Ordinary men, extraordinary circumstance of Cold War Europe. They never saw it coming.
| The Back Story;|
This is a short story, I like to keep mine at around three thousand words and as a result there isn't much space for the detail I'd like or the depth. One of the problems particularly to this is its about Air Dave. Air Dave a man that has earned the Air Force Cross, one step below the Medal of Honor. Point is, if you find your tit in the wringer, act like Air Dave. The rest of the cast is an example too...On that day, courage was in abundance.
He's a quiet man that's most ordinary in real life though. He won't tell you his story. I must tell you, because it's part of mine.
That's a real problem. How do I tell you his without telling mine?
As a side note, my charter's name 'John Wayne Stone' was a pseudonym given to me by Captain Bonnie Parker's Stunt Double, who in real life was Erica May ex-wife. She said I rode tall in the saddle like John Wayne but my heart was cold as Stone. She's a story for another time I assure you. Also, when you get to the part of the Lipizzaner, that was the third horse. The first two were shot out from under me. Among other things, I'm a horse thief. Never thought that happen either.
Before war found me, two books did, 'Chickenhawk' by Robert Mason and 'Goodbye Darkness; A Memoir of the Pacific War' by the late William Manchester. The knowledge in these, small details, big details helped me get where I was going as a soldier and kept alive the soldier next to me. So, with this series, I'm passing the buck. If I could've avoided all this I would've but it came for me and there's more than one way for the Valkyrie to slay.
Lastly, thankyou to the Writing.com readership who's given me criticism. I hope the 'back story' has cleared some things up.
Let the Wild Hunt begin....
21 May 1988, final approach, Point Zulu, DMZ Europe.
Air Dave read off the range of the missiles as the rest of the crew stiffened up. Finally, he noted in is normal cold Vulcan idiom that they were turning. He then noted the degree they were turning away along with the closing range.
"Incoming vectors deflected," Air Dave replied with a slight, a very slight note of relief. "Our first turn in one minute and counting..."
"Good shooting Dave," Flight Engineer commented with great relief. He then reported on the engine and fuel status.
The Stratotanker turned sharply to the port and then waived back starboard. At this range the target area came into view. Underneath small picturesque German towns breezed past, the scene resembling home dioramas underneath a Christmas tree breezed past.
"Oh, Holy God," Co-Pilot muttered as the impact area came into view.
Air Dave looked away from his equipment for half a second, noted the scene through the lens of detached discipline and noted the second turn and altitude reduction point in two minutes away. Everyone else, froze for a second longer.
Unknown to everyone, at that point, the Valkyrie slew Air Dave. At that moment in time, he gave up any notions of valor, he resigned himself to the erroneous view that the scene was the physical graveyard of his sister and his cousins. Ahead of them, on the horizon where the sky meets the land in a wall of black acrid smoke lazily climbing skyward. A cancerous stain on a perfect blue canvas.
Then the Daughters of Odin went for the Pilot.
"I've waited thirty-five years to see war," Pilot muttered. "Spent a life time preparing for this moment. I have no idea what I'm doing...It seems like such a wasted life..."
Co-Pilot turned to say something but the Valkyrie took him then. He remained silent and noted the radio chatter. He looked out the starboard windscreen and about a thousand feet beneath him he watched a Huey pass beneath. He wanted to say something but couldn't, words failed him. All he did was say a silent prayer and follow his training.
Alarms shook the cockpit crew. Air Dave silenced them and tried to jam another salvo. It didn't work. According to his training he launched two of the four decoy drones on the wings. The sickly yellow and bright white exhaust plumes briefly engulfed the forward windscreen wiping out everything else.
Air Dave counted off the seconds to impact without so much as a quiver of anything other than stone cold logic. However, the camera did record him sweating.
"They're following the drones!" Air Dave announced with a spike in emotions.
"Good shooting there, old man!" Flight Engineer erupted.
A second later the Stratotanker rocked in time with two muffled thumps.
"Drones destroyed..." Air Dave reported and then noted the second turn and altitude reduction in less than a minute.
Fifty-seconds later the tanker swerved starboard and dropped to an altitude of four hundred feet. The fighter escort left the main body to engage incoming vectors determined to be Migs.
"Okay this is where it gets real," Pilot grumbled. "Mask up, visors down..."
After the crew did just that he then asked no one, but everyone, "Any last words? This was supposed to be my last flight before retirement. For decades I was annoyed by returning home to my wife's cooking. Wonderful woman but her meat loaf is the worst of all of it. We were supposed to have meat loaf today and this morning I was fearing that...Now I wish I could eat it one last time. You Co-Pilot?"
"Retire in five years and start my own charter flight business in Alaska...Maybe work for Eastern Airlines before that happened..." Co-Pilot replied. "Flight Engineer you?"
"Like Co-Pilot...Work for the airlines and do stand-up comedy on the side..." he answered and read off a status report. "One thing...I have to ask.... Air Dave, that neckless you put on...What does the symbols on the medallion mean?"
"It's my family's crest," Air Dave stoically answered as he listened into the chatter on another channel. "The Russians got on of our fighter escorts...We got four of theirs..."
"What were you planning to do?" Flight Engineer probed.
"My plans are irrelevant," Air Dave answered flatly. "My destiny was written before I was born."
"That's faith," Pilot interrupted. "I've never known you to go to Church..."
"I'm a Pagan, I follow the old ways of The Craft..." he answered calmly. "What I need to do now is face my destiny as a Viking Warrior does. In Valhalla I'll meet my family that's gone before me...Hopefully I'll get to watch my nephew play in the courtyards of the Castle Asgard before the Ragnarok."
"That's real faith," Co-Pilot then observed flatly.
"Do you really believe that?" Flight Engineer asked. "Really...No jokes this time. I never thought of any of things like that until now."
"I have to believe," Air Dave muttered. "Because if I didn't, I'd be too afraid and I'd be useless to you as a navigator and a radio weapons officer..."
"That's real faith!" Pilot erupted. "I've never seen anything like that! Do they have a prayer for courage? Right now, I'm questioning everything I ever knew..."
"Well what I believe is I have everything necessary to face life from the get go...Its just that I have to realize that about myself...That said we're only human and now might be the time to say the Ancient Prayer for courage and afterward ask Thor for bravery...When you pray to Thor you talk to him the same way you talk to another man...Straight up and honest...Any one care to pray? I do..." Air Dave replied dropping the fade of cold calculating logic as he looked over at his equipment. "We have ninety-seconds to the beginning of the bombing run...Now's the time..."
The left wing of Point Zulu, six-hundred yards/meters to the west of the DMZ;
Second Position of Command Center.
A literal hour earlier Atomic Blonde was a news caster for AFN, she and her crew covered the first wave of Soviets across the DMZ. They were chasing a commando raid that raised holy hell on the other side. As the rest of her team was ordered to the rear with the tapes, she was ordered to assist operations. Earlier that day she had her Smith&Wesson Ladysmith chrome plated snub-nosed .38. With ivory grips. The grips were special ordered since in her words '...only cheap whores have Mother of Pearl grips...' She also had fifty rounds of ammunition.
Now the gun was on the battlefield. After shooting it to exhaustion she threw it at a Soviet, and clocked him between the eyes with it. Then she prepared to die as they still outnumbered her five to one. Out of nowhere her first cousin John Wayne Stone arrived riding a Lipizzaner. He stole the horse from a livery stable in a near-by town that had a medieval reenacting festival that had been cancelled due to the border war...With an axe, a knife and his 30- '06.
He took care her problem.
He would've ridden off with her too, until she mentioned and he remembered three things...He was bloody as hell, burned and suffering from a major head injury...Mortician, Animal Mother and he was Acting Captain.
She hated herself for it.
Now she worked in the make-shift morgue and they had her dragging body bags that were brought in from the 'front' from the back of duce's or jeeps. The cameraman followed her as she struggled with it. To her left stood Animal Mother, she was reassigned from communications and put in the morgue as an assistant clerk.
She had a deal with the other clerk, she wouldn't take the last half of the alphabet. She refused to be the woman who signed her cousin's death certificate. She could handle hearing him shout orders and scream in panic over the radio.
John Stone returned to the front line and decided to follow the last orders given, no mater what. Hold the line, wait for reinforcements.
Atomic Blonde hated herself for reminding him of his duties.
Animal Mother stopped talking to her partner in paperwork and stood there staring, a multitude of dog tags hanging off her forearm. Enough to cross the distance between her wrist and elbow. The first half of the alphabet.
Behind her, ashen face, emotionally numb Mortician walked out of the tent, a GP-Medium and stared at the body bag.
"It's not him," she huffed and bent over catching her breath.
"You sure!" Animal Mother shrieked.
"I looked," she exhaled and caught her breath. She turned around, stared Mortician in the face and stated plainly, "Not only that...this guy's still in one piece."
"How many more?" Morty asked distantly.
"As many as it takes," she shrugged. "They went back to the front...We need a family meeting."
"Family meeting?" the cameraman interjected.
"Yeah we're all cousins..." Animal Mother snapped. "Leave!"
Once the others cleared out, they assembled behind the GP-Medium. They held hands, said a prayer and Atomic Blonde applied her skills as a Volva.
"What do you see?" Animal Mother prodded as Atomic Blonde saw the future.
"Is Little Brother okay?" Mortician asked.
"My brothers fine..." Atomic Blonde the Volva replied shaking off a trance.
"What about Grace?" Animal Mother chirped.
"He's changing..." she slowly replied. "He's becoming different..."
"What do you mean different!" Animal Mother shouted on the edge of hysterics.
"Different...Morticians aura is the same...Little Brother's is the same, and Air Dave feels the same...He's near-by...His vibration is the same...Grace is different...I don't know what he's becoming..."
"Will he die!" Animal Mother shrieked.
"You should've told him..." Atomic Blonde calmly and accusingly stared at Animal. "I'm sorry about your baby..."
As Animal Mother screamed Mortician and Atomic Blonde hugged her.
South East of Command Center, West of the DMZ. The Bombing Run;
"Keep that engine running!" Pilot yelled as sparks flew from the cockpit's dash. Alarm bells and buzzers blared, smoke filled the cabin. The stall alarm wailed as power flickered on an off.
The Stratotanker banked up and to the port shaking violently. Ground artillery had hit the number four starboard engine and it was on fire, the flight crew in the hold held onto anything as they tried to put out the fires from the fuel bottles. The plane shook violently as parts of the tail and stabilizers fell off.
"At altitude!" Co-Pilot yelled as both he and Pilot fought the steering yokes. "Leveling...Air Dave...Report!"
"Incoming!" Air Dave yelled. "Two vectors from the North..."
"Fires out!" Flight Engineer exclaimed.
There came another thump that shook the plane as the smoke cleared the cockpit with a wheeze.
"The Cargo Master reports they blew the man hatch to ventilate the hold...Fires under control..." Co-Pilot then announced.
"Incoming verified..." Air Dave exhaled. "It's the F-4 flight out of Ramstein..."
"Typical Army...." Pilot wheezed. "Always late...If those Wild Weasels showed up on time my plane wouldn't have been shot full of button holes..."
"The Ghost Flight is on final approach...." Air Dave exhaled as he took off his mask. He watched several dots dance about on one of his radar screens. "They're at altitude..."
"Let's hope we get to Mildenhall," Pilot muttered. "I'd like to see the White Cliffs of Dover one last time."
He began wheezing and coughing. He thumped his chest a few times and then from a pocket inside his flight suit he took out a pill bottle and popped a white capsule.
Co-Pilot stared at him.
"Congestive heart failure..." Pilot replied. "I bribed the Base Surgeon to let me finish out this last flight before retirement...Who knew it be a combat run?" He then thought for a moment. "Maybe it was all worth it after all...Could've died doing something important."
"You what!" Air Dave exploded losing his cool, finally. "You've could've killed us all if you went out at a critical moment!"
"Calm down!" Co-Pilot shouted pointing a finger at Air Dave.
"No! Not no! But Hell No!" Air Dave exploded and began to unstrap himself from his chair. "This violates everything! You shouldn't have been here! You fool! You doddering buffoon!"
"Air Dave!" Co-Pilot yelled reaching for his privately owned .38 tucked under his left armpit. "Calm the hell down!"
"Like hell I will!" Air Dave snorted unabated. "This situation needs addressed! There's going to be an ass kicking!"
"Calm down!" Co-Pilot shouted as he quick drew and took aim. "I don't want to shoot you but you will calm down! Sit!"
After a tense second of thought, Air Dave sat down.
"Air Dave..." Co-Pilot announced after a few breaths. "Get out of hand again and I will kill you...I understand you have family on the ground and what Pilot did is...Well...Stupid as fucksakes alive. Now we're all going to be cool like Fonzie and get through this? Any objections?"
"No...Not in the least..." Air Dave said sitting down. He strapped himself back in, did a quick check of his equipment and gave a status report.
"Air Dave you're right," Pilot coughed as he seemed to stare off into eternity. "Co-Pilot...Good job...You're a fine officer...I'm honestly glad I saw this...Least I'm not going to die around a bunch of jackass pansies."
"Ba-duh-dump!" Flight Engineer beat a rhythm out on his controls. "And for our next segment...A Lumberjack and a Mexican Whooping Llama will sing 'May the Bird of Paradise Fly Up Your Nose' accompanied by a midget with violin on the beach!"
Everyone stopped, including time, and stared at him.
"What?" Flight Engineer giggled. "You didn't think that was funny? "
"We just avoided being shot down...Pilot didn't die at an inopportune time. The outboard engine didn't explode and there's no reason not to think we're not making it to Mildenhall...And if that doesn't happen, we can bail out and let our insurance cover what happens when this plane becomes a scrap heap..." Flight Engineer went on. "So, what's the problem? Hey did I tell you I had this girlfriend once that thought Pussy Galore in Goldfinger was a porno flick..."
"Can we turn this plane around?" Co-Pilot muttered as he faces forward.
"Too late," Pilot shrugged. "We should've dropped him on the Russians...They would've surrendered."
"We'll make it to the English Channel but I can't guarantee anything beyond that...." Air Dave said returning to his normal Vulcan logic calm. "We might want to consider ditching it in France..."
Point Zulu, DMZ, on the ground.
"You! Clear out!" a soldier yelled as he ran toward the morgue. "Acting Captain Stone has declared a general route! Everyone to the re-doubt point ASAP!"
"Is he still alive!" Mortician shrieked. "Captain Stone! Is he still alive!"
"He was alive enough to give the orders!" the soldier yelled as the command staff began clearing out in loose jeeps. Some gathered up paper work, other started a fire and began burning paperwork. "Now clear out! We're being routed!"
Meanwhile 600 yards East of Command Center, on the lip of the DMZ;
"Damn it anyhow..." John Stone wheeze as he leaned against a tree. He sneezes and blew pink frothy foam into his hand that was thinned by clear slop. He sloped a bit to the left, leaning on his PRC-77 radio. "They got you good...Well you were going to die anyhow..."
"Your supposed to leave with me..." the AFN cameraman barked. He set his video camera on the ground, aimed it toward the impact area and then said. "You don't want to die do you?"
"Ain't going nowhere," John Stone shrugged and lit up his last cigarette. "Got a punctured lung, broke every rib in my body and according to the medic's my liver's lacerated and my kidney's bruised...Not only that I got this massive head injury earlier and I can't see out of my left eye. You know having two dislocated shoulders really sucks? I'd say I'm going to feel this in the morning but that ain't coming for me...Now you git."
"No, you're coming with me," the AFN cameraman insisted. "You just can't give up like that!"
"Get on that damn horse and go..." John Wayne shouted. "Who's giving up? I'm just acknowledging reality. Besides what else have I got to do? Really now..."
He then looked up into the clear blue sky.
"Hey boy," Stone grumbled trying to sound like John Wayne. "You got two good eyes...Up there.... That look like a B-52?"
The cameraman walked over looked up and stared a moment before saying, "Yeah...That's a B-52."
The horse neighed, seized the initiative and ran off.
"Looks like you got some walking..." Stone laughed at the cameraman pointing and bloody finger at him. "How fast can you run?"
End Part 2