by the Junkyard Warrior and the Joker
A high frequency, scrambled signal shot through the atmosphere where it was intercepted by a small private satellite. Within a few seconds, several scrambled signals were broadcast back down towards the surface of the earth. One was picked up in Georgia. One in Arkansas. Another in North Carolina, and in Virginia. Up and down both coasts, C5 Squadron pilots checked their special pagers that read "83883."
Within the hour, several members of the Squadron had scrambled and were quickly on their way. The Joker met up with Junkyard in North Carolina, and both turned south. Joker spoke first, "Any ideas what's going on?"
"Not a clue," his wingman replied. "Things have been exceptionally quiet lately. It's about time for a little action." They continued flying south, with the Junkyard Warrior leading the way and the Joker flying slightly behind him, off to his left.
As they closed in on Georgia, the silence was broken by Blue Streak's voice, "Is this a private party? Or is anyone invited?" He carefully joined formation to Junkyard's right flank. He continued, "Anyone have any idea why we're flying south?"
Joker answered, "Because it's that time of the year?" The pilots chuckled a little. He continued, "JYW and I were wondering the same thing. I guess we'll find out when we get there."
Anxious to find out why the pilots were called, Junkyard eased down on the throttle, rocketing the jet forward. His two wingmen followed suit, and about another hour later, the three jets dropped through the clouds and lined up for an approach. The pilots spaced their jets out while staying in formation. Amazingly, they dropped down carefully onto the tarmac in the same pattern; JYW in the lead with the Joker and Blue Streak to either side. Eat your hearts out, Blue Angels.
Over the next hour, more C5 Fighter Jets descended from the clouds and set down on the Squadron's own runway. Ernie showed up in his ground transport; a 98 C5. In his passenger's seat was second in command, the Arkansas Flash. Carl was already waiting, coffee in hand. The group assembled with Racer Dan in the main comm room.
The screen flashed the "TOP SECRET" warning, and a picture of a dorky looking fellow, complete with an out-of-style bowtie, filled the huge screen. His smile was crooked, as were a few of his teeth. The sound of the General's voice came through the conference phone, loud and clear. "Gentlemen, I'm sorry for interrupting your rest but we have a serious situation brewing in the Western desert."
Dan spoke for his crew, "We're here sir, ready, willing, able. What's the story?"
The General continued, "The fine example of an Englishman you see on the screen is a man by the name of Jeremy Clarkson. He's a journalist for 'Top Gear,' a highly regarded auto show and magazine in the UK. Apparently he has his hands on a fourth generation Corvette that he is highly unhappy with." As the General spoke, a few printouts came through. Dan passed them out and the pilots each read Clarkson's harsh words towards the Corvette, including their beloved C5.
"The Worst WHAT car in the World???" Shouted Carl...
"Squad, you've come across your share of upset journalists in your time, but this one is very, VERY different. He's dangerous. The BBC is a government organization, and his views may very well be those of a fringe group within the government. He's planning a video in the desert in a two days which will involve that very Corvette. He's hired himself a mercenary pilot who will be flying an Apache attack helicopter. Apparently, our devious friend has rigged the car with a remote control, and he plans to film the chopper running the car down and destroying it with live munitions."
Junkyard was the first to break the silence of the completely stunned pilots, "I know this guy. I've met him a few times. This seems entirely unlike him."
The General spoke again, "I can understand your surprise. However, this threat is as real as can be. There are preliminary reports of a camera crew and control van en route to Nevada. Pilots, I'm sure I don't need to emphasize this at all: save that Vette! You are hereby granted permission to use ANY means necessary. That includes prejudicial force if it comes to that. Good luck and God's speed my friends. General out."
The pilots sat at the round planning table and started drawing up ideas. They'd need two waves; one to capture the endangered Corvette and deal with any ground-based interference. Another to fly point, watch over the ground force, and of course, ward off the helicopter.
It was decided that Ernie would travel with the Flash to the desert on the ground, and meet up with Vince in his new C5. The three man ground assault force would capture the car. The rest of the pilots would make sure that the ground crew were able to complete their goals and withdraw without trouble.
Dan unlocked the munitions storage cages and the Flash and Ernie began loading the C5 ground transportation with weapons. The other pilots retired to the hangar to perform needed maintenance on the jets prior to their mission. The Flash ceremoniously applied a raccoon tail to the cellular phone/GPS antenna as they departed.
While preflighting the fighters, the Warrior noticed his jet had developed an oil leak from the rear of the port engine, which would require an all-night engine swap in the spacious hangar. "At least it happened here" jabbed the Joker, "you can't even walk in your hangar in North Carolina."
"Shut up and bring me a crowbar, Jester, if you can figure out what one is" yelled the redheaded pilot. Carl rolled over the portable scaffolding, and the skilled pilots, turned mechanics began the arduous task of an engine swap. The large wooden crate with "Desert Proving Grounds-Top Secret" on the side contained a shiny new twin turbo LS1 which kept the C5 Fighter Jets one step ahead of the competition.
The fairings on the prototype jet were removed, and the sound of wrenches turning and knuckles busting filled the hangar late into the night.
0400 Tuesday in the Remote Nevada Desert
On the ground, Ernie and the Flash were in position. A Las Vegas exotic rental car facility donated a Ferrari 328 to the Fighter Squadron, and some leftover body panels from a wrecked C4 were securely taped and screwed over the ugly Italian Lines. "At least its Red," chuckled Ernie, and the Flash agreed, "I'm glad I had those extra bumpers laying around."
The flash, driving the Ferrari, and Ernie in his C5 approached the compound exactly where the satellite photos had placed their foe. The red C4 was parked in a tent at the far side of the compound, and there were two luxury motor homes and the helicopter parked on the outer perimeter.
The ground assault team parked behind a sand dune, and covered the cars with camouflage netting. As Ernie exited the car, he noticed a pinpoint red dot on his camouflage jacket. Vince, hidden behind another dune, was "painting" Ernie with his laser sight on his rifle. Dressed in their desert camouflage, the pair met up with Vince, and slowly approached the covered C4. Inside the tent, the car was unlocked, and they noticed that it had already been fitted with its radio control gear for the morning "shoot."
Ernie busily worked on the C4, cutting the wires for the radio control gear, as Vince and the Flash provided a perimeter in case of unwanted "visitors." By the time the system was removed, it was nearly daylight. The pair quickly took the radio gear and servos back to the Ferrari and got to work.
In the skies above, The Junkyard Warrior, Blue Streak, Major Mike, Carl, and the Jester were wingtip to wingtip at 100 feet over the desert. They were sweeping in from the north, avoiding the southward dipping jet stream. The Nav computer made a couple of course alterations, following the flight path residing in the Data Transfer Cartridge in the Jet's onboard computer. "Wouldn't want to run into any alien spacecraft" he chuckled as they passed the outer boundaries of Groom Lake, known to the world as "Area 51."
The Stealth abilities and low drag coefficient helped avoid any attention from the Air Force below, but a couple of photographers camping near the site managed to snip a couple of blurry photos of what appeared to be several winged automobiles overhead, illuminated only by the moonlight. The pilots were unconcerned by the ground based photographers, UFO sightings were more common than C5s in this part of the country.
The ships flew another hour or so in relative silence. The Junkyard Warrior reviewed the target characteristics once again in his Targeting computer. The Apache Attack helicopter was a formidable adversary, but no match for the laser guided missiles and secret laser weapons procured for the C5 Fighter Jet.
The scrambled radio crackled in the Warrior's ear. "We need more time. You'll have to create a diversion." The air support team, now circling the camp from a five mile perimeter, acknowledged their ground force, and quickly agreed on a "diversion."
Inside the motor home, Jeremy was quietly chomping on his pork and beans with fried toast and reading the London Times on his laptop computer. As he was sipping on a cup of weak tea, he noticed ripples in his heavy cream that was sitting on the table. The entire motor home began to shake, and for an instant, he wondered if the rumors of nearby aliens were true.
The mercenary pilot in the other motor home came running in, and informed the group that something was "out there"... The pair scrambled for the chopper as the butler hid under the table in the motor home.
Inside the Silver Jet, the Joker noticed the activity on the Infrared display below. "Let them take off -- it will give our guys more time," ordered the Warrior. The copters blades whipped the desert sand in a fury, disguising the activities of the trio behind the sand dunes.
Once airborne, Jeremy and the pilot frantically searched the skies for their adversary. The radar showed nothing, but their instincts told them otherwise. The violent actions of the helicopter were making the beans and toast in the journalist's stomach very unsettled.
At this time, the Blue Streak and Major Mike both locked weapons on the Apache. Inside the helicopter, the pilot's warning lights lit up, and he put the copter on its side in a violent 5G turn. There was something after them, but they couldn't see it. The reporter's breakfast littered the cockpit.
"Permission to Fire?" yelled Major Mike.
"Negative, we have the car, we are not to splash them... yet. The General wants us to find out the Motive behind this attack!" the Warrior replied. "Keep them busy, but do not fire unless fired on."
The Stealthy and blacked out C5 fighters stayed a safe distance to avoid detection in the pre dawn light. On the ground, Jim and Tim in a Suburban, loaded the C4 onto a trailer and headed back to safety. The Ferrari was tucked into the tent, and the ground assault force left as unnoticed as it arrived.
"We're clear" shouted Ernie as they left. "Cover our sixes and get out of here!"
The Apache was out of range of its base camp, and the C5s began to break off the aerial harassment. Never one to follow orders, the Blue Streak made a straight on supersonic pass at the copter, and flashed his lights at it from about fifty feet.
The copter broke and ran, not knowing what was attacking them, and headed for the base camp. The slightly green reporter took out the remote control and began flipping switches to pull the "Corvette" out of its tent. "Lets get this over with and get out of here, he belched."
The pilot agreed and switched on the cameras mounted under the copter, as the red car exited the tent and headed for the open desert. Cameras whirring, the "journalist" accelerated the car to 100 MPH. As the sun crested the desert horizon, the red car became the victim of the Apache's 30mm and 50mm machine guns. It wasn't much of a contest, the red car erupted into a huge fireball.
"There was something funny about that Corvette," the journalist mumbled, "no matter" he shrugged. "Lets get back to the motor homes and get out of here." He handed the pilot an envelope full of hundred dollar bills. "That was a JOLLY GOOD SHOW!"
The laughing C5 pilots headed back to Terra Field, as the copter landed at the motor homes.
After an uneventful, yet unusual daylight return flight to Atlanta, Each of the pilots shook hands with the waiting Racer Dan, who had a broad smile on his face. The satellite captured the entire event, and Racer Dan had been watching from the command bunker. "Not bad, Squad, not bad."
"We did good," yelled the Joker, "too bad we didn't get to hurt anybody." Racer Dan handed the Joker a fax from Headquarters and slapped him on the back. "We're going to London, my friend, so go to the lounge and get some rest. You, too Junkyard, we will need your skills as well. The rest of you can return to your base camps and await further instructions."
Most of the pilots shook hands, hugged, and left for home. The ground assault team reported a safe return to base. The Arkansas Flash had driven the commandeered C4 from Las Vegas to the National Corvette Museum for use in a future showcase. There was enough cash under the seats to buy a brick in his honor: "Thanks for the Gift, Jeremy."
The next morning, after a bumpy flight from Las Vegas to New York, a slightly green British reporter awaited his boarding call for his flight on the Concorde. In his duffle bag were several VHS tapes from the gunship's cameras. There were piles of receipts for his expense report, including an unusual one from an exotic rental outfit in Las Vegas that had been faxed to his motor home.
He boarded the plane when he was called, stuffed his 7 foot frame into the leather seat, and looked out the window. As he noticed the red-haired baggage handler walking the perimeter of the plane, he got the uneasy feeling that something was going to happen.
To be continued...