Katrina "Sidewinder" Mojave
The F-22 Raptor that was my designated plane, sat before me in the number three hanger. The lights above illuminated it's silver-gray radar absorbent skin and amber colored cockpit bubble. On front of the nose, just before the air intake on the left side was a small mural I painted. The image contained a horned mojave sidewinder, its body curled up in the familiar "S" striking position and its mouth open just enough to display two long hypodermic needle like fangs.
The image fell in well with my callsign...sidewinder. The tale behind the nickname was not as glorious. During live fire training exercises, I was fired upon by a fellow recruit. The missile spiked my plane and trailed me through the clear blue skies. I dropped one set of flares and then a second but the missile never strayed from my old F-16's tail. I can remember swinging left then right through the skies until I finally pulled back hard on the stick and nosed up, tearing towards the heavens. Swiveling my head around I watched the missile draw closer and closer till it was within one hundred meters.
I closed my eyes, crossed my fingers and brought the plane over upside down, dropping my final flare. It worked, the missile followed the flare and detonated while I leveled out and took a breath. My squadron leader, after talking with me and calming me down, told me I had manuvered like a sidewinder...thus the nickname stuck.
"You always out here this early?" A voice called from behind me. I turned and gave a calm smile to my new navigator, Daniel Young. He was at least half a foot taller than me with bright red hair and a charming smile.
"Yea..." I trailed off looking back to my plane. Thoughts filled my head over the coming war with China, being on the California meant we were one of the first lines of defense. Static crackled over the base wide comms and a voice finally came through clear enough to understand.
"...are launching. I repeat, the 'Hound' squadron is to launch immediately. We have an unknown reconnaissance aircraft bearing down on us at high altitude. Intercept the aircraft and direct it to land." Picking up my helmet and its attached gas mask, I sighed. After all the training and years of practice, we'd truly be testing ourselves. This was no longer the peace time antics that I had grown used to, it was war.
Mechanic crews hurried inside the hanger, some quickly checked over the aircraft while others opened the hanger doors. A warm sea breeze floated in, carrying the pungent smell of salt and fish. Nothing like home.
"Come on Young, we've got a bird to track." I flashed him a grin and placed my helmet over my head, my olive green flightsuit already on. Climbing up the stairs, I slid into the cockpit. While it wasn't a tight squeeze, it wasn't what I'd call roomy. All the space was taken up by screens and panels of lights and electronics. Young hopped in the of his own FA-18 Super hornet that sat next to my aircraft. Pressing the button to drop and seal the canopy above, I shifted in my seat. After all the preflight check and taxi'ing out to the runway we were good to go.
"Ready?" I said locking the breathing mask over my face and speaking into the cockpit coms.
"Ready." Young replied. I keyed up the engine and pushed the thrusters hard. The aircraft trembled for a moment then rocketed forward down the runway.
"This his Hound one, taking off." The aircraft controller noted my call in and wished me well.
"Hound two, taking off." The other aircraft was my one and only wingman. His callsign was Duke.
"Hound three taking off," Young called.
"Duke hang back at my six o'clock. Young your on my wing, I wanna see how you fly." I shouted over the radio. "Ground Control, where's that recon plane?" I kept my head on a swivel while I waited for the answer, keeping my aircraft nice and level.
"9 miles out, now at 10,ooo feet." I smirked and double checked his reading on my radar. The plane was transmitting any friendly IFF signal so we still had to be cautious. Sharply, I angled the aircraft's right wing toward the ground and nosed up. We needed to get to the unidentified aircraft fast before it fled the airspace.
"Unidentified Aircraft, you are flying in restricted airspace. We will be escorting you to the ground for questioning. Lower your landing gear if you understand." Our aircraft flew adjacent of the large black spy plane...an older coldwar era plane if I had to guess.
"Warning! Warning! More unidentified Aircraft are fast approaching on radar...Hound Squadron you nee-" the ground controllers voice burst into static and our radars began to crackle and become unreadable.
"Jammer," I growled over the comms, the glint of the fighters nearing us came into view. "All planes you are weapons free, manuver and fire at will fire." With that I slammed the stick right and soared off into the sky, running full afterburner.