“What’s up, Super?”
The Super thrust his clipboard at the younger man and began rattling off orders.
“C.O.’s calling in the aircrews now and this just came down… it’s special loads. You remember that little Russkie gal that came over last month with the ordie packs for those 550 pound parachute frags of theirs? Well, she got her tail-feathers smoked in S-town by a ZSU day before yesterday and the Russkies are mad as hell. They’re gonna go hit the place and from the look of this ordnance order I’d say we got handed air-defense suppression detail in addition to whatever else the boss has planned. They musta got some hot intel. We gotta turn this around, and fast. I want my best shooters, 109, 349, 602, and 443 reconfigured and ready to rock and roll A.S.A.P. I also want all the Crew Chiefs from alpha flight in my office in five minutes. Wake up the weapons expediter, Kinnard, tell him to get his best crews on these jets, one crew for each.”
He reached over Saperstein’s shoulder and ripped off two sheets from the clipboard.
“And tell them I said to get all the damn party mix off those birds and replace it with H.E.I., I’ve already called AGE and the Bomb dump and the equipment and munitions are on the way. One of the targets is a P.O.L. point.”
“Right. Jeez, that’ll be like the Fourth of July!”
“And, Max. We’re gonna arm ’em “in chocks,” not E.O.R. like usual. I want extra care taken and no screw-ups on the ramp, make sure all the section chiefs know this. We’ve got minimal turnaround time and the C.O. wants ’em hot from the crew chief’s salute out of chocks!”
Vasily Sandakchiev was jolted awake by the horn blaring on a GAZ jeep outside his quarters. Not satisfied with that, its driver lightly hopped out of the vehicle, strode up to the door, and casually threw it open, stepping into the room. Vasily rose with a rebuke on his lips, which instantly died as his eyes met the cool, blue steel of his Commander’s.
“Awake, my little falcon! It is time to strap on your wings and fly once again. Today, we remind Muqtadeh who it is he deals with. Little Sacha’s dowry will be high and paid in explosives.”
An ear-to-ear grin split the young Russian’s handsome face.
“Da? We have a mission, sir?”
The Commander nodded, smiling.
“Indeed. Today we fly with the very wings of eagles, for the MiG-29S is given us for this special flight. We go to destroy the operations terminal at Sukhumi base. There Muqtadeh stores many of his weapons, and his men sleep peacefully there too. We shall help them to become martyrs a little earlier than they had planned. Come, Vasily. It is time to meet the Americans.”
“Here’s the straight skinny, gentlemen, and you too, Tonia. Word is that the I.R.L.F. is planning a major event. We’re going to shut it down.”
Colonel Martin gestured and the lights in the briefing room dimmed. Three green-uniformed U.S. pilots, a pair of hard-looking Canadians, and one dour Russian leaned forward to pay attention. A second Russian, this one with substantial rank on his epaulettes, handed Col. Martin a laser pointer as the American continued.
On the screen, a reconnaissance image of an airfield popped up.
“Here are our friends at Sukhumi. Now, we know that they’ve got some more air defense capacity than we thought. Thanks to the Russians, we don’t have to worry about that Straight Flush and the associated SA-6 battery.”
“We lost a good pilot, and a good friend, on that hop, as you all know. She traded her life for ours in hitting that radar system. Now we get a chance to hit them again, and get a little payback for Lieutenant Andreevna in the process. Commander?”