Monday, August 19, 2013

Military Techno-Fiction Short Story

Lieutenant Commander Stefan Holder rocketed over the hilly terrain inbound to the location of a possible explosives stash.  Intel reports had come in over the past week that large trucks had been seen  coming in and out of the facility in the dead of night, with known enemy lieutenants present.
Cruising at 10,000 ft., at a speed of 600 MPH, he had little worry about.   His aircraft was assured to be the world’s total air superiority machine. It had almost complete radar stealth, could maneuver with turns and trajectories that were impossible with other aircraft, and had a top speed that easily exceeded Mach 2.5 (the military, of course, kept its true maximum speed denoted as top secret). 
One can imagine his chagrin, then, when his heads-up display flashed a SAM warning.

“What!?” he thought to himself, “there’s no way they got a positive ID.  Their radar tech is last century!” But sure enough, he soon saw the plume of a heat seeking surface-to-air missile already locked on to its target.  “Damn,” he thought, “mustve gotten lucky and seen me on the pass-over.” 

He yanked back the control stick and pushed the throttle to the maximum.  All he had to do was reach 15,000 feet and he was in the clear, but he only had seconds to get there.  What he was about to attempt was exactly what his aircraft was modified for.  In fact, he had spent over 100 hours in a simulator perfecting this exact maneuver.  The only problem was, it was a highly dangerous move, and could be easily be fatal given a few-second miscalculation by the pilot.  But Stefan Holder was no ordinary pilot.  He was so good in the simulator, in fact, that he could pull off this maneuver at under 14,000 feet and still have time to check his watch and call his mother.  But the missile was closing faster than he had time for, and it was on him by the time he reached 13,000 feet.  Having no more time to spare, he punched the new button labeled “thermo-cloak,” and in an instant his engines were dead silent and colder than ice.  The craft’s newly installed thermal cloaking system had killed the engines and sprayed them with -3030 F liquid argon.  The argon cooled the engines to well below the surrounding air temperature in mere milliseconds, and made the craft invisible to the missile. 
The missile on approach saw two flaming -red jet engines suddenly disappear.  Having no target to seek now, it rocketed off into the open air searching for another target, but it never found one.  Instead, upon expending its fuel, it slammed into a nearby field scaring the piss out of some innocent cows.  However, having no concept of what an explosion was, they promptly resumed chewing on the grass their owner had planted for them.  A similar resilience could not be said of the owner. 
Back in the aircraft, as soon as the missile had passed and was out of range, Stefan flipped the switch for the electric engine heaters.  He knew that he couldn’t restart the engines right away because the liquid argon made the combustion chambers extremely brittle.  They would fracture and explode if he hit the ignition switch before the heaters brought them back up to the nominal air temperature.  But this took time; a commodity he had significantly less of now that he had to start this procedure at 13,000 feet instead of 14,000.  He was now descending quickly past 8,000 feet in a computer-controlled glide but the engines were still in the arctic range. 

“Come on, heat up…heat!” Stefan  commanded to the aircraft, “come on you ole’ girl, we just did you up nice and pretty and now you’re gonna kill us both!  You’re better than this.”  He laughed to himself. “Oh this is gonna make one hell of a story for the guys when I get back to base.”  

Descending through 5000 feet, he checked the engine heat monitor and it read 17 0 F.  The aeronautical engineers from base had warned him against trying to start the engines at anything less than 32 degrees, but he knew they always BS’ed the “safe” numbers, and this was no time to worry about safety.  He hit the ignition switch.  Nothing.  He hit it again, nothing again. 

“Come on you 22 million dollar piece of shit, start!”  This time, as he hit the ignition switch he slammed the dash console with the palm of his hand , and with a cough, the engines finally began to wind up to life.  “Technology,” he thought to himself, “always the hitting it is with this stuff.” 

The engine RPM’s increased as their high pitched screaming sound began come to prominence.  He was at 3000 feet but the engines didn’t yet have enough thrust for level flight. 

“I am not pulling the eject lever on this thing…you will work!!”  As he fell past 1500 feet, the engines were finally up to speed and Stefan gunned the accelerator.  The Mach capable engines were more than happy to comply and he was thrown back into his seat.  The aircraft lurched into the sky in a screaming arc barley skimming 500 feet.  He had gunned it before, man, but never like this. No, this, this was living and Stefan wouldn’t have taken a million dollars to be anywhere else in the world. 
                For him, almost dying in an extreme g arc was more fun than he could express, but the truth was, he still had a mission to complete.  Stefan accelerated up past Mach 1 and within seconds, the target explosives depot was on his scopes.  He loosed a smart bomb and waited for confirmation that his target had been dispatched.  The spectacular inferno cloud that erupted from the ground was more than enough confirmation, and he decided it was high time he bugged out.  He didn’t feel like having to deal with any retaliatory action so he pulled a 5g turn, and flipped on the afterburner pushing his craft past Mach 3.  He wasn’t taking any chances. 
                He lit up a cigar.  This was cause for some prime time celebration.  The new thermal cloaking system had worked better than anyone had anticipated.  Wait till the engineers hear how low he had initiated the maneuver!  Take that, thermodynamics!  Unfortunately for him, during his little internal diatribe, the cigar smoke had begun to collect at the top of the cabin, even with the air filter working.  It was then that Stefan knew that his biggest worry of the whole mission was going to be explaining to his base commander how smoke residue had gotten all over the inside of the aircraft cockpit.   
“Life in the air force,” he thought to himself, “a guy can never get a break.”    


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