted from a mid afternoon nap in front of the TV by the buzzing of his digital pager. He checks the return number, and immediately notices the code for "check your E-mail."
The Warrior sits up in his recliner, rubbing his tired eyes, and trods out the kitchen exit to the intel room, grabbing a quick cup of coffee along the way. After punching the code into the cypher lock, and looking into the retina scan, the door unlocks with a mechanical "click" and slides open. One side of the Intel room is littered with boxes from the recent computer upgrades, and the far wall is occupied with a map of North America. Thumbtacks with little flags indicate the position of former strikes.
The Mission Planning System (MPS) is humming contentedly in the corner of the room. The Satellite Scrambled E-mail system is running, with a Mailbox Icon in the middle with the flag "up" indicating there are incoming messages waiting. The Warrior pulls up to the screen in his rolling command chair and immediately finds the object of the alert.
It is another journalist, this time in Vancouver B.C., who has decided to take on the Corvette Community. The Warrior leans back and takes a long drink from the C5 Fighter Pilot coffee mug, and scratches his red hair. "Didn't they hear about Flick in Bloomington, or the guy in California?" he wonders aloud. "I am all for the First Amendment, but this is downright blasphemy."
He read it again to make absolutely sure he wasn't confused. "While DPS claims to list "celebrities" there are some names that quite frankly, we'd have to question as even being real: Zora Arkus Duntov (supposedly an industrial engineer)..."
Yes, that's what it said, all right. Amazing. The MPS completed planning the mission, following the instructions sent in from Headquarters in Atlanta. The rest of the squadron was either off rotation, or performing maintenance on their Jets. The squadron leader was preparing for his long mission into cyberspace coming up, and it looked like the Junkyard Warrior would be flying alone. Well, almost alone. The light on the cartridge unit went out, indicating the program was complete. The Warrior checked his watch, it was 16:45, plenty of time to check the plane and take a shower before dark. The jets were rearmed and fueled after the short trip to Atlanta the day before, and the Warrior was anxious to fly again.
He drank the rest of his coffee, and headed for the showers. While washing his hair, he mused at the nerve of the newspaper. It is unthinkable in today's electronic age that someone would run a story without checking his facts. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but you'd better at least have a defendable informed opinion if you intend to offend thousands of people with it.
He finished his shower and strapped on his Nomex flight suit and tall black and gray matching camouflage jump boots. He kissed his wife good-bye and went back to the Intel room. He scanned the map one last time, making special note of the commercial and military flight routes outlined in blue and red across the surface. He picked up the manila envelope from the desk and headed for the hangar.
Another retina scan and fingerprint analysis, and the hangar access door whooshed open. The Pilot still gets goose bumps every time he approaches the Yellow jet. He pauses to look at the poster on the wall. It is a picture of a twisted yellow heap on a hook, being delivered to his door on a flatbed truck. He laughs as he remembers the look on the neighbor's faces, and the many who said it could never fly again. "Yep, it was a lot of work, but it was worth it" he muses.
He climbs into the low slung canopy, and inserts the cartridge into the ICP (Integrated Core Processor) to the right of the pilot's controls. The Data Transfer Cartridge (DTC) begins to hum as the information is downloaded. The pilot turns the key to the right one stop, and begins the preflight process. The ICP screen illuminates with the into screen, replaying an air to air conflict from the Gulf War, then flashes to the Current Mission Objectives screen. The Warrior scans quickly through the target location, air routes in the vicinity, weather reports, and possible threats screen. Nothing unusual.
The computer cycled through the remaining target sequence and made a special note as to the air to air refueling leg of the journey. The pilot was slightly apprehensive about this part, but decided it was not worth worrying about yet. The specially coded transmitter opened the hangar wall at the back, and the pilot lit up the jet's twin turbocharged LS-1 engines and backed out into the dusk, past the covered remains of a yet another new project.
With the engines idling quietly, the pilot closed the hangar door and lowered the canopy. The helmet's built in Heads up display showed each engine's operating parameters in the lower corresponding corner, and the Pilot quickly calibrated the jet's electronic throttles to bring the right engine's RPM up to the same level as the left's. Another minute ticks by and the oil and temperature readings stabilize, and the Warrior taxis down to the edge of the short runway. The moon is almost directly over the end of the runway, and the pilot jabs the throttle and begins the takeoff roll. It is crystal clear in North Carolina this night, and it seems that pulling up at the end of the runway will drive the little yellow jet into the surface of the celestial object. It doesn't, but the pilot is still awed by the magnificent view.
The G-suit relaxes its grip on his thighs, and the plane flies level at 10,000 feet. The first leg of the journey is a short one. At 600MPH, Bowling Green is less than an hour away. The computer screen displays a topographical representation of the terrain below. When the GPS senses the target is near, the plane automatically descends to 500 feet, and goes into attack mode. The plains of Kentucky's farmland are wide and open beneath the yellow jet. A fellow C5 fighter pilot's ground transportation was destroyed in a vicious attack last week, and the mission request was approved just in time to make it on tonight's docket. The warrior hesitantly let the jet keep control of the weapons as the screen went from the terrain map to an enlarged infrared view of the intended target. A farmhouse and driveway ahead. The ultra sensitive cameras (borrowed from the SR-71) show the name "Bashem" on the mailbox. The computer had indeed located the right place. The infrared signature of the School bus was enormous. The exhaust system and engine were plainly visible, as was the driver's seat. The image appeared ghostly with the heating system of the bus keeping the interior warm enough to stand out against the night sky on the infrared viewer. There were no human occupants on board, so the pilot began his attack run. The missile fairings on the side of the jet lowered with a slight hydraulic whine, and the four missile rotary launch platform slid from its berth. The computer beeped to confirm its missile lock, and the pilot simply watched as the white hot missile exhaust streaked away from the plane, buffeting in the cross wind, and honed in on their huge yellow target.
One missile malfunctioned, and veered to the right of the bus, impacting a small barn a block from the bus. The port missile impacted on the engine compartment, after flying through the driver's window. The yellow bus raised about five feet in the front, and set back down on its fiery wheels. Thick plumes of black smoke erupted from the rear windows, and the target melted into itself. The Pilot manually took control of the yellow jet and circled the area, checking the damage. The small shed was burning, and the computer replay of the impact showed chicken carcasses flying into the night. The pilot laughed a sick laugh just as the sound of something impacting the jet got his attention. The occupants of the farmhouse were firing shotgun blasts blindly after him into the night. A few lucky pellets managed to harmlessly strike the underbelly of the C5 fighter jet and bounce back to earth.
DISCLAIMER: NO CHICKENS WERE ACTUALLY INJURED IN THE TYPING OF THIS FICTIONAL STORY
With the fun over, the pilot climbed to a safe altitude, and dropped a small package out the window to the ground below. It was a C5 emblem with JYW on the back. The pilot then grinned and aimed the jet skyward and barrel rolled out of sight of the angry couple, its four oval taillights twinkling in the night sky. "That bus won't hurt anyone again" he chuckled.
The GPS and computer guided jet was once allowed to fly itself, and the pilot relaxed and opened the thermos for some coffee, and munched on a twinkie. He dimmed the cockpit lighting and savored his view of the night sky from 30,000 feet. The moon was behind him now, and instruments of the dashboard seemed to hover in mid air in front of his leather wrapped steering wheel. He sipped his coffee contentedly and the sounds of ZZ-Top softly played in the music system. The pilot enjoyed a moment with his aircraft, and was truly thankful to be there.
The long Northwest journey took the pilot over Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, and across South Dakota. It was here that the pilot was to prepare for his first air-to-air refueling. The jets twin saddle fuel tanks were slightly below half empty, and topping them off would allow for the mission to be completed with no further stops. The C5 fighter squadron's computer system interfaced with the U.S. Air Force's Mainframe Aircraft Logistics and Fuel System (MALFS), and thanks to a cooperative arrangement, the squad had a fuel account. The Warrior hesitated to break electronic silence, but turned on the IFF transponder, as instructed by the flight computer, and set for mode IV, which is the military only scrambled channel. He dialed up the frequency for the KC-135 squadron from Grand Forks, North Dakota, and picked up his tanker immediately.
The tanker squadron runs a constant racetrack of the area in order to fuel the base's B-52s in case they are scrambled for a National Defense emergency."Juliet Yankee Whisky-Alpha" we have radar contact, two miles out, please respond" came the young voice on the radio. The pilot flashed the driving lights three times, and turned on the cockpit lighting. "Roger, Juliet Alpha, we have you on visual, maintain flight level Three-Zero and begin your approach." Sweat trickled down the pilot's armpits inside the flight suit, and he nervously twitched at the flight controls. A strange coppery taste appeared in his mouth, and visions of a yellow fireball plummeting from the sky distracted his attention until he cleared his head and focused on the object ahead. He slowly approached the huge flying gas station, and saw the "boom" lower and extend towards him. A small stream of vapor blew from the end of the line as the system was purged and fresh fuel filled the lines. "I was wondering why we loaded with this stuff tonight" said the reassuring voice. "I've heard about you guys, but never thought I'd see you up close... Easy, man, Easy... take it slow" The receptacle on the wing raised from under a concealment door, and aimed for the dancing net at the end of the flying gas hose. "Roger, that's it -- set autopilot and enjoy the show"
The Pilot raised his visor and wiped the sweat from his brow, noting how damp his entire body had become, and he watched the instruments register fuel flowing into the tanks. The flaps automatically compensated for the weight change and the two craft flew as one in a strange mating ritual. Once he was assured that all was well, he took time to look at the immense aircraft above him. He switched off his IFF transponder, and looked at the "boomer." Young kid, maybe twenty or twenty one. Underneath the pod where he sat were stencils of the aircraft he had refueled. The boomer was concentrating at the task at hand, keeping the fuel flowing in a highly professional manner. There were silhouettes of F-15s, F-16s, and an SR-71 below the glass. The pilot made a mental note to send the airman a C5 Fighter Jet Decal. On the inside of the glass canopy ten feet away, the pilot could make out photos of the boomer's family, dog, and Corvette. Looked like a mid seventies coupe, with a tunnel ram dual quads coming up out of the hood. "Your all set" came the voice, and the pilot disengaged the refueling pod. "Nice Vette" the warrior commented into the headset, "You really should think about buying it a brick at the National Corvette Museum." "One step ahead of you, already did," came the reply... "fly safe." And the airmen exchanged waves.
Fuel tanks now full, the aircraft stealthy headed Northwest, lights out, for another three hours flying time until the real fun begins.
The Canadian border passed below and the pilot approached Vancouver from the North and East avoiding the commercial airliner's approach path to the local airport. The Sun building and printing complex were a massive high rise structure in the middle of downtown. The targeting computer superimposed dots onto the drawing of the structure indicating critical impact points. The jet was laden with four five hundred pound bombs, each capable of immense destruction.
The complex no doubt provides jobs for many fine people, and the lights were shining brightly in the early morning hour. It was midnight locally, and the parking lot was devoid of most vehicles except a few. The computer picked out the editor's spot, which was occupied with a Ford Explorer. There were no "friendly" vehicles present.
The pilot slowly circled the building and noticed the roof doubled as a smoking area for the plant employees. None had spotted the blacked out jet from above...yet.
The pilot considered all options for a moment, and decided upon a "friendly" plan of action. He made a low pass over the rooftop, and tossed a manila envelope out of the window. It smacked an unsuspecting smoker in the back of the head, but didn't hurt the envelope.
The pilot then banked hard towards the parking lot and selected his wing mounted 50mm machine guns. The helmet's heads up display easily picked out the center of the explorer in the night vision face shield and the pilot gently squeezed the trigger. A whooshing sound emitted from the Yellow Jet. Streaks of orange and white metal streamed onto the concrete making twin troughs in the concrete and asphalt below. The Explorer had the unfortunate honor of being at the end of a trough and was caught in the ribbon of automatic weapons fire and was promptly converted into swiss cheese. The gun cameras recorded everything in slow motion for later enjoyment. Strangely, the vehicle did not explode. It lay there twisted , three of its tires flat, no glass remaining, but entirely too complete for the mission to be considered "accomplished."
The pilot opened the bomb-bay doors, and made another pass over the parking lot. As he reached 100 feet in altitude, from a quarter mile away, he could see the crowd gathering on the rooftop of the building. Many stood there in stunned silence as the whistling sound of two bombs dropping from the jet filled the night sky... The laser guided bombs impacted within a twenty foot radius of the Ford, the multiple concussions blew windows out for several blocks, but the job was at last complete. The largest part of the remaining debris left was a section of the roof rack about fifteen inches long. The rest was turned into dust. The pilot circled the parking lot once again, noting the stunned onlookers shaking themselves off, and admired the new man-made crater.
"No civilian casualties" he noted, and as quickly as he arrived, he flew off into the night sky
One dust covered individual on the rooftop stared in disbelief at the smoking hole where his Explorer once sat. A water main had been ruptured, and streams of high pressure liquid shot straight into the air. "Chief" someone yelled, "He dropped this right before the bombs went off." Inside the manila envelope, the editor leafed through the photographs, magazine and newspaper articles left by the pilot. He saw the videocassette, and finally removed the C5 emblem from the pouch. He turned it over and read the inscription.
"Love and kisses from the C5 Fighter Jet Squadron, we thought you might need some material for your next article."
Hope you enjoyed the mission...
Yellow C5 Fighter Jet found crashed in the desert