Into the Wild Blue | Teen Ink

Into the Wild Blue

June 7, 2013
By Yash Pahade, Redmond, Washington
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Yash Pahade, Redmond, Washington
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The C-130 Hercules taxied unto the flight line of the air base. After it stopped, the aircraft’s main cargo door opened to reveal cargo pallets, tool carts, mobile power generation units, and one pilot encumbered by several bags. The tall, brown-skinned pilot was busy organizing his bags, and only noticed that the door had opened a few moments later. 1st Lieutenant Jack Davenport shouldered his bags, and walked onto the tarmac of Langley Air Force Base. Squinting his brown eyes because of the sun, Davenport looked at his surroundings. Beyond the C-130 he had just departed was the base’s runway. As he turned towards the main part of the base, he saw the base’s main flightline; it was filled with the 1st Fighter Wing’s 30-odd F-22 Raptors. The sleek shape of the aircraft looked majestic and intimidating at the same time. Their smooth contours, combined with sharp edges, made the fighters look more like ancient flying reptilians rather than fighter planes. Beyond the Raptors were the large primary hangars and administrative headquarters of Langley Air Force Base. He started jogging towards a smaller building with the 1st Fighter Wing’s insignia on it. He then entered the main headquarters for the 1st Fighter Wing.

As Davenport walked into the main briefing room of the 27th Fighter Squadron, he encountered several men and women in G-suits listening to a Major on a podium. When the major noticed him, he quietly dismissed the pilots. The pilots walked out of the room, all the while looking at Davenport with looks ranging from condescension to outright hostility. Davenport stiffened; he was used to the condescending attitudes of veteran pilots to the “new guys” in a squadron, but hostility? They were all on the same side, right? The young lieutenant did not like this situation at all.

His train of thought ended when the Major started walking towards him. Davenport dropped his bags and snapped a salute. The Major stopped and nodded as if he was impressed.
“First Lieutenant Jack Davenport, reporting for duty, sir,” Davenport said.
“At ease, lieutenant,” the Major smiled, “I’m Major Antonio Barrio, commander of the 27th FS.”

Barrio offered his hand; Davenport smiled slightly and shook it. The major motioned for Davenport to follow him, and started to walk outside onto the tarmac of the flight line.
Barrio frowned as he looked at a quartet of fighters being prepped to launch, “I’m not gonna lie to you lieutenant; you’re stepping into a position the rest of the squad would rather leave unfilled, the last guy who was here didn’t leave to many good memories. The squadrons ain’t gonna like you all that much.”
Barrio turned towards Davenport and continued, “Aw hell; I forgot my manners: Welcome to the 27th, oldest damned squadron of anything in the whole Air Force. You don’t need me to tell you it’s whole goddamn history; I’ve read your file, says you read a lot. I’m guessing you’ve already read whatever there is to read about this squad?”
“Yes sir, yes I did.”
Barrio smiled easily, “Good, you best be going to the bachelors’ quarters; it’s over that way,” He pointed towards a faraway apartment building, and concluded, “Good luck kid.”
Barrio nodded and walked away. Davenport hefted his bags and walked towards the bachelors’ quarters

‘Well, I found it,’ thought Davenport as he walked into his quarters.

“It’s quite roomy,” observed Davenport as he walked into one of the walls of the room with a loud “Smack”.
Davenport checked out the room. His quarters consisted off a small bedroom/ living area, a bathroom, and a small balcony. The bedroom was sparse. It was dominated by a twin-size bed on the left. A black dresser and mirror stood at the foot of the bed. A ceiling-to-floor window created the outside wall, which included a door to access the balcony.

“Pretty nice, ain’t it?” A voice behind Davenport commented.

Davenport whirled around; facing him was a short, heavy-set man with the insignia of a 2nd lieutenant. The man had white skin, and had a grin on his face.

“I’m Roy Jessup, everyone calls me Husky. Flight assignments say that I’m your wingman.”

Davenport hesitated; he did not know quite what to say, finally, he answered with a neutral, “Nice.”

Husky seemed to understand Davenport’s hesitation, as he smiled and said, “Welcome to the squadron; we’re happy to have you,” Jessup continued, “The squadron pilots are meeting at the bar. If you want to come, I’ll be happy to give you a ride.”

The pilot’s wanted to check out the new guy. What had the pilot he had replaced done to make them suspicious of him? Davenport concluded that he would need more information to figure out what was going on, and this invitation seemed both an opportunity to gain information, as well as genuine offer of friendship from Jessup.

“Sure, I’ll come.” Davenport said nonchalantly

“Sounds good, meet me at the parking lot at six o’clock,” Husky concluded

Davenport stepped out of Husky’s Ford Mustang, and followed him into the bar. Clustered around the bar were several men and women. As one of them noticed that Jessup and Davenport were approaching, the pilot whistled loudly and said:

“Hey ho! New kid on the block!”

Jessup ignored the jibe, “Here’s the new guy: pilots; meet Jack Davenport.”

Davenport stepped up and simply spoke, “Hey guys.”

The rest of the squadron responded with somewhat subdued, even suspicious hellos. The onlookers then returned to their conversations. Even before Davenport could buy himself a drink, Jessup was dragging him along and introducing him to all the people in the squadron. The introductions were fairly normal and friendly, until Jessup lead him to a brunette woman of around thirty.

“Jack, meet your new flight leader, Captain Jennifer Bishop.” Jessup said.

Bishop looked between the two pilots, and said too Davenport, “Welcome to the flight, don’t get yourself killed.” With that the female pilot walked out of the bar.

Jessup looked at Davenport and grinned,” Looks like she likes you man.” He said with an impish grin.

Davenport, still frowning from the Captain’s icy greeting, commented, “As long as she doesn’t slip a missile up my ass, I’m fine.”

Husky chuckled, “Well, in that case, watch your six.”

“Isn’t that your job?” Davenport said, making a reference to a wingman’s duty of protecting his element leader.

Husky was too busy laughing to respond.

A ground controller’s voice squawked through the F-22’s radio, “Rapier Two-Three, Rapier Two-Four, you are clear to take off.”

“Rapier Two-Three acknowledges,” replied Jack as he punched the throttle up to full power in the Raptor’s cockpit.

Jack was glued to the back of his seat as the F-22 accelerated to take-off speed; the plane’s surroundings whirred by as the plane shot down the runway. The F-22 pounced up into the air, its nose shooting up towards the sky as it gained altitude. Davenport let an impish grin run across his face; this was what he had dreamed about as a child, what he would have paid for in college, and what he was always meant to do.

The two F-22s rendezvoused with Captain Bishop and her wingman’s F-22s, together forming Gold Flight. This flight was a mock dogfight, practice in which the F-22s would practice their air combat skills against one another.

“Gold flight, Gold flight, come in.” Major Barrio’s voice crackled over the radio.

“Gold flight is here and accounted for, sir,” replied Bishop.

“Alright boys and girls; here’s what’s going to happen: You each are going to face me one-on-one in a dogfight, do whatever you can to win.” Barrio continued,” Davenport, new guys first; let’s do this. Turn right towards waypoint alpha, angels sixteen.”

“Confirm Waypoint alpha, angels sixteen.” Davenport responded, trying his best to sound calm.

“Good luck Jack,” commented Jessup over the radio, “You’ll need it.”

Davenport saluted in response, and banked his plane sharply to move towards the waypoint.

Davenport smoothed out the F-22’s turn into level flight, and started to climb towards 16,000 feet. Davenport looked around his plane; Barrio’s F-22 had to be around him. A silver flash caught his eye. Davenport’s heart raced as he realized it was Barrio’s F-22. The “enemy” plane dived steeply down towards his aircraft from at least 20,000 feet, its speed increasing as it lost altitude. Davenport rolled his plane to the left. Barrio’s F-22 overshot its target, and turned left, losing altitude but slowly starting to level out. Davenport, now possessing an advantage in altitude, threw his plane into an ascending left turn. As Davenport’s F-22 finished the turn, the fighter screamed towards Barrio’s jet, which had just pulled out of its dive. As Barrio caught sight of his opponent’s plane on his six o’clock, he turned his plane to the right, and started weaving his plane left and right. Davenport smiled slightly and followed Barrio turn for turn. Then, on the end of the third set of turns, Davenport allowed his plane to overshoot the turn a bit. He then, rolled his plane so that to cockpit was facing towards Barrio’s Raptor, and then shot the tail in the opposite direction of where the nose was moving towards; causing the large airplane to point towards Barrio’s plane while the plane itself was moving perpendicular to the nose. Restrained by the heavy G-forces that were taking over his body, Davenport then slewed the nose of the plane towards Barrio’s turning aircraft, and locked a simulated missile. Barrio’s aircraft dove towards the ground. Expecting this, Davenport rolled his aircraft to the other side, and then, gently adjusting his controls, put the F-22 in a shallow dive away from Barrio, and then turned the plane to the right into a slightly steeper dive, heading towards Barrio. However, Barrio, using the speed he had gained from his dive, shot his plane into a climb.

‘Damn, well there goes my first plan,’ Davenport thought. His plane, which was still recovering speed that was lost from his last taxing maneuver, couldn’t match Barrio’s climb. Also, when Barrio reached to top of his climb, he would be in prime position for a diving attack on Davenport’s plane.

Davenport noticed a large hill, he turned toward it and applied power to his engines; if he could get to the far side of that hill, one revolution around the hill would give him enough power to climb up. The F-22 rounded the hill, and shoot out of the other side. Davenport felt like a part of his aircraft as he pushed it into a climb towards the underside of Barrio’s F-22. By the time Barrio saw Davenport approaching, Davenport was already nearly at his altitude. In desperation, Barrio turned into a hard right, hoping to make Davenport overshoot him. Davenport increased his pitch, gluing himself to his seat while making his climb steeper. He then inverted his aircraft and started to dive. Davenport’s dive put his gun sights directly on Barrio’s Raptor. The lieutenant loosed off a simulated missile immediately. His efforts were rewarded with a single message from the plane’s computer:
“Enemy Down,” informed the plane’s computer dutifully.
. Elated, Jack leveled his plane, and pulled to the right of Major Barrio, the major looked at him and his plane, and commented:

“Damn son, that’s some pretty good flying I saw there. Good kill.” Barrio continued, “Now, head back up to your flight. Rapier Two-One, your next.”

The rest of Davenport’s flight was spent watching his squadron mates fight their own battles with Major Barrio. However, right before the next exercise Barrio had in store for Gold Flight, all the planes’ radios burst to life:

“All Rapier callsigns: Return to Base IMMEDIATELY. Repeat: Return to base immediately.”

Gold Flight looked at each other through their cockpits. Even though their faces were shrouded with facemasks and breathing masks, all of them were wondering the same things: What the hell happened?

“You heard the man, Rapier’s.” Major Barrio ordered.

The F-22s headed back too Langley Air Force Base in silence.

“Man that was the most beautiful flying I have ever seen!” Jessup exclaimed as he and Davenport put their gear away into their lockers, “You read his mind man!”

Davenport shrugged, “It was good; it was a challenge though.”

Jessup rolled his eyes and mocked, “It was good!” he changed his tone to an excited chatter, “Dude, hardly anyone in the whole 1st Fighter Wing can do beat Barrio in a dogfight; much less during their first one! You gotta be kidding me…”

As the two walked into the hallway, the intercom above them cracked:

“Attention, all flying personnel to the main briefing room immediately.” A cold voice spoke

“Why do you think they called us out from our flight?” Davenport asked,

“Hell if I know,” Jessup commented, “Maybe some big hoo-hah from the DoD came in and wanted to meet us all. Damned shame he had to do it now though, I was hoping to get some food; I’m hungry.”

Jeremy Fuller, Captain Bishop’s wingman, walked over and chuckled, “You’re ALWAYS hungry, Husky. Why do you think we all call you that?” Jeremy casually placed his elbows on the two pilots’ shoulders, “Anyway, why do you think they called us in? Maybe Lady Lex got her skirt mixed in with son of a b****’s jeans in the laundry, and they’re ALL WRINKLY!” Jeremy laughed.

Husky and Jeremy guffawed at Jeremy’s joke as they walked down the aisle towards the main briefing room. Jack, not understanding the joke, walked behind them rather uncomfortably.

“Who’s Lady Lex?” He asked confusedly.

“Oh, yeah, your new, no offense,” Jeremy chuckled, “Lady Lex is the GODDESS of the intelligence office, she rules over it like Husky over his Big Mac and fries.”

“She’s our intelligence officer,” Husky, rather unnecessarily, clarified.

“And she cares very deeply about her skirts!” Jeremy continued, “Well I guess she does, since that’s all she wears, plus a shirt, of course; I know what you’re thinking there Jack! Yep, just business skirts, the tight kind, every day.”

“You seem too know a lot about her skirts,” Davenport observed with a small smile.

“When you see her, you’ll understand why I know so much!”

Husky nodded in enthusiastic agreement as they entered the briefing hall. The briefing hall was a movie-theater-style room, with enough chairs to hold at least 100 people. The seats faced towards a large platform and a large screen. The seats were now filled with the pilots of the 1st Fighter Wing, and two people were on the platform. One of the people was Colonel Edward Montoya, commander of the 1st Fighter Wing. The tall, white man looked somewhat harried, as if a lot of information had been put upon him a short while. His companion on the stage, though, seemed to carry most of the attentions of the pilots in the audience, specifically the male ones. A tall, blonde, green-eyed woman of around twenty-five, she seemed to carry an air of intelligence. Davenport couldn’t deny that she was attractive, but he was more impressed with what he assumed was in her head than with her body. As the three pilots took their seats, the room darkened and the briefing began.

Colonel Montoya started the presentation,” Alright ladies and gentlemen, I’ll keep it brief. Two days ago, Chinese forces began naval exercises with their carrier fleets, which is a pretty normal behavior for any navy. However, just an hour ago, something went very wrong. The sub Pasadena, which was observing the exercises from afar, disappeared off the scopes. We have reason to believe the Chinese destroyed it, and we have no idea why.”

Montoya continued, “The Pentagon had ordered the deployment of several wings of aircraft to the Pacific Rim. We’re deploying to Kadena Air Force Base on Okinawa, so pack your swimsuits ladies and gentlemen: we’re going to the Pacific. I’ll hand the presentation over too Miss Munro.

Miss Munro, the pretty blonde, stepped up,” “The wing is going to be deploying in waves.. You’ll be deploying with your equipment, so the C-17s will be arriving soon to move all the repair tools and spares. You know the drill. Your squadron commanders will fill you in.” The intelligence officer ended her part awkwardly.

The pilots in the room looked at each other with looks ranging for nervousness to excitement. Jeremy punched Jack and Husky on the shoulder and said:

“We’re going to war guys! We’re gonna kick some Chicom ass!”

The C-17 Globemaster III was a massive aircraft, but in Jack’s perspective, it looked much smaller when filled with thirteen 463L cargo pallets, so small, in fact, there seemed to be nowhere to lie down comfortably. That, along with the noise created by the airplane’s engines, had made it nearly impossible for him to sleep. So when the aircraft’s loadmaster woke him up, Davenport was more than slightly annoyed.

“What is it?” Davenport asked irritably.

“Calm down dude, I thought you might want to hear this from the radio transmissions, some Chinese protestors tried to raid the American embassy, so the Marine guards shot ‘em.”

“Damn, this can’t be good.”

“Nope, it ain’t good at all. Reports say the Chinese government is threatening to pull off diplomatic relations with the U.S, who knew governments could be like: ‘I’m not talking to you ‘cause I’m mad at you.’ Sounds like something my daughters would do!”

Davenport laughed, “Well, since I can’t sleep anymore, can I go check out the cockpit?”

The loadie grinned, “No surprise there; everyone wants to do that. Yeah sure, follow me,” he paused, “You think we ought to wake up the lady?”

He looked towards Munro, who was stretched upon the sidewall seats..

“Yeah, that sounds like a good idea, let’s wake her.” Davenport concluded

Davenport walked to the intelligence officer, bent down, and asked awkwardly, “Uh. Ma’am, there’s some news you might want to hear……….”

When they walked off the C-17, Davenport and Munro were greeted by Major Barrio. The Major smiled,

“How was the flight?” he asked.

“Lovely sir, absolutely lovely,” said Davenport, who was trying to not sound irritated, and disrespect a superior officer.

Munro had no such qualms, “Next time, fly me in by American,” she groused.

“Of course, ma’am.” Barrio answered with a chuckle, “Well I’m guessing you both want your sleep?”

“The more the better sir,” Davenport confirmed.

“Don’t worry about that, kid, you won’t be on flight ops for the next few days, get the sleep you need. The barracks is over there,” Barrio reassured, pointing towards a large building a few hundred meters off the flight line, “The same goes for you Miss Munro, unless you want to learn the developments in the situation that happened while you were in flight?”

The intelligence officer shook her head, “The C-17 crew and Lieutenant Davenport kept me well supplied with info through the satellite connection”

Barrio concluded, “Then you both better be going to your barracks,” Barrio walked off towards the base’s hangars.

As Davenport and Munro started to walk towards the barracks, Munro turned to the young pilot and said:

“Oh, by the way, thanks for keeping me updated with information during the flight,” Munro spoke in a tired but grateful voice,” People never seem to realize that JUST because I’m a woman doesn’t make me special. If an important piece of info comes up, I don’t care what I’m doing, I want people to tell me.”

“It wasn’t me; the crew was nice enough to relay the information to me.”

“Even with that, I would’ve had to sit through a long lecture on what happened in seventeen hours,” Munro smiled, “I appreciate that.”

Davenport silent shrug only seemed to entertain the lady. She walked silently for a while, and then asked:

“Hey, Jack; where you from?”

“Me?” replied Davenport, “I was born somewhere in India. I was raised in Newport News, Virginia, ma’am.”

Munro snapped,” First off all; call me Alexa, I’m tired of everyone from tank gunners to generals calling me ma’am: I’m a spook, not the First Lady!” she continued, “Second of all, you ought to know where you were born.”

“I don’t. I was adopted.” Davenport looked at her, daring her to challenge the statement.

“Oh,” Munro whispered, “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be.”

Munro looked at him apologetically and asked, “Why’d you join the Air Force?”

Davenport paused, trying to think of an interesting answer, “Should I have joined the Navy? Or perhaps I should have worked with Alexa and her happy spook family?”

Munro rolled her eyes, lightly irritated, “You jet jockeys, all brawn, no brains,” at the same time, though, Munro looked at him curiously and questioned, “I’ve read your file though, you have an IQ of 135, and analytical ability most of the CIA’s analysts can only dream of….” Munro continued, “You could be making huge amounts in business, investing, or the like….”

“I signed up to make a difference,”

“That’s what they all say,” Alexa smiled deviously, “But they all have another reason, what’s yours?”

Davenport rapidly changed the subject, “Well, Alexa, since you seem to know me down to my blood type; it seems fair that I get to know you.”

Munro beamed, “Well I was born and raised in Austin, Texas. I went to Purdue, and then joined the CIA as a contractor; haven’t got back to a normal job yet!”

“Let me guess, your hobbies as a teenager were herding cattle on horseback, shooting coyotes, both the animals and the Mexicans, and cursing socialist liberals.” Davenport laughed.

Munro’s eyes flashed “Shows how much YOU know!” Munro retorted, “Actually, I spent most of my childhood reading or playing soccer.”

“You learn something new every day,” Davenport quipped.

By this time, the two had arrived at the barracks. Munro turned towards him and said:

“Well, Jack, we’ve reached the end of our brief travels together. It is time to say goodbye. Adios, amigo,” Munro’s emerald eyes flashed,” Sweet dreams, flyboy.”

Munro winked at the confused pilot, and walked towards her room. Davenport felt a pang of sadness while he watched her backside disappear; regardless of his squadronmates’ opinions of the intelligence officer, he personally liked Alexa.

“Hey man, what you been looking at?” chided a voice behind him. Husky Jessup then put his shoulder around Davenport and commented, “Don’t even think about getting with Lady Lex, man, she’s as cold as my grandmother, and grandma’s dead!”

Jessup, clearly excited to see him, continues, “Sorry I couldn’t be with you on the flight here, but one good thing: We’re sharing a room, so I can show you to your palace and you can get the sleep you need!”

“That would be great, man, I owe you a drink.”
Jessup grinned, “Make it Scotch, please!

“Alright Rapiers; continue on a standard patrol course, these new visitors are probably just checking you out.”
“Confirm, Eagle Eye, continuing on patrol course” answered Captain Bishop, “Gold Flight, tighten up form, weapons armed, keep your heads on a swivel.”
Davenport was on his first mission since getting to Okinawa. This mission was supposed to be a simple Combat Air Patrol across a small sector of the East China Sea. However, since Davenport had arrived on Okinawa, the situation between China and the United States had deteriorated. Both nations had cut off diplomatic relations completely. China had its military airbases on the coast full of aircraft, and had brought their naval forces out into the South China Sea. The United States now had several fighter wings in Okinawa, Misawa Air Force Base in Japan, and Taiwan; and had also deployed B-1 and B-52 bombers to Anderson Air Force Base on Guam. Rounding out the new American forces were two Carrier Battle Groups. All in all, the situation showed that the threat of war was all too real. His mission was also getting more intense with the arrival of a flight of Chinese J-10 fighter planes. Davenport then concentrated on his mission; he looked outside of his aircraft for enemy fighters. He saw nothing but clouds and blue sky.
The Chinese J-10s screamed past Gold Flight, and then turned to the right to circle ahead of the Americans. As they slowly leveled out of their turns a kilometer or so in front of the F-22s, Jessup piped up:
“Boss, we gonna play tag with ‘em?”
Bishop answered, “Not without permission,” she addressed the E-3 Sentry providing them AWACs support, “Eagle Eye, Rapier Two-One, requesting permission from El Dorado to pursue hostiles.”
“Negative, Two-One. Do NOT pursue them, we don’t want to start a shooting war,” the air controller didn’t hesitate to add, “You may fire if fired upon.”
“As ordered, Eagle Eye.”
The F-22 pilots, watched, infuriated as the Chinese pilots harassed them.
“Dammit, someone please tell me why can’t we go after the bastards?” asked an irritated Jeremy Fuller.
“Cause some armchair general said so,” replied Bishop brusquely.
Eagle Eye came back online, “Gold Flight, there’s radar signatures, unknown kind, on your six o’clock, Angels five and rising!”
Davenport started to invert his aircraft but before he could, his missile lock warning system started to sound. Someone had locked him up with a heat seeking missile!
“I’m locked up by a missile!” Davenport shouted, “Breaking Right! Launching flares!”
Davenport tossed his aircraft into a hard right turn, and launched flares to decoy the enemy missile. It worked, because his missile warning alarm switched off. He rolled his aircraft into a left turn to see his attacker overshoot. Two Chinese J-10s passed him and Jessup as the Americans completed the left turn. One of the J-10s, seeing his imminent danger from the two very angry F-22 pilots and their fighters, performed a Split-S maneuver and dived towards the clouds. The other J-10 attempted to follow his buddy, but took too long to execute the maneuver. Davenport took the opportunity to fire a missile. He locked the AIM-9X Sidewinder to the plane’s engine heat, and pulled the trigger. The F-22s weapons bay door opened and the sleek missile leaped out, lit its rocket engine, and shot towards the hapless enemy plane. Davenport flattened out his climb into level flight.
“Fox Two, “Davenport announced calmly. As the missile hit and turned the J-10 into a massive fireball, Davenport continued, “Bandit Down.”
“Confirm Bandit Down. Gold Flight, take down all hostile aircraft. Advise, El Dorado has a flight of Strike Eagles, callsigns Ratchet One-Zero through Ratchet One-Three, incoming in zero-two minutes.”
“Let’s do this,” Davenport smiled, “Jessup, you with me?”
“I got your six brother!”
Davenport smiled in anticipation. He looked around the airspace and spotted two J-10s streaking straight towards them. The J-10s streaked past the two F-22s and started to turn in opposite directions; one going to the left, the other to the right. Davenport turned to the right; following the rightmost enemy aircraft. This shot was far easier than the first; Davenport simply used the F-22’s powerful radar to lock onto the aircraft, slewed a missile onto the aircraft, and fired. The AIM-120 missile’s electronics did the rest.
“Fox Three!” Davenport reported.
The missile took less than thirty seconds to close on the enemy J-10. Despite the pilot’s efforts to avoid the missile; they were only rewarded with a sudden death as Davenport’s missile slammed into his aircraft. However, Davenport had no time to celebrate his victory; the other Chinese J-10 had streaked into the fray, and was pulling up behind the two American planes.
Davenport called out, “Jessup, Thatch Weave. Now!”
Davenport and Jessup turned their planes in opposite directions, Davenport going left and Jessup going right. They then turned towards each other, crossed each other, and repeated the sequence. The maneuver had the desired affect; the Chinese pilot attempted to pursue Davenport’s aircraft, but was faced with Jessup’s plane flying towards him on every turn. On the third turn, Jessup shouted:
Cannon fire engulfed the Chinese aircraft, and in short while it spouted flames, and dived uncontrollably towards the sea.
“Bandit Down!” shouted an ecstatic Jessup.
An aircraft controller aboard The E-3 Sentry came on the line,” Nice work, Rapiers: all bandits destroyed or bugging out. Return to El Dorado for debriefing. The Strike Eagles are on station and will cover your withdrawal”
A friendly voice chimed in,” This is Ratchet One-Zero, we got your back.”
Bishop answered, “Roger that, returning to base now. Nice job, Gold Flight.”
The F-22s turned back towards Okinawa. Despite the pilots’ obvious excitement over their first tastes of combat, all of them had one question:
“What happens now?”

Munro began her briefing by stating, “You all might be wondering what we all are going to be doing now that the war has started….”
Since Gold Flight’s engagement with the Chinese J-10s five days earlier, the region had descended into war. The day after what was now being called “The South China Sea Incident”, China had invaded the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, and begun airstrikes on Taiwan. The United States had declared war on China, along with Taiwan, Japan, and the Philippines. The war beginning had a great effect on the operational tempo of the 1st Fighter Wing. They had missions almost every day. Davenport’s last mission had resulted in him getting two more kills, making him have the highest amount of kills in the squadron. Even so, the war was intensifying, and had no end in sight.
“Yesterday one of our subs operating somewhere in the East China Sea detected a large amount of ships, located in the North Chinese Sea, moving southward. Subsequent flights by RQ-4 Global Hawk reconnaissance drones confirmed this. Intelligence has concluded that the ships are the Chinese aircraft carriers Liaoning and Shanghai, along with their escort of seven to nine destroyers and frigates,” Munro continued, “That’s not the worst of it; this naval juggernaut is heading straight towards us.”
A hush fell over the assembled pilots, whoever had been talking before was silent. Munro continued:
“Tomorrow morning at around nine A.M, we will deploy a strike force and attempt to destroy those carriers. PACOM does not have a lot of resources to give us, but we will have a Japanese E-767 to provide us AWACs support, along with that: we’ll have support from F-16s and EA-18 Growlers out of Misawa Air Base for Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses and radar jamming, and we’ll have the services of two B-52s armed with cruise missiles. However, the rest of the strike force comes from this base. We’ll have four B-1B Lancers; these will strike the aircraft carriers directly. Eight F-15E Strike Eagles will be our secondary strike aircraft, these will hit the carrier’s escorts, and help provide air cover after they hit their targets. Our main fighter escort will consist of two flights of four F-22 Raptors each; you must cover the strike aircraft in the initial strikes. Finally, we are lucky enough to have a pair of developmental B-1R missile trucks; these will be carrying AMRAAMs, and be engaging enemy aircraft at standoff distance to assist the Raptors.”
Colonel Montoya stood up on the podium and said, “Alright boys and girls, here’s the plan……..”

After the briefing, Davenport, Jessup, and Fuller headed towards their barracks; each of them were all considering what to say, none of them really knew how to react to the news. Finally Fuller commented,
“Well, looks like we’re gonna hit more than just a few planes. We’re gonna hit a goddamn carrier man!”
“It’ll be a nice little campfire,” Jessup commented, “Think I ought to bring marshmallows?”
“Yeah, you bring the marshmallows, I’ll bring the chocolate, and Davenport over here brings the graham crackers!” guffawed Fuller, “We’ll need to commission someone to bring the beer though. Can’t have a pool party without beer…..”
“Yeah, you guys keep on dreaming,” spoke Major Barrio behind them.
The three pilots turned around, straightened up, and saluted.
“At ease, guys,” Major Barrio began, “The only way you’re gonna be able to have a pool party next to a Chinese carrier is by crashing, and if you crash, the only thing that is going to be roasted in your asses when the Chinese find you. ‘Cause they are r gonna be pissed that we destroyed their carrier!”
Barrio became more serious, “Jessup, Fuller, Davenport; get to sleep, we wake up at 3 A.M tomorrow to prep; you all know the drill.”
“Yes sir!” The three pilots chorused in unison as they gave a crisp salute.
As they started to walk, Davenport noticed that the sun was setting, as he stopped to see it; Jessup commented;
“You staying out here?”
“I’ll catch up with you guys,” replied Davenport.
“Aight, well don’t take too long, we might miss you,” concluded Fuller, “See ya!”
With that, Jessup and Fuller went inside the barracks. Davenport turned towards the falling sun, enjoying the last bits of warmth emanated by it before it fell below to horizon. As he watched the sun set, he pondered about what was going to happen tomorrow.
‘No point thinking about that,” he concluded, ‘I’m a good pilot, and my comrades are good pilots, mechanics, and soldiers, that’ll get me through the day.’
He turned back towards the sunset. The sunset seemed so tranquil, so calm, and so everlasting. No matter what happens, the sun always would set, and eventually: another day would begin.
“Hey, Jack,” said a voice behind him, “Shouldn’t you be going to bed now?”
Davenport whirled around, facing him was Alexa Munro; a small smile playing upon her face. Davenport defensively responded:
“I was watching the sunset.”
“Of course you were. You know, flyboys are SUPPOSED to look at the sunset and say ‘Goddamit now I’ll have to do a night flight’,” Munro padded to his side and continued, “But your something different, something….. Special.” Her eyes widened slightly
Davenport smiled slightly, “You just realized?”
“You’re an airhead, but don’t worry: All pilots are,” Munro was smiling.
She looked towards the sunset, and her smile disappeared. Replacing the pristine, stunning smile was a look of nervousness and uncertainty.
Munro hesitated, “I’m not going to lie to you Jack; that mission you’re going on tomorrow, it’s risky…”
Davenport’s eyed narrowed, “If you’re trying to get me to opt of the mission; forget it.”
Munro turned towards him, “No, I’m just saying to take care of yourself. If you die tomorrow: I might……” she bit her lip, and hesitated before whispering, “Miss you.”
She turned towards him with a look that said everything she couldn’t, and she took his hand. Davenport stepped towards her, and they kissed. One second later, it was over, they wriggled out of their embrace, and looked at each other.
Munro smiled uncertainly, “That was nice.”
Davenport blushed, “Yeah,”
Munro laughed at his discomfort,” Well, Lieutenant. You best be going to bed,” her tone became a bit soft, “Good luck tomorrow.”
She let go of Davenport’s hand, and she walked away with a long glance. Davenport stared at her, still reeling over what just happened, and slowly walked back into his barracks.

Davenport zipped on his flight suit, and fitted his G-suit over his legs and abdomen. After checking his gear and survival supplies hidden inside the pockets of his suit, he ripped off his velcroed unit patches, which pilots were forbidden to wear on flight duty, and pinned on a small gold pin that was shaped like a shield. It was a good luck charm he wore on every flight. Finally, he grabbed his flight helmet. With all his flying gear together, he walked out onto the flight line, which was filled with airplanes being prepped for battle, and pilots who were getting inside them. He was confronted by Colonel Montoya, who simply spoke:
“God speed.”
Davenport saluted and said, “Thank you sir.”
Montoya looked at him with an odd look, “You know; I handpicked you for this air wing.”
Davenport was surprised, “Why sir?”
“Because you could the best pilot in the whole U.S. Air Force. If anyone can go into this engagement and win, it’s you. And we need to win this time.” Montoya walked away without another word.
Davenport started to walk towards his airplane, and found Fuller and Jessup on the way there. They started to walk together, and, as usual, they started to talk.
Fuller remarked, “Well, boys. Today we become men by blowing s*** up. And by s***, I mean a whole aircraft carrier!”
Jessup chuckled, “I still have trouble believing that someone PAYS me to do this, but what the hell! Let’s get up there and start this party.”
Davenport had reached his jet; he looked at the other two pilots and said, “Good Luck guys. It was a pleasure working with you all.”
Jessup cried in annoyance, “It sounds like you are going to kamikaze onto one of those flattops! ‘It’s been a pleasure’ Calm down! This isn’t your coffin, it’s a fighter jet,” he continued, pointing at Davenport’s F-22, “And by the way, one with least kills today buys all of the drinks.”
“You’re on!” grinned Davenport.
Jessup and Fuller walked away. Davenport walked towards the plane and was greeted by the crew chief.
“Morning, sir.”
Davenport replied, “One helluva morning it’s been. How’s the plane?”
“Running like a well-fed cat.”
“Then let’s get this party started!”
Davenport climbed into the F-22’s cockpit, and put on his helmet. The Raptor’s twin Pratt and Whitney F119 engines roared to life, and he taxied into the take-off line. He slowly moved through the line, watching his comrade’s take-off, and waiting for his turn. Now at the front of the line, he tensed, and prepared himself for launch. The B-1B Lancer in front of him started to accelerate, its quad General Electric F101 engines emitting a brilliant glow as their afterburners launched the massive bomber into the sky. Immediately after the Lancer had cleared the runaway, Davenport and Jessup taxied into take-off position.
An aircraft controller’s voice came on the radio, “Rapier Two-Three, Rapier Two-Four, this is El Dorado, you have clearance to take-off when ready.”
“Roger that, El Dorado,” replied Davenport. Then, he shoved the throttle to full power, and the F-22 Raptor shot into the sky. As Jessup and he flew towards the main strike force that was orbiting the island, the radio crackled as Colonel Montoya came on the line,
“Hey, the President has a message for you all,”
A prerecorded message started to play, the President’s voice echoed, and “I’m not going to lie to you all; this war isn’t going well for us. As you know, we’ve already lost the Spratly Islands, and the Ryukyu Islands are under severe threat. However, those are losses we can recover from. We NEED Okinawa to win this war. If Okinawa falls, we will lose Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea. Then we’re gonna be going into a long, hard war, a war that the Americans aren’t willing to stomach. So, for all our sakes, I and every single American pray for you victory. Your actions today will decide the fates of nations. Good luck, all of you.”
Montoya came back online, “Alright, Strike Force Foxtrot, you are clear to move towards intercept point.”
Barrio came online, “All aircraft form up on me.”
The warplanes then flew on towards their rendezvous with destiny, towards a battle that would decide the lives of millions.

A Japanese aircraft controller’s voice chimed in, “Strike Force Foxtrot, this is Divine Wind; four Bandits have been detected providing air cover for the carriers.”
“Roger that,” Barrio responded, “Gold flight, paint those targets for the B-1Rs.”
“Confirm,” answered Captain Bishop. She then stated to one of the B-1R “Blade One, fire missiles on my mark.”
After the Lancer pilot had confirmed, the F-22s banked left to flank the enemy fighters. They held the turn for thirty seconds, which was enough time for them to almost completely flank the Chinese carrier group. The pilots then turned towards the carrier’s, and locked their radars onto the enemy jets. The enemy jets began evasive maneuvers, and attempted to break the radar lock.
“Mark!” shouted Captain Bishop.
The B-1R Lancer dropped four AMRAAMs from its missile bay; the missiles lit up, and streaked towards their targets. The J-15s continued their evasive maneuvers, and eventually succeeded at breaking the F-22’s radar locks. By that time, however, the enemy aircraft had already been locked on by the AMRAAMs’ radars, and the missiles continued to close on them. As the J-15s stopped their maneuvers and began to close on the F-22s, the missiles slammed into all four of them.
“Enemy J-15s down!” announced Bishop.
“Those aren’t your only problem,” cried the air controller, “Radar says that the carriers are launching fighters.”
“B-52s have launched their ACMs! The HARMS are off the launch rails! EA-18s are jamming main radars now!” declared Barrio with an almost childish glee, “Impacts in two-zero seconds!”
“Those fighters are closing in on you…” warned the controller
“Yeah, I know that. Rapiers; stand by to engage the Chicom fighters.”
“This is BUFF Five-Eight; ACMs are in final approach…” a B-52 pilot informed, “Missiles hit! Confirm, missiles have hit their target!”
“This is Basher Five-Two; HARMs have hit!” A F-16 pilot announced.
“Rapiers! Move in and send those fighters straight to hell!” commanded Barrio. He then told the F-15E crews, “Ratchets, go down to Angels 200, move to the carriers, and fire your AGMs at targets of opportunity. Then engage enemy fighters and help the Rapiers clear the lane for the B-1s.”
The F-22 pilots grinned, and split from two four-ship flights to four two-ship elements. The elements then accelerated towards the enemy, who were charging towards the F-22s. Davenport angled himself so he would hit the edge of the fighter group, which now consisted of 10 J-15s and 14 J-8s. The two lines of aircraft passed each other, and started turned around to engage each other. Davenport shot his aircraft into a rapid climb, his plane decelerated towards its stalling point. He bucked his aircraft up into a near vertical climb, and watched as his aircraft nearly stalled. With his aircraft being held up by its advanced thrust-vectoring engines, Davenport flipped his aircraft, and dived down in the opposite direction. Davenport’s plane, closely followed by Jessup’s, screamed towards the Chinese fighters, who were still turning around. Davenport noticed two J-8s which were still turning. He slew his aircraft towards the enemy fighters, and closed to within 2 miles of the enemy planes. He launched an Sidewinder at the plane and shouted,
“Fox Two!”
Jessup did the same on the other J-8.
The enemy planes were incinerated when the missiles found their marks. Davenport banked away from the explosion, and, with Jessup right behind him, started to seek out other targets. They didn’t have to wait long.
A shrill voice cried out on the radio, “This is Rapier Two-Five. Someone help me out here! I got Bandits on my ass!”
Davenport responded, “We hear you, we’re coming.”
Davenport looked around and sighted the distressed pilot and his F-22. The diving F-22 was being chased by two J-15s, who were rapidly closing on the Rapier Two-Five. Davenport headed towards the diving aircraft and, since he was at a higher altitude then they were, rolled his aircraft upside down and started to dive. He was shoved back into his seat as his airplane lost altitude and accelerated. He slew his aircraft to the six o’clock of the enemy J-15s. One of the Chinese pilots escaped the trap by suddenly swinging his aircraft from a near-vertical dive to horizontal flight, causing his aircraft to shoot upward, its nose moving upward. The other J-15 wasn’t so lucky; Davenport slid behind him, selected GUNS from his weapons choices, and pressed the trigger. He waited for the 20mm cannon rounds to shred the J-15, but nothing happened.
“Gun Jam!” Davenport shouted into the radio, “Jessup, take this guy out!”
“You gotcha boss!”
Davenport and Jessup switched positions, with Jessup now being element leader as Davenport covered him. Jessup fired his cannon.
“Guns, Guns, Guns!” Jessup yipped in glee as the J-15 turned from a fighter plane to a rolling heap of fire and steel.
“Thanks man, I owe you a drink!” commented Two-Five.
“Make it a Scotch!” laughed Jessup as he and Davenport leveled out into horizontal flight. The Divine Wind came back online, “Warning, Rapier Two-Three and Two-Four, J-15 diving in on you.”
The brief moment of levity ended as Davenport looked up. A Chinese J-15 was diving straight towards him!
“Roger that, Divine Wind, we’ve got the situation under control,” answered Davenport confidently.
The J-15 moved into level flight right behind the two F-22s. Davenport tensed, his plan was a good one, but it was very risky.
“Alright, Jessup, you’re gonna have to trust me. Accelerate in front of me.”
Jessup nervously responded, “You got it…”
As Jessup accelerated forward, Davenport started to weave slightly to avoid getting locked on by the J-15s missiles. He finally settled down, and right as the J-15 got a missile lock on, Davenport started his maneuver. Time seemed to slow down as Davenport shoved his plane’s nose straight up, and gunned his afterburner straight in the opposite direction he had been going. The result was that his F-22 shot backwards and slightly up, pulling up behind the J-15. Davenport completed the complicated maneuver by flipping his aircraft back onto the horizontal axis, letting his plane go back to moving in its previous direction. He was right behind the J-15! He then fired out his second AIM-9X Sidewinder and hooted in glee:
“Fox Two!”
Jessup came on the line, sounding amazed, and commented “Damn man! That was a kill for the history books!”
“Yeah. Let’s get back into the furball!” responded Davenport
“This is Divine Wind again, Two-Three. You guys have four J-8s trying to renter the combat zone. Pop them off at long range; they shouldn’t be too much trouble.”
“Sure thing,” responded Davenport.
Davenport and Jessup, guided by the aircraft controller, found the four J-8s. Two of the J-8s dived for safety when they saw the F-22s, but two continued on.
“You gotta admire their bravery,” muttered Davenport.
Those two were locked on by the pilots’ AIM-120s and were quickly shot down. Then Barrio’s voice came back online:
“Good work, Rapiers. The Strike Eagles have completed their runs on the destroyers, and the ACMs have hit their targets. The B-1s are going in now; All Ratchet or Rapier callsigns: keep any last fighters off of them!”
The F-22s and F-15Es dived down towards the ocean, where the Chinese carrier group steamed towards Okinawa. The fighter planes pierced the clouds, to be confronted by a vast blue ocean. This ocean, however, had several grey ships moving through it, many of them in flames; several white plumes north of the ships denoted Chinese vessels that had been sunk by the B-52s’ ACMs. To the south of the floating Chinese ships were several dark grey shapes, which grew larger as the B-1s approached their two targets; the aircraft carriers Liaoning and Shanghai. The American fighter’s then orbited above the B-1s, escorting them. As the Chinese fighter planes attempting to hit the bombers in one last attempt at defending their carriers, two-ship elements of fighters dropped down towards them to stop the aggressors.
Davenport watched over the B-1s as he and Jessup impatiently waited for another chance to engage the enemy fighters. That’s what they were paid to do, and they’d be damned if they wouldn’t get another chance to get the fighters that had escaped them earlier. Suddenly a call went on the air,
A B-1 pilot barked, “This is Bone Six-Nine. I have to J-15s coming at me from my right rear. They just overshot me, but their turning back towards me. Help would be just dandy.”
“Bone Six-Nine, this is Rapier Two-Three; we’ve got you on our scopes and are coming. Hold tight, buddy,” assured Davenport.
Davenport and Jessup dived towards the gargantuan bomber and the two Chinese planes that were pursuing it. Davenport leveled off to the left of the two fighter planes. The two J-15s turned towards him and moved closer to engage. Davenport sideslipped, forcing the two Chinese fighters in front of him. The J-15s started to weave in and out, beginning a Thach Weave. The Thach Weave would make it that if he followed either one of the two aircraft, the other one would be free to shoot him down. Davenport slowed down, rolled left, and turned left away from the enemy aircraft, as if he were leaving the fight. The J-15s arced back towards the B-1, thinking the American fighter pilot had given up. However, Davenport then rolled his aircraft 180 degrees, and, still moving forward, slew his nose to the right, so he was pointing towards the J-15s, who were still streaking towards the B-1 Lancer. He then locked both J-15s, and fired two AIM-120s simultaneously at the J-15s.
“Fox Three! Fox Three! Two Fox Threes!”
The J-15s, who were about to fire upon the B-1, shattered into thousands of fragments of metal, glass, and fire. Davenport cheered at his victory. He shot his F-22 in the direction his nose was pointing, and, in his glee, streaked a few feet above the tail of the B-1, with Jessup right beside him. He moved so that he was moving in the same direction as the B-1; albeit a couple hundred yards to the right of and above the big bomber.
“Thanks for the help, Two-Three, Two-Four,” acknowledged Bone Six-Nine.
Davenport watched as the B-1 streaked towards its target, the aircraft carrier Shanghai. The massive bomber roared across the sky, and, as it neared the great aircraft carrier, its bomb bays opened, and several two-thousand pound Mark 84 bombs dropped out. The B-1 then accelerated away from the carrier. The bombs glided onto the aircraft carrier’s flight deck and detonated. Several explosions rocked the ship, starting fires, and blowing up airplanes all across its flight deck. Finally, as one of the bombs hit the ships magazine, a massive explosion tore the ship in half, ripping steel and men apart. The steel mammoth slowly began to sink.
“Yeah! Damn right! Burn baby! Burn!” shouted Jessup in glee. His sentiments were reflected by other pilots in the area.
Davenport started to ascend his aircraft, and he looked across the battlespace. All of the Chinese ships were either sunk, sinking, or retreating. The Shanghai had almost disappeared below the waves, the Liaoning had not been sunk, yet, but she was still burning, and she listed to port. There were no Chinese aircraft left in the sky. Barrio’s voice came on:
“Strike Force Foxtrot, that was damn good work I saw there. Alright, we’re pulling back to El Dorado, time to go back to the home we just saved.”
Davenport and Jessup pulled into the formation of American aircraft, behind Captain Bishop and Fuller. The victorious attack forces pulled into formation, and moved south towards Okinawa. Despite combat protocol forcing the airmen to remain silent on the radio, Davenport could feel the excitement brimming in the pilots. He knew that, when they returned to base, the air would be filled with excited chatter.
‘The bars going to be an interesting place tonight!’ he thought.
Davenport fell into a calmer state of mind, and his body relaxed slightly. He smiled slightly, and his plane continued to fly. A voice shattered Davenport’s bliss as it reported;
“Strike Force, this is Divine Wind,” an air controller said, his voice brimming in sudden surprise, “You’ve got a J-15, coming straight on your….”
A missile streaked in front of Davenport’s plane, and buried itself in Fuller’s plane, which was a few hundred meters to the front of Davenport’s. Fuller’s plane turned into a massive fireball, the plane’s rear end was shredded in the explosion. The plane’s front end and wings survived a bit longer. The remnants of the plane started to spin, out of control. The wings sheared off and fell towards the ground, spewing fire as they went. The plane’s front end then descended into an explosion. No ejection seat emerged from the plane.
The J-15, meanwhile, had moved behind Bishop’s plane. Bishop attempted to evade the Chinese pilot by banking sharply to the left and diving. As she turned, however, a missile leapt off the wing of the J-15 and shot towards her Raptor. Despite firing out flares and attempting to evade the missile lock; Bishop was only able to evade the missile for a few second. Although the missile didn’t hit her plane directly, it managed to explode nearby, showering her plane in burning fragments of metal, destroying the right engine and damaging the right wing. In desperation, Bishop heaved her stricken aircraft away from the J-15. The J-15 followed her every move. Davenport shot his aircraft into a dive, and maneuvered his aircraft to right behind the J-15. The J-15 pilot banked to the left, away from the rest of the American aircraft. Davenport followed, spurred on by his rage over Fuller’s death. The J-15 turned to the right. Davenport followed him, but was spoofed when the J-15 leveled out. The crafty J-15 pilot shoved his aircraft’s nose upward, and, performing a maneuver Davenport himself had perfected earlier in the battle, shoved his aircraft behind Davenport. What the pilot did not realize, though, was Jessup, in his own F-22, was waiting for him. Jessup pounced on the aircraft as the J-15 exited its maneuver.
“Guns, Guns,” called out Jessup.
Jessup fired his cannon, and obliterated the J-15. By the time Jessup pulled his finger of the trigger, the Chinese airplane had been blown apart.
“Good job, you guys,” Major Barrio came on the radio “Escort Bishop’s plane into Kadena,” the Major’s voice seemed subdued by the loss of a pilot.
Despite the great victory they had all won, all of the pilots were silent as they flew back to Kadena Air Force Base.

The great victory, which was being called the Battle of Okinawa, was celebrated throughout America. Parades, neighborhood barbeques, and speeches were commonplace in the United States. However, the pilots who flew the mission celebrated the victory with a subdued happiness. The party they threw was in the bar, with a small cake, and a casual atmosphere. The pilots talked of their accomplishments, described their battles, and enjoyed the night. For Jack Davenport, however, the celebration was bittersweet, as it reminded him of the ones who wouldn’t be able to celebrate with them. He had learned that Fuller had not been the only pilot killed in the battle. One F-15E Strike Eagle had been shot down, along with two F-16CJ Wild Weasel aircraft. Five pilots had been killed in the Battle of Okinawa.
When the time to toast their lost comrades came, Davenport dutifully raised his glass to his fallen comrades, and said a few words about Fuller when his time came. However, Davenport slowly felt saddened by the party, and decided to leave. He slowly started to walk towards the door. He was intercepted before he could reach the door by Jessup and Bishop. Jessup looked at him and asked;
“Where you going man?”
“Kinda tired, gonna go back to barracks, get some shut-eye.” Davenport responded.
Jessup understood the meaning behind Davenport’s words, “Alright man, see ya later,” The heavyset pilot walked away.
Bishop looked at Davenport and said, “Thanks for covering my rear. You saved my life.”
Davenport shrugged, “It was my job.”
“Yeah, well. I had my doubts about you, but you’re a good person after all,” with that, Bishop turned back towards the party, and said, “Don’t be too hard on yourself. Fuller was my friend too, and I miss him just as much as you do. “
Bishop walked away. Davenport looked at her for a second, and walked towards the door. At the door, he encountered Major Barrio. The Major regarded at him and said,
“The night’s still young, Lieutenant, going to bed already?”
Davenport answered, “Just tired sir.”
Barrio chuckled, “Sleep’s a good idea. You should get some,” he pointed towards the crowd of pilots, “We’re all going to wish we had come morning.”
Barrio’s eyes narrowed slightly, “I’ve seen that look before, Davenport. You’re blaming yourself for Fuller’s death. You had nothing to do with it. Nothing Lieutenant. Listen, I’m just as sad as you are about his death, but it was out of our control,” Barrio’s tone softened, “I’m sorry Lieutenant, I really am. But you can’t let this stop you. We lose friends and family too many times, but we have to recover. Now get some sleep, you deserve it.”
Barrio nodded, and walked back into the party. Davenport walked out of the bar, and towards the barracks. He walked through a moonlit park on his way to the barracks, and, out of random necessity, plopped down on one of the benches and sat there. He slumped his shoulders, and stared into the starlit sky. He sat there in silent vigil for several minutes, until a voice behind him spoke,
“Hey, Jack!” Alexa Munro’s voice broke into his vigil.
He turned back towards the voice, he saw Alexa slowly walking towards him. A small smile played upon her face. She sat down beside him, folded her legs, and grasped his hand.
“Congratulations on your kills, twenty in total, that’s the best in the theater so far.”
Davenport shrugged. She frowned and continued, “You know, he died for a reason.”
Davenport recoiled, “What?”
“Fuller. He died for a reason. I know what you’re thinking. You think Fuller’s death was without purpose, but it was. He died for what he lived for,” she raised her hand up to his cheek and smiled gently, “He lived, so that others could be free. His sacrifice means that people he never knew can be free to live and love!” she looked at him with fervor.
Davenport felt a large weight lift off his shoulders, he suddenly felt slightly comforted, his friend’s death had purpose. It would take time for the wounds of his death to heal, they probably never would heal, but Fuller’s death was suddenly less painful. He looked back at Alexa; his heart warmed a bit at the sight. The intelligence officer’s emerald eyes drove into him with a deep intensity. He took her back into his arms and kissed her. They held it for a few seconds, and then ended it, and sat there in one another’s arms. They held each other for a long time.

Jeremy Fuller’s memorial service took place on a warm September evening. The sky was a mix of blue, orange, red and yellow as the sun began to set. A picture of Fuller posing next to his aircraft adorned the back of a stage that was set up near the flight line. Facing the stage were several lines of chairs; these were filled with the members of Fuller’s family, friends, and comrades. A lieutenant colonel read off Fullers various decorations and medals won during his service. Colonel Montoya said a few words. He spoke of duty, honor, valor, and how Fuller was a man who contained all of those traits and more. Fuller’s mother walked onto the podium, and spoke of how Fuller had always dreamed of being in the Air Force, and how he had lived that dream. Later, Major Barrio spoke,

“Jeremy Fuller was one of us. He ate with us, cursed with us, and fought with us. He served in the squadron with pride and honor. He was a good pilot, warrior, and friend.”

Now it was Davenport’s turn to speak, he slowly got up, and started to walk to the podium. He looked at the pilots assembled. He first saw Roy Jessup, his sidekick and best friend; then Jennifer Bishop, a good flight leader and a kind person; and Antonio Barrio, who lead him to battle. His eyes then fell upon Alexa Munro, who now wore the ring he had given her on her left hand ring finger. Alexa had given him strength when he had thought he had none left. He walked onto the podium, stepped onto the speaker and spoke:

“Everyone in our wing wrote this,” Davenport began shyly, he began:

“How do we meet such men? Guided by some happenstance of fate, we meet one another. We eat together, laugh together, cry together, and fight together. We are all combined into one great entity. Then that union is torn apart; great men are thrown into the wind, to forever lie in the desolate sands of time. Leaving us alone, to our tears, our ‘whys’ and ‘what ifs’. How do we meet such men?” Davenport paused, “Jeremy may be long gone now, but he still exists. His will, ideals, and determination still push us forward! He won’t speak ever again, but he still commands us with a silent charge to stand tall, hold fast, and never, ever, give up.”

The end of Davenport’s speech was punctuated with the roar of four F-22 Raptors as they flew over the base, performing the heart-stopping missing man formation. The four Raptors came in at low altitude, and, as they passed over the memorial service, one of the Raptors shot upwards as the other three continued to move forward. The lone Raptor flew alone; slowly ascending until it dissolved into the wild blue

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