Book One Chapter One

Posted: March 18, 2013 in Uncategorized
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CHAPTER 1

2050 AD

The room’s lighting was subdued, small track lights in the ceiling aimed their dim light towards the walls of the room. Thirteen focused beams were directed to shine down onto the thirteen men and women seating in the room, waiting and watching. Each member of the Committee sat in lush, form-fitting chairs around the large, glass-topped conference table that dominated the room.  Every member sat under the harsh circle of light so the Chairman could scrutinize every nuance and response in their faces as the discussion began.

The members were all leaders in their respective fields of expertise.  Their circles of power included leaders of industry, financial institutions and high level government officials.  There was not a center of influence that the Chairman had not penetrated with his moles and spies.  Each member was chosen based on his wealth and influence.  They were a ruthless and remorseless group of men and women. The only one to whom they would yield to was the Chairman.

For close to fifty years, the man simply known as the Chairman, directed the actions of a criminal empire. The chairman worked behind the scenes, pulling the strings and orchestrating events around the world to suit the needs of the committee. Nothing was taboo in the quest of riches and power. The chairman and the committee members were careful to never get their hands dirty. They had others in their employ for that.

The chairman and by proxy the committee had many tools in which they could employ to get what they wanted. Blackmail, extortion, kidnapping, and murder were just a few.

The chairman stepped into the room as his aide held the door open for him. He did not even pause to acknowledge the man as he walked briskly to the head of the table. His aide rushed ahead to pullout the chair for the man to take his seat as the door closed silently behind them.

The chairman ran his meetings with a no-nonsense attitude that seemed to be reflective of this room’s starkness and lack of decoration. This room was one of many around the world that the committee would meet in and decide the fates for thousands, if not millions.

The harsh light from above the chairman exposed a man in his mid-sixties, hardly a wrinkle on his face or a grey hair on his head.  He kept himself impeccably groomed and wore only the most expensive and tailored clothing.  His stature told all around him that he was powerful and dangerous.  No one knew his true identity, nor would he allow anyone to be on familiar terms with him.

Today, he was brooding. The others knew it. The chairman spoke in a deep baritone voice that sounded as though it came from the bottom of a deep well. “Last night I got a call from one my sources within the CIA. He informed me that the U.S. is going to use one of the new stealth recon birds to fly over one of our projects in China. This cannot be allowed to happen.

“Why don’t we just remove the air crew, sabotage the aircraft? That should be easy enough,” said one of the others.

A man wearing a General’s uniform of the US army spoke up with the answer to her proposal. “The entire unit and its aircrafts would most likely be in lockdown conditions. No calls in or out. The personal are sequestered on a separate side of whatever base they are using to stage their flight from, no visitors in or out,” he was loud enough for all to hear.

“Is there a way to corrupt the aircraft’s computers to force it to crash?” asked the chairman.

“It might prove easier to shoot them out of the sky,” said the general.

“Mr. Chairman, my company helped develop the software that the computers on the aircraft uses to control the various flight control surfaces. There might be a way to upload a virus while the aircraft is in flight. We would need to know certain mission aspects,” said another man further down the table.

“Mr. nine send me a list of what aspects you need and I will see that you get it.”

“Sir,” said another man sitting at the far end of the table. “One of my subsidiary companies made some of the hardware and other aircraft components. If Mr. Nine and myself were to review the technical data for the aircraft, we might be able to help increase any chances the Chinese have of intercepting and destroying the aircraft.”

“I will have that data sent to both of you by the close of business tomorrow. You will have four days to identify any weaknesses and get that data to our Chinese partners,” said the chairman. He continued after taking a sip of water. “We have invested millions of dollars. Part of that investment is in now in jeopardy of being exposed along with several other assets. Do not fail me,” he said as he leaned forward.

“Yes sir,” they both answered.

The meeting had lasted for almost another two hours. The chairman waited for the others to file out before he looked at his watch and saw that it was almost time to go.  Without asking, he knew that his driver, Robert, was bringing the car around. He pulled out his organizer and looked through the daily planner. There was one item remaining on his list of things to do before he left for his home. He lifted the phone and pressed the speed dial number for Allen Thorpe.

Allen Thorpe had been in the employ of the Chairman for the last 10 years at Fortress Network Security Systems. He was now a highly paid executive of the company during the day and in charge of the more illegal work done at night. The Fortress Network Security Systems Company was one of many fronts used by the Chairman and his committee.

 

The chairman waited patiently as halfway across the country in Colorado Springs, Colorado Allen Thorpe’s private cell phone rang.  Thorpe saw the identity of the caller, and turned to address the men in his office. “Gentlemen, we will need to continue this at a later time, thank-you for your time. Please see my secretary on the way out to reschedule a time for later today,” he said as he brought up some information on his computer.

When the door was shut he answered the phone “Mr. Chairman. It is a pleasure to hear from you, sir.”

“I see that there was another failure to download the weekly reports and file comparison of the project China 17 network. Have you identified the problem?” asked the Chairman as he checked off another item on his list.

Allen’s heart started to beat a little faster. “No Mr. Chairman. I have not,” he replied. “As I said in my latest report I have been able to send data to the network, I just have not been able to receive any data back.”

“What are your plans to remedy this situation?” asked the Chairman.

Allen took a moment to compose himself before giving his answer. “With the biannual system maintenance and updating coming, I will be sending one of the newer team members over to do the work. He will pull all the hard drives and replace them with newer ones that will have some new spyware embedded in the programming. The old hard drives will be searched on their return to this facility. My man will also look into why the server is not sending us the data. The replacement hard drives have already been modified and are awaiting shipment to our field office in the Philippines. From there, my operative will be smuggling them into China through the normal channels.”

“How soon will the shipment get to China?”

“The hard drives will be there in less than a week. The operative will be traveling with the cargo.”

“Do you have a time estimate as for how long it will take for the work to be done?

“Two weeks for the hard drive switch out, as for the problem with the server. That depends on what the problem is. I have no way of knowing,” answered Allen.

“Thank you Allen. Has then been any progress on the files you discovered in the last download you received from there?” the chairman asked, as again he checked off another item.

“No sir, I have team three looking into that sir,” said Allen. “They are currently working on it As soon as any progress is made I will forward a report to you.”

“Thank you Allen, I am looking forward to seeing that report,” said the chairman before he hung up the phone.

 

The chairman leaned back in his chair and steepled his fingers on his chest and thought about the events that led up to the situation at the Project China 17 site.

Since its inception, there have been people at the site that were in the employment of the chairman and his committee. Over the last two years he had noticed that his Chinese partner in this endeavor had been skimming a little off the top. The chairman had received confirmation of this, and in truth he had expected it. His spies had reported that larger amounts of money were not being reported or that the amounts being paid were not correct. Lately, however, his partner had gotten greedy.  The chairman’s spies also reported that items that could fetch millions of dollars on the black market were not being reported at all.

The chairman decided that he would have to send a very strong message to his other partners very soon.

 

 

The aircraft with her crew of two was soaring at mach 1 at 35,000 feet and rapidly climbing.  She was the newest stealth recon aircraft in the U.S. tactical air defense arsenal. She was painted a flat black; the only other colors were red and yellow for the warning and information signs on the aircraft. She was a XSR-28, part of the Advanced Airborne Reconnaissance System (AARS) program of loitering long-range strategic reconnaissance aircraft. Her job was to infiltrate contested airspace and carry a wide range of sensors with the ability to broadcast real time aerial reconnaissance information.  She had no offensive weapons; if she ran in to trouble, the pilot was to run away and call in the cavalry.

The aircraft was streaking in from the south, over the Yellow Sea, where the U.S. had permission from the Australians to launch aircraft.  She had departed at 0300 hours while the skies were still black.  There was a new moon, so the darkness seemed even deeper.  The jet refueled midway through its flight and soon they would decrease their speed when they came closer to the Chinese coastline, and the target site near Harbin in the north eastern part of China close to the border with Russia.

The pilot spoke, his voice muffled by the air mask. “Pit crew this is Speed Racer, we are feet dry and on profile, heading for the next way point over.”

A reply came from halfway around the world. The brass in the Pentagon and CIA were watching this from the control center in the basement of the Pentagon.  “Speed Racer, we copy feet dry and heading for the next way point. Crew Chief says to start rolling film now, over.”

The pilot spoke again. “Pit crew, we copy start rolling film now, out.”

The pilot was Commander Byron Atlas, call sign, Titan. He was a Naval Academy graduate. He had twelve kills to his credit before being picked for this new unit that was to set to test the new XSR-28 aircraft, when this mission came up. It was too good to pass up.  Byron was not a big man; he stood just less than 6 feet tall with a moderate build.  He always had a smile on his face and a deck of cards in one of his many pockets of his flight suit.

“What is the latest from home, Tuna?” His voice was easily heard over the steady yet slight roar of the engines. “How are your wife and my kids?”

Commander Jonathon Whale, call sign Tuna, slowly looked at his friend and chuckled as he spoke, “The same as yesterday Titan, the wife is still in a coma and your kids are still retarded.”  Tuna was Titan’s radar intercept officer and his job was to give Titan all the data he could so Titan could evade the enemy and live to fly again.

These two particular pilots had been paired together for nearly 4 years.  Both men were married with children.  Titan had two daughters while Tuna had two sons; the ages of the children were nearly the same. Tuna was the quintessential devoted dad, coaching his sons’ baseball teams before the war, dressing up for Halloween and hosting water balloon parties in the summer for the kids and parents as well.  He was especially looking forward to seeing the end of this mission, because he would be going home on leave for a few weeks.

The pretend hurt look on Titan’s face was hidden from view due to the air mask as he looked back at Tuna through a rearview mirror. “Now how can you say that about my kids?”

Both men started to laugh. Just then alarm buzzers started to go off, startling both men into action.

“Crap,” It was Tuna. “We are being painted,” then he added suddenly, “and jammed.” Tuna’s attention was split between the computer screen and the caution and warning board. More alarms started to go off. “What the…we have SAMs in the air.  I count six, no eight, no make that ten SAMS aft,” Tuna was cursing under his breath as he slapped the alarms to turn off the incessant beeping.

Titan’s voice was now starting to get excited. “Tuna, I’m going to full power and we are out of here. Pit Crew we have Mr. SAM in the air with us and we request a vector out of here.”

“Titan we got SAMs on both sides of us now.  The computer reads twelve on each side and they are tracking us. Radar is going south on us,” Tuna said as he twisted around in his confining seat looking for the tattletale signs of exhaust trails of the SAMs.

More alarms started to go off. Tuna twisted back and started slapping alarms, twisting dials, pushing buttons while analyzing the information on his computer screen.

“We have bandits in the air,” yelled Tuna. “We are burning through the jamming.”

Titan heard a burst of static and a very weak signal coming from Pit Crew. Titan grunted as he was jinking and juking the aircraft. He was seeking to break any radar lock the SAMs may have had.

“Tuna punchout a few flares,” said Titan.

Tuna rapidly deployed several flares and chafe from the dispenser located on the aft of the aircraft. “Six away.”

“Say again Pit Crew. Did not copy your last transmission, repeat, did not copy,” said Titan between grunts.

Tuna’s voice was starting to level out and slow down; he was getting himself under control. “Titan, we have, oh my God, 34 SAMs tracking us. Some of the SAMs are falling away. Radar and the computer say we have 24 MIG 71s arrayed in an arc directly in front of us. Make that 35, belay that, one more coming from the deck for 36. There has to be a base down there somewhere,” Tuna said between gasps as the twisted back and forth as the aircraft snapped from side to side.

“Speed racer, take a heading of 225 degrees and climb at max power, the Navy is vectoring in some help, over,” said the calm steady voice from Pit Crew.

“Pit crew we copy,” Titan said tersely. With one hand he reached for the throttles of the engines. His other hand yanked back hard on the flight control stick between his legs. Both Titan and Tuna grunted as they were slammed bask into their seats.

 

“Titan, take a look at the radar,” said Tuna.

“I am kinda busy right now. Can you give me the cliff notes?” asked Titan. Titan put the aircraft in a slow spin as it climbed.

“I have two groups of twelve and a third group of eleven aircrafts. Each group is circling over the same location,”

“Range and altitude?’ asked Titan.

“Fifty miles and closing, they’re at angels three and five,” replied Tuna.

“What in the hell are they doing there and why now?” asked Titan.

“Your guess is as good as mine, but I have to tell ya, I don’t like the looks of this one damn bit.”

“Me neither, hang on back there.”

 

A Chinese General sat calmly at the small table. “Lieutenant, what is happening now?” he asked as he knocked ash from his cigar into the cut crystal ashtray.

“Sir, I don’t know, our radar lost them when the aircraft went vertical. I am not sure about the SAMs,” said the Lieutenant, his voice cracking under the stress of being so near to the general.

“What about our fighters? Have they engaged the American aircraft?”

“No sir”, he said as he moved his left hand to the headset and pressed it tightly to his ear to help keep out any noise from the expected outburst from the general. “I have reports that the fighters are trying to engage now,” he said.

“At what altitude were our fighters waiting at?” asked the general.

“Sir, I believe they were that 30,000 feet in a holding pattern,” was the man’s reply.

“That idiot, he was instructed to keep his fighters at treetop level,” said the general as he ground his cigar out. “Get General Cho on the phone, now!” he screamed at the sergeant standing at the side of the room.

The sergeant ran over to the phone bank and picked one up at random. He spoke quietly, after a few seconds he handed his general the phone.

“General Cho, I want you to engage and destroy that American aircraft, now.” was all he said before tossing the phone back to the surprised sergeant.

 

Moments later, in a regional command center, which was built under an elementary school. A stunned Air Force General gawked at the phone that had started beeping at him, telling him that the call was over. “Order the fighters to engage and destroy the American,” he ordered. “Instruct the Tolis aircrafts that they are also to engage. I want to ensure that we destroy the Americans. This will be a great day for the Chinese military. We will swat the Americans from our skies as easily as we would swat the flies that annoy us,” He said making a speech for the men around him.

 

In the situation room at the Pentagon, Jack Boggs was sitting in one of the chairs around the center table. Jack Boggs, a married man in his early forties, had been at the Pentagon for nearly five years now as a Senior Intelligence Analyst and gave advice to the Joint Chiefs when called upon. Four of those years he had been working for the Chairman. He specialized in the Far East, specifically China. All he could think about was how were the people he was working for had planned to stop the flight. As he listened to the exchanges between Pit Crew and Speed Racer, he had to bow his head to keep from showing a grin that was spreading across his face.

 

In the airspace over China, the MIG fighters were closing in towards the Navy flyers at mach 2.  Cmdr. Atlas was trying to evade at mach 2 and was rapidly gaining both speed and altitude. The aircraft was now at 49,000 feet and at mach 2.5. Some of the SAMs were still narrowing the gap between them, just not as fast.  What had Titan worried was the arc of fighters he had to evade.  It was though his worst thoughts came to fruition when the MIG’s fired on them. Titan yanked back hard on the stick whipping the aircraft into a nose up profile, forcing the aircraft into a straight climb.

The XSR- 28 just cleared 79,000 feet at this altitude there is very little oxygen for the conventional jet engines to use.  The truly unique part of the XSR-28’s design was that it was part rocket.  It had oxygen sensors in the engine that would adapt and convert engine types automatically. When the aircraft climbed almost out of the earth’s atmosphere the air intake sealed closed and the 4 solid fuel rocket motors ignited hurtling the aircraft at a speed of mach 7.5 at an altitude of 95,000 feet. The SAMS and the conventional enemy fighters couldn’t reach her here.

Speed Racer very quickly out climbed her enemies and started to flee the fight.  It looked as though she just might escape unscathed, but on her descent, after evading the enemy one of the solid rocket motors failed. The insulation for the casing on the motor had developed a hairline crack. Heat poured through the minute crack and started to melt the casing of the motor.  As the heat built up, it began to weaken the frame of the aircraft causing the frame of the aircraft warp and buckle.  The subsequent buckling of the frame caused a hydraulic line to become severed thereby changing the aerodynamic profile of the aircraft.  When Speed Racer started its decent into a thicker atmosphere the aircraft developed a shudder. The vibrations from the shudder caused the fuel lines to rub against each other causing a leak into the engine compartment. The alarms started to wail again and the cockpit started to fill with a smell of scorched plastics.

“Tuna what the hell is going on back there?” said Titan as he was struggling with the plane to maintain an even flight path.

“I am showing hydraulic pressure loss inthe second stage system and engine fire in the number one engine. I getting caution and warning lights across the board,” responded Tuna, his voice was calm and cool not betraying his thoughts that they were in trouble again.

“Shutting down engine one now, any change in the fire Tuna?” asked Titan, his voice was strained as he fought for control of the aircraft.

“No good, still showing fire in the number one engine,” replied the Tuna grunting.

Titan spoke, “I’m going to pull the fire extinguisher for number one engine…now.  Any change in its status?”

Tuna was looking at the engine fire light and watched it flicker a few time before it finally went out. “Fire is out, I recommend sealing the intake.”

“Done,” said Titan as he flipped the switch to seal the intake.  “Are we in the clear to broadcast? We need to let Pit Crew know what happened to us.”

“Not yet, working on boosting the power to get a signal through,” was the response from Tuna.

As Titan and Tuna were hurtling high above China in a damaged aircraft, the committee’s Chinese’s partners had planned a mulit-layered trap for the XRS-28. Three Tolis air cargo airplanes had launch earlier that day each with a crew of six people and a payload of electronics and communications gear. Each of the planes was not a military aircraft and was a privately owned and operated aircraft. All the people aboard were civilians, hired to work for one of the many dummy corporations that the Committee funneled money through. Most of the men and women were mercenaries from around the globe. The pilots aboard the plane, closest to the U.S. recon jet, were South African and the four technicians in the rear of the aircraft were of Iranian and German descent.

Hans looked at the computer screen and tried to find the right frequency that would allow him to connect with the XSR-28’s onboard computers.  He was tasked with uploading new computer files infected with a virus that would disable the navigation systems of the stealth.  Another member, Ali was searching for a way to have the aircraft dump its fuel and Manfred would attempt to hack into the main system to extract the images the aircraft had taken so far.  Mo was occupied with the targeting laser to paint the aircraft for the second group of SAMs.

Hans, like the rest of his team, had at one time studied at various universities within the U.S. and then went back to his home country to find work. The problem was that there were not a lot of jobs that demanded his skills outside of the U.S.  The United States has strict import and export laws which each of their respective countries after various hostilities emerged and war became imminent.  The ramifications were that their countrymen suffered. Hans and his team felt no remorse in punishing the country that educated them so well, if they could strike a blow against the United States, so much the better.

Hans shouted, “I have the signal. Sending the key …accepted. I am in. Uploading virus programs now.”

The pilot of the Tolis looked back at him and said, “It bloody took you long enough.”

 

The Chairman had summoned the Committee to return to the office building in which they developed a plan to take down the American reconnaissance jet.  The Committee members had adjourned once again to the grey conference room and were seated around the glass top table.  A plasma screen mounted on the wall, showed a satellite feed of the impending encounter.  Each member quietly watched the blips representing the XRS and the MIGs close the distance to each other.  The Chairman whispered to the man next to him, and within moments there was faint static.  Everyone in the room was now privy to the cockpit conversations between Commanders Atlas and Whale and the command at the Pentagon.

 

“Pit crew this is Speed Racer, come in over,” said Titan

“Go Speed Racer, over.”

“We are in a bad spot. Engine one went down due to a fire. The aircraft has a nasty shudder. We also lost second stage hydraulics and are having a devil of a time maintaining a level flight path and we are locked into a wide banking turn to port,” said Tuna.

Just then the alarm for the laser detection went off.

“Shit!  We are being painted again!” yelled Tuna.

As if things could not get worse, the aircraft unexpectedly flipped over on to its back startling both Titan and Tuna. The upside down fliers noticed their crippled plane had begun to dump fuel and the onboard navigation system started to go haywire, and then just went dead. They had no control over their own plane; she was flying like a remote control drone and they were there for the ride.

 

People in the situation room in the basement of the Pentagon just stared at their monitors, stunned at the events which were unfolding in the Chinese skies.  The brass at the Pentagon heard the pilot’s conversations and knew that the pilots were in serious trouble.  People started shouting, each wanting answers.

“What the hell was going on up there?” asked one man.

“Who is in control of the plane?” asked a woman.

One of the technicians in the room noticed that the aircrafts’ onboard computers were getting an upload of an unknown program. “Shit, someone has gotten into the onboard systems,” the technician shouted to the observation platform above the situation room. “They’re trying to bring down the aircraft!”

In the situation room the staggered audience heard Tuna yell a second time. “We are being painted again!”   After that, the radio transmission was filled with yells and shouts as the pilots fought the aircraft to no avail.  It was at that moment they lost telemetry and began to hear the telltale hiss of static, the aircraft was being jammed again.

Jack Boggs rose from the table and exited the control room.  There was so much chaos in the room; his presence would not be missed.  Jack left the room shaking his head wondering where he could buy a prepaid cell phone.  He needed to inform his contact to the chairman that the plan was proceeding as expected.

 

Titan and Tuna were now in a flat spin, it was as if they were in a centrifuge. They were pinned to the side of the cockpit. Both men were sweating profusely in the cool air inside the cockpit. Titan fought to no avail to apply full opposite rudder against the rotation and tried to kill the throttle to recover from the spin.  They were now at a height of 60,590 feet and a speed of mach 2.5 when the airbrakes engaged.  They painfully slammed forward in to their harness hard enough to break ribs but their necks were saved from breaking due to a special neck and head restraint. They were rapidly slowing down and losing altitude and the shudder was getting worse. The aircraft felt and sounded as if it were being attacked by jackhammers.

“Titan can you hear me?” yelled Tuna over the deafening noise.

“Yeah, barely,” yelled back Titan.

“Someone is playing with the computers.”

“What?” yelled Titan.

“Someone is playing with the computers,” repeated Tuna.

“What do you mean?”

“Someone is in the process of uploading a series of programs and trying to download the photos now,”

“Can you stop them?” asked Titan.

“Not the uploaded programs, but as for the downloading I’ve cut the cables to the hard drives. Can you fly this thing without the computers?”

“I have only done it in the simulator and at subsonic speed.

“Get ready, when this bird goes subsonic I am going to kill the generators and you’ll have to get us down fast.”

 

On the Tolis air cargo plane, the mercenaries were busy trying to get every fragment of information out of the doomed U.S. aircraft before they blew it out of the air. They were laughing as they listened to the pilots shouting and cursing before they started to jam them again.  The mercenaries were confident that they had the American pilots where they wanted them.  The radar scope next to Hans should have shown four blips suddenly appear on the screen except for the fact that the blips were lost in the ground clutter and were absorbing the radar waves. The four radar points that went unregistered split into twelve; the cavalry was coming and by all intents and purposes were coming in invisible to the members on the Tolis.

 

Les Rhine was the Commanding Officer of the Marine squadron VMFA-414, the fabled Death’s Doormen. They were coming in screaming at tree top level, deceiving the Chinese radar, hoping the clutter would hide their arrival. They were flying F-48A’s, fixed wing fighters; small and maneuverable, resembling their earlier predecessor the Hornet.

When Speed Racer put out the call for help, these men were already in the air and had just topped off their tanks. An Air Force RFC-21, developed as a radar and flight controller, tasked the Death’s Doormen with the mission to get in there to help save Speed Racer’s ass from the fire. The people at the Pentagon informed the crew aboard the RFC-21, dubbed Big Bubba, that Speed Racer was being jammed and that the same time an unfriendly source was trying to upload her files into enemy hands.

“Alright Doormen, you heard the man, we have a friendly that needs some help and by God we’re going to give him all the help we can,” said Les to his men.

 

“This is Big Bubba calling Junior and Mother, are you receiving me,” said the pilot.

“Junior reads you,” replied a male voice.

“This is Mother, we read you also,” came a female voice.

“Ah mother, what a wonderful woman,” said the pilot of big bubba to his co-pilot off the radio.

“Forget it John, she has a date with Slim when we get back to the barn,” said the co-pilot.

“Have you guys got a fix on the jamming and the uploading yet?” the pilot called out to the men in cargo area of his aircraft.

One of the air force personnel answered back. “We need a few more seconds.”

“Mother calling big bubba and junior. We have our fix, data being sent now,” said the disembodied female voice.

“Show off,” said the pilot of big bubba, again off the radio.

“We have their data,” said one of the technicians.

“Just got junior’s data also,” said another.

“When we have our angle of direction, send it to mother and junior. Then send in the Doormen,” said the pilot to the crew.

 

“Death’s Doormen copies Bubba,” said Les Rhine. “Alright boys, my section is going for the Tolis. I want the rest of you animals to be on the lookout for her fighter cover,” Les Rhine said as he and his section split off from his squadron and banked hard left.  The remaining eight fighters were less than ten miles from the target as the Tolis slowly tooled around in a large circular pattern in the air at 30,000 feet.

 

Aboard the XSR, Titan and Tuna had developed a plan to gain control of their jet and were moments away from executing their plan.

“On my mark Titan, I am killing the generators, three, two, one, mark,” Tuna popped the circuit breakers for the generators and shutdown the four onboard computers. “Do you pilot magic Titan,” he added to support his friend.

“Damn, I am fresh out of virgins,” Titan said as he successfully brought the aircraft out of its spin after a few moments, the shudder and the noise slackened as the aircraft dropped below subsonic speed.

 

“What the hell!” yelled Hans at the computer screen, his cigarette still hanging from his lip?

“What just happened?” asked Manfred and Ali at the same time.

Both of them stared at Hans as he started to pound on his computer.  Everyone aboard the Tolis wore the same shocked expression in response to what Tuna had just done.  Never did they think the U.S. pilots could have regained control of the bird.  Jerry White, one of the pilots of the Tolis, turned to face aft and find out what had happened.  He never got the chance.

 

Les Rhine waited until his aircraft was almost directly under the Tolis. “Going vertical,” Les said as he yanked back hard send his aircraft into a climb. “Go to full military power,” Les slid the throttles forward. The sudden surge of power brought him back to his childhood.

The thrill of speed and the freedom of flight, he discovered both at a state fair. His father was sitting next to him as he rode the roller coaster over and over. A young Les yelling at the top of his lungs, “This is the greatest, dad.” The rush of the wind in his ears and the push and pull as the roller coaster climbed and fell was thrilling; at that moment in time he found his true love.

Les’s aircraft jumped from treetop level to 5,000 feet in a matter of heartbeats. He flipped the switch for his heat seeking missiles on and got a lock tone immediately. The division was right behind him in the climb. With the lock tone blaring Les thumbed the firing stud and the missile was away.

“Fox one away,” Les said with a predatory smile spreading across his mouth as he watched his missile streak through the sky towards the wing heading for the under slung engine exhaust of the Tolis. The missile detonated upon impact, shearing off the wing and causing a succession of explosions which ultimately blew the Tolis to bits. Les Rhines and his division were leveling out and turning away from the large blossoming fire ball. Les asked “Any fighters providing cover for this thing?” No one spoke. “Section four, form up on Speed Racer and give him an escort home.” He got a double click in response.

“Hunter this is Klingon,” said the youngest pilot of the squadron.

“Go Klingon,” responded Les.

“I just flew over two SAM sites that are not radiating.”

“Form up on Klingon, he is leading the way,” said Les.

“This is Klingon, I have the lead,” he said as he moved up to take the position.

The F-48A’s banked hard to the right, standing the aircrafts on their wings as they dived for the deck as they turned.

“We are lined up on the ground targets and closing,” Klingon said as he settled his aircraft down for the strafing run.

Looking at his gun camera screen, Klingon could see the radar truck that would control the SAMs. When his crosshairs merged with the target he pressed the trigger and a stream of 100 armor piercing high explosive rounds punched through the truck with a devastating outcome.

The rest of the division followed suit. Each pilot was engaging a different target. The radio was filled with chatter as commits went back and forth.

“Did you see the stockpile go up?” said one of the pilots

“Scratch one launcher and crew,” said another.

“Another launcher up in smoke,”

The F-48A’s continued on to the second group of SAMs. In all six SAM launchers, two radar control trucks, and several crews were obliterated.

 

Tuna reset the circuit breakers for the generators. He typed as fast as he could as power returned to the systems. “Titan, I reset the circuit breakers but kept the ones for the radios pulled. Now find a place to land this hunk of junk,”

Titan and Tuna knew that their damaged aircraft was unable to return to the base in Australia or able to land on a carrier that might be nearby.  They knew that they had to eject.

“Tuna there’s no place to land this thing. We are going to have to punch-out,” Titan said, grunting through his pain.

“Just great.  I’m stowing the data discs under my seat. Same thing with my books, charts and maps. I’ll set the charges for 10 seconds to blow after we punch-out.”

“Agreed. We ride the silk when we hit 2000 feet,” said Titan

“Agreed, and I just want to tell you I truly hate punching out,” replied Tuna.

“Me too,” echoed Titan.

The pilots had readied themselves, they went through the checklist for ejection by memory and agreed on three that they would eject.  On three Commander Atlas reached down and grabbed the tee handle located between his legs. Explosive bolts blew the canopy up from the aircraft. The speed of the aircraft whipped the canopy away. The roar of the one good engine and the wind blasted the crew. Tuna counted to two in his head and his seat became a rocket. A second later Titan’s seat did the same. Both men watched as their aircraft continued on its doomed flight.

Each knew the dangers they would face on the ride back down to earth.  They each prayed that they wouldn’t be spotted by snipers and shot and killed before they hit the ground.  Mentally they each ran through similar scenarios of what they might encounter, hostile villagers, enemy troops, unknown terrain, unexploded ordinance, land mines and who knows what else.

Commanders Whale and Atlas both said silent prayers as they pulled the cords to release their parachutes.  There they seemed to hang in the air, like giant white targets for the target practice.  They drifted over the tree tops and attempted to maneuver themselves toward a more advantageous landing site.  Commander Whale thought briefly of his wife Jill and the kids and hoped that he’d live to make it back for the leave he was scheduled to take.

Stan Grossman was in section four, one mile away when he saw Titan and Tuna punch-out.  “Hunter this is G-man, over.”

“Go G-man,” replied Les.

“They punched out, I have two good chutes, request to linger ‘till they are down and we can contact them,” G-man said as he and his section banked to avoid the parachutes.

“Granted but keep an eye on your fuel.”

It was sunrise and Stan watched from afar as the two fliers sailed toward the earth slowly.  Once they were within 50 feet of the tree tops, Stan bugged out to rejoin the remainder of the squadron in section four.  He radioed in the coordinates of the downed pilots in case their radios had been damaged.

Titan and Tuna were in terrible shape when they ejected from their plane. Their bodies had just been through a tremendous amount of punishment thus far and they still had to negotiate landing safely in a forest with a parachute. Both men mercifully passed out after they hit the trees.

 

The Chinese were scrambling around in their control centers trying to make heads or tails of the sudden array of aircraft and anti-aircraft missiles that seemed to come from nowhere. The Chinese Air Force was slow to react to the sudden appearance of the XSR-28.  The incursion of Chinese airspace by the fighters from VMFA-414 caused the Peoples Air Force to come alive.

“Death’s Doormen this is Big Bubba, over.”

“Go Bubba,” said Hunter.

“We show bandits inbound to you on a heading of 248 magnetic.  Suggest that you boys take a heading of 078 at angles 5 and refuel in route back to the barn. We have other guests coming to the party to cover your exit, over.”

“Big Bubba please be advised that Speed Racer had to punch out and we have visuals of two, repeat two good chutes.  Sending landing data on side channel now, over.”

After a brief pause, “Big Bubba copies and we have the data, Big Bubba out.”

It would now be up to a special ops team to extract the two pilots from the Chinese forest.  The Chinese armed forces were on high alert due to the massive incursion into their airspace.  They would be looking for everything and anything that moved within their borders that was the least bit suspicious making the extraction of the pilots and the flight data tricky.

 

Half a world away back in Virginia, Jack Boggs stepped off of the Metro at the Crystal City Mall Metro stop. He walked up the stairs to the mall proper and looked at the directory for a Radio Shack or some other store that might sell prepaid cell phones. He found what he was looking for; the store was just around the corner from where he stood now. Jack strode into the store, selected an inexpensive phone and paid cash for his purchase. Jack then went to the top floor of the parking garage to make the call to his handler.

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