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Old 12-18-2014, 07:29 PM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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Join Date: Sep 2008
Location: Auberry, CA
Posts: 887
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Finale:


Nellis AFB, NV: 1335 Hours:


“Guru. Guru! WAKE UP!”

Lieutenant Wiser opened his eyes. “Huh, what?” He saw Tony standing over him with a cup of coffee. “Time to get up. Wheels up in fifteen minutes.”

Guru nodded as he stood up. He saw the CO and his WSO, plus the others in the flight either getting up or already up. “How long?

“About an hour and a half,” Tony replied. “XO's still out.”

“Any news? And I imagine all of it's bad.”

“There's still a fight around El Paso, but the Russians and Cubans are probably going around. They're headed for San Antonio and Corpus Christi, and they're pouring across the Rio Grande like a tidal wave,” Tony said. “There were some more nukes in the Dakotas, though.”

“Missile silos?” Guru asked, draining the coffee cup.

“Launch control centers is what's going around.”

Nodding, Guru looked at his watch. “Great.”

“And George Bush is now President. Reagan didn't get out of Washington, apparently,” Tony said.

“Nothing we can do about that,” Guru said. “What's on our plate?”

Colonel Johnson answered that question. “Back to I-19 people. Free strike. Seems the Cubans and Mexicans-yeah, Mexicans, have stalled because of all the air coming down on them. They're sticking to the roads, and we're going to make them pay for that.”

“Ordnance, Boss?' Surfer asked.

“We'll find out when we get to the flight line. Hit the latrine if you need to, then let's go.” Johnson said.


The crews headed out to the flight line, and found that they had another anti-armor loadout. This time, everyone had the Rockeyes, plus two AIM-9s and two AIM-7s. “No ECM pod?” Java asked.

“They're still getting those out of storage and running tests,” Colonel Johnson said. “Maybe tomorrow.” He looked at the flight crews. “Okay....Buick Flight will be with us for MIGCAP, and Olympia Flight will be out of George. They'll meet us west of Phoenix. Questions?”

Guru raised his hand. “Yeah, Colonel. What's the deal with Phoenix?”

“Good question. Stay away from Luke's traffic pattern. And anywhere near Phoenix? Stay above 5,000 feet AGL. Not just the Cubans, mind, but our own people-lots of armed civilians taking shots at anything that flies. So stay safe, and avoid the area unless you have to divert to Luke or Williams.” Colonel Wiser looked at the crews. “That answer your question, Lieutenant?”

“Yes, sir.”

“All right, chances are, we'll have one more today. Then the maintenance folks need to get us ready for tomorrow. Because chances are, this is going to be a long war.” He looked around. “Anything else?” Heads shook no. “All right, mount up and let's go.”

The crews went to their aircraft and did their preflight walkarounds, then they mounted their aircraft. As they went through the cockpit preflight, Guru told his backseater, “Want to bet the RTU instructors would be failing all of us today for rushing the preflight?”

“Failing a light colonel?” Tony quipped. “That, I'd love to see.”

Sergeant Calhoun, 515's crew chief, gave the “Start Engines” signal, and first, one, then both J-79 engines came to life. Then Guru followed his squadron CO, taxiing out, and just as in the morning, the Catholic Chaplain was waiting as the aircraft halted at the runway so that the armorers could remove the weapon safeties. Then, again, the tower gave clearance for takeoff with a green light, and Chevy Flight rumbled down the runway and into the air.


Over Western Arizona: 1425 Hours:


Chevy and Buick Flights headed south over Arizona, between Kingman and Wickenburg, and they fully intended to give the Phoenix area a wide berth. By now, the WSOs were watching their radar scopes, while the pilots maintained their visual scanning. “Anything?” Guru asked Tony.

“Everything shows friendly on IFF,” Tony said.

Then Java called, “Rhinos at Three O'clock.”

“Roger that,” the CO said. “Rhinos at my Three, you Olympia Flight?”

“Roger that. You must be Chevy,” Olympia Lead called. “Two Weasels comin' your way. Got two HARMs and two Standard-ARMs, each airplane.”

“Copy,” Chevy Lead radioed. “Come on and join the show.”

The two Weasel Phantoms joined the package, and as they headed south, the crews saw several F-15 flights from Luke orbiting west of Phoenix, and some smoke clouds still coming up.

“Anything on the radio, Tony?” Guru asked.

“Just a sec....okay. They're asking people to stay away from the Goodyear Airport, Glendale Municipal, and the towns of Maricopia and Mobile. That's pretty much where the Cubans are.”

“And the Army's coming?”

“You got it. I-8 and I-10 are open to military traffic only.”

Nodding, Guru concentrated on flying the airplane. It wasn't long until they were getting close to the Tuscon area, and what looked like a smoke cloud coming from a golf course. “Let me guess: a Scud landed on that golf course.”

“Man, that's a big divot,” Tony said.

“Hey, Lead,” Java called. “What's the penalty for a Scud on the course?”

Though he was of a mind to tell Java to knock the chatter off, Colonel Johnson knew that some humor was a good thing, after everything that had happened today. “Java, I think you just play around. Okay, people, time to get serious. I-19 ahead. And there's Hogs and SLUFs headed in.”

The package followed the A-10s and A-7s down the Interstate, and sure enough, the Weasels picked up radar emissions on their APR-47 “sniffer” gear. “Got some SAMs and an air-search radar, Chevy Lead. Want those to go away?”

“Get some, Olympia,”

The two Weasels headed in, and then, one, then two, “Magnum” calls came over the radio as HARM missiles went in search of SAM or air-search radars. And an SA-6 and an air-search radar went off the air. “Got a couple of eights coming.” That meant SA-8 Geckos, and unlike the SA-6, they had the missiles and the radar on the same vehicle. “Olympia Two, “Magnum!” And a HARM and a Standard-ARM went off in search of targets.

Near Tubac, a Cuban air-defense officer was wondering what was happening. His pre-invasion briefing had assured all senior commanders that their air force, and special-operations teams, would make sure the Yanquis' aircraft would stay on the ground. Seeing A-7s and A-10s all morning, with occasional F-4s and Cobra attack helicopters, showed what that promise had been made of.

Now, with two interstate bridges over a small riverbed blown, and the engineers stuck in a traffic jam that led all the way back to the border, this mixed force of Mexicans and Cubans was now stalled, and highly vulnerable to air attack. The imperialists had been over them all day, and losses to their aircraft had been horrendous. He was now sitting in a 9K33 (NATO SA-8) missile vehicle, and it was only transmitting intermittently due to those insidious anti-radar missiles the Americans always seemed to have. Then the senior operator turned on the radar again, only to see a target appear, then make a turn. Suddenly, there was a WHOOSH overhead, then an explosion. The vehicle, and its occupants, were shredded by the 214-pound warhead of an AGM-78 going off....

“Any guns down there?” Chevy Lead asked.

“Negative,” Olympia Lead replied. “Still got a HARM and a 78 left.”

“Copy that. Chevy Flight, on me. Time to go to work.” And Colonel Johnson rolled in on the armor stuck behind two blown bridges. “Lead's in hot!” The CO rolled down the chute, and laid his Rockeyes on several T-55 tanks, and as he pulled out and away, several of the tanks fireballed. “Lead off target.”

“Two's in!” Guru called. “Tony, set it up: everything at once.”

“You got it, buddy.” He worked the armament switches. “You're set.”

“Copy that and hang on.” Guru rolled in, and he saw where the CO had put his CBUs. He chose several tanks and APCs just south of that, and came in. “Steady, and HACK!” He called, pushing the pickle button, and a dozen Rockeye CBUs came off his F-4. “Two's off.”

“Three's in!” Surfer called.

Hearing that as he pulled away, Guru turned his head, and saw his CBU bomblets going off. “Look at that!”

“We got secondaries!” Tony shouted. “Good hits, my man!”

“Three''s off target,” Surfer radioed.

“MAGNUM!” Olympia Two called, sending a HARM after a radar signal that came up, and a ZSU-23-4 AA vehicle exploded as the HARM missile found its radar dish.

“Bandits inbound,” Buick Lead called. “We got Fishbeds.” That meant MiG-21s.

“Roger that, Buick. Break 'em up,” Chevy Lead called.

“That's a roger. FOX ONE!” Buick Lead said as he fired a Sparrow missile.

“Four's in.” Java called. “Three's got good hits.” Java rolled in, and put his bombs on some artillery tracks that looked as if they were set up to fire. The rain of CBUs exploded a couple, and also took out several of their ammo trucks.” Four's off safe.”

“Copy that, Chevy. Meet up over Kitt Peak.” That was the location of the Kitt Peak Observatory.

“Two,” Guru called.

“Three,” Surfer.

“Four, roger,” Java called.

“Olympia Flight is now Winchester,” Olympia Lead radioed. “We are RTB at this time.”

“Good work, Olympia,” Chevy Lead replied. “Thanks for the help.”

“Anytime, Chevy.” the Weasel leader said. And those two Phantoms headed back to California.

“Chevy, Buick. Splash two Floggers, the rest turned tail,” said Buick Lead.

“Roger, Buick. Form on us.” Colonel Johnson said.

'The F-15s headed to Kitt Peak, and found the F-4s orbiting. The package reformed, and this time, no one needed the tankers. And the package headed back to Nellis, passing two more F-4 flights and two F-111 flights on their way to the fight. Just like the previous mission, when they got to Lake Mead, a pair of Aggressor F-5s checked them out. And to the F-4 crews' surprise, one of the F-5s had an empty Sidewinder rail.

“What'd he shoot?” Tony asked.

“Find out later, I reckon.” Guru said.

This time, they were the first in the pattern, and both Chevy and Buick Flights came in and landed. After taxiing and shutting down, the crews noticed some excitement. “What's going on?” Colonel Johnson asked one of the ground crew.

“Had a couple MiGs come by,” the sergeant replied. “The F-5s got one, and an F-16 got the other. Had a little air show about a half-hour ago.”

“Well,” Guru observed. “The Aggressors got somebody today.”

“That they did, Lieutenant,” Colonel Johnson said. “Come on. Let's do a quick debrief, then see what's next.”

After a quick debriefing with Captain Lambert, Chevy Flight got its next mission. It would be an hour, but they would be going out on their fifth mission of the day, and likely their last, as the maintenance people needed to get as many aircraft ready for the next day. The crews got a bite to eat, and caught some news. A TV set in the briefing room was set to the Vegas NBC station, and they were showing scenes from the outskirts of Washington, D.C. Things in Virginia were under control, due to a heavy presence of the Virginia National Guard, but across the Potomac in Maryland, Prince George's County was a mess. And hospitals from Richmond to Baltimore were busy treating casualties from the nuclear blast, not to mention those from the civil disorder.

“Looks bad,” Tony commented. “Anything about Kansas City?”

Major Pollard, the Ops Officer, said. “Not much. Other than there were several detonations.”

“And nobody from Omaha?”

“No. Message traffic says it was a big one. Twenty megatons at least.”

There was silence after that.


A few minutes later, Guru found a pay phone. He wondered if the long-distance lines were still up, or if they'd been taken over by the military. He took a chance, and dialed his Mom's home phone. There was a pickup. “Hello?”

“Mom, it's Matt.”

“Thank God! Where are you? Still in Vegas?”

“Can't say officially, but for now, yeah. I can't talk long. Just wanted to tell you I'm okay so far, and if you don't hear from me for a few days, or don't get a letter, it's because I'm busy.”

“Okay,”

“Mom-if something happens, the Air Force will tell you. So don't worry if I don't get in touch for a while. Let Grandma know and everyone else, and I'll stay in touch the best I can. Anything happen there?”

“In Auberry? No, but everyone in town is talking about forming some kind of posse. Lots of pickup trucks with guns, things like that.”

“And half the senior class at the high school wants to enlist.”

“They do.”

“Okay. Gotta go. Mom-I love you.”

“I love you too.”

“Bye.” Guru hung up, and found Tony standing next to him.

“Calling home?” Tony asked.

“Yeah. My family's okay, and you might want to call your folks. No telling how long the long-distance lines will be available.”

Tony nodded, then managed to get his call through.

While Tony was on the phone, Guru went back to the Ops desk. He and Tony had been so busy, they hadn't even touched their bags. Then the CO came over. 'Boss.”

“Guru. What'd you do? Call home?” Colonel Johnson asked.

“Yeah, I did. Figured I may not have a chance for a while.”

The CO nodded sympathetically. “Don't blame you. I'll pass the word for people to try and get in touch. You know anyone in the nuclear sites?”

“No, sir,” Guru replied.

“Okay, but pass it on: the Red Cross is taking names, addresses, etc. They're going to help with refugees, and tracing relatives. Or, they'll try at least.”

Guru nodded, and Tony came over. “Well, Dad says that things are okay. Nothing happened, and get this: he heard on the radio that a RV company in Coburg has already offered their facilities to make whatever the military needs from them.”

“What's an RV company going to do?” Guru asked.

“They can install radios and other gear in some of 'em,” Tony said. “Or they can make other stuff-what's that eight-wheeled vehicle the Marines use now?”

“LAV-25s,” the CO replied. “Well, well....awful nice of them.”

“Yes, sir,” Tony said.

Then Major Pollard, the Ops Officer, came over. “Colonel, got your Frag Order. You guys are going back to I-19.”

“Again?” Surfer asked.

“Again,” the Ops Officer said. “The Army's getting close to that location, and the bad guys haven't pushed north of Tubac. Supply problems or whatever. Anyway, kill anything on the Interstate between there and Nogales.”

“Free strike?' Java asked.

“That's it, Captain,” Pollard replied. “Your birds are being armed right now, and Olds Flight will be your escorts. And your old pals from this morning, Michelob, will be Weasel support. And we should be getting EF-111s from Mountain Home tonight.”

“Those'll be good to have.” The CO observed.

An Ops NCO came up and gave Major Pollard a message. “Boss, two planes from the XO's flight are down. Well, one's down, the other had to land at Davis-Monthan. No further info.”

“All right, Major. Let me know when you get anything else.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Okay, get your gear and mount up. Let's get this last one done,” the CO said.

After gearing up, the crews went to the flight line, and found they had the same load as the previous one: a dozen Rockeyes each airplane. After the preflight, they mounted their aircraft and started their J-79 engines. They taxied out, and the Chaplain was there again.

“He running on overdrive or what?” Tony asked as the armorers removed the weapon safeties.

“He'd probably say he's been recharged with power from above,” Guru noted.

Chevy Flight taxied onto the runway, and the tower flashed the green light. The F-4s rumbled down the runway and into the air, with their F-15s right behind them.


Over Western Arizona, 1620 Hours:



Chevy Flight had the meetup with the F-15s of Buick Flight, and was once again headed towards the border. Again, as they headed south, the WSOs were checking their radar scopes, while the pilots had their eyes peeled. If the Cubans could get MiGs as far north as Vegas, they could easily show up here.

“Anything?” Guru asked Tony.

“Negative on radar,” his GIB replied. “Radio's still going.”

“Phoenix again?”

“San Diego this time: they're saying the Mexicans got held up in National City, and the Navy's really laying it on them.”

“For once, the street gangs are on the good guys' side,” Guru noted.

“There's a first time for everything,” Tony quipped.

Guru nodded, then glanced right. “Lead, this is Two. Rhinos at our Three.”

“Copy that, Two. I see 'em,” Colonel Johnson said. “Michelob Lead, Chevy Lead. You guys comin' to the party?”

“Chevy Lead, that we are,' Michelob Lead replied. “Got two HARMs and two Standard-ARMs each airplane.”

“Michelob Lead, you have any pods?”

“That's affirm, Chevy Lead. Two 119 pods.” That meant the ALQ-119 ECM pod.

“Good. Until we get Spark Varks, that's all we'll get.” the CO said. “Form on us and let's go.”

The two Weasel Phantoms joined the formation, and preceded by a wall of Eagles from Buick Flight, the package headed south towards the border. Upon reaching I-8, the package turned southeast, and headed for I-19. As they got closer, the crews could see A-7s and A-10s orbiting, and Army AH-1s at work. Still, there were no FACs, and it was as it was briefed: Free strike.

This time, there were no radars yet up, and behind the two bridges, the crews saw multiple pillars of smoke, and that signified burning vehicles. Colonel Johnson called, “These guys have had it. Let's head south.” And the package continued following I-19, and it was a few miles south, between the towns of Carmen and Rio Rico, that they found targets. “Looks like a traffic jam down there.”

“Lead, that's as good a target as we'll find,” Surfer radioed. There were tanks, APCs, SP guns, and trucks, all backed up on the freeway or on nearby U.S. 89, which was paralleling the Interstate.

Then Guru called. “Picking up stuff on the EW.”

“Confirmed, Chevy Lead,” Michelob Lead said. “Got a six and a couple of eights.” That meant SA-6 and SA-8 SAMs.

“Roger that, Michelob. Get some,” Colonel Johnson called.

“Copy. And....Michelob Lead, MAGNUM!” First one, then another, HARM missile came off of Michelob Lead.

The two HARMs followed the Cuban radars to their targets, and one of them found an SA-6 Straight Flush radar track, exploding it just as a pair of SA-6s were fired from a launcher vehicle. The two missiles launched “went dumb”, and flew away harmlessly. The other HARM found an SA-8 track, and it, too, exploded as it launched a missile at an F-4.

“Picking up a Zoo.” Michelob Two called. “MAGNUM!” This time, a single AGM-78 stampeded away from the Weasel, and the Standard-ARM followed the Gun Dish radar signal to its source, and exploded the ZSU-23.

“Thanks, Michelob,” Chevy Lead radioed. “Chevys, one pass, south to north. Chevy Lead in hot!”
And Johnson's F-4 rolled in on the vehicles on the freeway. He made his run, and a dozen Rockeye CBUs came off his aircraft. “Lead's off target.”

His CBUs tore into a number of BTR-60 APCs, and several of them exploded from CBU hits to their fuel tanks.

“Good hits, Lead,” Guru called. “Chevy Two's in hot.” On the intercom, Guru called to Tony. “All set?”

“All set. Everything in one go.” Tony replied.

Guru rolled in, and picked out some supply vehicles that were stuck behind some tanks. He selected the supply tracks, and lined them up in his pipper. “Steady, steady.....and HACK!” He hit the pickle button, and a dozen CBUs came off the racks. “Two's off target.”

Below, the Cuban soldiers were cursing two things. First, the Mexicans, for they were blaming their Mexican comrades for the delay, since they appeared to be more interested in looting than in continuing the advance. Then, like soldiers everywhere, they were also cursing their superiors, who seemed to be doing nothing about the bridges down up ahead. Then, Colonel Johnson's F-4 made its run, and the Cubans ran for cover as several APCs fireballed. Some of them picked themselves up, only to see a second F-4 come in. By now, the Cubans were dreading the Rockeyes and they saw the CBUs come off Guru's plane, and they scattered. Over a dozen trucks and even a couple of T-55 tanks were hit by the Rockeyes, exploding fuel and ammunition.

As he pulled away, Guru looked back. “Look at that!”

“Good hits!” Tony shouted.

“Good job, Two,” Colonel Johnson said.

“Three's in,” Surfer called.

“Michelob One, MAGNUM!” And Michelob Lead fired an AGM-78 at a radar that had come up. The Standard-ARM went after another SA-8 vehicle, and the SAM track exploded when the missile's 214-lb warhead found the missile radar.

“Three's off,” Surfer called as he pulled up and away.

Guru smiled underneath his oxygen mask, then he saw it. “Three, Two. GRAIL! GRAIL! GRAIL!” That call meant SA-7 or similar shoulder-fired SAMs.

“Copy that,” Surfer replied, banking his F-4 into a tighter turn. And two Grail missiles flew past his aircraft.

“Four's in,” Java said as he rolled in. He saw where the missiles came from, and lined that area up. As he came in, he could see several trucks, and what looked like guns. No matter.....A dozen more Rockeyes came off his plane. “Four's off.” His CBUs tore apart a battery of ZU-23 towed AA guns that were frantically setting up, and ripped up a truck carrying an SA-7 team and their reload missiles.

“Chevy Flight, form on me at Kitt Peak. Buick, anything?”Colonel Johnson radioed.

“Negative, Chevy,” the F-15 leader replied. “Maybe we scared 'em off.”

“Roger that. Michelob?”

“Stand by, Chevy. MAGNUM!” Michelob Leader called. His last missile, an AGM-78, came off his aircraft, and found a ZSU-23-4 track, exploding it. “Michelob Lead is Winchester and near Bingo fuel.”

“Copy that. Thanks for the help.”

“Anytime, Chevy. Maybe we can do this again tomorrow.” And Michelob Flight peeled away and headed back to George AFB, while Chevy and Buick reformed over Kitt Peak.

Down below, at the Observatory, the staff and graduate students were watching the aircraft overhead. It seemed like every fifteen or twenty minutes, planes would use the peak as a rendezvous point. As this recent group of F-4s and F-15s headed off, an Army convoy arrived, with a mobile air-defense radar and a HAWK missile battery. They set up shop on a site that, only a day earlier, had been earmarked for a new radio telescope.

Chevy Flight then headed north, back to Nellis. As they approached Lake Mead, the radio chatter picked up. MiGs had been inbound, and an attack on McCarran International had been broken up.

“Where'd they come from?” Surfer asked.

“Baja would be my guess,” Guru said.

“Cut the chatter, people,” the CO ordered, and the crews knocked it off. They saw another fireball in the sky, and an aircraft crashing to earth. Then the Tower declared the pattern clear, and the two flights came in and landed.

After taxiing in and shutting down, Guru and Tony were animated, but also tired. “What were we supposed to be doing today?” Guru asked, and he felt drained as he did so.

“We were supposed to fly a couple of exercise hops,” Tony said. He, too, was drained. Five missions was enough today. But he knew they'd be back at it tomorrow.

Colonel Johnson came over. “How do you all feel?” For Surfer and Java and their crews had joined Guru and Tony.

“Drained, Boss,” Guru said. “Was it like this in Vietnam?”

“Nowhere close. Two a day, at most. Sometimes, just one,” Johnson said, recalling his 1972 tour in SEA.

Then Major Pollard came over with a somber expression on his face. “Colonel, bad news. The Exec's plane went down. He didn't get out.”

The news stunned the crews. “What?”

“Near McNeal. SA-13 they think. He went in with the plane, but Clapper got out. The Army manged to get him before the Cubans. He's okay, but Major Crenshaw....” First Lt. Cody”Clapper” Lyon was Crenshaw's WSO.

“He all right?' Tony asked. Clapper was one of his classmates in the RTU.

“Broken leg, and that's all I know about that,” Pollard said. “Peanut and Fender caught an SA-7 in their tailfeathers. They're down at Davis-Monthan. They need a Combat Repair Team to get 501 back in the air.”

“I'll see about getting a CRT, Major,” Johnson said. “That makes you Exec, by the way.”

Pollard's jaw dropped. “Sir-”

“You're Exec until you either get killed or I find somebody who can do it better. Who's now Ops?”

“Java, he's the senior assistant.”

“Captain, same drill. You're Ops Officer until either one happens. Clear?”

“As a bell, Colonel,” Java replied. But deep down, that was the last thing he wanted right now.

Then the maintenance officer came up. “Colonel, we should have sixteen at least for the morning. We've lost two, one's at D-M with battle damage-”

“I know, Major,” Colonel Johnson said.

“Yes, sir. And one here is still down with a radar that's Tango Uniform. And Supply is on its ass, as usual. They won't release the parts my people need.”

“I'll have a talk with the paper warriors.” Johnson said firmly.

“Colonel, with all due respect, you'll need fixed bayonets. They're still in peacetime mode.”

“Not after today, If I have anything to say. And the other two?”

“Minor battle damage. Looks like small-arms fire. They ought to be ready by morning. If not, Noon at most.”

Johnson nodded. “Okay. Let's debrief, and then I'll tear Supply a new hole. In person if necessary.”

After the debriefing, Colonel Johnson asked if people billeted off base were moving on base. Not yet, was the reply. So they were staying for the time being at the Hilton, which was now guarded by LVPD, Clark County SO, and some Nevada Guard who hadn't yet received deployment orders. After a reminder that the twelve-hour rule began at 1900, everyone was released for the day, and told to be back, bright-eyed and bushy tailed, at 0600. And that Las Vegas Boulevard for a mile in either direction from the base would be closed to all but military and military-authorized traffic, so that getting on base would be easier. Just show your ID at the roadblock, and then pass through the main gate.

This time, Tony drove, while Guru napped in the passenger seat. They got to the Hilton, passed through the LVPD roadblock, and went in to get something to eat.



Las Vegas Hilton, Rancher Steakhouse, 1800 Hours:

Lieutenants Wiser and Carpenter found a table and sat down. It had been a long day, and certainly not the day that anyone had expected. They had gone onto Nellis ready to face their first Red Flag, only to go to war for real. They had had their first taste of combat, and had lost friends and squadron mates. And both of them knew it would be the same tomorrow. But they had experienced something else: when they went into the restaurant along with several other members of the 335th and the 58th, the patrons and staff who saw them come in were clapping. And the manager came to tell them that now the Air Force was paying for their meals, something the AF personnel appreciated. They had just ordered when Capt. Morgan Donahue and 1st Lt. Scott Albright came in. “Guys,” Guru said.

“How'd things go with you guys?” Donahue asked.

“Could've been worse. Yogi and Pappy went down, and no chutes,” Guru said. “You?”

“We weren't in his flight, but we heard the XO go down. So the ops officer is now the exec?”

Tony nodded. “You got it. And Surfer's now Ops.”

“You guys work for him, now,” Albright said. It wasn't a question.

“That's it. You guys hungry?”

“Yeah, but we're waiting on my dad,” Donahue said. “He's an NTSB field rep at McCarran. He's had a busy day.”

“What?” Guru said as the waitress brought their dinner salads. “Another airliner shootdown?”

“No, but they're treating the MiG crash sites around here as accident sites. Nobody alive in D.C to tell them otherwise, and so...”

“And so, they're playing it by the book,” Guru finished. 'What's he think about this?”

“He thinks it's a bunch of crap,” Donahue admitted. “He's retired Air Force, and did accident investigation work before he retired.”

“And until somebody tells them otherwise...” Tony said.

“You got it.”

Albright took out a Vegas paper, the Las Vegas Review. “They've been putting out extras all day.”

“Let's see...” Guru said, and Albright handed him the paper. The headline screamed WAR! SOVIETS INVADE. “Nuclear attacks on Washington, New York, Omaha, and Kansas City. Soviets Invade Alaska, Cross Rio Grande. Cubans, Nicaraguans, and Mexicans Also Involved.” He went on. “Reagan Killed in White House, Bush Now President: Vows 'Fight to the Finish' Britain and Canada Attacked, China Struck by Nukes.”

“That's about it,” Tony said. “Caught glimpses of that on the news when we got back here.”

Then Donahue turned to the front of the restaurant, and saw a figure coming towards them. He waved. “That's Dad. See you guys tomorrow.”

“Will do.” Guru said.

The waitress came with their meals, and the two ate. When they were finished, there were still twenty minutes until the twelve-hour rule kicked in. “How about a beer?” Tony asked.

“Just what the doctor ordered,” Guru said. He waved the waitress over, and said, “Two beers.”

“What'll it be?”

“What do you have?”

“Bud, Bud Light, Michelob, Olympia, Coors, Sam Adams-”

“That's mine,” Guru said.

“Bud for me, Miss,” Tony said.

“Sure thing.” the young lady replied. She quickly came back with their order, and the two officers paid.

“So, Tony,” Guru said. “Besides being still alive, what'll we drink do?”

“How about absent friends? Because there's three empty chairs now in the briefing room.”

“Good idea.” And with that, the two friends and crewmates drank. When they were finished, the waitress came over.

“Refills?”

Both officers shook their heads no. “No thanks. We're flying in the morning,” Tony said.

“Well, you guys take care, and kill as many of those Commie bastards you can.”

“Do our best, Miss,” Guru said, and the two went into the lobby. They went into the gift shop and bought a paper each. One to keep to show to their kids some day. If they lived long enough to have any. Then they went by the entrance to the casino. “Look at that.”

“What?” Tony asked.

“That.” Guru pointed to the casino, which was still packed as if nothing had happened. “World War Three just started today, and nobody's left?”

“Just like on the Titanic,” Tony said. “They say there were guys still playing poker up until the water got to the first-class lounge.”

“Be glad you weren't here for the MGM Grand fire in '81,” a voice said. They turned, and it was the pit boss. “They found bodies still in front of the slot machines.”

The two AF officers shook their heads. “Crazy?”

“Maybe,” the man replied. 'You from Nellis?”

“Maybe,” Guru said. “We had our first combat today. And it won't be the last.”

“Do us all a favor,” the pit boss replied. “Get the sons-a-bitches. All of 'em you can.”

“We'll try,” Tony said.

Just then the WHOOSH of jets came over the hotel, and the rest of the Strip. “Those were fighters,” Guru said. “And they ain't landing at McCarran.” He ran for the front entrance, and Tony was right behind him. Just as they got outside, they saw a MiG-21 falling in flames, with an F-5 orbiting overhead. And a parachute coming down on Paradise Road in front of the Hilton.

“What the hell?” the pit boss asked.

“One of the Aggressors got a MiG,” said Guru. “Go find some LVPD or Guard. We want that pilot.” The pit boss nodded and went in search of the police. “Let's go see this chump.”

The MiG crashed on the west side of Paradise Road, in an empty lot where another hotel and casino was due to be built. And the pilot came down right in the middle of Paradise Road. Guru, Tony, and a couple of LVPD officers who'd seen the pilot come down were there to meet him. “Officer, what's your name?” Guru asked one Sergeant.

“Jim Brass.”

“Okay, Sergeant. This is a first for you as it is for us. We want him alive.”

“Will try,” Brass nodded. “But if he tries for a weapon...”

“Fair enough,” Tony said. The four converged on the pilot as he came down, and they rushed him as he tried to get out of his chute. The pilot tried to get up, but Tony tackled him. He'd been a defensive back at the AF Academy, and his old football skills came back. “You ain't going anywhere, Comrade.”

Guru, Brass, and Brass' partner came up, and both LVPD officers had their 9-mm pistols drawn. “He armed?” Brass asked.

Guru went over. “Got a pistol-looks like a Makarov,” he said, taking the weapon from the pilot's shoulder holster and throwing it aside. “And a survival knife,” he added. That he took and handed it to Brass' partner.

“Who is he?'

Tony turned the pilot on his right shoulder. “Cuban,” he said, indicating a Cuban flag patch.

“Get him up,' Guru said, and Tony and another LVPD officer, who just arrived, did so. “Boy, you picked the wrong place to come down.”

Then a jeep with some National Guardsmen arrived. They were Military Police, and they were part of the security around the Hilton, now that there were military personnel billeted there. “We'll take him off of you.” An MP sergeant said.

“Get him to Nellis,” Guru told the Guard Sergeant. See if the Security Police there will take him.”

The Sergeant saw the silver bar on Guru's shoulder. At least this AF officer wasn't an eager-beaver shavetail. “Yes, sir.”

Just then, Colonel Johnson arrived from the Hilton. He shook his head at his wing crew in the middle of the fracas. “You guys are off duty, and you're still involved.”

“War didn't end because we got off the clock, Colonel.” Tony said.

Colonel Johnson looked at him, then slowly nodded. “Well...I guess you're right about that. You two had better hit the sack shortly. We got a busy day coming at us tomorrow.”

“Yes, sir.” Guru said. They watched the Guard take the Cuban away, then went back inside the Hilton. And to no one's surprise, hardly any of the gamblers had left the casino. “You could've had a dozen MiGs crash outside and nobody would've left.”

“Ain't that the truth,” the CO said. “Okay, you two, find your room. Be on base at 0600.”

“Yes, sir.”

Guru and Tony went to their room on the seventh floor, and they found that there were Nevada Guard inside as well. They showed their ID to the MP there, then the two went to their room, and then and there, just decided not to turn on the TV. They just decided to hit the sack, for Colonel Johnson was right. It would be a busy day ahead. But at least they got through the first day.
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Treat everyone you meet with kindness and respect, but always have a plan to kill them.

Old USMC Adage
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